#SonofaPitch – Martin’s Wings Entry

TTITLE: Martin’s Wings

AGE & GENRE: #Adult #Romance

WORD COUNT: 104,000

QUERY:

Martin flies—away from Podunk Pennsylvania, away from his kooky family’s hypercompetitive holidays, away from his fiancé waiting at the altar. This commitment-phobic pilot’s abiding M.O. = Move On. But, when a winged runner waves her wand, his own wings may land. The cute girl offers Martin a taste of her cotton candy and a taste of his own medicine as she plays flirt and flee with him.

In pursuing the pixie, Martin faces flak from his wedding walk-out. His enormous family barrage him with unsolicited love advice and disparaging nicknames—all while he endures toddler tantrums, barren buffet tables, and cheap beer. Worse yet, Martin’s smiling ex parades through parties on the arm of his old football teammate.

Will this California pilot fly solo forever? To earn his Happily Ever After, Martin will need to stop running away from love and start running to it—if only he could get that fairy to stick around for longer than a New York minute.

Like Martin, I grew up in the boisterous warmth of a large family. I, too, fled Pennsylvania’s rain and ragweed in favor of the sunshine and fish tacos of Southern California.  With a past career in Museum Anthropology, I hold degrees from Brown University and Carnegie Mellon University. Martin’s Wings is my first novel.

 

FIRST 250 WORDS:  Martin’s Wings  by Nat Mumpower   (Excerpt)

“There’s only one way out of this room, Marty.” Uncle Lars pointed to the altar doorway. “Whether boon or doom awaits you there, no one can know.”

Booooom.

Thunder rattled the sacristy’s stained glass. Martin jumped. High. That’s when the rain started. Sheeting. On Martin’s wedding day. Full on roaring thunderstorm. Deluge, really. One that violently morphed into the rapid, crackling ping-ping of dropping hail.

Doom then.

Squinting out the yellow-tinted stained glass, Martin discerned a flurry of suits and dresses charging the cathedral gates. Icy munitions poured down, riddling car roofs, dinging hoods, and pelting wedding guests. “You know,” Lars said, scratching the skull underneath his erratic Einstein hair, “some cultures consider hail good luck for your nuptials.” Good luck? “There are others, however,” he continued, “who view hail as God’s retribution on the iniquities of humanity.” Bad luck. “Sin lately, Marty?” Ummm… “Did you remember your Mother’s Day gift?” Shit. “Marty! Marty! Marty! Any dick off the street can tell you Mother’s Day is the single most important 24 hours in your Mother-in-Law’s existence. Women who selflessly wipe poop off baby butts and open rent-free basements to socially backward thirty-something sons need to have some kernel of joy in their otherwise bleak lives.”

“She’s not my mother-in-law…yet,” Martin croaked, deep voice catching in his throat.

“She will be. She will be,” said Lars, pitifully attempting a Yoda-ish voice. Drawing no response, Lars shrugged. “At least you’ll get laid tonight. Another thirty years, you might not be so lucky.”

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My Guide to Epileptic Parenting

Peeing on a stick does not prepare you for pregnancy—much less motherhood. So, I waddled my newly bulging belly to our local public library.  Squeezing through the narrow aisles, I found myself overwhelmed by the plethora of ponderings on pacifiers, prams and pull-ups.  My towering pile of books nearly toppled as I balanced them on my protruding abdomen.  At home, I scoured their pages for the Rosetta Stone to Parenting.  I perused these expert volumes with titles similar to “Rock a Brainy Baby: Lullabies to Raise Your Child’s IQ”; and my personal favorite: “A Rainbow of Flavors: Decoding the Colors of Your Baby’s Poop.”  Well…their titles went something like that anyway.

