Tag Archives: Fiction

Teaser Tuesday: Bound by Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes, BoundI’ve been looking forward to reading this book since I downloaded it in July. And hey, since it’s the first book in a trilogy it will count toward my Series Challenge for 2014. Bonus!  Here’s a teaser from Kate Sparkes debut novel, Bound:

“Peggy knew what I was. Every time she glanced in my direction, her thoughts jumped to the preserved dragon head in the back room.”

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From the Archives: IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once. Okay maybe more than once.

Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.

If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  ―    Anonymous

Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the main goal.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”  ―    Berkeley Breathed

From the Archives: Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King

Yesterday I published, Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit? In that post I stated that I only read fiction. Well it’s just one day later and I must retract that statement.

I received a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing in the mail yesterday afternoon. Yeah, it’s obviously not fiction but it’s a book on writing fiction so cut me some slack, okay? I’ve read several excerpts in the past but decided I needed to read the entire book. Well, I couldn’t put it down.

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

It’s a book on writing but it doesn’t read like an instruction manual and that, is a lesson on writing right there. It felt like I had sat down with a wise, yet fun-loving uncle as he imparted nuggets of wisdom, but first hooked me in by sharing funny anecdotes from his childhood.

The section where he offered advice on writing is a must read for any aspiring author. There are many great tips but I’ll highlight just two (sorry, but you’ll have to buy the book to get the full benefit).

King believes “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” His advice was reassuring because I’m not big on plotting and I’d wondered if that was somehow a weakness. I have a general idea of the story I want to tell and create very detailed character bios, but they are mostly for my reference only. Once I’ve completed the character bios it’s almost as if I have breathed life into them. They become real and end up telling me what comes next and it’s often different from what I had originally imagined.

He also believes that factual information belongs in the background of your story unless you’d like your book to read like a user’s manual or history text. He mentioned a couple of authors who are a little heavy on the factual information and then made this statement:

“I sometimes think that these writers appeal to a large segment of the reading population who feel that fiction is somehow immoral, a low taste which can only be justified by saying, ‘Well, ahem, yes, I do read {Fill in the author’s name here}, but only on airplanes and in hotel rooms that don’t have CNN; also I learned a great deal about {Fill in appropriate subject here}.’

It’s interesting that I just published a post on this topic yesterday. I love it when that happens. It’s like the moon and stars are aligning for some future event.

At the end of the book he tells about an accident that occurred during the time he was writing it. While going on his afternoon walk, he was struck and almost killed by a reckless driver. This part was mesmerizing because I was almost killed in a car accident too. Then he said it occurred the third week in June. Hmm…my accident did too. What are the odds it was on the same day? Well, what do you know? We were both almost killed by drivers who couldn’t control their vehicles…on the same day, June 19th, but eleven years apart, mine occurring in 1988 and his in 1999. But there was another similarity: the driver who caused his accident was reaching behind his seat, trying to prevent a dog from opening a cooler full of meat and the driver who caused my accident was reaching behind his seat, trying to open a cooler for another beer.

As he talked about the long road to recovery, I recalled my own. Maybe I’ll write about it? No, not today.

Instead, I closed the book with a smile on my face and thought, “That was a good story. Thanks, Uncle Steve.”

From the Archives – Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

In my former career as a “bean-counter,” I rarely allowed myself to read anything other than business books. Books were merely tools utilized to further my career. The payback period had to be short and the return on investment had to be high. I needed to see an immediate benefit, in the form of increased knowledge, from the time I had invested in reading. Time was money and I didn’t have the luxury of wasting it on nonsensical stories.

Somewhere along the way the joy I felt from spending lazy afternoons curled up with a good book was replaced by the notion that fiction held no value. Reading fiction had become a guilty pleasure. It was as if I had adopted an ascetic lifestyle, sworn an oath akin to celibacy, abstaining from the joy of reading, not because it was what I wanted but because it was expected if I were to grow intellectually. A work of fiction was just an invented story about people who never existed; and therefore, useless information. Nothing could be gained from it so naturally it held no merit. “Thou shalt not read fiction,” became my mantra.

On the rare occasion that I allowed myself to read a work of fiction I typically couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. I’d become completely wrapped up in this “sinful” pursuit, reading late into the night. These transgressions were worthy of a good self-flogging which often took the form of force feeding another business book. I never got much joy from reading a business book so it was  an appropriate punishment. I usually had to force myself to finish it and would skim pages just to get through it.

