Saturday, March 11, 2017

When Things Go Awry, Spreadsheets Are Your Hero

Scott D. Parker

I finally had to figure out what mysterious object my western hero was hunting for…and it took out an entire writing session to accomplish it.

For those not following along with my writing this year, I’ve embarked on a new series featuring Calvin Carter, former actor and current railroad detective. I wrote his first book in January (Likely titled Calvin Carter and the Empty Coffins). I wrote his second in February (Calvin Carter and the Hell Dragon). For his third outing, I wanted a treasure hunt story. Something Carter could go after a la Indiana Jones or any type of adventure hero, but still within the context of an investigation.
So far, all of these stories have been written into the dark. That is, without an outline ahead of time. I have a vague sense of where the story is going but, at least for this initial draft, I’m the first reader…and the storyteller. And it’s a blast! At least for this kind of story, I may have hit upon a winning writing strategy.

When I began Carter’s third case, I merely called it “Calvin Carter and the Treasure Hunt.” I had no clue what was stolen. But I knew that I’d figure it out along the way.

I just didn’t figure that an entire morning’s writing session would be sucked up doing it.
I wrote six entire chapters, all with nice action scenes, gun fights, and corpses. I managed to get all the way up to the moment when one character tells Carter that there was a burglary in a museum. That was where I ended my writing session this past Tuesday. The next scene, scheduled to start at 4:30am on Wednesday, was the scene every treasure hunt story has: the explanation of the thing that was stolen and that needs to be recovered.

So far this year, my subconscious brain and my Creative Voice have worked in sync. If there’s an issue, I get to mull it over all day at my day job and by the next morning’s session, things are figured out.

Not so with this one. What the heck was stolen? What did Carter have to find?

I spent the entire hour this past Wednesday figuring it out. The end result was not only a McGuffin but the likely title of the book*. At the time, however, after a productive hour of research, I also realized I had written exactly zero new fiction words. I have an extra fifteen minutes I get to write after I’ve got my boy to the carpool and before I have to get to work myself, and I blew threw a healthy 535 words, but I was officially “behind” in my mind.

Until I opened my work tracking spreadsheet and breathed a sigh of relief.

You see, I’ve keep track of word count and time taken every day this year. I have two months of data detailing two novels written. And I saw, quite clearly, that there were a few days in January and February where the word count for a particular day was substantially less than other days. Moreover, some days—weekends and holidays—I have extra time to write and produce more words. It all averages out.

The other cool thing about a spreadsheet with historical data is that I can compare a given day with the same respective day in earlier months. For example, it took my five writing days in February to reach the 10,000-word mark. (I don’t count January because I started with 11K from a previously abandoned book.) By the 8-hour mark in both February and March, I had written just over 13,000 words. I was perfectly on track. I breathed a sigh of relief.

So if you are ever wondering what possible benefit having a spreadsheet for your writing could be, this is it. In addition, if someone ever asks me, “How long does it take you to write a western?” I have the data to answer with certainty.

If you don’t already keep a spreadsheet, I would recommend you do so. You’ll be amazed at what the numbers can reveal about your productivity.

*Oh, and the McGuffin and title for the third book? Calvin Carter and the Aztec Sword.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Strong Characters

Another music blog, kind of.

I must have listened to "You Don't Own Me" 30 times yesterday, and I woke up thinking about what it means to write a "strong female character" in the context of crime fiction, and why do people seem to think "strong" means muscles when we pair it with "female character" but if I said a book had "strong characters" you would know I clearly meant fully fleshed out, well rounded characters?

As a woman writer who deals in mostly women protagonists these questions nag, because when men say they "don't know how to write women" I want to punch them, or at least scream at them "HAVE YOU MET A WOMAN?!" Because I'm not a bank robber or a dude recently out of prison, and yet somehow I trust myself to write a character that's both. But if a woman writer writing women protagonists lets a one dimensional "strong" chick through, whoo boy.

Back to the song: a woman who refuses to be owned, who revels in her freedom, and refuses to play by the rules? Yes, please. And why is it just as subversive and amazing now as it was in 1964? I don't want to dwell on that, too much. This would make a great theme song for my protagonist, whose goal is to remain untethered. Is she strong? I mean, kind of. She's cool and calculating, performs well under pressure, and usually gets out alive. But the beauty of a good crime story is that nothing ever goes to plan, so when I throw my girl into these situations, she comes out the other side defeated as often as she's the victor.