Over the next ten years, my husband has often found me curled up, dozing, a quiet snore rustling the open pages of my latest Cure-All Guide to Parenting Woes and Mommy Anxieties.  Of all those books, I have yet to come across the one I truly want to read, possibly entitled: “A Guide to Epileptic Parenting: Comforting Your Kids When You Shake Like an Earthquake.”  Now, there are many books on how to parent a child with epilepsy; not so much on how to be a parent with epilepsy. Being a parent with epilepsy is not something most moms prepare for.  Most 30-somethings don’t wake up on the floor in the middle of the night, confused, their husband urging, “You’ve had a seizure.  I’m getting you to the hospital.”  My response to him: “No, I didn’t.”  But, yes I did.  I endured an MRI, CAT scan and multiple EEGs.  Those coupled with another grand mal seizure all pointed to the undeniable conclusion that, at 37 years of age, I was the oddball out—or more appropriately, my brain was.

Things changed.  No more sports chauffeuring.  No more solo runs to the grocery store.  No more solitary swims or private baths.  With no nearby train or bus, the loss of driving hit me hardest.  I had grown attached to my car and taking care of my family with it.  In college and graduate school, I had walked everywhere, carrying my books and groceries home in my backpack.  But, carrying groceries for one is much different than carrying groceries for four.  Walking a mile to class is much different than walking six to soccer practice—particularly with two young children in tow.  Who I was, what I did as a mother, as a wife, changed and I didn’t have a how-to book for it.

How do you explain what a seizure looks like to a five year old?  Mommy shakes like in the Hokey Pokey except I fall down first like in Ring Around the Rosie.  Mommy breathes like Darth Vader, but don’t worry, I am your Mother.  I just need your help…and I did.  We practiced drills for calling 911 and dialing Daddy.  Interesting thing: my kids helped me that year, not by calling 911, but just by being kids in the most normal of situations—our daily trek to school.

School was the one destination close enough to walk to.  Some days, it was like herding snails.  Others like chasing cheetahs.  But, everyday held surprises—from the first and only time I ever told my son to “get off that fire hydrant” to the 100th time I asked (yelled at) my kids to stay away from the curb or wait to cross the street with me at the corner.  There were hard days, days when we walked the three quarters of a mile in the pouring rain without an umbrella for myself.  Arriving at school that day, wet hair slicked against my cheek, my daughter smartly advised me, “Mommy, today would be a good day for you to braid your hair.”  So I did.

But, there were also days of laughter and memorable conversations like:

“Mommy, when you were little, did you play games on the internet a lot?”

“No. There was no such thing as the internet.”

“So, did you just use your computer to email your friends and stuff?”

“No. There was no such thing as email.”

“Mommy, I’m sorry you didn’t have internet and tv and stuff like that.”

“We had TV.”

“Mommy, when you were a little girl, did they have streets?”

Then came another rainy day when I could finally drive again on those streets.  From the back seat, I heard, “Great job Mommy!  Good work!  First time driving in six months!”  I cried.  “Mommy, those are happy tears, right?”  Yes, they were happy tears.

I know that one day, I may have another seizure.  I know the early mortality rate among epileptics is eleven times greater than the general population.  The risk of sudden death is twenty-four times greater.  But, I also know that I can continue to enjoy motherhood.  I can continue to be a mother.  I still haven’t found the Holy Grail of Parenting.  Maybe one day I will write it myself.

Running Pet Peeve #3

TwoWaySign

Running Pet Peeve #3: Wrong-Side Runners on the Trail

Typically, in most situations, almost always, vehicle drivers tend to stick to the appropriate side of the road—normally.  Exceptions to this rule may include police officers, firefighters, EMTs, roadside construction workers, the occasional car thief leading a high speed chase southbound on the I-5 North in LA complete with overhead news choppers—yes, that happens—and maybe drivers for marathon lead cars.  As of yet, I have not witnessed a fellow runner, wearing moisture wick shorts and a heart monitor, sprinting toward me on the wrong side of the path while being pursued by a squadron of on-foot police officers and helicopters buzzing overhead.  If I had, I may have given them a one-time pass for running on the wrong side of the trail.

