Book Review: Nicholas Sparks’ “Every Breath” Shines, But Misses Opportunities

On October 16th, Nicholas Sparks released a momentous work as “Every Breath” became his 20th novel released to the masses. It was his 22nd work overall, including a memoir written with his brother Micah, and a non-fiction work co-authored with Billy Mills.

On October 24th, I finished reading my 20th Sparks novel and 21st Sparks work overall (I’m missing only Wokini, the non-fiction work that was actually Sparks’ first release). To say I’m an expert in the works of Nicholas Sparks would be boastful and untrue; however, since I’ve been reading Sparks for over 15 years, I can honestly tell you that while I enjoyed this book, it is certainly not the best we’ve seen from him.

Sparks tries something entirely different from any of his other novels: he bookends the story with a fictional character named…Nicholas Sparks, a writer who happens to come upon the story of Hope Anderson and Tru Walls, and decides he needs to write about it. The average reader who skips the “Acknowledgements” and “Author’s Note” sections will be fooled into believing this was based on a true story, but tucked right at the end, Sparks admits that it’s not.

Sparks is certainly not the first author to attempt this; however, this insertion doesn’t add to the story and the illusion of it being based on true events is whimsical, but also unnecessary. If anything, the attempt takes up valuable pages that could have been devoted to more details regarding Hope and Tru’s story — incidentally, the fictional Sparks says he initially wrote more regarding their story but decided not to include it; this reader wishes that he had.

The love story takes place over two separate time periods, spread 25 years apart. In 1990, two strangers happen to meet because they find themselves visiting neighboring cottages on Sunset Beach. While the harsh critic might say the neighbor angle weakens the power of their love, I prefer to believe that it alludes that love can happen anywhere, at any moment.

Almost immediately, Sparks shows the deep connection developing between the two characters, but also mixes that with the conflict (exes and the long distance, among others) that the reader should expect to rear its head later in the story. And while the initial connection is brief — the characters are only brought together initially for less than 5 days — Sparks again shows, as is a constant theme with his works, that love does not follow a clock, and that a spark between two souls can ignite very quickly.

But once the initial connection ends, the story loses momentum. Sparks struggles to fill in the 25-year gap by telling the reader what happened leading up to the 2016 present time, rather than showing. Time jumping can be an effective narrative as long as the reader is not left questioning what happened in between. I’d have preferred to see chapters devoted strictly to important moments between  time frames, rather than learning about them in a conversation between two characters.

The story does eventually regain its momentum, but it is halted once again too soon when the fictional Nicholas Sparks reappears to end the story. As I turned the last page of the story and began reading the Sparks perspective, I thought “Oh, it’s over already? Oh, okay,” secretly disappointed that there would no more pages dedicated to Hope and Tru. Without giving too much away, I certainly felt there was more to say, or more that could be said, rather than abruptly ending the story where it did.

Sparks certainly knows how to carry momentum from beginning to end. And while I prefer a love story that also adds an element of suspense ala Safe Haven, The Lucky One The Guardian, I enjoy a story that focuses purely on love as well, ala The Notebook, The Choice or Dear John.

Though Every Breath contains the elements Sparks fans have come to know and love, with the tenderness and sweetness only Sparks knows how to write, the story had a hard time holding momentum for me, a quality that is crucial for any reader. Bottom Line: A little more Author Sparks and a little less Fictional Sparks next time. 

Ranking the 20 Books I’ve Read this Year

What a fantastic year of books.