One thing I wanted to do in this story, was take the action movie trope of the guy who has been injured, beat down, shot, kicked in the ribs, fallen off of high places, etc. throughout the story but is still stubbornly dragging his ass toward his victory at the end, and put that on my protagonist, a woman thief who is used to things going as planned.

And is she  "strong" in the sense of "strong characters" or in the sense of "strong female characters" as a result? Well, revisions aren't quite done, but I think she shows weakness and strength, a full range of emotions, and, because this is crime fiction after all, a whole shit load of flaws.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Blog Tour: The Hell of It All by Bob Kroll

Today we're pleased to share an excerpt of Bob Kroll's new novel. THE HELL OF IT ALL, available March 14.

The story: Retired detective T.J. Peterson is working the table scraps that his former partner, Danny Little, sometimes throws his way. One of them has Peterson hearing from a snitch about a body buried 30 years ago, the same time a drug kingpin went MIA. Peterson is also ducking an ex-con with a grudge, a hitman who likes playing jack-in-the-box with a 12 gauge. Then a former lover re-enters Peterson’s life and begs him to find her daughter, an addict who knows too much about the local drug trade for her own safety. The search for the girl and the truth about the 30-year-old corpse takes Peterson down into the hell of it all, deep into the underworld of crack houses, contract killing, money laundering, and crooked professionals doubling down on their investments of black money.

The author: Bob Kroll has been a professional writer for more than 35 years. His work includes books, stage plays, radio dramas, TV documentaries, and historical docu-dramas for museums. The Hell of It All is the second novel in a projected trilogy featuring T.J. Peterson. Kroll lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Release date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: ECW Press 
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

The Hell of It All by Bob Kroll
Excerpt 2: Do Some Damage

Chapter One (cont’d)
Continued from March 7 on Novel Gossip

Turtle shut the flashlight, then leaned over the snowmobile and killed the motor. He removed the helmet and set it on the seat. He worked a wad of gum in his mouth.
“They dump you from the payroll, so how come you still doing them favours?” he said.
Peterson didn’t answer.
“Pensioned off for head games, right? That’s what I heard. You seeing a shrink?”
Peterson didn’t answer.
“I mean what’s with that?” Turtle said, talking with his gloved fingers as much as his mouth. “A girl cuts herself and bleeds to death, so what? I thought cops see it all the time. Car accidents and blood all over the goddamn road. Like that old guy the other day in a half-ton that took out a tollbooth on the bridge. I didn’t see it, but I heard. The guy goes through the windshield. You see that shit a hundred times, you get used to it. Like doctors do. I don’t mean the ones with the flu shot. I mean the ones who cut you open and fuck around with your insides.”
“You got something to tell me?” Peterson said.
Turtle pushed his head forward and frowned. “You’re the one begging for what I got.”
“You called us.”
“I called Danny, and Danny sends you.”
“Danny didn’t send me. We work together.”
“That’s not what I heard.”
Bob Kroll
“What did you hear?” Peterson said, hiding the discontent he’d been feeling ever since administration had labelled him a psych case and shown him the door to early retirement. Now he was getting the same dismissal from the bottom.
“I heard Danny only feeds you table scraps,” Turtle gloated. “And I heard you’re working them hard to get back in the department.”
Peterson took it on the chin.
“That puts you on the B-team,” Turtle continued. “Danny sends you, maybe Danny don’t think what I got is any good.”
“What do you got?”
“Not how it’s done. I get something before I give, a guarantee or something.”
“No guarantee. First you give, and if what you give works out, then you get.”
“Danny and me work it different. I’m talking favours, here. Only now I’m wondering if you can pull through on the favour I want.”
“What favour’s that?”
“Whatever favour I need.”
“Like finagling the child abandonment charge against your old lady?”
That caught Turtle off guard. He shifted his weight.
“You think I’m an errand boy?” Peterson said. “You thought wrong. You’re holding both ends of the same stick. Wrong word whispered in the wrong place, and someone opens you like a Ziploc. You’re no undercover hero. You’re a goddamn snitch!”

