Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Choosy Bookworm

Dear Friends, if you are a member of Choosy Bookworn, (actually even if you aren't a member of Choosy Bookworm) Napier's Bones is featured for free to folks who are willing to provide an honest review when they finished reading.

I am hoping to procure at least 50 reviews because I want to convince Bookbub and Amazon to feature Napier's Bones more advantageously. The idea is to get folks to notice what I consider the best Bonnie Pinkwater mystery I have ever written.

Soooooooooo, if you are a member or if you know someone who is a member, please give a look see at the Choosy Bookworm site and get yourself a free book.  

Have a wonderful day!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Class Reunion - New Middle School

Last Thursdayyes, the same day as my signing at Fuel B's, and yes, the same day as Fuel B's changing of ownershipthe class of 1990 held their 25th reunion at Ellicott Middle School. And was it ever cool.

First of all, the new middle school is the bomb. Not just extremely functionalalthough it isthe school is beautiful.

Principal Chris Smith took us on a tour of this marvelous facility before we all (that would be the graduating class of 1990, quite a few teachers from back then and some support staff) sat down for a cool spaghetti dinner. I saw a terrific kid eat about a million bread-sticks.

All of these festivities were arranged by Lynda Van Winkle and supported by her classmates. 

I got to spend time with studentsand their familiesand several new friends purchased the newest Bonnie Pinkwater mystery Napier's Bones. One memorable encounter was with the family of Brian Short. His wife Kristy was charming and his oldest girl Kiley gave me hope for the future. I got to spend a charming few minutes with the Brian's youngest, Kassidy, who ended up removing herself from the company of adults so she could go off by herself and read A Calculated Demise, the second Bonnie Pinkwater mystery.

Aren't children wonderful?

Before the night was over I was reacquainted with many of my former students and it was delightful. Thank you, Class of 1990 for including me in your wonderful night.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The End of a Era - Goodbye Fuel B's

East of Colorado Springs is a town that wormed its way into my heart a few decades ago. I came out to Ellicott, Colorado to teach math. I meant to only do it for a single year then move back into Colorado Springs - I stayed for 18. 

There are also many, many wonderful people who took a young divorced man into their hearts and made him feel at home. Colorado is not known for it's plains. You think of Colorado you think mountains: Aspen, Vail, skiing, mountain meadows. Well, Ellicott is none of these. More than anything it resembles Kansas. There are ranches and a lot of them. 

For as long as I can remember there existed an institution near the crossroads of Ellicott Highway and Highway 94 - Fuel B's

To call it a gas station would be a gross injustice. Fuel B's was a pizza parlor, a sub shop, a place to to get your morning coffee or just meet with a friend. In my case it was a place to introduce the people of Ellicott (and Calhan, Simla, Peyton, Elbert, Falcon, Miami, and let's not forget Punkin Center) to my school teacher sleuth Bonnie Pinkwater. With each new installment of the mystery series, I had book signings at this wonderful oasis and friends would join me and take away a story centered on the plains outside of Colorado Springs.

Last Thursday (June 18th), I had another book signing - for Napier's Bones, the fifth mystery starring Mathematician Bonnie Pinkwater - at Fuel B's. And it may be my last. The good, good folks who have been the owners of Fuel B's have sold the establishment and starting on the 19th of June it will have new ownership and perhaps a new name. I have no idea if the new owners will keep the flavor of this gas station which is so much more. I can only hope so.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Pikes Peak Bulletin feature on yours truly - Manitou Springs

Math and mystery add up to fun reads

By Rhonda Van Pelt
Pikes Peak Bulletin

Bonnie Pinkwater is returning to Manitou Springs. Actually, her creator, Robert Spiller, is heading to one of his favorite places to sign his latest book starring the mystery-solving math teacher.

Spiller was a longtime mathematics teacher who retired in 2010 after working in Monument, Ellicott and Denver. He launched several previous books at Black Cat Books, the bookstore formerly owned by Manitou Art Center director Natalie Johnson. In the process, he said, he and his heroine have made a “slew of friends” in Manitou.

His teaching career supplied the prototype for the aforementioned Ms. Pinkwater.

“I taught mathematics with a fantastic woman, Susan Smith. Besides being a terrific teacher, she had a phenomenally logical mind coupled with a memory that astounded, and occasionally annoyed, me,” Spiller said. “So when I turned my hand to mysteries, it seemed someone with her qualities would be perfect for my sleuth.”

However, he said that Smith, his muse, is much too nice to be plausible as a book character, so he mixed in a bit of his own personality.

“Thus was born the wonderfully caring but also wonderfully snarky Bonnie Pinkwater,” he said. “We have been best friends through five books.”

When she isn’t teaching in the fictional town of East Plains, Colo., a pseudonym for Ellicott, Pinkwater is using her knowledge of historical mathematics to solve crimes.

“My most recent outing, ‘Napier’s Bones,’ features John Napier, who not only invented logarithms and eventually the slide rule, but was also an alchemist,” he said. “The man even owned a jet-black rooster who, he claimed, could read minds. What could be more fun than that?”