If you are on a pedestrian/bike trail, path running mirrors road driving.  If you drive your car on the right side of the road, then move your bootie on the right side of the trail.  Imagine driving a winding country road at night where overhanging branches of surrounding trees blot out the pale moonlight.  As you steer around a sharp corner, the high beams of an oncoming car blind you and spook the silent deer grazing on the weedy roadside.  You wouldn’t want to bash into a deer that way and you wouldn’t want to smack into a fellow runner either.  Turning a trail corner and running straight into an unwary person on the wrong side of the path could possibly, by chance, very likely, most definitely put a serious hitch in your training schedule.

If the oncoming right-side runner effectively navigates around the wrong-side runner, the right-side runner faces multiple risks.  They may expend extra energy, lose their rhythm, get hit by a cyclist, or potentially trip on trailside detritus like rocks, broken glass, half-eaten protein bars, and periodic roadkill along the bike path.

Regulations differ for running along a vehicle road, but as for trail running, don’t let your fellow runner end up in the ditch or slip on a dead squirrel.  Run on the right-side.

**Watch my blog for future postings of Running Pet Peeves.  Even better, share yours below in the comments.**

Running Pet Peeve #2

MrBiggsOnLead

Running Peeve #2: Off-lead Dogs

This peeve, truly a pet peeve, involves pets of the canine variety. Not to be culturally insensitive to dog owners, but off-lead dogs scare the bejesus out of me while running. Let’s be clear: I love dogs. I own two bulldogs myself—one raised from puppyhood, the other a rescue…neither of whom, surprisingly enough, run (okay, no bulldogs run but if you ever happen to meet a bulldog that runs, please let me know. That shit would crack me up.).

Most pet owners who walk or run with their dogs unleashed utterly trust their dogs. They do not expect their perfectly calm and focused pooch to startle at a runner coming up from behind. They do not expect their fully obedient dog to bark at a runner headed toward them. They do not even consider the possibility of their sweet, affectionate hound lunging with no warning at the throat of said runner, ripping out the carotid artery of this potentially dangerous creature with their sharp canines, spurting the human threat’s dark red blood all over the pavement, to protect their person whom they love without boundaries. I, said runner/potentially dangerous creature, on the other hand, do.

As a runner, I take responsibility for my own body and well-being. Car drivers may not see me, cyclists may not see me, horses or dogs may not see, hear or smell me…so I try my best to be aware in advance of any obstacles or dangers and steer safely around them. When I see a dog, any dog on or off lead, I slow down. If it’s not obvious, I ask the dog walker which side they would like me to pass on. If the dog owner has no control over their dog, I have no routes for safe passage. I would rather turn on my heels and change direction than chance a leg or throat on the judgement of some random person who, for all I know, could be a wily serial killer that uses their dog as a weapon to immobilize innocent victims.  Not a likely scenario, but, please once again see the part about taking “responsibility for my own body and well-being.” I have to consider all the options.

I recognize this running pet peeve will raise some dog owners’ hackles. However, as a dog owner, I know unequivocally that any dog can bite, even if not all will during their time on earth. Having been a runner and known runners who have had off-lead dogs bark at them, chase them, run at them, or some combination of the above, I’d rather see owners err on the safe side. Most do. Many keep walking calmly with their dog on leash as I run past. Many move with their dogs to the side of the path for me. Many stop, even kindly sit their dogs as I run by. I will continue respectfully to give dogs a wide berth and I know most owners will reciprocate because who knows? I just may be that random runner who happens to be a wily serial killer.

**Watch my blog for future postings of Running Pet Peeves.  Even better, share yours below in the comments.**

My Top Running Pet Peeves #1

 GregKatieRaceJustFeet

Maybe it’s sticky gum on the sidewalk slowing you down; perhaps it’s the neighbor’s sprinklers angling straight for your eyes; or maybe it’s that pesky rattlesnake sunning in the middle of the trail ready to strike where your foot will strike next—whatever it may be, we runners all have our personal pet peeves. I’ll share mine if you share yours…

Running Pet Peeve #1: Side by Side by Side (by Side) Walkers

To start, I respect walkers. Most walkers seem friendly. They smile as I run past, they wave, they exchange simple, quick pleasantries with me: “How are you doing?” “Nice day!” “Hey!” “Have a great run!” “Watch out for that telephone pole!” “Come on – I can walk faster than you run. Push it!”  Walkers can be encouraging—sometimes they offer me a high five, a thumbs up or a bottle of Guinness (well, I’m still hoping for that day to come).