Excerpt to be continued on March 10 on Debra’s Book Café

Excerpted from The Hell of It All by Bob Kroll. © 2017 by Bob Kroll. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd.

Anthony Awards - Eligible Titles.

By Jay Stringer

(I'm baaaaaaack. Well, for one post. )

It's that time. Our Anthony list last year proved popular, so we're doing it again. Same rules apply....there are no rules. The books just need to be eligible.

Some authors are comfortable with BSP, some aren't. Some publishers get titles out in front of everyone, some aren't able to. Some indie authors have nobody in their corner, no publisher or publicist.

If you're any one of those -or if you're a fan who wants to speak up for a particular title- add your suggestions (including title, author, category) to the comments here, or seek me out via email and facebook, and we'll add it to this list. And if you've already sent in your suggestions and don't see them here, give me another shout, some might have slipped through the initial rush. The same goes for any glaring omissions, or books in the wrong category....just bear in mind I'm an idiot, and assume I need to be told.

This list is a work in progress, so if you're yet to fill in your ballot, might be worth waiting a week or so, to see how this fills out. That's what I'll be doing.


A Terrible Beauty - Tasha Alexander
Better Dead - Max Allan Collins
Antiques Fate - Barbara Collins
A Death Along The River Fleet - Susanna Calkins 
December Boys - Joe Clifford
Dark Fissures - Matt Coyle
The Pursuit - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Poisonfeather - Matthew FitzSimmons
Hard Cold Winter - Glen Hamilton
Red Right hand - Chris Holm
Arrowood - Laura McHugh
Baggage - S.G. Redling
Rough Trade - Todd Robinson
Down The Darkest Street - Alex Segura
Floodgate - Johnny Shaw

Murder Never Knocks - Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins


The Branson Beauty - Claire Booth
The Defence - Steve Cavanagh
The Big Fear - Andrew Case
Cleaning Up Finn - Sarah M. Chen
All The Bridges Burning - Neliza Drew
Beachhead - Jeffery Hess
IQ - Joe Ide
Iron Goddess - Dharma Kellher
At What Cost - James L'Etoile
Design For Dying - Renee Patrick
The Drifter - Nick Petrie
Nothing Short of Dying - Erik Storey


Shot In Detroit - Patricia Abbott
Graveyard Love - Scott Adlerberg
Road To Perdition: The New, Expanded Edition - Max Allan Collins
Quarry In The Black - Max Allan Collins
Ridgerunner - Rusty Barnes
Leadfoot - Eric Beetner
Kill 'Em With Kindness - C.S. DeWildt
Come Twilight - Tyler Dilts
Disgraced - Gwen Florio
South Village - Rob Hart
Stalked - Elizabeth Heiter
Surveillance - Reece Hirsch
Willow Walk - SJI Holliday
Grizzly Season - S.W. Lauden
Elegy in Scarlet - BV Lawson
Salem's Cypher - Jess Loury
A Murder of Crows - Terrence McCauley
Genuinely Dangerous - Mike McCrary
One or the Other - John McFetridge
And When I Die - Russel D. McLean
The Paris Librarian - Mark Pryor
The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake - Terry Shames
Blind Rage - Michael W. Sherer
Bind Instinct - Michael W. Sherer
Holy Death - Anthony Neil Smith
How To Kill Friends And Implicate People - Jay Stringer
Bitter Harvest - Wendy Tyson
Riot Load - Bryon Quertermous
An Empty Hell - Dave White
Heart Of Stone - James Ziskin


Cleaning Up Finn - Sarah M. Chen
No Happy Endings - Angel Luis Colón
Tijuana Donkey Showdown - Adam Howe
Punhos Sagrados - Nik Korpon
Crosswise - S.W. Lauden
Route 12 - Marietta Miles