He loved teaching and misses the interaction with his students.

“I am a huge fan of teenagers, particularly middle-school teenagers. I find their directness and honesty refreshing. I am also delighted in how incredibly strange they can be. They never fail to surprise.”

Spiller, an “incredibly social person,” admits that going from a classroom full of 13-year-olds to a much more solitary life with his keyboard was an adjustment.

But he’s still a teacher at heart, both as a tutor in algebra, geometry and trigonometry, and an author.

“Many of my former students are now avid readers,” he said, “and regularly they write to tell me how they didn't really like math until they had me for a teacher.”

Spiller has ideas for future Pinkwater mysteries, but is now working on a novel he’s had in mind for a a few years and describes it as “this book of my heart.” Once that’s done, he’ll decide what’s next for his mathematician/sleuth.

“One of my favorite things is to get email from folks telling me how they love Bonnie Pinkwater.  I have friends in far-flung places who write to me how Bonnie seems like someone they would like to know and how much they admire her.”

He’s also working on a Young Adult mystery series featuring a protagonist named Tucker Gamble that should be released in the next few years. They’re set in 1967 Philadelphia, against the backdrop of that turbulent time.

“I am very high on these because Tucker is a very complex character, a survivor from an abusive home who carries the scars of those times,” Spiller said.

You might think that Spiller’s mathematical mind would be an advantage while organizing his thoughts and ideas into a narrative, but no.

“I seem to be hindered and blessed with many of the traits that bedevil a lot of writers. I can find a hundred and one things to do other than write — I am particularly susceptible to the lure of movies and video games.”

But, once he knuckles down, his math skills come in handy to organize his plot as he would a mathematical proof.

Either way, Spiller’s work is all about solving problems.

What Spiller Reads
“As for mystery, I read Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Jeffery Deaver and am a sucker for historical mysteries like Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters. But recently I read a wonderful book by Gabrielle Zevin titled “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.” A love song to books and writing, it is a simple tale about a bookstore owner in New England that tells profound truths. As for my favorite book of all time, it has to be “The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien.”

If you go
1-4 p.m. Saturday, June 13
Book launch party/signing at the Manitou Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave. Danny Pitcher of Danny and the Fried Shrimp will perform the blues and William Thayer will juggle. Spiller also promises “copious disks of delectable sweetness and light” – aka cookies. 

More information about the author and his books: www.rspiller.com.

Book Launch and Guest Blog on Pat Stoltey's Writer's Blog

Please join me this Saturday, June 13th (1pm - 4pm) 

Manitou Art Center, 513 Manitou Blvd 
Book Launch of Napier's Bones, the fifth Bonnie Pinkwater mystery. 

There will be music, raffles, cookies, and juggling and God knows what else.

Also very cool, On July 2 I will be the guest bloggist (I pretty sure that's a word) on Pat Stoltey's Writer's Blog. I am very jazzed about this and wrote what I consider a masterpiece of an essay for the event. Check it out

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Looking Forward and Back

I suppose we're all at the center of our own stories and from where we stand can gaze backward in time to what we remember and forward to what is yet to come. 


At the beginning of May I went to my youngest granddaughter's birthday party - she was two, born on Cinco de Mayo. Of course she was manic running everywhere on this day just for her. She would only let me hold her for a few seconds before she would squirm to be let down so she could run laughing to her mom or her big brother (he is 5 and knows everything). Her story is just beginning.

At the end of May, my wife and I traveled to Minnesota to spend time with her birth father and his wife. It was magical. They were gracious to us and took us to one of their favorite places an arboretum. As we rode the tram around the acres and acres of flowers I couldn't help watching their faces. They obviously have been on the planet a significantly longer time than either my wife (we're both 64) or myself, seen more, felt more, grieved more. Their reference points are fixed in times that I know only a little about (World War II, Big Bands). Assuming they live the same amount of time as I do,their story is shifted in time about twenty years from mine. Simply put theirs are lives offset from mine but no different in the things that matter.

From Minnesota, my wife and I traveled to Iowa to celebrate the life of her father who died earlier this year. A gardener, we skipped flowers for a basket containing a cabbage, green beans, and cherry tomatoes - all vegetables he grew in his garden when he was able. Each member of the celebration chose a cherry tomato and saluted this wonderful man and told stories of his life. And he did have stories. His time in the war. When he first met my wife's mother. The births of all his children. His life window closed in January. His time to walk on this planet was over. Yet we his offspring remained.

As a mathematician, I have no illusions. The mortality rate for every generation is 100%. I fully intend to enjoy my time to strut upon this planet. I mean to write more books. Hug more grandchildren. Listen to the tales of those older than myself. Smell a flower at an arboretum. But someday, if I'm lucky, I'll move quietly from this plane of existence to another. Others will celebrate my life, perhaps read passages from my books (I would like that). Then they will remain. And that will be okay.