About Me

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Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters--the Story first--always the Story.

In 2008 Mike earned his masters degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University

Visit Mike on twitter @mikemehalek

Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 reading list and year end review--of sorts

Hey gang, Just thought I'd publish my 2011 completed reading list.  I'm hoping to wrap up the year with Hellbender by Jason Jack Miller

Let me step back though, and if you were looking for the meat and potato book review and apologize because this is only a book review of sorts.  I suppose it's more a reflection of the past year through my reading, a stream of consciousness at best. All I can hope is that you don't judge me too harshly.

If you've made it this far, let me take you back through this year....a year that was a little less productive for my reading, which I blame on my iPhone--curse you Fruit Ninja and all of you evil apps!!  Despite reading fewer books this year than last, 2011 really was a pretty Kick Ass reading year for me.

When I look at this reading list, I realize two things
1. how many of these books are about family (ALL OF THEM!!)
2. how much my life has changed.

Almost a year ago, I lost my father to cancer as I traveled with Roland and his ka-tet on their quest to the Dark Tower. I know it's strange, but in some way Blaine the Pain and Oy and Eddie, and Susannah remind me of my dad.  It's almost as if the losses that they suffered taught me how to grieve my own.  You can imagine how stoked I was to learn of the newest Dark Tower book which will be released next year (The Wind Through the Keyhole).

I broke the Dark Tower series up when I inadvertently left Wolves of the Calla at a restaurant for two weeks, with Paul Harding's Tinkers, another novel which very much deals with family, loss, and death.

The Search for Joseph Tully followed.  Hallahan's classic horror novel was a fun read with its city snowscapes, and I enjoyed all the more because I read them while sailing along the Western Caribbean.  The opening pages were one of the creepiest I've ever read (until, of course I read Gary Braunbeck's In Silent Graves--genius as only Gary brings it).

Zoo Story was heartfelt, funny, and plain old awesome.  In 2011 a puggie named Bella joined my life and I started to appreciate the relationships that the zoo keepers of the Tampa's Lowery Park Zoo had with the likes of Enshalla and Herman.

Much like his previous novel The Brother's Bishop, Bart Yates, reminded me in The Distance Between Us that family does not always share blood, and that sometimes the ones we love most, drive us batty and can be the ones to hurt us the most.  I guess most importantly, the theme of forgiveness hit a chord with me.  It was probably at this time--and the first time that year, that I finally forgave myself for not being back home in PA when my dad died.

The Devil and Preston Black just wowed me, and I find any words I strum up here inadequate. The local color, fluency between reality and unreality, the depths of desire and longing to do the right thing. I can't say enough good.  Most of all, it made me pause and raised the thought that perhaps the best things in our lives are right in front of us, if only we stop to look at them.

Ambassadora was just as impressive.  Character, setting, plot, dialogue...it was all just...WOW!  I really enjoyed the technology Heidi Ruby Miller created for this book from the scentbots to the cenders, to the virtual world itself. The history allowed for the technology and plot to be logical but not contrived. Combining all of these elements couldn't be an easy task, but it was pulled off impeccably. Science fiction full of heart and meaning, while remaining  action-packed and full of tension.

The Snowman had its moments--I mean thinking about how much our parents can influence us as adults is creepy.  My only complaint was that I knew who the Snowman was the second s/he appeared in the book, and no amount of red herrings could detract me from it. But it did have its moments.  Some of the language was wonderful, some was not...but overall fun.

To say that In Silent Graves was fun would likely cause someone to string me up and hang me as a monster; however, it really was awesome.  Gary is one of very few writers out there who can take so many dark themes and show us the real beauty of things we might not normally see, and also teach us about unconditional love.  Gary does this without being cliche--it's effing unbelievably good and he makes it look so easy.

I've not yet finished What the Night Knows but what I can see so far is that it can be pretty dark.

And with that another year fades to black.  What does 2012 hold?  I can only hope to be as enthralled and inspired as I was this year.

Dark Tower series--Stephen King

  • ·      Drawing of the Three (finished in December 2010)
  • ·      The Wastelands
  • ·      Wizards and Glass
  • ·      Wolves of the Calla
  • ·      Song of Susannah
  • ·      The Dark Tower

The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King’s Magnum Opus--Bev Vincent
Tinkers--Paul Harding
The Search for Joseph Tully--William Hallahan
Zoo Story--Thomas French
The Distance Between Us--Bart Yates
The Devil and Preston Black--Jason Jack Miler
Ambassadora--Heidi Ruby Miller
The Snowman Jo Nesobo
In Silent Graves--Gary Braunbeck
What the Night Knows--Dean Koontz

Sunday, October 30, 2011

You can now follow me on Twitter.  Don't fall for impostors.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New novel....Untitled

So it's been three years since my last novel.  I feel like I'm in confession with that last sentence, and I guess it is a confession of sorts. I'm not sure why but none of the ideas that have come to me since my 2008 graduation seem story worthy.  And no reason I provide is logical or rational.  It's as if my brain just needed time gather its thoughts and then scream, holy ****, Tricky, do I have a story for you.

And what I have is a combination of a story that I dreamed up in the early 2000s, with a bit of a spin, and I am happy to say that it is a few thousand words and going strong.  Do I know where it is going?  No, my brain is a mean little cuss when it comes to things like providing details, but it's giving its secrets just when it seems like I need them either through hard work (i.e. outlining), inspiration, or through my dreams.  So I am hoping to work diligently through the fall and have something passable by year's end.