Letters From  A Serial Killer - Kristi Belcamino & Stephanie Kahalekulu


Hailey Ardell - I'm In Trouble - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Erik Arneson - Election Day - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Eric Beetner - Pardon Me (I've Got Someone To Kill) - Mama Tried
Eric Beetner - Left Of The Dial - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Kristi Belcamino - Achin' To Be - Waiting To Be Forgotten
William Boyle - Unsatisfied - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Rob Brunet - Skinny's Beach - Ellery Queen, Feb 2016
Jen Conley - Actresses - Manslaughter Review
Jen Conley - Hold My Life - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Rory Costello - I.O.U. - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Barb Goffman - Stepmonster -  Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning
Barb Goffman - The Best-Laid Plans - Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional
Nick Kolakowski - A Bad Day in Boat Repo - Thuglit: Last Writes
Ed Kurtz - God Damn Job - Waiting To Be Forgotten
S.W. Lauden - Customer - Waiting To Be Forgotten
BV Lawson - And Down We Go - Blood On The Bayou
Tom Leins - Nightclub Jitters - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Mike McCrary - Seperate checks - Thuglit: Last Writes
Mike McCrary - Here Comes A Regular - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Rick Ollerman - Run It - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Travis Richardson - Being Fred - Thuglit 21
Alex Segura - Within Your Reach - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Johnny Shaw - Gary's Got A Boner - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Josh Stallings - The Ledge - Waiting To Be Forgotten
Jay Stringer - I Will Dare Waiting To Be Forgotten
Liam Sweeny - The Last- Waiting To Be Forgotten
Art Taylor - Parallel Play - Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning
Holly West - Queen of the Dogs - 44 Caliber Funk


44 Caliber Funk - Ed Gary Phillips & Robert Randisi
BLOOD ON THE BAYOU - Ed Greg Herren - Down & Out
Cannibals: Stories From The Edge Of The Pine Barrens - Jen Conley - Down & Out
Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning - Ed Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, & Marcia Talley
Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional - Ed Barb Goffman, Rita Owen, & Verena Rose
Mama Tried - Ed James R. Tuck - Down & Out
Unloaded - Ed Eric Beetner - Down & Out
Waiting To Be Forgotten - Ed Jay Stringer - Gutter


Snowed - Maria Alexander
Tag, You're Dead - JC Lane
The Fixes - Owen Matthews


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Queen of the Dogs

by Holly West

44 CALIBER FUNK: TALES OF CRIME, SOUL, AND PAYBACK, edited by Gary Phillips and Robert Randisi, came out in December 2016 and I haven't had a chance to pimp it very much. That makes me kind of sad since the story I wrote for it, "Queen of the Dogs," is one of my favorites.

But with the Anthony Award ballots now out, this is the perfect time to mention it:


I put that all in caps, just in case you didn't realize that this post is nothing if not blatant self promotion.

Set in 1979 Los Angeles, "Queen of the Dogs" is about Marisol Ramirez, a young Latina housekeeper who works for a big time Hollywood producer named Miles Markham. Markham spends more time out on the town with his mistress than he does at home, which leaves the beautiful but aging Mrs. Markham to her own devices--namely, pills and alcohol. But in her own strange way, Mrs. Markham takes Marisol under her wing, telling her, "Men are dogs. Remember that."

When Marisol hooks up with bad boy Germaine, she's certain it's love, even if the only dates he ever takes her on are in the back seat of his Cadillac. Germaine is impressed when she tells him she works for Miles Markham, and he suggests that burglarizing her famous employer is the ticket out of that back seat. Will she snatch up that tempting bone or let sleeping dogs lie?

You'll have to read the story to find out.

Thank you for your consideration.

Looking for more eligible titles?

If you've read and enjoyed the UNLOADED anthology, edited by Eric Beetner, please consider nominating it. It benefits States United to Prevent Gun Violence and like 44 CALIBER FUNK (also eligible), it includes stories by a number of fantastic crime fiction authors.

