Tag Archives: stephen king

The Big Fifty: My Dinner Party

I struggle when I don’t write. I don’t mean my writing over at More Than A Fan, but creative writing. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments while I’m putting together something for MTAF that you’ll find me agonizing on the best way to finish a sentence, but that writing is more structured, more goal oriented. This writing is more about just clearing my head. Not everything is introspective or artsy, but all of it writing just to write. That’s what I need. I need to find an idea and hammer away at it for exercise, so I decided to resurrect the Big Fifty. I’ve completely scrapped the idea of going in order and I won’t be answering just the questions from the list, but damnit, I’m going to write something. (Quick shout to Demanding Joy for having this list in the first place. If you really want to try a blog project, this is a good one to try)

The question at the very bottom of your list asks who you would want at your dream dinner party. Living or dead, no rules, just pick a group and go.

Ummm… John Lennon, Jim Morrison, a handful of world leaders and Jesus?

Or wait.

John F. Kennedy, Ghandi, Brad Pitt and Jesus?

You got me, maybe I’m poking fun at stereotypical lists. That’s because I’ve never thought of a list like this, or if I have, I was a little kid without enough understanding of the world to comprehend the depth of the question. This isn’t about famous or talented or rich people, although that doesn’t mean your guests can’t be those things, this is about finding people that could affect change in your life in only one dinner’s time. After a long time thinking about this, I think I’ve got my dinner party narrowed down to a workable list.

The first two people at the table would be Stephen King and Robert B. Parker.

I know that at times it seems cliche to be a giant Stephen King fan, but I always have been. King novels are the first stories that I ever remember reading. Not the first stories I ever read, but the first stories that I can actually remember my reactions while I was taking them in. I remember being scared, nervous and anxious. I remember sitting up over the pages as the stories got intense, or physically relaxing at calm times for the characters. That’s power, and while I won’t be able to steal that ability by osmosis, I’d like to spend some time in real conversation with a man you wields that power so effectively.

Robert B. Parker pens the Spenser and Jesse Stone series of novels, among various other non-fiction projects, and writes in the style and flow that I think I have written in during the few times that I’ve tried my pen at long prose. Not that I write as well as he does, just that I aim for the same wit and pacing. I would ask him how he organizes his thoughts and builds his stories. Not only do I think his advice and intuition could benefit my personal goals, I also think that the personality he puts forth in his work would make him a pretty entertaining guy to have for some post dinner drinks.

The third person at my table is Bill Simmons. Simmons is an ESPN guy who writes, tweets, podcasts, hosts TV shows and recently launched Grantland.com. He’s insanely popular currently, but does still rub some people the wrong way. The reason that I want him there is pretty simple; my current work at More Than A Fan, and all the other opportunities that I’ve been blessed with since I started writing for Lisa back on the sports website that shall not be named wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for reading his articles and being inspired. Grant it, Simmons isn’t inspiring in some “Oh my God, what a powerful, life changing artist he is” kind of way, but just that his columns always found a way onto my favorite list. He tells me things and he makes me laugh, usually at the same time. That’s what I want for the people who read what I write. I want them to have a good time and learn something. Good writers are like teachers, you know something when you’re done that you didn’t know before, and good teachers are never boring.

Also, I think I could turn a dinner with Bill Simmons into a friendship, and honestly, being buddies with him wouldn’t hurt my career goals.

My fourth guest would be Dennis Manoloff, a veteran Plain Dealer sportswriter. (Quick note: Yes, he’s on twitter, and yes he’s local to me. I’m not linking him or shouting him or begging him. But if you do, I’m won’t bomb your house or anything.) Anyway, I choose him because he knows what its like in the current Cleveland sports market. There are a thousand guys and girls in town who have the same goals that I have, many of them better qualified, and I think Dennis could help point me towards the things that I would need to do to achieve my goals. He wouldn’t be there in the same capacity as King, Parker or Simmons, but as an honest critic for my work. And if he says that I should stick to my day, he’s getting the check.

Everyone seeks peace, and I think its pretty clear that my peace is found by writing. Whether I’m sifting through baseball-reference.com building a case for Manny Ramirez to be in Cooperstown or making fun of the twitter trending topics, I always feel better trying to make my literary voice both a worthwhile experience and a viable way to make my living. The old saying is work to live not live to work, and if writing was my, I’d be set. The last invite to dinner is different.

Sitting at my dinner table would be my uncle. I’ve never met either man, but for two very different reasons. My uncle was taken from my family before I was born during a lawless, chaotic night on a Florida Seminole Indian Reservation. That’s close to the extent of what I know, but that’s really enough. Details aren’t important at this point, anyway. Everyone who knew him and knows me have all said that we were alike. Thoughts, mannerisms, looks, everything. I would like to talk to the man that he would have become, and be able to pass on a fitting goodbye to my mom, his two other sisters and my grandparents.