One of the main elements I am missing is a villain.  I have an idea of this evil fellow, he's a Hannibal Lechter-esque fellow.  Someone you love to hate and hate to love, and every now and again you find find yourself rooting for him or her--but in this case, I'd probably report you to the police if whomever this villain becomes since he is not the type you really want to like . . . I think.

So I am asking all of you, the internet community, to comment below and tell me who you're favorite villain of all time is and the reason why. Everyone has a favorite.  We must because, without them there really aren't many stories worth telling.

Let's hear' 'em--ball's in your court.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Devil and Preston Black

The Devil and Preston Black.

As a writer, I try to learn a writing lesson from every book I read.  With Jason Jack Miller’s The Devil and Preston Black (Devil) I learned a little about fighting writer’s block.  I mention writer's block because it seems that when I tell people that I have writer’s block, they say just write something.  Anything.  Just write what you’re trying to say.

But as much as writing is about saying something--it is also deciding what not to say.  And that is what is most remarkable about Devil.  Miller has an adept understanding of the nuance of language so readers can extrapolate a much more complex story than the one told on the surface.  He engages the reader, so that, in some strange way, the story channels a shared experience with the author.

When reading this book, do not ask what could possibly be said about the devil that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?--although I could argue that the answer from Miller is quite a bit--but rather what’s been “unsaid” about the devil  and the nature of evil.  Jason Jack Miller is a virtuoso and his writing style gives him an uncanny ability to employ understatement.  For every one thing that Miller chooses to say, he creates a complexity in his characters, settings, and plot--every element--that would be lacking if they were overstated.

Despite understatement, Miller’s images are rich his characters round; his understatement creates a reality and a believability.  Perhaps what makes this most striking is that Devil has a pinch of magic to the story that even the most stubborn I-can’t-suspend-my-disbelief readers will find to be believable elements in a realistic reality.

In addition, Miller is a skilled writer who impeccably breaks from his understated cadence and gives readers a tiny dose of overstatement, the result of which adds tension, creates mystery, and keeps the reader turning pages. And for this reader this is what makes Devil a truly remarkable book worth reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Book List

One of my goals for the last year had been to increase the time I spent reading.  This year I clocked 22 books in all--19 fiction and 3 nonfiction.

I tried to hit a variety of both literary and popular fiction, trying to figure out what made each novel fall into that particular column.  As I analyzed them, a quote from Stephen King--perhaps it's because I returned to several of his works this year, after years away from them (my older brother's ratty copy of Cujo was one of the first novels I read as a teen)--kept coming to mind.

King says, "...there are two types of novelists...those who are bound for the more literary or 'serious' side of the job examine every possible subject in light of this question: What would writing this sort of story mean to me?  Those whose...writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would writing this sort of story mean to others?  The 'serious' novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the 'popular' novelist is looking for an audience."

With this lens, each novel seemed to fit into its "appropriate" category.  And for me the  books that stuck with after reading and still creep into my head out of the blue, seemed to answer, or at least address, both questions.  Bag of Bones, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and The Road were a few who successfully pulled this off.

One of the other treats for me this year was seeing how some writers are novelists and some are storytellers.  It's one of those distinctions that makes all the difference to the feel of the story.  With an industry where word counts matter, it was nice to see both types on the shelves.

Lastly, every year I try to take a look at fantasy fiction's past to better appreciate where it is today.  I do this partly because my first manuscript is considered fantasy and partly because I'm amazed with how well fantasy (and science fiction) can be at social commentary.  It's like a snapshot of people's beliefs (or ignorance) is at particular point in time.

Since modern fantasy started in children's literature, this year I chose George Macdonald's The Princess and the Goblin.  According to scholar Michael D. C. Drout, Princess is one of the earliest examples where the protagonists in a children's book face the very real threat of death.  As you read, this becomes obvious.  It definitely is a child's fairy-tale, but unlike Snow White or The Wizard of OZ (which I read last year), where it is pretty clear the characters will be in a better place at the end of their adventure, we don't know if the happy ending is coming in Princess.  In fact as you read, it seems very likely that the the bad-ass with the midnight cloak and bone-colored scythe will be the only one smilingly at the end.

I won't spoil the end, and children's literature is not for everyone, but for a kid's book, I dug it.

So without further adieu, here it is: the 2010 Book list list.  I did rate them 1-5 stars when I read them, but I omitted the ranking from this entry.  If people are interested, I could add them back.

  • The Star Rover--Jack London
  • Your Heart Belongs to Me--Dean Koontz
  • Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime--Mark Haddon
  • Neverwhere--Neil Gaiman

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius--Dave Eggers
  • The Art of Happiness--Dalai Lama, Howard C. Cutler

  • Last Things--David Searcy
  • Heartsick--Chelsea Cain
  • Princess and the Goblin-George Macdonald

  • None--apparently it was a slow reading month
  • Cemetery Dance--Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • The Road--Cormac McCarthy
  • Manhood for Amateurs--Michael Chabon
  • InsideOut--Maria Snyder
  • WWZ--Max Brooks
  • The Bone Garden--Tess Gerritsen
  • The ABC Murders--Agatha Christie
  • Was a slow reader and didn't finish anything this month

  • Bag of Bones--Stephen King
  • Seize the Night--Dean Koontz

  • American Gods--Neil Gaiman

  • The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Book One)--Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower Book Two)--Stephen King