DSD alumnus Jay Stringer is compiling a list of Anthony-eligible titles, and as soon as that link is live, I'll update this post. Update: Here's the link. In the mean time, if you've got an eligible title, please include it in the comments. I haven't filled out my ballot yet and I'd love to check out your work.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Travel, Plotting, and a Private Eye Novel

Nothing stimulates my mind like travel.  It's something about being in a different place, a new landscape, with your mind uncluttered by the usual day to day worries and concerns.  On my recent trip to Cameroon, I had 10 days to escape from work and the grind, and I found myself making great progress on outlining and shaping the novel I'm about to start.  The novel has nothing to do with Africa or Cameroon, but being in a place I'd never visited before acted as some kind of charge to me and I found my entire story taking shape in my head in a way it hadn't over the previous few months of planning. It may also have helped that I did no writing (other than note taking) while on the trip, so I didn't have my mind on any other piece I was working on.  In any event, I got enough jotted down and thought out to feel confident enough to get the book started, and now that I am back home, caught up in the customary day to day routine, that's just what I'll do.  I have my notes where I want them.  I have the characters and the story's general plot, with a possible ending (always open to change if I think of a better ending), but I don't have so much written down that I feel constrained by my outline. So....thanks, Cameroon. Or more broadly, thanks travel. You've served as a positive force once again.

Few things are more enjoyable than reading while on a trip, and during this one, I took along a mystery I've been meaning to get to for awhile - Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (2011). Man, did I love this book!  Set in New Orleans not too long after Hurricane Katrina, it has an atmosphere that is simultaneously dreamlike and grounded, and that peculiar mixture is also embodied by private eye Claire, hired to find out what happened to a high powered New Orleans lawyer who is missing.  It goes without saying that it's fantastically hard at this point to write a PI mystery that has one iota of originality about it, but Sara Gran has.  She does it through Claire, a person at once hard-edged and mystical, abrasive and charming.  That she uses an esoteric book called Detection, by a strange French detective named Jacques Silette, as her constant guide only added to the pleasure of the novel for me.  As I read, I kept thinking that Jorge Luis Borges would have loved this book; there's a totally Borgesian aspect to how Gran keeps quoting Silette's enigmatic tome, a book loaded with odd utterances about mysteries, clues, life and how to function as a detective.  As part of her process, Claire pays attention to her dreams, uses the I-Ching, and rolls dice and reads meaning in the numbers.  She's a detective who'd have a meaningful conversation, over coffee, with Agent Cooper of Twin Peaks.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is not a detective novel that lays out a clear path of clues for the reader.  It's more a book that follows the unpredictable path Claire takes as she works toward finding answers to her questions.  In fact, I'd call this a textbook example of a mystery that doesn't rely on plot. It has a plot of course and a fascinating investigation, but what carries the story here are the characters and the evocation of a place.  There is Claire in all her layers, with her sensitivity and thorniness, and there are the complex people she encounters. There's Claire with her memories of a Brooklyn childhood and the close friends she had who have vanished or been killed; and there's the the city of New Orleans, and how its decimation in the wake of Katrina has affected its inhabitants. You want to find out what happened to assistant district attorney Vic Willing, but it's really the journey to that revelation that counts in this book.

And speaking of Vic Willing, without giving too much away for those who haven't read the novel: Sara Gran succeeds in doing something not done often enough. She reveals a character who has a beautifully plausible dichotomy to him, someone capable of both heinous and heroic acts.  At the heart of the self, as Jacques Silette might suggest, are many selves, and no one's personality and behavior is reductible to a cut and dry explanation. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead  is a mystery, really, about the strangeness of being alive. Nearly all the questions one ever asks about anything lead to more questions, and most answers one formulates are tentative at best.

Glad I finally caught up with Claire DeWitt, and I can't wait to read Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, the second book (and to date last book) about her.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Meet and Greet

With Steve Weddle’s Anthony Ballot post on Thursday, we are reminded that Bouchercon is just around the corner. I had the opportunity to attend the Raleigh event in 2015.

Cue kooky fan nosebleeds. I finally met, Steve Lauden, Terrence McCauley, Eric Beetner and the terror twins, Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts. Raleigh Noir at the Bar was a blast. You remember the first time you heard Eryk Pruitt read? Yeah. Crazy.

Ran into Michael Pool who asked me to read for Authors on the Air which led me to Pam Stack. Perfect. I drank whiskey with Les Edgerton. Met Christy and Eric Campbell, who are Mama and Papa to my new book. Friendships were made, looking at you Turlock-Isler. Bouchercon was a success.