I had a goal to read 20 books in 2018. However, with two kids under two, a full time job, a dog and cat, a wife I enjoy spending time with, a house that is in constant need of repair, and a yard that is in constant disarray due to a particularly harsh rainy summer, 20 books was a lofty goal for me. Yet here we are, mid-September, and I have finished my goal. 3. Freakin. Months. Early!
*Round of Applause*
It may be the only goal I accomplish this year, but I’m still counting that as successful, and I owe it all to the 19 authors (1 author I read twice) who wrote incredible books that kept me interested throughout. Some were better than others. Some were much much better than others, but I didn’t finish a book and say, “Damn, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on this.” In fact, there are probably 10 books on this list that could have easily been the best book I read this year….if it weren’t for the other 9.
So yes, a fantastic year of books.
I’d like to share my personal ranking of the 20 with you now as all are certainly worth a read. So here we go.
20: An Unexpected Grace by Kristin Von Kreisler: love dogs and I love dog books (Dog’s Purpose, A Man of His Own) so I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite meet my expectations, but that’s not completely the author’s fault. The book started dramatically enough, but kind of mellowed and just strolled along from there. Not enough rises and falls.
19: Two From the Heart by James Patterson: I enjoy Patterson’s “Women’s Murder Club” series, and I’ve enjoyed some of his romantic tales (Susanne’s Diary for Nicholas & Sam’s Letters to Jennifer, for example), but for the most part, his books are just not emotionally gripping enough. They move at a good pace, but emotionally, I am not all that drawn in, which is a problem for me.
18: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand: This book is probably a Top 10 in a down year, but I read too many great books this year. I read this because I wanted a beach book, and I enjoyed the different perspectives. But I think the story just didn’t resound with me…but it could with others. Still a good book.
17: Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Garber does a wonderful job creating a magical world; sadly, though, it’s really hard to get me locked into a fantasy world. However, as this is a series, I am still intrigued to read Book 2, Legendary, which just released the end of May.
16: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Again, a victim of circumstance. Nothing is particularly wrong with this book, but it just didn’t grab me as much as the ones above it.
15: Child Finder by Rene Denfeld: I was intrigued by the book’s premise, but it took so long to build suspense for me, as I was expecting more energy in the middle and just didn’t see it. Once the book picks up with the climax however, it flew and kept me glued to the page.
14: The Bear by Clare Cameron: Bear was recommended to me several years ago by someone who knew I enjoyed Room by Emma Donohue, and I finally picked it up cheap at a book sale this summer. Both books are told from a child’s perspective, and while I found the concept so unique and mesmerizing in Room, I had a harder time following it in Bear. And even though this book had a bear chase, Room had more suspense for me.
13: The Other Half by Sarah Rayner: I read a lot of books this year set in England, but I didn’t enjoy the “Brit Speak” as much as I did in this book. I tried incorporating it into real life, but people just looked at me strangely, so I had to stop.
12: Abundance of Katherines by John Green: I’ve read many of Green’s books over the past few years, but didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Paper Towns and Fault in Our Stars. Also, Green fell victim to the books above it this year.
11: Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans: Evans is certainly a Top 3 favorite author of mine all time, and even this book didn’t crack the Top 10 (though he sneaks in with another book later). A good Christmas read.
10: The Girl Before by JP Delaney: This book is a bona fide winner in other years, and it kept me reading with its suspense, but I wasn’t quite as hooked as a couple of books you’ll see in The Top 5.
9: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo: I love a good romantic story, and this one didn’t disappoint. This probably moves up a few spots if not for some of my beefs with the main character….but the fact that Santopolo creates a character that I care enough to argue with? Makes her a great writer, and this a great book.
8: Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin: If Evans is a Top 3 author, Martin is a Top 5, and I’ve never not enjoyed any of his books. Romance, intrigue, suspense, morality. This book had it all. The ending might have dragged a little too long, if I had to give a con.
7: One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr: I loved going on the journey with Flora Banks, the girl with amnesia, as she chased after a boy who, of all things, she remembered.
6: The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans: Evans narrowly misses the Top 5 with the second book in a series whose main character is a wealthy, arrogant jerk that suddenly finds a conscience. The reason I enjoy Evans and Martin so much is because they create characters who either a)have a moral compass or b)are trying to find a moral compass. Both authors are guided by their belief in Christ that shapes their written words. In a world of constant chaos, we need characters like that. At least I do.
5: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown: A book with a mystery that leaves you guessing until the end. I love books where you spend pages trying to solve the mystery, only to be left surprised with the ending, anyway.
4: Woman in The Window by AJ Finn: As above, it’s suspenseful with a mystery you are constantly trying to solve. An edge-of-your-seat book that I didn’t want to put down. If you enjoy Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, you’ll enjoy AJ Finn. Sidenote: this is becoming a movie with a great cast of actors/actresses.
3: My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry: I love love love discovering new authors, and even more, love finding out that this isn’t the only book of theirs that’s currently released! Jane quickly became a new favorite author with just this book, creating characters you think about long after you’ve put the book down. Just the right blend of suspense and intrigue.
2: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: How is this book not #1?? Even I can’t believe it, and I made the list. I’ve never read anything like this. The “catch” in this book is unlike anything I’d ever read before. It made my mouth drop open. Paris also writes openly and brilliantly about a character with Down Syndrome, who I couldn’t get enough of. I don’t want to give anything away, but you need to read this book. And the only reason it’s not #1 is because….
1: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon: This book literally came out of nowhere. Seriously. I’m at Barnes & Noble looking up books on my list of books I want to read. I go to find my wife, who is looking at something on a shelf, and this book catches my eye with its intriguing cover and tagline. I pick it up, say “Hmm, this sounds good” and put it on a pile of books that, 30 minutes later, I have to decide which are keepers and which are save-for-laters. I was on the fence between two books, and this was one of them. Something told me to keep it…and it was the best decision of the year.
This book has…a romantic story. Suspense. Page-turning quality. Characters you love. Characters you want to scream at. Characters you just shake your head at. A mystery that you’re trying to solve from Page 1 to 320. (PS, I convinced my wife to read this right after I finished, and she figured out part of the mystery I didn’t, but missed the part that I figured out that I thought was obvious). And that sinking “Oh No” feeling you get in your stomach when you’re afraid of what’s going to happen? McKinnon takes you there…and then she drops multiple plot bombs on you in a matter of….ten pages. You’re trying to recover from the first, and there’s the second, then another. And another. At least five near the end. I couldn’t breathe by the time I finished. And I LOOOOVE that feeling! It is so hard for a book to make me do that. That and cry are the two things that a fantastic book should make you do, and McKinnon got me further than most authors who have tried (For the record, there’s less than 5 books that have ever made me cry). Yes, this book benefited from the fact that I had low expectations going in, but the writing quality blew the others out of the literary water (note: “Literary Water” is a dry pond because water is bad for books. Duh!).
I am forever grateful for McKinnon and “The Neighbors” for reminding me, more than any other book did this year, why I read. And driving that passion home for me with a stake to the Literary Heart .
(note: the metaphorical stake is plastic because nothing can harm your Literary Heart. Also – steak. Mmmm…)