And, hey, maybe he’d have some kind of supernatural, beyond the grave fix on lottery numbers. Probably not, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

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The Fifth Big Fifty, Books I’ve Read

A pretty integral part of my character has a lot to do with the fact that I was an absolutely voracious reader, all the way back as far as I can remember.  I couldn’t possibly remember all the books I’ve read in my life, but I can suggest a couple good authors.

The original hardcover copy. I felt like I was reading a dusty old tome like in the movies.

This may seem almost cliché, but I’ve read everything that Stephen King has written except for Under the Dome, Lisey’s Story and Cell.  The summer of 1995 I was getting ready to start my freshman year of high school and had never read a Stephen King book before.  I have no idea how I ended up with a copy of Salem’s Lot, I think it was my Uncle Gary’s and it somehow ended up at our house, but I found it bright and early one morning and decided to crack it open.  Salem’s Lot is a 439 page vampire story written in 1975.  Somehow a bored 14-year-old managed to get lost in a book written six years before he was born.  I read that book cover to cover, that day.  I was hooked.  I’ve read the seven books in the Dark Tower series at least three times each. I LOVED Black House and The Talisman, two books King co-wrote with Peter Straub.  The Stand, The Shining, The Green Mile… to name all the Stephen King works that have absolutely entranced me throughout the years would be to list his library.  I’ve been mesmerized for 16 years now.

I’ve read the first five of the Temeraire novels by Naomi Novik.  I’ve never, ever liked dragon stories, but after downloading the first of this series for free on my Nook, I got hooked again.  The series begins in England, during Napoleonic wars in Europe.  Novik fights these wars on land and at sea, just like they were fought in real life, but she also gives the militaries and tribes of the era an air force.  Maybe a living, breathing, thinking air force, but an air force none the less.  It’s been a fun, riding along with Captain Lawrence upon the back the dragon Temeraire, and I’m looking forward to having some extra time soon to continue the journey.

Staying in the fantasy type genre, I must mention the first 11 books in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  There are currently 13 books in the Wheel of Time series, with a 13th and final novel not yet published, but 11 were all that Robert Jordan made it through alive.  Brandon Sanderson was chosen to write the last novel, titled A Memory of Light, but he ended up having to split it up into three different tomes.  I have nothing against Brandon Sanderson, I haven’t read any of his work, but the way that Jordan filled the world with characters and events cannot possibly be adequately mimicked within the same works.  I’ve never in my life been overwhelmed with the expanse of a story, yet there were moments in the Wheel of Time series that left me itching to start back from the beginning to reread it all to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  I did, too.  Three times.  Then, with one book left in the series, Robert Jordan died of complications from cardiac amyloidosis in 2007.  I suppose I don’t want to read how Branden Sanderson ends the Wheel of Time because, however he chooses to end the story, that’s not the way it was supposed to end.  Robert Jordan took the ending with him.

Let’s move on to something a bit more light-hearted with Robert Parker’s Spenser Novels.  Robert Parker has a huge library of works, but for some reason I latched onto the Spenser novels, and I’ve read almost every one of them.  Spenser is a private detective who, along with his good friend Hawk, are genius badasses who run around and solve all the tough cases.  Parker does a great job at developing the stories and characters that run throughout the whole series while still involving you into the plots of each individual novel.  That and there’s lots of wine, beer, swearing, women, action, beer, women, wine, violence, beer and funny one liners everywhere.  The Spenser series might not sweep you off your feet, but it may knock you down with the giggles.

That’s some of them.  Right now I’m in the middle of The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.  Berendt also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and I downright fell in love with that book.  I can’t explain how Berendt writes other to say that he presents to you the cities and events that he chronicles in a way that leaves you feeling like you live just down the road in Savannah, Georgia, or that you rent a palazzo that overlooked the fire that burned the Fenice Opera House to the ground in Venice, Italy.  Berendt classifies his books as nonfiction, as they chronicle the life and events that are the heartbeats of his work, but he has taken fire for possibly embellishing the facts too much to have his books hold up as nonfiction.  It’s an interesting literary argument, but I honestly don’t care who’s right and who’s wrong, the stories are too much fun to put down just because someone may have lied a little bit. 

I’m also trying to finish Cutting Costs: An Executive’s Guide to Increased Profits by the late Harry Figgie, Jr.  I work for a fantastic company that’s owned by Matthew Figgie, and if I want to keep climbing the ladder, I need to train myself to think like an owner.  Costs need to mean something.  No one has ever said “It’s not my money” and ended up running the place.

Sitting next to Cutting Costs is a book called Crazy, With the Papers to Prove It by long time Cleveland sports writer Dan Coughlin.  If you’re an old school Clevelander, your life isn’t complete until you’ve read this compilation of stories that all revolve around Coughlin’s time as a Plain Dealer sports reporter.  I’ve laughed at least once on every page.  (Except for the pages devoted to Art Modell.)

There you go, that’s my library, sorta.  I’m not bibliophile, but I’ve read more books that I can remember, love more authors than I can list and generally nosed around more stories than anyone cares to read about.  If I had to pick a favorite book, I couldn’t.  I can’t even pick a favorite author, or a favorite genre. 

Can you?

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