Sadly, I missed Bouchercon, NOLA. New Orleans, without a doubt, one of the greatest cities on earth. She sparkles and dances on the water’s edge. Blast it all. Canada doesn’t look doable, either. Montreal, you seem so fine and refined. Blasted.

What to do? I think I’m supposed to get out and rub elbows with people. Right?

In a recent "conversation" Steve Weddle mentioned The Virginia Festival of the Book. That sounds mighty fancy and I’m no Fancy Nancy. I imagine a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Regular festival attendees will point at me, lowing like sheep while their glassy eyes roll back in their heads. Sweet Donald Sutherland I hope not because I really want to go.


Authors Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, and Dava Sobel, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, discuss their new books and their roles as female historians as well as the impact their work has in print and film. Inspiring. This is a definite yes.

Bryan Cranston (A Life in Parts) is special guest for the UVa President’s Speaker Series for the Arts which coincides with The Virginia Festival of the Book. He’ll be in conversation with UVa alumnus and producer Mark Johnson. Cranston is a riot in front of an audience.

Is this like other Cons? Will there be a costume contest? Yellow hazmat suits? No? Well, okay. Still sounds awesome.

Tons of interesting events:

·         Novelist Christina Baker Kline, author of "Orphan Train" and the forthcoming "A Piece of the World" (February 2017), will speak at the Festival Luncheon on Thursday, March 23;

·         Detective fiction writer Laura Lippman, author of the Tess Monaghan series and "Wilde Lake", will speak at the Crime Wave Brunch on Saturday, March 25;

·         Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander, author of "The Crossover", and Caldecott winner Ekua Holmes, illustrator of "Voice of Freedom", will give presentations to local students in addition to a public program about their forthcoming collaboration, "Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets" (March 2017).

Virginia Festival of the Book brings readers and writers together in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s a five-day event offering author readings, book signings, panel discussions, children’s programs and more. The 23rd annual Festival will be held March 22-26, 2017.

The Festival takes place in over fifty venues throughout Charlottesville. The vast majority of programs don’t require a ticket. Check the website,, for a complete list of events and more information.

If the programs aren’t enough to call you to Virginia, consider this, in 2016 the New York Post voted Charlottesville one of the fifteen best places to live in the United States. Travelocity ranked Jefferson’s home hood a  2016 small-town best eats in this foodie friendly country. Charlottesville is worth the visit.

On that note, how many of my local friends will be attending Virginia Festival of the Book? What’s your favorite local writer and reader event?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trying Something New

By Claire Booth 

I’ve been binging a show that I never in a million years thought I would watch. Because it’s about two seventy-something women. Which is, um, not me. By almost two generations. So when I saw the Netflix ads for Grace and Frankie, I ignored them. I watch things like Justified, and Luther, and Sherlock. Then a wiser – and not much older than me – friend sat me down one weekend and forced me to watch. After fifteen minutes, I was hooked.

Grace and Frankie (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) are married to law partners. In the pilot, the husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) finally decide to tell their wives that they’re gay and have been having a love affair with each other for decades. Divorces ensue and the two women are forced to move into their jointly owned beach house together, where they become wacky roommates.
Yes, I know. I can hear people right now saying the same thing I did originally. “No, thanks.” But the show’s full of surprises. It’s profane, soaked in booze and pot, and occasionally slapstick. It can be poignant and unkind, which is exactly what you’d expect of people in that situation. It also features the main characters’ adult children, who are struggling to adjust after the earthquake their fathers have caused in their lives. 
It’s great to hear Sam Waterston’s rasp on TV again.

But what really makes it something I ended up binging? The writing. Granted, that wouldn’t matter if the acting was subpar, which it most certainly is not. But it’s the writing that makes this comedy/drama something that most anyone can relate to (unless you’ve never gotten screwed, or heartbroken, or hated someone you love, or medicated away your sorrows with questionable substances). And that is what masterful writing does. It takes one experience and makes it universally relatable.
And that’s why I gave my friend a sheepish apology. She was right. When you step off your own well-trod path, you might find something fantastic. So whether you’re watching, reading, or listening, give something new a try this week. I’d love to hear about it. And if you can’t think of anything, may I suggest Grace and Frankie? You’ve got three weeks to catch up. The new season starts streaming March 24 on Netflix.