Day: July 7, 2017

My Novel: Father Figure (Week 1 – Friday, July 7th, 2017)

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I cannot believe it’s been an entire week since I announced the winner in the poll for fans, friends and followers to choose the second novel that I begin writing. But it’s here and there’s no denying reality. I’m proud to announce that it’s also time for the first weekly status update where I will share any progress I’ve made in the last week.

Based on the votes, you’ve chosen Father Figure as my next novel. I’ve created a small logo that I will tag on all the updates and posts so you know when the blog is about the novel. Both the title and the graphics are definitely subject to change as I expand and write each chapter. I also plan to create a separate website and let everyone know where to find the pages and updates once we’re further along in this planning phase.

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Summary of Father Figure (only read if you’re new to the book)

  • Amalia Graeme, sheltered and abused for most her life in Mississippi, longs to escape her difficult family and small hometown in 1984. When her older brother returns with his best friend, Amalia is tempted to have her first experience with a boy that summer. As they head off to college for her first year and his senior year, she begins to learn about life and love, battling her loss of innocence with the attraction she’s developed to an older professor. After she suffers a few personal tragedies, Amalia is forced to head back home, uncertain how to handle the permanent impacts on her life and future. No matter where she turns, someone or something always takes away her possibility of hope.
  • Brianna Porter is desperate to discover the purpose of her life, develop confidence in who she is, accept the consequences of who she has fallen in love with, and discover her father’s identity. Set twenty years in the future in New York City, there’s a connection between these two women’s stories that is about to be discovered. As Brianna stumbles upon her mother’s old journal, she learns a shocking secret about her father, rocked by a truth that could completely change the future. It may be too late to deal with the impacts of unleashing a history that was meant to stay buried for many reasons. When it leads to someone’s death, Brianna must come to terms with the choices she’s made and what is left of her own future.

 

Status:  Friday, July 7, 2017 – Week #1 

  • I drafted a timeline of events for both Molly and Brianna, noting where each woman lived, key events that happen along the path and how there two situations will intersect at different points in the present.
  • I prepared a chapter by chapter rough outline with the 3 or 4 key things that I expect to happen in each chapter.
  • Decided to alternate chapters so that the odd chapters will be focused on Molly in 1998/1999 and the even chapters will be focused on Brianna in 2018. Molly will appear in the 2018 chapters from time to time, but the perspective will likely always be on Brianna.
  • Created list of primary supporting characters with names, ages and roles.

 

Next Steps: Plan for Week #2

  • Characters will be the focus for next week. I want to write a detailed biography on each of the primary and main supporting characters, flushing out their rough backgrounds, goals, personality flaws, voices and styles.
  • The narrator’s voice is also critical at this early stage. It will be third-person omniscient, as I’m jumping across two periods with two (2) primary characters; as a result, first-person won’t work in this situation. I’m touching on some difficult topics, and while I want the voice to have humor, it cannot be purely funny especially given the 3 climactic scenes I envision occurring. I might need to play with this for a few weeks until I decide how to balance each of the themes and plots.

 

What’s on the author’s mind?

  • When I listed the 6 or 8 ideas I had for the novels in the poll I opened to everyone, I had a couple of favorites. While this was in the top 3, it was not my primary pick; however, it was what had the most votes and I always follow through on what I say I am doing. I felt passionate about it, but I wasn’t certain what the message was going to be at the end of the book. For example, was it the quest of the mother to accept her past, was it the daughter’s search to find her father, or was it the bond between mother and daughter growing and shrinking? It could be any combination of these items, but I also needed to know why this was an important story. I had a few inklings, but nothing set in stone.
  • I sat this week at my dining room table office desk and just began writing the timelines. Little fireworks of ideas blossomed in my mind and I saw the connection between the parallel lives of mother and daughter. I knew this wasn’t about a girl needing to find a father. It’s about the relationship between parents and children. And that helped me define the major chunks of the plot, the moments I needed to deliver to readers to feel a connection in their own lives even when there seemed to be little in common with either Brianna or Molly. And it took off…
  • So I can happily say that my passion is quite high… probably almost as much as I felt when writing the first novel. This is a strong story. And I will have a few social issues that are going to be both hard to write and hard to read. But I think I can do it in the most appropriate way possible. So I am mad excited and thrilled to start writing in August. July is flushing out the details and the story’s vibe… I’m super excited you’ll be joining me on this journey. Thank you, Friends.