However, walkers, in particular horizontal groups of walkers, have on occasion been the bane of my training. This particular scenario presents itself in all terrain: sidewalks, hiking trails, running tracks, paved bike/pedestrian paths—if you can run it, they can walk it side by side by side (by side). I understand these trails do not exist for my personal running experience. Walkers can and should use these public transportation routes for exercise and enjoyment too.

On the other hand, if your assembly of bottoms span the entire width of the track, take a step back—at least one or two of you so I can squeeze my bottom through. After I pass, feel free to recollect your rumps in a side by side by side (by side) pattern. Just please be aware of those of us who aren’t interested in butting up on your conversations about cat litter or suffering serious road rash as we unsuccessfully attempt to squash around your army. We (I) will appreciate it.

**Watch my blog for future postings of Running Pet Peeves.  Even better, share yours below in the comments.**

One Moose, Two Moose, Three Moose, More

Moose Mom and Baby on Path

Moose Mom and Baby – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park 2015

One Moose, Two Moose, Three Moose, More

(Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana)

Ever been nose to nose with a moose?  Not so nuzzly as it sounds.  Surprising though, definitely surprising—particularly when climbing a thin rocky trail above the treeline in Glacier National Park.  My family and I had chosen to trek Swiftcurrent Pass which promised moose and more.  It did not disappoint.  There, moose wade in slow running rivers, swim in cool lakes, graze in swampy forests….and apparently browse high on narrow mountain slopes where unsuspecting hikers may chance upon them unawares.

Now, we, as “informed” hikers, had done our homework.  We had read “How to Survive a Moose Attack” and sufficiently terrified ourselves in the process.  For one, moose are big.  We’re talking the biggest deer in the world, up to 1,800 pounds, big.  For two, moose are fast.  They can charge at 35 miles per hour and swim at 6.  Humans…not so much.  We average out at 191 pounds in the United States and even Usain Bolt can only run 27 miles per hour at a sprint.

So, here we were, “informed” hikers—walking into moose territory looking for an animal that is:

#1) four times as big as the four of us combined

#2) faster than the four of us combined

#3) highly territorial and prone to charging.

Yes, moose can get mad.  In fact, moose cause more deaths and injuries to National Park visitors than bears.  Remind me again why we went looking for them in the first place?

In all truth, we went out of hubris, that basic human condition that drives people to the highest of heights—in our case 7,185 feet high.  For commonplace, ordinary tourists like us, Swiftcurrent Pass offered everything we could dream of in a hike: vast, breathtaking vistas, potential animal sightings, and the golden possibility of transforming ourselves into backcountry bad-ass ultra-explorers battling the elements and surviving wildlife encounters one-on-one.  You know, the quiet contemplation of nature and all that.  We packed the bear spray, just in case.

DSC_0269

Mama Moose and Baby – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park July 2015

Our first moose of the day came upon us within a mile of the trailhead—money!  Our egos soared as a baby moose and its mama stepped out on the trail in front of us—winner, winner, chicken dinner!  We stop, we wait, we back up, we scan for a tree to dive behind (plenty around) and then we don’t move.  They look at us.  We don’t move.  They dine on the trailside undergrowth of the forest, but still we don’t move.  They keep an eye on us.

Moose Baby

Baby Moose – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park – July 2015

The baby watches most, its tiny head striving to catch up with the growing bulk of its main body.  The mama steps between us and the baby.  We step between the mama and our babies.  Nakedly aware of our human frailty and vulnerability, we slowly inch further backward.  The moose are no longer bothered about meager, inconsequential us and the mama allows her baby to browse where she wants.  Slowly, quietly, we take pictures.  The baby’s long, spindly legs attach awkwardly to its already thickening torso.  It walks like a rocking horse, both front legs and then back legs hopping in tandem.  The mama lovingly nudges her baby.  They move on, off the path, back into the forest.  We stay put.  For a long while.  Then, we move forward, onward with our hike.  We can hear them to our left, but we can’t see them anywhere.  We hear their footsteps (hoofsteps?), but still we can’t see them.  We can’t see them.  Where did they go?