Then I’d come across a favorite quote, gaze longingly at the words, and marvel at how a single sentence could stir my soul. The longing to read good fiction would be rekindled. I found that despite my efforts to suppress my affection for fiction, abstinence made the heart grow fonder.

Now, I never miss an opportunity to read fiction. It transports you to different worlds that you may not get to explore otherwise. It allows you to see life through someone else’s eyes, to be exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. It can deepen your life experiences.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin

Reading fiction does have merit. It gets the creative juices flowing. It stimulates the imagination.

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...
English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ~ Albert Einstein

Now, it seems I always have a book in my hand, and undoubtedly, it is fiction.

From the Archives: How the Life of a Writer Resembles a Bee

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

 How the Life of a Writer Resembles a Bee

On this journey to becoming a published author, I’m discovering that the life of a writer resembles a bee, a very busy bee. I’m not referring to a queen bee or a drone, but a worker bee.

Honey Bee in Sunlight
Honey Bee in Sunlight (Photo credit: Scott Kinmartin)

The worker bee buzzes from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen to make honey, but that’s not her (yes, a worker bee is female) only job. She builds the honeycomb and keeps it clean. She makes wax. She cares for the babies and protects the hive. When she finds a good source for nectar and pollen she buzzes back to the hive and communicates the good news. She is a social creature that shares her discoveries for the benefit of the hive. She collaborates with others to make something sweet. She is a very busy little bee.

So how is the life of a writer like a bee?

The days when a writer could simply collect thoughts and ideas and write a novel (as if writing a novel were simple) are long gone. No, writers, that is not your only job. You need to do your homework.

  • Read books on the art of writing.
  • Read books on formatting your manuscript, query letter and synopsis. I’ve read a dozen or so over the last few years and recently ordered several more.
  • Read the top rated novels. I started a project over a year ago to read the Modern Library’s Top 100 novels and recently merged it with Time Magazine’s Top 100.
  • Read current bestsellers.
  • Read books within your genre.
  • Read books outside your genre.
  • Research the submission process.
  • Research agents too. Read their blogs and get to know their likes and dislikes. After all, you hope one will represent you some day.
  • Read the blogs of authors they represent.
  • Read those authors’ books too.
  • Read…A LOT.

Of course most of you know that already, but did you also know that you are expected to market and promote your work? I’m sure visions of book tours and interview flash across your mind as you think, “Uh, duh. I knew that.” Let me rephrase that then. Did you know that you are expected to market and promote your work before your book has been published?

I didn’t know that. I neglected to read anything on social media. I skipped those chapters in the books I read. That comes later, after you’re published, right? Wrong. A writer needs to create a buzz, a following, prior to becoming published. In this technology driven world the best way to do that is through social media. Agents are more likely to take a chance on you if you can show that you have a presence on the internet.

Take a lesson from the honey bee. She visits several different sources (species of flowers) to make honey. Writers should do the same when writing and publishing a book. Don’t trust just one source for information. Read about the mistake I made doing this in my post, Word Count for Novels. Be social, like the bee. Flutter among the cyber flowers (blogs, online forums, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, author and agent websites, etc.) and make friends. Collect all that you have learned and create something that, like honey, lasts. Then go back to the hive (the internet), do the crazy bee “waggle dance,” and share what you’ve learned.

If you don’t have a blog yet, start one. I know. It’s a little intimidating at first. Creative people tend to be more introverted so this “social media thing” can push us out of our comfort zone. You may wonder if anyone will be interested in visiting the microscopic spec in cyberspace that is your blog. If you are like me, you may feel more like a bumble bee: poorly designed for flight. Sure, it may be a little difficult to get off the ground at first and you may wonder if your paper-thin wings can support your awkward body. You may fumble a bit, but remember:

“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” Mary Kay Ash

Defy physics and reason and soon you will be soaring high. Plus, I’ve learned that writers, by nature, are generous people. The followers will come.

Oh, and by the way, my name means “honey bee.” So, you see, I have been a very busy bee, indeed.

Against Idleness and Mischief

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skillfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labor or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.