Surviving Mondays

Let me just tell you: Mondays are exhausting. First of all, you’re tired because you’re getting up earlier than you did over the weekend. Secondly, despite the extra hour of sleep from Daylight Savings Time, your schedule still isn’t normal, so you’re still tired.

Thirdly, Mondays are the busiest day of the week at work. So today in 8 hours, I ran 300 transactions: that includes customers, and mailed-in payments. That averages to just about 38 transactions per hour, which means I’m running a transaction at a pace quicker than every 2 minutes. But that’s not even the half of it, because sometimes you get a break of customers–which just means you’re doing other side work, not actually resting–so that pace turns into quicker than one transaction every two minutes. It could be multiple transactions per minute!

Fourthly, the leaves are piling up quite quick and I’m trying to stay ahead of the game. Let me just Leaves are the bane of my existence. What else is the bane of my existence? Glad you asked! Here’s a quick list:

  • Leaves
  • The Philadelphia Eagles (because they enjoy throwing games away)
  • People who say “Books are dumb” or “I don’t have time to read” while they are watching “Real Housewives” or some other reality show
  • Typos in books, Typos in Emails from superiors, and just Typos in general

I’m sure there are more, but that’s a quick list. So I come home from a long, busy day, only to go outside and try and control the leaf population (which is a constant losing battle).

So yeah. Mondays are, all in all, exhausting.

But I told myself I was going to try and write on Mondays, so here I am. Luckily, I made some progress on a non-fiction piece this weekend, and I’m excited to finish that soon. Also, I’ve been reading one of my new books I got to help build my platform. It’s called “Your First 1000 Copies” by Timothy Grahl. I think it’s going to be pretty useful in the long run, but in the short run, I have my doubts. For instance, one of the tips Grahl uses in order to gain viewership and keep in touch with your readers is to use an e=mail list on your blog with incentives, so they will know exactly when your new books drops. I think this is a good idea, but here is my problem: no one can see my e=mail list if they are not coming to my blog in the first place. So that’s obviously an issue. I also know that WordPress covers some of the subscribing issues, but that requires a WordPress account, so maybe an email list would still be useful on here. I need to think on that. But for now, my problem is trying to get you, the reader, to find me in the first place, and then to keep coming back.

Some other things I’ve been mulling lately in regards to writing. 1) Where is the best place to publish something online? I’ve thought about publishing a short story of mine, uploading it for a free download and see what kind of traction it gets, and see if that helps my platform. Is Amazon the best route to go, and if so, does that discriminate against Ipad and Nook users? Is there a simple way to upload to all three, and/or should I worry about that? I’m not sure.