Open Questions / Thoughts

  • I have two thoughts on the ending. One has the novel actually coming to a clean close with all the secrets revealed and the issues coming out; however, I thought of a very interesting plot point and cliffhanger to end the novel on, thus turning it into a two-book series with a sequel that takes everything an entire step forward. What do you think? Prefer single books or a two-book series?
  • The novel is going to have several different cultural components, including explorations into romance, sexuality and mystery. I’m not sure how much I want to play up each of these, but I want the book to appeal across the board. I feel strongly about certain parts of each character which seem to sync with the story I want to tell. How do you feel about crossing genres?

About Me
I am a writer. I am currently searching for an agent and looking at independent publishing options for my first book, Watching a Glass Shatter. To see more, please check out the website for this novel where you will find the first 3 chapters, character bios and sample quotes.

I am writing my second novel, Father Figure, with plans to finish it in December, 2017. As part of the process to engage with my fans and followers, I am publishing a weekly status on the progress of this second book. For a description of this book, check out the post where my friends and followers voted for this book as my second novel.

Beyond these two books, I have a number of short stories, poems and other novels in various shapes and forms. I also read A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, Tags, Awards, Age/Genre/Book Reads and Author Spotlights, as well as the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge.

You can also access my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: Death of a Mad Hatter

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Death of a Mad Hatter4+ out of 5 stars to Death of a Mad Hatter, the 2nd book in the “Hat Shop” cozy mystery series, written in 2014 by Jenn McKinlay. I enjoyed this book and it was a good, traditional cozy read full of fun characters and some great family drama. And it made me think of the wonderful adaption of the Alice in Wonderland books…



Why This Book


I’m a fan of Jenn McKinlay’s writing style and several of her other book series. I’m almost current on her “Library Lovers” mystery series and had picked up the first book in the “Hat Shop” series last year. I liked it so much, I ordered books 2 and 3 on Amazon. I was recently in a reading slump and hadn’t read for 7 day. That’s very unheard of for me, so I went with an old favorite to push me out… and it’s helping. I am even going to read book 3 next, so that I’m back on my game.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Scarlett Parker, an American, moved to London in the last book to help run the hat shop her grandmother willed to her and her British cousin, Vivian Tremont. Their grandmother has been gone for a few years, but Scarlett needed to escape a relationship disaster and thought London would provide a fresh lease on life… and it has, especially when she’s finding herself attracted to Harrison, their hat shop’s business manager. In this book, she and Harrison continue their flirting dance while trying to ensure their hat shop isn’t dragged down by a murder. An old friend of their grandmothers, Dotty Grisby, asks the girls to make all the hats for her upcoming tea party in the hopes she can have the new hospital wing named after her late husband. As Viv and Scarlett meet and work with all the members of the Grisby family, they find themselves embroiled in a sea of vipers who are all annoyed that their late father left all his money to the eldest son, as was traditional in England up until the law changed a few years ago. And the widow has a bit of dementia, believing Viv is actually her grandmother, not realizing how many years have passed since she died. When the eldest son turns up dead at the tea party, the cops find evidence potentially connecting the hat shop to the murder. Scarlett investigates while Harrison tries to keep her out of it. She becomes close to some members of the family and an annoyance to others. At one point, someone even tries to hurt both her and Harrison. But Scarlett won’t give up and keeps pushing deeper and deeper until she learns more family secrets. And when she visits one of the family members to try to warn her, Scarlett finds herself right in the line of fire again. She survives this one, but the outcome leaves a few more issues among the family and Scarlett’s newest friendships.



Approach & Style


The story is told in a first-person perspective from Scarlett’s point of view. It’s consistent throughout the story, and every so often, she pushes the envelope just a little by making comments aimed at the reader. I read the paperback version, which is 28 chapters, each about 10 pages long, totaling just under 300 pages in the book. The writing and language are light, but consistent. There is humor and a little bit of suspense, but it’s a cozy mystery, so never anything too scary, vulgar or off-putting.



