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James Michael Pratt
Dear Mr. Pratt,
We have the habit of finding good authors and reading everything they write. You have joined a special club at our house with your novels. Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, and John Grisham are three of the modern-day writers in this category.
My wife hopes you are working on book #4 and that it is not too long in coming. Keep up the good work! — Gerald Bolen, Oklahoma
Those kind words quoted at the top of this page from Mr. Bolen of Oklahoma -- and those from many other readers -- meant a lot to me during great days when I was trying to figure out my road. I was stringing together one novel after another in the late 90's and early 2,000’s but...
I was just Jim, a guy-next-door, who had survived two life-saving surgeries in the 24 months before becoming published in 1997 when The Last Valentine took over my life.
Becoming a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, along with having The Last Valentine become a HALLMARK HALL of FAME World Premier and CBS Movie of the Week viewed by 14.5 million, was a privilege of a lifetime. Hard-earned, it took 11 years from the first script to the actual movie. Grateful, I never could have imagined this honor.
After 7 published bestsellers, including The Last Valentine, The Lighthouse Keeper, Ticket Home, Paradise Bay, Dad the Man Who Lied to Save the Planet, Mom, The Woman Who Made Oatmeal Stick to My Ribs, and The Good Heart...
...what probably appears a disappearing act by me for more than a decade, was in reality, something else.
With the first success of The Last Valentine, I still had a four-book contract to complete. I was under enormous ongoing physical disability challenges that sometimes happens when the body isn't cooperating with the goals of the mind.
I considered how privileged I felt to hear from readers from all over the world. Readers and their experience with the words I pen are always at the forefront of my mind. I did not want to let a great audience down.
Even so, I realized that forcing the body through chronicity of life-long spinal, head, and neck injury-caused pain from younger years was having a negative impact on family, some friends, and even professional contacts. I found myself unintentionally sabotaging relationships.
Something had to give. Feigning a smile in public for the camera, I struggled to know what to do, while relying upon painkillers to see me through constant 24/7 pain that began in my youth.
So, what happened to Author James Michael Pratt for over one decade? Perhaps I took Robert Frost's "Road Less Traveled" a bit too seriously, but then...
A choice to be a simple neighbor and silent writer-- Jim, a guy next door--was made.
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
--Robert Frost "A Road Less Traveled"
I no longer feel the need to hide some truths which made my story what it is; though now revealed through the ink of vulnerability and normal human weakness.
Every life has a story being written day by day, influenced by a “backstory” that few seldom see. We see the surface of things in people as we pass them by, but rarely the deep underneath where life happens and paths diverge from others more traveled.
I choose to be transparent in hopes to give readers with similar challenges the courage to pick themselves up one more time and take a road less traveled as they trip through life.
Bliss is a mirage. Uninterrupted success is, in reality, less a sprint and more a long-distance run with hurdles.
And from boyhood through adult life, it was as Forrest Gump said, "...if I was going somewhere, I was running!"
I loved playing heroes like Superman as a boy. The Adventures of Robin Hood, Rin Tin Tin, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, with John Wayne's Fort Apache were filmed one mile from our home at the old Corriganville Movie Ranch in Simi Valley's Santa Susana Mountains.
At its 1950s heyday, the movie ranch had more visitors on the weekends than Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm. Our front door literally opened to the view of the ranch. For a boy back then, it was like having a lesson in storytelling every day.
Heroics were played out physically; Cowboys and (politically incorrect) Indians, combat stories from World War Two, Knights and Ladies in distress from medieval times.
There were no video games or "virtual" heroics. You pretended to fly -- jumping off a roof with one of Mom's towels draped around your neck -- physically hit back, tackled, dove, climbed, fell, ran... and imitated swashbuckling, rope swinging, gravity-defying, cliff-climbing (never told Mom) cave exploring adventures of the old Hollywood heroes of the screen.
The LA Rams were my heroes from the time I got an imitation game helmet at 7 years old. By 1968 High School Football was like a magnet to iron. I was willing to run through 11 adversaries on the opposing side using my head as a battering ram to get through 3,000 pounds of combined muscle as long as a chance of breaking loose to the end zone existed.
"Pratt, get back up! You just had your bell rung is all," I recall hearing during those years of seeing stars I never knew existed...
The only compensation for what I now recognize became traumatic brain concussion injuries is how fun it was breaking through tackles; how challenging it was being considered tough enough to take the pain being dealt. Must be testosterone, because otherwise, such an attitude doesn't make any sense.
While the camaraderie of players and fellow fighters with memories of all the good times lasts a lifetime... so does the pain.
It was May 1997 and I was continuing a fight that began in 1971; a neck, head, and true "back" story which would add 16 titanium screws, assorted plates, and rods to hold my body together in coming years.
I had just finished my first novel and... I was bleeding to death.
AUDIO SNAPSHOT: What follows, is a longer first-ever audio-recorded snapshot of authorship under certain physical and personal backstory-related modifiers of life that influence my writing journey to this day.
For those choosing to not listen to the audio story, it may be summed up like this :
My youth experiences influenced my writing along with 50-year disabling pain and associated life-long injuries to the spine from the pelvis to the cranium. In fact, I never would have become a published writer without the physical punishments including nearly bleeding to death twice. Never give up. Be an "over-comer." Smile. Serve others. In the end, we are all here for each other, and God in His infinite wisdom is in control.
For the 'Rest of the Story,' as Paul Harvey would say, click Record Player icon: (LIVE SOON)
I hope you enjoyed that audio piece by reaching through the thin veil of memory with me to places that those times alone possess. Having lived a long life at this point, I find it cathartic to share the personal history and wish for it to be useful to others as they examine their own backstory.
I produced many works during those quiet years from 2005 to the present day. They are deeply heartfelt and now becoming delivered to you over the next several months and years beginning today with “Free Reads” and “Sneak Peeks” found in my private “Once Upon a Time BookClub." Immediately scheduled are 8 books to be released over a 48 month period.
Healthy, eager, and grateful to have you here at my 2021 launched website, I am looking forward to making great book reading memories together over many coming years!
James Michael Pratt
PS: If you enjoyed the Audio History found on this page, be sure to check out my Blog and Podcast at STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART!
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