Afterward, we didn’t want to be those stuck-up, know-it-all hikers that one inevitably meets on the trail…the hikers who tell you all about the baby moose and her mama that you just missed, minutes ago, seconds ago, if you hadn’t stopped to tie your shoelace or put on bug spray or eat that damn granola bar, but…we were.  We did.  We told everyone we saw.  Everyone.  It’s like hitting the lottery.  You want to share the joy of your winnings with the world.  But, after you win a boatload of dough, no one wants your joy.  They just want your money.  So, we kept on trekking, filling our own bank accounts.

Moose in Lake

Moose in Lake from Above – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana – July 2015

Our next moose sighting came from miles away, high up on the mountain—just spare change in our backpack wallets already brimming with baby moose Benjamins.  Settling down for a snack, we spotted a spot, a moving spot, which turned out to be a sizeable female moose in the lake below enjoying a refreshing summer swim on her day off.  Three moose in one day!  Cha-ching!  In Vegas, it’d be time to cash out and check out, but we had caught the bug by then, we were hungry for more.  Like gamblers, we raised the stakes and continued our ascent.

Moose on Mountain

Moose on Mountain Slope – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana – July 2015

My own personal Close Encounter of the Moose Kind awaited me ahead on the dirt trail as I took the lead toward our hike’s crowning lookout.  The path grew increasingly narrow and rocky and the vegetation sparse.  The idea that an innocuous clump of low lying bushes on the slope above might hide a moose did not occur to me.  Not a smidgen.  Not in the least.  Not, at least, until her nose with dark giant nostrils peeked out, just above my own, just an arm’s length away.  My eyes met hers and my mind went blank.  Blank, but not too blank–thankfully.  Not so blank that I couldn’t turn tail and animatedly hustle my kids back down the trail to retrace our steps.  At the time, my mouth couldn’t form the word “moose”.  My mind couldn’t find the word “moose”.  I couldn’t even remember the word “moose” existed until the gigantic animal stepped out on the path exactly where I had been standing a moment ago and I heard my husband say, “Moose.”

Moose Browsing on Mountain Slope

Moose Browsing on Mountain Slope – Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park, July 2015

For her part, the moose could have cared less about us.  I had essentially freaked out from her startling presence, but she held her dignity and nose high.  We were none of her concern.  We barely earned a blink of her eye as she crossed the path and began browsing on the shrubs down the mountain slope to our left.  In the sun, the color variations in her sleak, smooth fur stood out—a deep dark brown covered her torso, but her head shone lighter, almost reddish in tone.  Focused on her food supply and not on any piddling people, the moose ignored our photo opps (which we eagerly took advantage of) before she quietly stepped into the low shrubbery and disappeared like a ninja (a very large and unconventional ninja).  In stark contrast, our troop of four moved nothing like ninjas.  Being the noisy humans we were, we displayed no level of stealth or natural facility for disappearing into trees, so we forged onward, stomping audibly up the trail.

Trudging toward the mountaintop and leaving the dispassionate moose behind, we felt our jackpot high begin to droop.  No doubt we had increased our kitty.  By any measure, four moose in one day of hiking was a much greater prize than we had hoped for, but all of us felt a bit shaken by the most recent moose sighting.  If an 800 pound creature could come upon us unawares, what other unexpected obstacles lay ahead?  Lady Luck sticks around only so long.  My husband and I had anticipated the hike’s calf burning switchbacks, the persistent mosquitos and the oh-so-welcome “Mommy, are we there yet?” refrain, but eventualities exist no matter how closely you follow the Boy Scout handbook.

