The Last 48 Days

Currently Reading: Well, I finally finished “A Man Called Ove” (hopefully, right? It’s only been a month and a half!). I was pleasantly surprised; however, the ending did drag a little bit, and was also kind of predictable. Still, I like Backman’s writing style, would recommend this book, and would certainly read another one – he has at least two other published books out already.

After finishing “Ove,” I blew through “Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch. I was hesitant to read this book because of my own stubbornness: Jenna is the daughter of well-known author, Richard Paul Evans. The elder Evans is one of my favorite authors. Ever. I had a feeling this book would be good, but a nagging question ate at me: would “Love and Gelato” ever have been published if her father wasn’t well-documented? After all, her agent, Laurie Liss, is the same agent that represents Richard Paul Evans. What bothers me about this is what this means to me: sometimes, the book that gets published isn’t the best book, but it’s written by the person that has the “In.” It’s the same reason I’m bothered when I see a book by Joe Hill in prime position on a bookstore shelf. And it dates back to my high school years, when the “best athletes” on your high school teams were the ones who had parents that were well known within the community, not the ones with the most talent. It’s the harsh reality that Publishing is a business, and sometimes, it’s all about Who You Know. And unfortunately, I don’t know many people in the publishing business. I didn’t stay in touch with my writing professors from college, at least two of whom that have been published. But even if I did stay in good contact with them, is that how I wish to be successful? By piggy-backing the success of others? I don’t know. But it would certainly make my life a lot easier than it currently is.

Now wait!! Don’t get me wrong! This “Rant of the Slain” as I like to call the above paragraph does not in any way diminish the quality of “Love and Gelato” by Mrs. Welch. The book is a phenomenal YA read and makes me want to jet on over to Italy pronto (Wait, is that word even Italian? Ah, who knows). Welch has created characters that you remember when you shut the book. Characters that you think about while you’re at work. She’s created a world that parallels your own, a world you’d like to escape into, and are more than happy to dive into once the workday is over. That, folks, is damn good writing. Her father has that talent, and clearly she does too. “Love and Gelato” is a book not to be missed, and I love that you don’t have to be an 18-year old girl to enjoy it, even if the main character is. The only downfall is that “Love and Gelato” is Welch’s first book to be published, so we will have to wait awhile to read another.

Next on the reading list: “Two by Two” by another of my favorite writers, Nicholas Sparks. I read recently that Sparks’ movie production company has shut down, so “The Choice” may in fact be the last book brought to the Big Screen. This is truly a shame, because even though “The Choice” performed poorer compared to other Sparks’ blockbusters, it was one of the better adaptations, staying truer to the book than even its successful predecessors, “The Notebook,” “Dear John,” “Walk to Remember” and “The Best of Me” just to name a few.

Currently Writing: Well, not much, unfortunately. However, my brain has not stopped working, as I have thought up two more ideas (one being a screenplay I’d like to try someday), as well as the opening line of a novel that I thought up while eating dinner, though I don’t know the story behind that line yet.Here’s my problem: the ability to focus. I have several ideas up in the ol’ noggin that I’d like to put on paper, but I don’t know which to devote the majority of my free time to, and even when I decide where to place my focus, several other ideas jump into my head, and I don’t want to lose them, so I feel I need to get as much information about said idea down on paper before it escapes me. Does anyone else have this problem? It’s like Author A.D.D., but I’m pretty sure no good doctor on earth will write me a prescription to cure this. Maybe I just need to cut back on caffeine?

Distractions That Prevented Healthy Writing: Well, in a word? Me! I haven’t been my best writing self in the last 45 days. Saturday the 22nd was my birthday, and I took the next two business days (Monday and Today) off, and am finally able to sit down and do a little blogging/writing.

However, if I wanted you to feel sorry for me, I would tell you that work is a tough distraction. I work in Customer Service and more often than not, I’ll have a day where someone comes in and yells or complains about how bad city government is, and that their electric bill is way too damned expensive, and that they should be able to pay it later than 3 weeks past their due date, and we’re just cruel and hateful people because we shut off their service for lack of payment. And what is my allowed response? Smile and Nod. They call you a name? Smile and Nod. They swear? Smile and Nod.

Now look, folks. I…LOVE people! Why do you think I want to write these books and do this full time? So people can read them, enjoy them, and escape from the problems in their own life like I do when I read a good book. But working in customer service is tough. It wears. You. Down. When you come home dejected and devoid of energy, how do you muster the courage to write productive pages that aren’t just sad and angry gibberish? Too often, I come home and crash in front of the television, thankful just to be at home with people that love me, rather than at work dealing with people who, well, don’t exactly care about my well being.

I’m a tough guy, though. Don’t worry about my state of mind. But if you read this, I wouldn’t mind if you sent good thoughts my way, ESP-style, encouraging me to come home and find the energy to write, write, write! That’s the only way I’m going to change the world, right?

Until Next Time – and I promise it will be less than 48 days – KEEP READING!!
-mp

New Format, Same Goofy Writer

Happy Labor Day! If you got an extra day off, I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t get an extra day off, what is wrong with your employer??