Also, 2) I want to write some short stories! I think that is the quickest way to reach out to you, my readers. But there’s a two-fold problem with that. a) I have limited time to write and ideally, I should be using that for my novel and other various stories I’d like to get professionally published and b) my strength is not in writing short stories. Whenever I try and write a short story, it ends up turning into more of a novella (8-10,000 + words), which I guess isn’t horrible for what I plan on using it for. But that still doesn’t eliminate problem a.

And finally, 3) I think I’m going to start up loading a video blog (or vlog, if you prefer) once a week, to give you guys and girls yet another way to connect with me. I think with the advances in technology, today’s writer needs to be more accessible to his/her readers, which includes using social media to their advantage. Also, with video blogging, it’s a quick way to give my viewers substance without taking up valuable writing time I could use on my stories. Ideally, I’d love to write all the time, but with a full-time job and a more-than-full time family, I have to find creative ways to make it all work.

I think that’s it for now, readers. Thanks for listening. I mean reading. Well you know what I mean.

Until Next Time, Keep Reading!
-MP

P.S. Only 48 days til Christmas, and 1 day until, for better or worse, the world changes forever.

“Holy Typos, Batman!”and Comparative Descriptions

Currently Reading: I finished Nicholas Sparks’ “Two by Two” this past Sunday. Awesome book, if you can get through the first 30 pages. They tend to lag on, but the rest of the book is pure joy. For the writers out there viewing this, have you ever heard the expression “Show, Don’t Tell,” which basically means use descriptive writing as opposed to just saying what happens? Well, the first 30 pages is a great example of telling, but not showing. Basically, it’s a whole bunch of paragraphs setting up the book, but rather than sitting you in the middle of a scene, it’s the narrator basically droning on about his life, but not actually telling you anything of substance. I thought this part was unnecessary. The rest of the book though? Typical Sparks. And I totally mean that in a good way if you enjoy his writing.

But Wow….talk about typos!! I have never seen anything like this in a Sparks book. Missed punctuation here, “he” instead of “she” there. At one point on page 438, it reads, “Monday was London’s last day of school before Winter Break.” Then on page 440: “Tuesday, London’s last day of Winter Break.” Dude, which is it?? I re-read those two pages four or five times, trying to decipher if I was misreading it, but I don’t think I was. Pretty unbelievable considering this isn’t a first-time writer at a dinky publisher, but instead a well-established author with a rich history of best sellers (including this one). Some of this falls on the author, sure, but grievances like this generally belong to the editor/publisher, I assume.

Now I’m onto “The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. I’m enjoying it so far as I’ve already eclipsed 150 pages in less than two days. Carey is actually a pen name, but the writer himself has a history of work for Marvel and DC Comics, among other publications. The fact that Carey is a seasoned veteran is obvious. I’m particularly impressed with his descriptive writing. I’m jealous of his use of what I like to call Comparative Descriptions. Example: “Seventy miles of England’s green and pleasant land, all gone to the hungries and as safe to wander in as it would be to dance a mazurka in a minefield.” Now, have I ever heard of the Mazurka? No, but the sentence is constructed in a way that I don’t have to.

If you’re interested, “The Girl With All the Gifts” is a post-apocalyptic story, set in what was once London, but is now overrun by Hungries (think Zombies), as the few human survivors try and find a cure. The titular Girl is a child zombie, waffling between her Hungrian instincts and her love of the humans, especially one in particular, her teacher Helen Justineau. I’m excited to see how it turns out.

On a sidenote: My wife J asked (I’m hoping in jest) if “The Girl With All the Gifts” is the sister of “The Girl on the Train” and if both of these girls are the daughters of “The Woman in Cabin 10.” I’m gonna go ahead and say, um, no.

Currently Writing: Wednesday is my best night to write, as J is prepping for a 5K this weekend with her mom, and they like to stroll our son E around the neighborhood while they power walk. So tonight should give me a solid 60-90 minutes to write. This will likely include some editing, but hopefully I can get into one of the short non-fiction pieces I’d like to explore that I mentioned in my last post. Also, I’m still waiting on a couple books that I ordered from Amazon, that I hope will assist me in successfully building my platform.

Distractions? Saturday was my first Auction Experience, as we visited my uncle’s auction house in the morning. J bid $2.00, and won a cookie jar. I got a set of wrenches for $12.50. All in all, I would call it a successful first venture. Let me just say that Auctions, Bingo Halls, and Yard Sales definitely bring out a unique group of individuals, and I’ll leave it at that. Sunday was football-stupid Eagles cost me valuable sleep because of poor coaching-and Monday, we strolled around my sister’s neighborhood with our son dressed as a bluebird. He was quite the trooper for being only 379 days old, but the candy selection itself was disappointing. I mean, seriously, applesauce??? Come on, people!! Bring on the giant chocolate bars, and gummy candies. Halloween is about creating cavities, not eating mushy fruit!! Oh well. Maybe next year.