Isaac Watts

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

I stumbled across this today and thought it would be fun to take part.

toptentuesday2Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Anyone is welcome to join. Simply link back to The Broke and the Bookish post on your own Top Ten Tuesday post and add your name to the linky widget so that everyone can check out the top ten lists of other bloggers. This week’s theme:

Top 10 Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

   I Am Legend
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

You are the last living human on Earth… but you’re not alone. Every other being on the planet has turned into a vampire and they’re hungry for blood, your blood. Most of us have a healthy fear of the dark on occasion, but in this world you will pray for the dawn. Every. Single. Night.


the hunger gamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In post-apocalyptic North America, the government of Panem has subdivided the nation into districts that serve the Capitol. Those living in the Capitol enjoy a life of luxury in stark contrast to the oppressive environment of the districts. Basic necessities such as food are restricted to the point of starvation so that the primary focus of the people in the districts is self-preservation and not rebellion. But to ensure  acquiescence of the districts and as punishment for a past rebellion, the Capitol hosts the annual Hunger Games, an event where one boy and one girl from each district must take part in a gladiator type fight… to the death, with only one victor remaining.  


The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The US falls under control of an ultra-conservative theocratic dictatorship. The human race is declining due to sterilization caused by chemical pollution. Women’s rights have been stripped away, and the few who remain fertile serve as concubines for reproductive purposes to the upper class.

brave new worldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

This is a world where humans are artificially conceived and bottled in jars for modification during the gestation stage. Babies in jars! If that’s not creepy enough many are selected at conception for a lower class. This is a process known as “bokanovskification,” where they are treated like a commodity, mass-produced in an assembly line, subjected to substandard environmental conditions at the embryonic stage to cause arrested development in mental and physical acuity, and conditioned via Pavlovian methods after “birth” to be suited and satisfied with their position in life.


photo credit: creativereview.co.uk1984 by George Orwell

After a global war, Oceania rises to power as one of the three remaining super states. Within Oceania the Elite control every aspect of society through the elimination of personal freedoms, the restriction of basic necessities, the prohibition of interpersonal relationships, fear, and mind control. Surveillance systems monitor every aspect of life and any act of individualism, even reading or expressing thoughts could result in a person being vaporized. Remember: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING.


divergent trilogyDivergent trilogy by Veronica Roth

The city of Chicago is divided into five factions that represent certain virtues the government wants to promote. The inhabitants of these factions must strictly adhere to the virtue of their faction. When the children of each faction reach age 16, they are given an aptitude test to determine which faction they are suited for. They are given the choice to transfer to another faction or stay with the only one they’ve known. Individuals who have the aptitude for more than one faction are rare and are labeled Divergent. Divergents threaten to upset the balance of a strictly controlled society and are considered dangerous. Who wants to live in a world where possessing the virtues of Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, and Amity pose a threat to your life? Divergence means death.

the roadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy

A cataclysmic event has destroyed most human life and the resources necessary to sustain it. Due to the absence of animals and vegetation, many of those who survived have resorted to cannibalism. It’s difficult to imagine anything worse.


The LOTRThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Thanks to your eccentric uncle, you’ve come into possession of the ring of power, the one ring to rule them all. The evil Lord Sauron—who has re-assumed his position as ruler of Mordor— needs it to regain power over all. You’d think you could just use the ring to defeat him, but no, no one is immune to its evil and it must be destroyed. You can’t simply melt it down and make a new set of earrings. You’ve got to throw it in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged. Oh, and guess where Mount Doom is located? Yep, you guessed it. Mordor. This won’t be an easy journey. You will traverse swamps with dead people, bitterly cold mountaintops, and mines where you risk awakening an ancient demon. Ringwraiths (undead seekers of the ring), a giant octopus/squid creature, a powerful wizard gone bad (Lord Sauromon), and an army of Orcs to name a few will pursue you to the ends of the earth. Even friends who’ve sworn to protect you and help you on your mission could turn against you. Oh, and did I mention the spider? It’s not your ordinary little spider that can be squashed underfoot, but a mammoth one that can wrap you in its web, paralyze you with its sting, and drain your blood. I guess I should’ve started with the spider and left it at that.

