Alternative book covers

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I sure hope you’ve read my books. They might not be perfect but hopefully enough for a little amusement. I’m currently at work on my third novel and try to squeeze in some night-time writing. Passion fuels energy etc…

These are two “covers” I whipped up in a few minutes featuring two of the locations in The Wake-Up Call (New York) and Hollywood Assistant (Los Angeles). My third novel is set in another place close to my heart, Washington D.C.

It will be out in 2016.
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Reading Jess Walter

We-Live-in-Water

I’ve landed into a period of heavy reading again and it feels like getting back to yourself after a period of confusion. I want to thank Jess Walter for bringing me back into the land of books through his novel Beautiful Ruins, but also through his other books The Financial Lives of Poets and the short-story We Live in Water (pictured above).

There is something about Jess Walter’s  writing style that appeals deeply to me. Brutally honest and with a wry sense of humour, it captures something I strive hard to accomplish in my own writing. In a self-deprecating way it frames the essence of life with all its blemishes and it makes us see that maybe life is beautiful because it’s far, far from perfect.

Beautiful Ruins (click the link for more about that book) led me to The Financial Lives of the Poets, which is darker and more blatantly funny.  Like his 2006 novel The Zero, it deals in part with USA post-September 11 and in part recession era America. The narrator and main character of the book is Matthew Prior, a 46-year-old ex business journalist who thanks to a ill-advised idea of starting a business poetry website has killed his career in journalism and is instead, through coincidence and a dire financial situation, planning to sell weed to his “peers” in the equally despondent middle-class.

Prior’s dire financial situation isn’t his only worry. His wife Lisa has late night conversations with an old boyfriend via Facebook (is she cheating?), she pursues an unhealthy shopping affair with eBay and to add to this, Prior’s alzheimer-plagued father is living with them and keeps repeating the same line over and over until his son’s head is going to explode. And…as most parents do, Prior is also constantly worried what kind of people his two sons will grow up to be.

You can say he has his plate rather full.

And Prior wants to solve all this by selling marijuana. (Not really all his troubles, but at least the financial ones).

financial-lives-of-the-poets

The first thought I had when I understood that Prior’s plan to solve his economic distress was to sell drugs, I thought of the TV series Weeds, which, if not entirely similar plot-wise, works with the same themes: How to cope in today’s fast-paced financial jungle? Why not do something taboo-ish like selling pot? Because doing so will obviously lead to some funny and unexpected situations (story-wise).

Yes, I first I thought: I’ve seen this idea before. But the way Walter pulls it off is clever and humorous and at times also a bit sad.

But he does one of the most important things in all writing – he makes you relate to the characters in his stories and he makes you laugh.

So with this very short review, I can really recommend The Financial Lives of the Poets.

The Financial Lives of the Poets in turn lead me to purchase We Live in Water, Walter’s short story collection.

If The Financial Lives of the Poets was dark and funny, this is more sharp and poignant. The stories in the book deals with loss, abuse, addiction and although many of them are heavy in storyline, they’re always a breeze to read, the reason being Walter’s skilful handling of the American language. In some way his writing he reminds me of another author favourite, Richard Ford.

Among all the destruction and broken people, there is, and here’s the trick, love. And real love, not Valentine’s Day love, not postcard love, not romantic love, but deep and heartfelt love. Between father and son (several of the stories deal with this), but also relationship love and what We Live in Water shows is how much we all hurt  because of it.

Writing that’s “real” is, to me, the best kind of writing and We Live in Water has it in spades.

I also like the contrast between this dark short story collection and the more romantic Beautiful Ruins. It shows that a talented writer doesn’t have to step inside a box and put a label on it. Write whatever you feel like, treat writing as an experiment, don’t think about sales, and publish something that’s you all over it. No matter what topic you write about, the voice will be there, the you will be there.

But I digress.

What I wanted to say with this post is that I’m thankful for books, for reading and for writing and I hope you are too. And if you are, why not check out Jess Walter, a talented writer with some very powerful work.

PS. Here’s a good interview with Jess Walter. DS.

Beautiful Ruins

beautiful-ruins-audiobook-of-the-month

Stephen King wrote that you need to read a lot to get the right tools to write. He’s a hundred percent right. I’ve been working on my third novel for 8-9 months now and my productivity and focus is weak. I worry that I won’t finish it. Since I changed position at work, it’s been difficult to find pockets of time to really dive down into the story. Five minutes here and there won’t cut it.

It’s been the same with my reading. I’ve had trouble focusing on one book and keep skipping between a few different ones. These are the (main) two I’m reading at the moment with descriptions in italics (from Amazon):

A Thousand Pardons

Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home—a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.
 
Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.
 
As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.

Beautiful Ruins

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his  funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 

I haven’t finished either one of them yet (my Kindle tells me I’m around halfway through), but they’re both good in their own way. I think Beautiful Ruins is definitely a more accomplished/complicated story with lots of layers and very interesting characters. It skips constantly between time and perspective, but despite the intricate storytelling it isn’t hard to follow. It’s definitely one of those books that intimidates you as a fellow writer. There’s a thin line between intimidating and inspiring obviously, a lot of it has to do with your own confidence and mindset, which for a writer goes up and down like an elevator in a Keanu Reeves movie.

But right now it’s kind of intimidating.

There’s a sentence I read today in Beautiful Ruins that is really good and you all know I’m a sucker for a clever line:

“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought; you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”

Beautiful Ruins sure has some beautiful writing in it – recommended! And I will finish it! Promise.

The same hopefully goes for Six Strings, the story about young guitarist with a amnesia that I’m working on. It’s slow progress, but I’ll do my best to get at least 500 words done a day. Won’t be easy, but who said writing is?

 

The Wolf of Wall Street

thewolf
Really looking forward to this movie. The book was very entertaining and when Martin Scorsese directs and Leonardo di Caprio acts – we usually end up with something great.

Read more about the crazy story of Jordan Belfort’s “Pump and Dump” efforts here

or the Wikipedia article on the real The Wolf of Wall Street (Jordan Belfort) here

Or watch the trailer:

“I wanted to achieve greatness and prioritized accordingly.”

I wanted to achieve greatness and prioritized accordingly. Relationships were contra productive to my career. Starting a family was out of the question. Keeping up with friends didn’t really make the list – hell, I didn’t even know who my real friends were.

– Jack Reynolds.

Read how Jack gets his Wake-Up Call

The Liberty Tree – a Review

The Liberty Tree
Drunk to Sober, via Love, Death, Disintegration & Freedom
Suzanne Harrington

Check out Liberty Tree at The Book Depository.

This book took some guts to write.

17674750-205x300Because it can’t be easy writing a book directed to your kids about the sometimes very dark days in your life and how their (then ex-husband to the author) father, Leo, commited suicide. The Liberty Tree is in part an ode to Leo and in part a very revealing and emotionally heavy autobiography.

Thankfully, Suzanne Harrington has the writing skills to make a sad story compelling and somewhat entertaining to read. You get the feeling nothing is spared in the pages, no secret is left unrevealed. And for that: big kudos to the writer.

I must say though that the book made me angry at times. You think: how can someone be so desperate and take so many drugs, drink so much and be so lost? It almost makes your head spin at times and I can imagine it makes her kids kind of crazy to read about too.

But I understand why she wrote it; when you have so much inside of you dying to get out, so many untold stories – you need to do something like this. And I can imagine it feels like a giant relief once it’s done.

Kind of like: This was me. It’s over. I’m saying goodbye to it.

What I think is a big benefit from a book like The Liberty Tree and one reason she wrote it, is that it can help others battling with depression, alcoholism, drugs, and self-loathing. I think that is the book’s ultimate value: “Look at Suzanne, once she was this complete wreck and now she’s this talented author. There’s hope. No matter what, there’s hope.”

A powerful book. A needed book. But not for the faint of heart.

Check out Liberty Tree at The Book Depository.

What’s An Everyday Psychopath?

hello-psychopath

That’s the question I asked myself before I published my new short story collection by the same name, Everyday Psychopaths. There’s something fascinating about people going crazy and doing unpredictable things. Crazy people are all around us and there’s at least a little bit of crazy in all of us.

Being crazy or a psychopath are of course loose terms that are hard to define. People tend to throw them around without any medical examinations to back them up. But if you google/wiki the word the following definition comes up:

Psychopathy is a personality or mental disorder characterized partly by antisocial behavior, a diminished capacity for remorse, and poor behavioral controls. As a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychopathy has been replaced by antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Surely, most people don’t see it exactly like that when they hear the word “psychopath”, but the “diminished capacity for remorse” is pretty much spot on.

In Everyday Psychopaths you find three stories, all with some level of psychopath in them. They’re full of dark humor and best described with the line:

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]Everyday Psychopaths is a collection of short stories that will both frighten you and make you laugh out loud. Warning: reading these three stories can make you sound like a crazy person. Kind of like an Everyday Psychopath…[/symple_highlight]

Everyday Psychopaths-lowThe stories in Everyday Psychopaths:

A Killer Date

This is a horror story written with portion of humor. Inspired by Stephen King. Here you find the most obvious use of an Everyday Psychopath.