I wanted to share you with an idea that I wanted to try (and what better forum to try it than a blog that not many people read…yet?). I’ve decided that a nice way to get more traction (and for you to learn a little more about me, which is always important), is for me to write shorter blogs, packed with updates on my writing for that day (or days, depending on the lag time between posts). I’ll also update on the book(s) that I’m reading, because, as any good writer will tell you, you can’t be a good writer without reading…a lot. And if there is anything newsworthy – good or bad – from my life or the world that I’d like to write about, I can throw that in too. So without delay, I’ll give you an example of how I envision this, and if you have thoughts on ways I can tweak to make better, let me know! Ok? Ok! So let’s go.

Currently Reading: “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Read about 50 pages today. I’ve determined that Ove is a cross between Carl Fredrickson (aka the balloon man from “Up”) and Gru (aka the me in “Despicable Me”). He’s grumpy, but with reason, and he is adored by kids, but disgusted by adults.

Currently Writing: Didn’t do much writing today unfortunately, only a tiny bit of editing. However, I did manage to submit my short story to a literary magazine! So fingers crossed for that. The short story is “The Nine Lives of Jay Catsby” which I have mentioned on here before. It is the best short story I’ve ever written, by far. Naturally, I found myself more suited to writing longer pieces – novels, novellas. Even this short story, which clocks in at 8,500 words, is longer than most publications will take on. I’m a self-titled “Long-Winded Writer,” which makes short stories more difficult for me to complete in short fashion. However, occasionally I’ll have a subject conducive to a shorter script and “Catsby” was one of them. I really hope this pans out, if not with this submission, then another, because it is really good and I think others will enjoy it too!

How Life Got In The Way: Life Distractions are evil to the wannabe writer. It’s like stepping in gum on your way to church. It’s the stuff that gets in the way of what you really want to do. For me, that’s usually work and house/lawn maintenance. On a holiday like today, however, I can’t blame Life for any writing delays, hence why I was able to get the submission in. I also shut all the windows and refused to look at the yard, because a grass trimming looms. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable for me to skit out on timely haircuts, but not the yard. Go figure. Tonight, the wife and I celebrated my Mo-In-Law’s birthday (note: I would never call her “Mo-In-Law” or “Mo” to her face), but that’s not really a distraction, just something happened.

Newsworthy?:By now, the Colin Kaepernick story has been beaten to death, so let me just add this briefly. I think it’s okay to take a stand for what you feel is wrong; however, I feel the forum in which he chose to do it was misguided. Let’s really think about the Star Spangled Banner and what it represents. It was written 200+ years ago, in a time when America was fighting for its independence. To disrespect the national anthem is to disrespect those who fought for our freedom 200+ years ago, who are not at fault for what the current administration has done wrong. I have no problem with athletes protesting for what is right. Take Carmelo Anthony for example, who marched in Baltimore for what he believed in. I have no problem. The forum was right, and it didn’t disrespect a symbol for our country’s freedom. Colin’s other problem is that any of us poor-working schmos are going to take issue with a backup quarterback making $12 mil per year complaining about how unjust this country is. Also, I think Megan Rapinoe’s statement that the backlash toward Kaepernick is overtly racist is a tad over dramatic. I think the backlash is more towards his disrespect of the Flag/National Anthem, and not because we’re racist. And again, tweeting your allegiance to Kaepernick is a much more pointed statement than kneeling during the Anthem, which just adds fuel to a fire that, honestly, is burning a little stronger than necessary.

Does the United States have a problem with race? Absolutely. Does it have a problem with its reaction to the gay and transgender population as well? You bet it does. But the Flag is not to blame. The soldiers that gave their lives to this country 200+ years ago are also not to blame. And while race is a problem in this country, let me mention three others that are just as troubling to me as a U.S. citizen regardless of color: gun control, health insurance, and big bank takeovers.

First of all, why is it okay for a random citizen, let alone an individual with known ties to ISIS, to go out and purchase an AK-47 assault rifle? Why does an ordinary individual need such a deadly weapon, and why is it handed out so freely, like its produce in a grocery store? That, ladies and gentlemen, scares the bejeezus out of me.

Secondly, my friend’s father was recently denied access to a rehabilitation center that would speed up his recovery from injury by the health insurance. Why is this ok?? Why is the almighty dollar more important than a person’s well being? That I will never understand. We are doling out thousands each year in health insurance, for services that are free in other countries. Big problem, guys.

And finally, myself, along with approximately 200 of my coworkers, lost our jobs ten months ago because of big bank takeovers. Not to mention several of the key players from the purchasing bank got a huge cash settlement (we’re talking high six and seven figures) for completing the deal. So let me get this straight: Person A just got a million dollar bonus for putting 200 people out of work, and we have no idea why the unemployment rates in this country are not dropping? If this keeps up, there will be less than ten banks in the entire country, and thousands of people will be lining up to collect an unemployment salary that our government can’t afford….all so that less than 1% of the population gets a huge pay day.

Race is a problem in this country, no doubt. But remember that in 2008, we elected a black to man to office whose middle name is “Hussain” no less. And in 2012, we re-elected that same man over a white competitor. Race is a problem, for sure.

But it’s not the only problem.