Until next time, Keep Reading! My beard will be longer the next time I post as it is officially No-Shave November. You’ll just have to take my word on that.
-MP

When to Introduce “The Event,” and Building Your Platform

Currently Reading: So I’m 240 pages into “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks, a tantalizing average of about 120 words per day. If this pace continues, I could read an average book in about 3 days, which would translate to approximately 120 books per year. How awesome would that be?!? Unfortunately, this pace will not continue (see: Life, cross reference: Shit Happens). What can I attribute to the current blistering speed? Two things. 1)Nicholas Sparks is one of my all time favorite authors. Probably top two, running neck and neck with Richard Paul Evans. He creates characters that you remember when you put the book down, and you find yourself daydreaming about the world when you’re supposed to be working. He was the first writer that made me want to write books. He also writes the type of books that I find myself drawn to writing – both he and Evans are often categorized into Women’s Fiction, but oddly I’m OK with reading books from a writer that caters mostly to women readers.

2) I’m in a good rotation at work right now. Let me explain. So even though my job title mentions nothing about customer service, essentially that is what I do: take payments from customers whose utilities are powered by the city itself. My job rotates into 3 stations on a monthly basis: two inside the lobby and one in the drive thru. Station 1 in the Lobby’s main task is to wait on all the customers that walk in the door. Also, they are secondary to answering the phones that ring non stop. Station 2 in the Lobby’s main task is being primary on the phones, as well as processing all incoming mail payments, which on Mondays turns into a giant shit show of busyness that starts around 7:40 and doesn’t let up until after 4. Needless to say, I hate this rotation the most. Station 3 in the Drive Thru’s main task is to wait on the customers who do not want to get out of their cars and prefer quick, wait-free service. Also, the drive thru station is located on the other side of the building, isolated from everyone, so it’s just you, a tiny enclosed room, and the radio. Can you guess which I love the most? So when the customers don’t come to the drive-thru and the phone isn’t ringing off the hook (yes, I’m still required to answer the phone there), I’m able to read, something not afforded in either of the other two stations. So if your work is caught up inside, you sit and stare at the wall waiting for a customer. In the drive thru, the head honchos aren’t around to spy and make sure you don’t look bored. So I read, and read a lot. Hence my progress.

“Two by Two” is one of Sparks’ best books in my opinion, but I’m surprised at how long it took to reach The Event. The Event is what occurs in every book (child goes missing, dead body turns up, etc.), and is usually mentioned in the book jacket when describing said book. Typically, The Event occurs in the first 50 pages and the rest of the book depicts the aftermath. But in “Two by Two,” I didn’t hit The Event until about page 220. It made me question whether or not I misread the book’s description or, at the very least, misinterpreted it. It’s just unheard of to be 50% into a book and wondering when something is going to occur that you’ve been waiting for since Page 1. In any event, as a Wannabe Writer, it’s good for me to see different ways to approach The Event and decide what works best for me and my novel.

The fun thing now about reading an author you’ve already read at least 15 times, you develop a fun game in predicting the outcome of the rest of the book. I’ll let you know if I was right or not.

Currently Writing: On Tuesday, I looked into a small, local publisher as perhaps a venue to launch my novel “Off the Record” that I completed several years ago. Upon investigating their submission form, I realized it was more complicated than I thought. I assumed it’d be a quick query letter and submitting a pdf file. Instead, there are in-depth questions regarding BISAC codes and whether or not you have your own publicist. I’ve decided I need to do a better job of building my platform. So on Tuesday, I found some books I wanted to read because right now, my online presence/platform is non-existent, and that is not good. In addition, I want to really think about my answers to these questions, because I probably have one shot with this publisher. So that’s where I stand right now: working on building my platform, which likely will include some redesigns to this blog. But don’t worry! I’ll still be bloggin’. I’ll also be editing/rewriting “Off the Record” as it stands, as well as editing/writing/rewriting another story I’m looking to publish. In addition, I recently thought of some short non-ficiton pieces I’d like to put to paper and see what they look like, because I think they have a potential viewership in the online market as well. So that’s what will be happening in the near future.