Strengths


Scarlett is a strong character. She’s charming and funny without pushing the boundaries. She laughs at herself, is a bit opinionated, and is often a little too direct in the British world, but this makes the drama feel real. I like her relationship with Nick and Andre, a gay couple who she’s befriended in the previous book. And her tiptoeing around Harrison is flushing out nicely. She and Vivian haven’t quite clicked for me, but then again, they are cousins who have been a bit separated over the years, so I wouldn’t expect it to be all chummy right away.

The humor is what makes Ms. McKinlay’s books good. It’s got a balance of character, plot, setting and fun. The family drama here is strong. There are a lot of characters who could be good or bad. It keeps you guessing and you want to know who is out to kill the eldest brother. Makes you wonder how many people would really kill their brother, son or uncle in order to collect an inheritance, but still…



Concerns


The books take place in London, and although you do feel transported there, it’s mostly by the description of the setting being laced throughout the story. I’d like the language and the structure of the relationships to be more closely aligned. It happens a few times in the story, e.g. when they talk about Scarlett being too direct for the British, but I think it needs to be more obvious in the words, phrases and attitudes we see covered for each character.

For this specific plot, I had a hard-time buying the ultimate killer’s true motivation. I won’t give away any spoilers, but you know there are a few layers or relationships going on between the grandfather who recently died, his widow, his mistress he lived with in France, the machinations between the 4 children and then the grandchildren. I’m not sure it was cleanly explored enough for readers to figure this one out… not that it’s the point of the novel, but I would have liked more time to get to know the family before the revelation of who killed whom and why. At 280 pages, it felt too short for the complexity behind this story. Still good, but could have been stronger.



Final Thoughts


If you like cozy mysteries, British characters, American humor and a play on Alice in Wonderland, you will find this one amusing. I really think the author is a strong writer in the humor and cozy market, and I plan to read book #3 very soon, perhaps tonight, as I want to see if the series is growing or just maintaining its place.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 117 – Foodie

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Foodie:  a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet

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I have been posting a lot in the last week about serious topics and determined it’s time for something a little more lighthearted. I’ve been thinking about food more than normal this last week and realized it would be a great 365 Daily Challenge post: How many of my online friends consider themselves a foodie? By true definition, I’m probably not your typical foodie. I don’t stay up on all the latest trends. I don’t try to get reservations at all the hottest new restaurants. I don’t watch many modern cooking shows anymore. I used to watch Top Chef, and then my friends who put me in challenges with mystery baskets — they love to test me all the time! But… truth be told… I LOVE food. I spend so much time thinking about food, what I should eat, what I want to cook, what I know how to cook, what’s healthy for me and what will likely put me in an early grave if I don’t stop obsessing over it.

I’ve posted before about being culinary and healthy. I won’t repeat myself here, but rather talk about how I approach my love of food, what I try to do in terms of balancing out the good and the bad, and then pose some questions to everyone else.

Let’s cover my weaknesses first. In no particular order, the foods and beverages I find myself always in the mood for include: champagne, coffee, wine, Jack Daniels & ginger ale, cheese, chocolate, cake, pastries, bagels, bread and oil or butter, sushi, steak tartare, filet mignon, guacamole, ceviche, chimichurri sauce, pizza and nuts. If I could make those my meals every day, I’d be a very happy guy. My heart might give out earlier than I’d like. My clothes would no longer fit. And I’d probably have very little energy to do anything besides sit on the couch. Probably not a good idea in the end, right?

So I compromise. I figure out how to add in fruits and vegetables. I throw in some protein shakes as meal replacements. I drink tons of water. I cut back during some meals so I don’t over-indulge. It’s all about balance for me. I won’t ever stop myself from eating and drinking the things I love. But I certainly can’t let myself just go at it 24/7. I’ve never been violent, but I will fight you for the last piece of something when it’s sitting on a plate taunting us both. And don’t even think you’ll win. When it comes to food, no one comes between me and my mouthwatering desires.