World War Z by Max BrooksWorld War Z by Max Brooks

A global war against a zombie pandemic. Need I say more?


comaComa by Robin Cook

Routine medical surgeries are being tampered with so the oxygen flow to certain patients under anesthesia is compromised causing otherwise healthy patients to end up brain-dead. These patients are transferred to an institute masked as an intensive care facility. In reality, it’s used as a storehouse for brain-dead bodies with healthy organs that are kept alive until their organs can be sold on the black market. You’ll never want to set foot in a hospital again.

So that’s it. These are the fictional worlds that have given me nightmares. Sweet dreams everyone.

Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

brave new worldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

Goodreads Description: Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s prophetic novel of natural man in an unnatural world, is one of the twentieth century’s most profound and terrifying evocations of the future. This story of life in a streamlined Eden describes a civilization in which contemporary concepts of freedom and morality have become obsolete.

Modern Library Top 100 Rank: 5

My Review:

The book, written in 1931, is incredibly prophetic beginning with its description of human life created in a lab. No doubt it had seemed like a radical idea at the time, but less than fifty years later the first human would be conceived in a test tube within a sterile environment similar to one Huxley described. It’s a process known as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), and it has fulfilled the dreams of many couples who couldn’t conceive naturally. With IVF, conception occurs outside the womb with the fertilized egg being returned to the mother’s uterus to develop as nature intended. I applaud science for finding a way to bring hope to couples who have had trouble conceiving, but I hope I don’t live to see a world where a BOKANOVSKY type process comes to fruition. Huxley’s novel takes the process to a terrifying level with its Hatchery and Conditioning center.

First Sentence: “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”

The centre is a place where humans are artificially conceived and bottled in jars during gestation. Many are preselected at conception for a lower class, a process known as “bokanovskification”, where they are treated like a commodity and mass-produced in an assembly line of sorts, subjected to substandard environmental conditions at the embryonic stage to cause arrested development in mental and physical acuity, and conditioned via Pavlovian methods after “birth” to be suited and satisfied with their position in life.

Because of this, the family structure no longer exists. “Parent” is a foreign concept along with all the emotional ties of that familial bond. If you are a parent, think of the first time you heard your child say “Mama” or “Dada.” For me, it is one of the most beautiful words in the human language because of the depth of emotion and protective instinct that is tied to it. It stirs up feelings in me that I cannot even begin to put into words.

By artificially controlling the natural development of humans, we lose everything that makes each of us unique and suppress the potential for great ideas and innovation. By disallowing natural bonds to form like parent/child, husband/wife, we destroy the concepts of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion.  

In the book, the leaders of society have created a utopia where everyone is content. A person’s purpose is manufactured through conditioning for the benefit of the community. Even a person’s emotions can be manufactured by popping a pill called Soma if they are depressed or having a VPS (Violent Passion Surrogate) treatment to stimulate the adrenals.

“What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.

Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger, even for an eggshell. Isn’t there something in that?” he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. “Quite apart from God—though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”

“There’s a great deal in it,” the Controller replied. “Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.”

“What?” questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

“It’s one of the conditions of perfect health. That’s why we’ve made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.”


“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.”

“But I like the inconveniences.”

“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

It’s frightening how prophetic this book is when you think about it. Don’t think so? Let’s name a few mood altering drugs on the market today: Zoloft, Xanax, and Prozac. They’re really not too different from Soma, are they? I haven’t taken any of them, but I’ve heard acquaintances gush about how wonderful they are because they don’t worry about anything. They are just so happy, albeit a “manufactured” happy. What about adrenal stimulation? Video games, anyone? Especially combat games where the threat of death is simulated. The same can be said of horror or action movies.

These things may seem innocuous. After all, antidepressants aid people suffering from depression, video games improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time and decision-making, and movies create empathy; but when we partake in such large doses and they prevent us from dealing with reality, it becomes an issue.  

Yes, Huxley’s Brave New World is frightening indeed, and when I think of the state of morality as displayed by many celebrities, people on reality TV, and society in general, I wonder how far we are from it, really.

4 of 5 stars

Book Review: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to ArmsBook Review: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Published: 1929

Modern Library Ranking: 74

Book Description: The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway’s frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto—of lines of fired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized—is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was thirty years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway.