Take for instance an out of the blue summer thunderstorm.  That happens.  That happened.  One minute, sunny, blue “Big Sky” Montana overhead; the next a complete blackening of clouds followed by pelting rain, rumbling thunder, and unnerving bright flashes of lightning.  Under normal conditions, as residents of drought-ridden Southern California, my family may have enjoyed, even welcomed, the rain shower as a curious novelty.  It may have presented an exciting change of pace from Orange County’s mild same-same weather…if only we hadn’t found ourselves caught at more than 6,500 feet elevation, completely exposed and standing taller than the closest trees.

At that point, we high rollers could have folded.  We four could have cowered down on our hands and knees and cried, but here’s where our inner bad-ass ultra-explorer selves kicked in (or maybe it was fear).  We went all in, ripped out our rain jackets, threw them on and got down off that mountain like ninjas—cautious but quick stepping ninjas.  Retracing the switchbacks, we returned to the flatter, main trail in less than half the time it took us to climb up.  Ninja hikers.

On the four mile walk back to the parking lot, the rain let up but we passed zero moose.  Our well had run dry.  We had bottomed out.  Fortunately for us, we passed plenty of hikers keen for details on how we broke the bank with moose that day.  We gloated, we swaggered, we held our moose-loaded cameras high and our heads higher.  We even crowed to them about our near-death experience at the hands of a raging thunderstorm and bragged on how we would now live to gamble (or hike) another day.  They plied us with questions on when, where, how our moose meetings occurred, but who can say when or where a moose will reappear?  Now you see moose…

View of Swiftcurrent Pass lakes

View of Swiftcurrent Pass lakes

Want to try for your own moose adventure?  To learn more about Glacier’s Swiftcurrent Pass and meeting a moose, visit the websites below.  Don’t forget to stop for breakfast at Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge where a truly hearty hiker’s breakfast awaits:

On Swiftcurrent Pass:

http://www.hikinginglacier.com/swiftcurrent-pass.htm

http://enjoyyourparks.com/SwiftcurrentPassTrail.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g143026-d4846808-Reviews-Swiftcurrent_Pass_Hike-Glacier_National_Park_Montana.html

On Moose:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/moose/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose

http://www.glacier-national-park-travel-guide.com/moose-attack.html

http://scoutingmagazine.org/2014/08/survive-encounter-aggressive-moose/

Swiftcurrent Restaurant :

http://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/dining/swiftcurrent-motor-inn/swiftcurrent-restaurant

Martin’s Wings

Martin’s Wings – A New Adult Novel (Manuscript Complete and available for review)

This lighthearted jaunt envelops us in the life of Martin, a twenty-something introvert playing hide and seek with love as he navigates over-the-top holidays in his large, noisy, not to mention nosy, extended family.

Martin is a lot of things: ex-fat guy gone solo backpacker, has-been high school jock turned California commuter pilot. These days, runaway groom tops the list. Just ask his East Coast relatives.

Personally, Martin’s exhausted with his enormous family’s hypercompetitive holiday hoopla and their accompanying admonishments and advice. He hopes never to answer another trivia question or bat another wiffle ball with them again. Meanwhile, Martin attempts to avoid his ditched fiancé whom he still loves, her lauded new fiancé whom he loathes, and one raging not-a-fiancé-yet who hails from hell. Let’s just be frank. Martin is not having a good year…unless you count the sparkly fairy flapping her wings, potentially lifting Martin out of his own heartbroken funk.

As Martin faces the flak from his wedding walk-out, he endures toddler tantrums, barren buffet tables, disparaging nicknames, and, worse, cheap beer. Bittersweet memories of teenage antics and first kisses taunt him against the aging landscape of his hometown. Amid this constant background buzz, Martin searches for forgiveness, closure, and just one trifling slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. Maybe he could ask the cute girl with wings and a wand for some.

Nat Mumpower is currently seeking representation.  To contact Nat and request manuscript portions or a synopsis of “Martin’s Wings”, please use the website contact form or find Nat on Twitter @natmumpower.