29 January 2015

On Writing, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

Clearly this is a Stephen King month of books for me. With Mr. Mercedes a couple of weeks ago, On Writing now, and Bag of Bones queued up on my iPhone for my daily drive to the Mayo Clinic to receive radiation targeted at that son-of-a-bitch breast cancer's random floating cell, I'm assured that the reading slump I experienced a while ago is barely visible in the rearview mirror.

On Writing makes me nervous to write this review, though. It also makes me want to go back through anything I've ever put together and EDIT. I've learned a lot listening to King narrate his book, and the most important thing is to not write a lot of crap. Meaning, don't say in ten words what you can say in half of that. Cut it down. (Fans of The Stand or It might raise an eyebrow on that, but you can't tell me that those bajillion pages aren't filled with the greatest characters and story ever and that each word is worth it.) The fluffy extras on a first draft more than likely just amount to a lot of nonsense. Write the story and stick with the first word that comes to mind, don't run to the thesaurus to find a "smarter" word. And for the love of God, stay away from the adverbs! (She cried mightily. Just kidding.)

Part memoir, part writing guide, On Writing is a concise overview of all the things that make Stephen King tick when it comes to the craft and the success that the rest of us drool over. With over four decades of brilliant character creations, (Back story, dammit! Give it back story!) memorable tales, and a legacy that will never die, Uncle Stevie doesn't let us down yet again on what many might think could have been the driest topic he could have written about. But whether it's how he started out in the trade, his ongoing love affair with his wife of forty-some years, advice on an agent, or the accident that came close to ending his career and his life, King keeps the reader/listener thoroughly engaged and many times completely fascinated. And the one fact that cements King's place in the history books? He's not a horror writer at all, he's just a writer, and a damn good one at that.

This is one of *the* books to keep on a writer's shelf; I'll at least keep it on mine. Regular referencing and notations will likely be the thing to do if you have this. And the one piece of advice that sticks with me? Don't let others read your work as you're writing it. It makes no sense to let them see those five pages you think are world-altering. What if they don't like it? Holy hell. Whether or not they praise or criticize, it's really never healthy for others to take a peek. That slight derailment could mess you up. Close the door. Let your words come. No distractions.

Don't despair when you learn King is the narrator, as so many other authors may have been unsuccessful with voicing their own stories. I've always shied away from author-narrated audiobooks, too, but of course it makes sense that King would do it here. And he does a phenomenal job voicing his own work. He was at the right tempo and tone, and I found it thoroughly agreeable. (Because of this, I was convinced that Bag of Bones would not be ruined by an author's voice; so far, so good, too.)

And the absolute most important thing other than to read a lot? WRITE. Write a hell of a lot and always with that damn door closed.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this through my Audible.com membership. Click here to listen to an audio sample.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: 10/4/00
Audio Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
Narrator: Stephen King

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower, It, The Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website.


15 January 2015

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

I am tying a string around my finger to remind myself that whenever I have a reading slump, I should pick up anything by Uncle Stevie. Whether in audio or print, I've never been let down (well, maybe a wee bit with The Tommyknockers).

But, ahhh, Mr. Mercedes. For the entire month of January, I have a boring commute from home to the Mayo Clinic in the early morning hours so I can receive radiation, and I knew I just couldn't waste that valuable time with any old audio that might make me keep saying to myself, "I'll give it another thirty minutes." I've had to do that so much recently, and it's been trying my patience. Start, stop, download new audio. This seemed to be my recent formula, but Mr. Mercedes certainly was a treat.

Retired detective Bill Hodges has a few cases that he can't quite seem to forget, and one of them is an unsolved spree-kill involving a Mercedes and a group of unemployed candidates waiting in line for the start of a promising job fair. The guy was never caught. But in Bill's retirement, as he sits studying his gun and watching empty reality shows, he just might get the chance to resurrect his love of life because Brady Hartsfield, the killer on that fateful morning, has reached out to Bill and wants to play again. And this time, he might want to go bigger.

It's sort of weird to write that I had a lot of fun listening to this book, particularly when there is a crazed murderer who likes to terrorize people and drive them to the edge. But, I think that's just the way it is with King's works, and either you love this maniacally twisted scenario of alternating viewpoints between nice guy Bill and sinister, aloof Brady, or you find it scary and don't want to continue. I tend to find King's works brilliant because of his uncanny ability to write a character so intensely and with such back story, that you truly feel each moment of their pain and their reactions are understandable. You get to know these messed up and sad folks, and I mean really, really, get to know them. And if you're not willing to dip your toe into the pool of Stephen King's works, then rest assured: Only one scene freaked me out; for the most part, Mr. Mercedes resides more in the 11/22/63 category of non-horror.

Each back story for the primary and secondary characters are thorough and sometimes tough to read/hear, but in this tale, someone must have told Mr. King to lighten up on all the detail and minutiae you would normally find in his books (I happen to like what some people might call the "tedious" details King typically adds to his books to make them so lengthy). Mr. Mercedes, however, is a tightly told story, with strong characters and intense action.

As with most of his books, it ended leaving me absolutely thrilled I had read another of his works, and also wanting more from the other characters. I desperately hope a short story will pop up from Jerome or Holly's perspective one day, the two supporting cast helping Det. Ret. Bill Hodges catch a killer.

Audio Notes: This was my first time listening to Will Patton and he was INCREDIBLE. I'm in love with his voice, a gravelly, gritty, and experienced deep voice that was perfect for a retired police detective, but he also perfectly captures the rest of the cast, everyone from a young seventeen-year-old Jerome to a mid-twenties cold and nonchalant killer, Brady. My personal favorite was Holly, a forty-five-year-old woman with self-described "issues" who still lives with her mother. Will Patton. My new favorite voice.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this through my Audible.com membership.

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower, It, The Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website.

About the Narrator (from Audible.com)
Will Patton has recorded over forty-five audio books, including twenty titles by James Lee Burke, the 50th anniversary release of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Al Gore's The Assault on Reason. He is a recipient of the Best Male Narrator Audie Award. Click here for his Audible.com page and to see all of the books he's narrated, and click here for the audio sample of Mr. Mercedes.


13 January 2015

Anyone Out There?

Are you still there?

I'm sorry.

I've neglected this blog for two months. While I may have had a legitimate reason for being away, I could have done the occasional check-in here, other than just posting on Instagram. As many of you may know, I've had an eventful 2014, and I'm ready to move on and into 2015. I cannot wait.

I'm done with last year. I am DONE with chemo, and I'm almost done with radiation. The events of last year may carry into this one by necessity only, but that's it. I'm ready to move on. I think I'm going to get a tattoo.

I will return soon.

I thank you all for your patience and support.

You. I cannot thank God enough for all of you.