30 minutes into the date, Sheila thinks there’s magic in the air between her and Terry. She can hardly believe her luck to have met a man who seems to have everything. She wants to pinch her arm and ask herself if it’s too good to be true, but if she did the answer would be: Yes, it is too good to be true, because the truth is actually horrifying…

Quotes from A Killer Date:

Terry loved relaxed candlelight dinners and red wine. It was a nice contrast from work and killing people.

“You are so beautiful, I could eat you,” he said.
And it was true. Her smile was as intoxicating as the wine.
And he could eat her.

“You have really nice teeth,” Terry said and thought they could be excellent for his collection of exquisite human body parts.

 The Development Talk

In the Development Talk you find Jasper who’s up for his yearly development talk. Jasper hates meetings and he hates them even more now that his new manager is Stephen – a classic everyday psychopath.

Quotes from The Development Talk:

“He was a strange mix of Heinrich Himmler and Barney the Dinosaur.”

“A perfectionist,” Stephen repeated. On his lips the word seemed to taste of excrement.

He gave Jasper a look of…yes what was that look? Amusement, malice or constipation?

 The Worst/Best Day of My Life

Joe hasn’t had the best time lately. His life seems to be going steadily downwards – at least if you asked him. When his hated colleague Mary Pedersen (everyday psychopath!) steals the promotion he thought he was going to get, things get even worse. And sometimes things has to get a lot worse before they get better.

Quotes from The Worst/Best Day of My Life:

I guess all my afternoon beers and burgers were catching up with me, which made me want to scream THEN WHY NOT MY HAIR!? 

No matter how many tapes of whale sounds I listened to, I made Hitler look like a Woodstock survivor.

That casserole tasted like mashed-up sewage rat and I knew I couldn’t force that down one more time, even if it was chased by a pint of beer.

And to top the collection off I’ve included generous samples of The Wake-Up Call and Hollywood Ass. where both womanizing, workaholic, narcissist Jack Reynolds and Hollywood A-list actress B possess excellent everyday psychopath qualities.

I hope you like my little tribute to everyday psychopaths. May we never become like them.

Story Cartel: Get Hollywood Ass. & Win vouchers!

Thanks to the new venture Story Cartel you can get my novel Hollywood Ass. for free in exchange for a review and you’re actually also in the draw for three Amazon gift cards of $10 each. Register for your free copy of Hollywood Ass.

It’s nice to see new ideas like Story Cartel trying to make it easier for independent authors to get reviews and get their books out to a wider audience.

 

EVERYDAY PSYCHOPATHS

A collection of short stories that will both frighten you and make you laugh out loud. Warning: reading these three stories can make you sound like a crazy person. Kind of like an Everyday Psychopath…

BUY EVERYDAY PSYCHOPATHS HERE

In Everyday Psychopaths you find three stories, all three of them containing an everyday psychopath of some kind. The first one is close to a horror story with a dose of dark humor, the short second one is more literary but scary in its own right, and the third one is all dark comedy. Included in this collection is also two samples of my novels, The Wake-Up Call and Hollywood Ass. I hope you like them enough to consider checking them out in full.

The Stories in Everyday Psychopaths

A Killer Date
30 minutes into the date, Sheila thinks there’s magic in the air between her and Terry. She can hardly believe her luck to have met a man who seems to have everything. She wants to pinch her arm and ask herself if it’s too good to be true, but if she did the answer would be: Yes, it is too good to be true, because the truth is actually horrifying…

The Development Talk
Jasper is in for his yearly development talk and he’s feeling very uncomfortable about it. He usually doesn’t like meetings and his manager, Stephen, is kind of creepy. Little does he know how creepy…

The Worst/Best Day of My Life
Sometimes one day is enough. One day can change your life from heaven to hell. Or vice versa. This is what happened to Joe in the craziest 24 hours of his life…

The Wake-Up Call (sample)
On the surface he has it all: the women, the career, and the Central Park view penthouse, but behind his well-groomed and chiseled facade he has nothing. At least this is what he’s about to realize. Find out how Jack gets his life-changing wake-up call in this fast-paced, heartfelt and funny novel about soul-searching, friendship, and love.

Hollywood Ass. (sample)
A Hollywood superstar suffers a mental collapse, her marriage is falling apart, her career is on the ropes and the only one keeping it all together is her loyal assistant and friend, Darryl. Problem is, he’s kind of in love with her. Soon he finds himself drawn into a story that is much like the movies his employer stars in. But in real life the answers aren’t in the script…

BUY EVERYDAY PSYCHOPATHS HERE