Okay, that wasn’t exactly my reaction to the ending of the book, but when I saw this scene in the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, I had to laugh. I could relate to his reaction, and although I didn’t break any windows or utter any profanities (okay maybe one or two), I do believe I tossed the book aside. I don’t need a happily ever after to enjoy a book, but this is what the author makes you crave while you’re experiencing an otherwise hopeless world, where war and death are commonplace. If you’re looking for a happy ending, you won’t get that from Hemingway. His books depict the real rather than the ideal. War is not glamorous. Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Death is inevitable. Often we read to escape that reality, and that’s where the disappointment comes from. We want to believe that it was all worth it somehow.

I’ve been reading, or rereading, books on the Modern Library Top 100 list to see what I could learn from these highly praised works. What did I learn from reading this book? Here are a few writing “rules” that came to mind:

  • Hook the reader with the first line.

1st sentence: “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.”

No, it’s not particularly engaging, but I kept reading as the next rule came to mind.

  • Avoid slow beginnings. Starting a book with too much pedestrian detail will lose the reader.

On the surface, the beginning appeared quite pedestrian, and it seemed so until I finished the book. If you know anything about Hemingway’s style, much of the meaning of what he writes lies beneath the surface. I reread the opening paragraph, and it took on a different meaning for me.

It describes a scene where troops are marching down a road. The only evidence that remains after they have passed is the dust that powders the leaves and trunks of the trees. Like the movement of the troops on the dusty road, our lives are temporary, and after we pass, the only thing that remains is the dust we leave behind; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I’m not sure if this is the meaning Hemingway intended to convey but this is how I view it. The opening paragraph is hauntingly poetic to me now. Here is the rest of it:

“In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

  • Use inconspicuous dialogue tags like “said” and “asked” only when necessary.

I don’t recall seeing any dialogue tags other than “said” or “asked,” and for the most part, Hemingway avoided dialogue tags altogether. It was confusing, at times, to determine who was speaking and I had to reread a passage.

  • Don’t use phonetic spelling to convey racial or cultural dialects. The oddly spelled words can be distracting to the reader.

The skill with which Hemingway uses the context of speech, a peculiar turn of phrase, those idioms indicative of a particular culture, allows the reader to hear the words as if they were spelled phonetically. As I stated above, he frequently omits dialogue tags, but his use of dialogue, for the most part, makes it unnecessary. One can learn a lot from studying Hemingway’s use of dialogue.

  • Create characters that are likable. The protagonist is a character the reader should empathize with. The emotional attachment is what keeps the reader interested in the story.

Initially, I viewed the main character, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, as a self-absorbed womanizer. What led me to these initial reactions? Here is what he thought about Catherine:

“I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It was all right with me.” Then, in this same scene he tells her, “But I do love you.”

What a snake. I didn’t feel sorry for Catherine, though. She was a pathetic character who fawned over Frederic and didn’t have a life or thought of her own. She seemed desperate for someone to love and would become whatever he wanted.

“There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.”

“You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got.”

I wanted to puke. I had a hard time empathizing with these characters. But, as usual with Hemingway, all is not what it seems. Frederic is an ambulance driver who risks his life to help the wounded. Pretty noble, eh? He actually does fall in love with Catherine and the way I initially viewed him changed. He was no longer a player in those early scenes, but someone who wanted to remain numb, unfeeling among the atrocities of war, suppressing his emotions with alcohol and meaningless sex.

As for Catherine, her actions contradicted her words. She did have a mind of her own. She left the safety of her home country to aid wounded soldiers at the front. She did this to honor her fiance who was killed in the war. She was independent and courageous. Like Frederic, she put herself in harm’s way for the welfare of others. I no longer viewed her as a pathetic character but as someone who was desperately trying to deal with grief.

Although I believe I came to understand their actions, I never developed a deep emotional attachment for the characters.

My favorite quotes both appear on page 249:

“I know the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started.”

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

This seems to be describing the contrast between dreams and reality. What are the things we dream of? Peace, security, love? Does our world allow those things to exist? Frederic and Catherine find solace in each other’s arms, but can love exist among the atrocities of war? Maybe the answer lies in the book’s title.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Guest Blog: Maniacal Mal’s Monster Market by Charles Yallowitz

Please welcome my first guest blogger, Charles Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere fantasy series. You can find my (not so typical) review of the first book, Beginning of a Hero in the post, Whisked Off to the Magical World of Windemere: One Reader’s Adventure. His newly released Prodigy of Rainbow Tower is available on Amazon at just 99 cents for the month of August. Join the adventure and pick up one or both of his books today.