I’ve been trying to manage my dessert-eating and my drinking over the last few years. Not because I have a problem, but because when that good old metabolism monster decides it’s no longer gonna work FOR you and instead now work AGAINST you, I can’t imbibe and consume like I previously could without noticing the little paunch it gives me in return as a genuine thank you for the lovely tasting liquor or sugar… a few rules I’ve given myself from time to time:

  • 5 drinks per week whenever you want, but re-start on Mondays
  • Drink anything on Saturday and Sunday, but nothing weekdays
  • 1 drink per day maximum
  • Drink only when home, not when out at meals
  • Desserts only on weekends
  • Dessert every other day
  • Only homemade desserts, nothing bought already prepared

And to make matters worse, on Sundays, the other half and I watch a TV show called “The Great British Baking Show.” If you’ve never seen it, you are missing out. 12 bakers. 10 weeks. 3 challenges each week from pastry to bread to pie to cake to pudding. Always delicious. And then I try to make something from the show all the time. My cherry cake came out fantastic. Let’s not discuss what may have gone wrong with the Swiss roll tho… talk about having a:

http://www.pbs.org/show/great-british-baking-show/

Sometimes my foodie battle works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the problem is always apparent when I see these wonderful foods and beverages. I love the way they taste, look, smell, sound and feel. I need them. They need me. I want to understand how it was made. I want to try to make it myself. I want to see different versions. Different colors. Different flavors. Being together is such a perfect harmonic blend. And that’s why I am a foodie. Because it’s not just that I want to eat it and have a momentary bit of happiness… I connect with my food. We have a special relationship. We challenge each other to be better. How bad does that sound?  Yikes…

Some days I go all day without eating much. I’ll drink lots of water. I might have a small piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. I’ve always approached food more as a eat when I’m hungry rather than you must have “x” meals per day and because it’s 12, it’s time for lunch. No… whether right or wrong, I let my body tell me when it needs nourishment. But if I start thinking about food, or I see food, my body says “You are hungry, Jay. Those macarons look delicious. Please feed 12 to me.” And who would seriously argue with that voice… it’s somewhere between Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, Astro from The Jetsons and Scooby Doo.

{Aside: I’m back. Had to eat breakfast cake. Lemon Blueberry Bundt. With Icing.}

 Anyways… I’m a foodie. Are you a foodie? Tell me about your relationship with food. For instance:

  • Do you get up in the middle night out of bed to eat something?
    • I don’t. Once in bed, I stay in bed.
  • Do you have to eat the whole sleeve of cookies once it’s opened?
    • I do. Any other way is wrong.
  • When you go out to eat, is the primary purpose to splurge?
    • Yes. I need two (2) of everything.
  • Do you have a drink with meals at home?
    • I do. It helps the food go down more easily. Especially bubbles.
  • Do you make the foods you see when out or on TV simply to determine if you can do a better job?
    • I do. I’m competitive, remember? And except for that darn Swiss Roll, nothing gets the better of me. @#$%! Swiss Rolls… Stupid cream that bled all over. Looked like a bloody mess. And the plastic stuck everywhere. #$#@$#$

 

RECOMMENDED BLOGGER

  • Today’s 365 Daily Challenge recommended blogger to know is Mischenko @ ReadRantRock&Roll. The only reason I connect her with my post today for Foodie is because we’ve had several chats about the foods we love and how hard it is to ensure we balance the healthy and the decadent. And though I could have connected her with so many of my 365 posts, I wanted to get her name out there sooner rather than later. We first connected nearly 6 months ago on Goodreads through our commonly shared book interests. We’d been reading some of the same books and looking at each other’s reviews. I can’t remember which one of us took the first step in connecting our e-friendships, but I’m glad it happened. One day, we stumbled across each other on WordPress, too. She shares a book review site with a friend but also has her own site. I have two sites also, and somehow, I think we didn’t realize we sorta knew each other on here, then got connected everywhere. Her site is full of amazing content when it comes to books, but she also has a special focus on children’s stories and healthy lifestyle choices. We’ve bonded over inspirational posts, protein shake and juice meal replacements and how to organize our days. Some day, we will meet in person… She’s someone great to follow, so please check out her personal blog and site.

 

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.