Distractions: None. Can you believe that? Ok, so it’s probably a lie. But I don’t consider “spending time with my family” a distraction. On Monday, we  visited a raggedy Pumpkin Patch because my wife J insisted on finding a pumpkin to carve for our 1-year old son E who will never remember this experience except by the endless pictures J decides to take, which will inevitably include several unflattering shots of Yours Truly that I hope don’t find their way onto any Social Media outlets. But who am I kidding? I actually enjoy carving the pumpkin. I love the smell of the inside once you cut the top off, and I love how slimy the seeds and innards are when you squish them between your fingers.

And because I love this, I was willing to drive out of my way on Monday afternoon in the cold and windy conditions; park my precious Rogue into a shady field; push my son’s stroller over a rickety, dirt path into a patch that looks like it’s where pumpkins go to die; ;carefully step over the broken pumpkins into uncharted territory that probably includes bugs that will eat at my sweet skin, while my wife and son wait patiently in the safe part of the patch; rip the only decent looking pumpkin off the vine with my bare hands like the Hulk because I don’t have tools, all the while pricking my fingers; drag the 10 lber back across said patch and hope that I don’t fall onto my face; kneel down so I can pose in the Patch of Horrors with my son; pose again because J didn’t like the light in picture 1; pose again because E moved slightly in Picture 2 (have I mentioned J is a P.P. -Photographing Perfectionist?); and then pay $12.00 dollars for The Experience of a Lifetime. J insists these will be memories we cherish lately, and really who am I to argue?

…but then again, $12 could have bought me a new paperback….damn.

Until Next Time, Keep Reading!!
-MP

 

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

Daily Writing Struggles: Case of the Mondays

Currently Reading: Shamefully, I must admit I’ve only read two pages of “A Man Called Ove” since my last post. But when one has free time, one must decide how to use said time. Do you write, or do you read?

Currently Writing: And proudly, I must admit I used my free time to write! Today, I wrote 1,182 pages of a story I started approximately one year ago. So here’s the backstory: A couple years ago while I still worked at my other job, a woman’s voice popped into my head. More accurately, her story popped into my head. And I couldn’t get her to shut up; naturally, I knew this meant I had to write about her. And so it began. Around 2,600 words were created about said woman. Her origin story formed as I wrote about her struggles in September of 2015. Then: LIFE GOT IN THE WAY. My son was born three weeks early with breathing issues and had to spend 10 days (including my birthday) in the NICU. Luckily, he is fine now. But a month after he was born, I lost my job due to a bank merger, and my unemployed time was spent searching for jobs and watching my son. The woman’s voice faded, and her story became lost on a flash drive….until today. While deciding what I wanted to write about today, I came across her story, and dove right in. I’m excited about what happens next as the next pages of her life will uncover the very images I had when her voice popped into my head from so long ago.

Special shout-out to my wife, who is training for a 5K in November and has also taken our 10-month old son off my hands on Wednesday nights, giving me ample time to write. This could lead to some major writing progress.

How Life Got In The Way: Have you ever seen the movie Office Space? Well you should. It’s hilarious whether you’ve worked in an office setting with cubicles before or not. Anyway, someone at the beginning says “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays!” And honestly, I never quite understood that phrase until the job I have now.

A brief description of my job: so I work for city government, processing payments for customers and opening mail. Mondays tend to be a little crazy. After having two days off, customers come in like it’s a Black Friday Deal, except they don’t want to spend their money here. Not to mention the mail comes in like it’s the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Plus the phone rings off the hook. I probably answer over 100 calls on a Monday.

And well, if Monday is a holiday as it was this past week, Tuesday becomes Monday’s angry cousin, and unleashes twice as much evil. Needless to say when Quitting Time comes on the business day after the weekend, I. Am. EXHAUSTED. And even if I sat at the computer to write, my mind would not be in the proper place to compose coherent thought….unless maybe I was writing angry lit, or a Dr. Seuss poem. But I’m not.

Special shout out to The Lawn for maintaining its browny goodness during the heat wave here in the Northeast, and saving me from having to spend my evenings mowing!

What’s Newsworthy: I hear now that presidential hopeful Donald Trump was revealed in a poll to be the more trustworthy/honest of the two candidates. Is it Halloween already? Because I just got scared….

Also saw an article on CNN with the headline “Math is Racist?” I had to roll my eyes at this. I couldn’t even convince my right hand to click on the link. If you have the energy to read about it, let me know if any of it holds water.

Until Next Time. 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.