I follow Charles’ blog faithfully because:

  1. He writes fantasy fiction (one of my favorite genres),
  2. The content of his blog is interesting and informative (especially for aspiring authors who want to self-publish),
  3. I’m generally always guaranteed a laugh, if not in the post then in his interactions with others in the comments section, and
  4. I love to see Ionia (no last name necessary) pick on him. Don’t be surprised if she takes a stab at him here.

And now, drum roll please, the inaugural guest blogger post.

Maniacal Mal’s Monster Market


Welcome to Maniacal Mal’s Monster Market!  So, I’m told you’re going to write a story and use some monsters.  We have everything in stock from dragons to zombies to four-faced catfish that eat ships.  What do we call that last one?  Name it whatever you want.  Last author called it behemoth and the guy before that leviathan.  I believe the person before that simply called it Burt.

I see you’re interested in the undead area.  They’re a common choice these days, so we have a lot of specials on zombies.  Buy one horde and get three special zombies free to use when the plot needs a surprise.  I’ll leave the explanations behind them to you since I’m not the one writing the story.  If you’re interested we also have some skeletons.  Not as scary and mostly sold for children’s movies these days.  The rest of the undead are in the back collecting dust.  I hear mummies might be coming back.  I know.  Everyone loves zombies.  The zombie obsession is putting thirty kids through college and only two of them are mine.

We have a lot of aliens that we’re trying to get rid of.  We thought there would be a surge of unique alien types after M.I.B 3, but people still want the tall, bipedal gangly ones.  For those, we give you the basic model and you can alter in the transformer tube.  Still, I would like to point out that we’re practically giving away the non-humanoid aliens.  No?  They’re going to be used for dragon food by the end of the week, so now’s the time.  Sure, I’ll get that fluffy . . . oh . . . do you want the alien that ate the fluffy one?

I wouldn’t go over there unless you’re sure you want one of those.  That building has the orcs, goblins, and other humanoid creatures you find in fantasy novels.  We have a few samples in there and bulk order the others if you decide.  The problem is that they’re incredibly needy and have been known to board the doors until a customer chooses one.  Ever wonder why you’ll read a fantasy book and a lone hobgoblin is shown for some reason?  This would be why.  Makes no sense since they’re pack creatures and the loners that go out never come back alive.  They may look ugly, but they can die of loneliness like the rest of us.

What was that?  No.  You’re too green for Cthulu.  Don’t even ask where we keep him.

I can see you want the big monsters for those death-defying fights.  Come out onto the balcony and I’ll show you the reserve.  See all those roaring, screeching, and deadly beasties?  We have dragons, giants, griffins, pegasi, unicorns, and whatever else you can remember from your childhood.  Each one can be altered to your whim or you can choose from the catalogue where we keep all the previous ideas.  All we ask is that you return them intact, so you’ll get a rebuilding kit for when they’re slain.  Small word of warning on the dragons: they really appreciate lozenges and mints.  Give them some of those and your furniture will be fire free until you’re done.

I see you have that glint in your eyes.  You’ve made a decision?  Ah, you want some unique monsters.  For that, we would have to go to the Egg Dispenser.  You sit in the chair and look at all the choices of body parts, powers, and whatever else is in the machine.  We put a special helmet on you to pick out any options that aren’t listed.  You piece your monster together and we give you the egg, so it will imprint on you upon hatching.  Once you’re done with it, you can keep the monster or send it back for store credit.

Made your decision?  Okay.  That’ll be three dragons with one red, one black, and one pink.  You want five snake monsters and a couple hundred ogres.  You know, we have a deal where you get a free demon if you buy a fourth dragon.  Great.  I suggest an orange one because you don’t see them very often.  Would you like anything else?  Three eggs to be determined after lunch.  Excellent.  Glad to do business with you.  Mind if I ask what series you’re working on?  Legends of Windemere . . . sounds interesting.  Good luck.

Would You, Could You, Read a Fiction Book?

dr. seuss 2I was at a party last night when the topic turned to the latest “must read” books. My ears perked up as I listened to the discussion. They happened to be works of fiction and a few people chimed in with comments like:

“Oh, I can’t read a book if the story’s not real!”

“Why would you read about something that never happened?”

“They’re a waste of time!”

“I learn so much from those self-help books. What can you possibly learn from fiction?”

Really? They have absolutely no idea what they’re missing.

As typical, my thoughts on this subject swirled with another post I recently read. I wish I could remember who wrote it but my brain seems to have filed away that bit of information. Anyway, it was about finding time to read and the author asked for responses in the poetic style of Dr. Seuss. The next thing I knew, this little ditty started to form in my head. Hope you enjoy it.  Happy Friday!

I need to read.
I need to read.
Read, I need.
Fill my need.
I beg and plead.
But don’t make it that
fiction, you love to read.

Do you like
to read a book?

I do so love to
read a book.
But I don’t want fiction
on my nook.

Can’t you read fantasy?
Why must it be reality?

I do not like fantasy.
Realism is the only way for me.
Fiction has no legitimacy.
If it’s not true, then I won’t read.

I do so like
to read a book,
but I can’t have fiction
on my nook.

Could you read
Catcher in the Rye?
Could you read
The Sheltering Sky?

I cannot read
Catcher in the Rye
I cannot read
The Sheltering Sky
I cannot read such
I can only read
Non-fiction, you see.
I do so like to read a book.
but I won’t put fiction on my nook.

Would you read
Sophie’s Choice?
Or something else
by James Joyce?

Not Sophie’s Choice.
Not James Joyce.
Not Catcher in the Rye.
Not The Sheltering Sky.
I cannot read it if it’s not true.
No made-up worlds will ever do.
I do so like to read a book
but I won’t have fiction on my nook.

Would you? Could you?
Read Animal Farm?
Or Hemmingway’s
Farewell to Arms?

I would not,
could not,
read Animal Farm.

Or Hemmingway’s

Farewell to Arms!

You may like them.
You will see.
Try Ironweed,
Fifty Shades Freed?

I would not, could not read Fifty Shades Freed.
Nor Ironweed! You let me be.

I would not like Tales of the Beadle Bard.
Or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
I would not like Stephen King’s The Stand.
Or any book by that woman Ayn Rand.
I would not like Melville’s Moby Dick.
Or that strangely titled book, Ubik.
I do so like to read a book.
I just don’t want those on my nook.

Twilight! Wuthering Heights!
How about At First Sight?
Could you, would you try
Tender is the Night?

Not Twilight! Not Wuthering Heights!
Not at First Sight or Tender is the Night!
Please tell me, you got that, right?
I would not like An American Tragedy.
I would not like The Guide to the Galaxy.

I would not like Sense and Sensibility.
Not even The Studs Lonigan Trilogy.
I would not like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Or anything by that guy Salman Rushdie

Emily Bronte?
Or Charlotte Bronte?
All Quiet on the Western Front?

I would not, could not,
Read a Bronte.

Would you, could you,
Read Pearl S. Buck?

I would not, could not, read Pearl S. Buck
I’ve already told you, I don’t give a –
Not even a book by Harper Lee.
I do not like fiction books, you see.
Not Lord Jim. Not Lucky Jim.
Not even Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. Not even on a whim!
I will not read a fiction book.
I do not want them on my nook.

You will not read
a fiction book?

I will not
give them,
a second look.

Could you, would you read
On the Road?

I would not,
could not read
On the Road.

Would you, could you read
Tobacco Road?

I would not, could not read On the Road.
I will not, will not, read Tobacco Road.
I won’t read a world that’s fantastical.
I treasure my books that are biographical.
I will not read a mystery.
It must be truth from history.
I will not read a work of science fiction,
where alien creatures are the main depiction.
I will not read a silly romance.
It’s hardly worth a second glance.
I will not read a romantic suspense.

Reading illusion doesn’t make sense!
I will not read
a fiction

I do not want them
on my nook!

What is this aliteracy
that you claim?
Read them! Read them!
You’ll never
be the same.

If you will let me be
I will try them.
You will see.

I like to read a fiction book!
How many will fit on my nook?
And I would read all ever wrote!
And I would read them as you gloat!
And I will read them in the rain.
And in the dark with severe eye strain.
And in a car until I get sick.
They are so good, what’s a little ick?

So I will read them at the doctor.
And I will read them while I proctor.
And I will read them in my house.
And I will read them with my spouse.
And I will read them here and there.
Say! I will read them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
to read a book
Now it must be
on my nook!