Guest Post: What reading Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl did for me…

roald

Roald Dahl – Image courtesy of The Guardian.

It is so many years ago that I read this book, but it left a lasting impression on me and had certainly influenced my book of short stories “Flight of Destiny”. Maybe some of the concepts in this book seem a bit dated…but then it was published in 1960 and times were rather different then. Would you call your short story “Parson’s Pleasure” and the main character Cyril Boggis? If you don’t know this story it is about a shady antiques dealer, who takes advantage of naive country types, and comes across a priceless Chippendale commode, which he acquires for twenty pounds with the intention of selling it for twenty thousand. What we can safely say about Roald Dahl’s stories is that there is a significant twist at the end of each story. It is this aspect that really influenced my short story writing.

Where did Roald Dahl get the ideas for his dark stories? Here is a writer who also wrote equally lauded and memorable children’s stories “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda”. Roald Dahl was able to make an easy transition between writing for adults and children. It is true that often children’s stories are dark.

Roald Dahl did not have a happy childhood. His sister and father both died, one not long after the other, when he was still very young. Like myself he was sent away to boarding school. If you haven’t experienced an English boarding school first hand, it is hard to imagine, what such institutions are really like. His experience involved being caned as well as being bullied by older boys. It was also during his time at boarding school, that he became a bit of a prankster. More significantly he had a special fondness for a sweet store and the idea for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory germinated from this period of his life. He endured a particularly savage punishment after he and some friends dropped a mouse into a lolly jar, which doesn’t sound like it warranted much of a punishment.

I also vividly remember watching “Tales of the Unexpected” a TV series based Roald Dahl’s short stories. The show’s music is very distinctive and the titles at the beginning and end, maybe were a bit daring at the time. The show attracted some well-known actors at the time, drawn to act in Dahl’s imaginative dark stories. Maybe they are a bit too “quaint” in terms of these days. I picked up a DVD of the show, in a second-hand shop.

With my own short stories, like Dahl, I try to include an unexpected twist at the end. With short stories, you face limits, you have create characters, that the reader will immediately identify with. You have to create strong dialogue. You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention. Some people believe that authors graduate from being short story writers into full novel writers, a kind of literary rite of passage…me?…I really like this format of writing. My work might be much darker than Roald Dahl might have dared…but I really admire his work and “Kiss Kiss” will always be very special to me.

If you read this quote by Cormac McCarthy, “I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.” There seems to be a sentiment that short stories are not seen in the same light as full novels. Personally I love this format of writing.

What he is saying is that to be a fully fledged writer, you need sweat blood, perhaps for him short story writing is an easy route, so not of the same value as a full novel.

Some quotes on short stories

“A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story – you can work more by suggestion – than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.”
– Eudora Welty

“You become a different writer when you approach a short story. When things are not always having to represent other things, you find real human beings begin to cautiously appear on your pages.” – Zadie Smith

Deborah Eisenberg states that “the plot of a good story is likely to be a stranger, more volatile and more evanescent sort of thing than the plot of a novel”. You can’t meander with a short story. A short story, can’t evoke the expanse and diversity of life, and takes the reader’s attention towards a more limited aspect. With full novels, the author is forced to wrap things up, whereas the short novelist can afford to be ambiguous. So a novel and short story have different constraints.

By Francis H Powell

Author of Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

http://theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com/

https://www.facebook.com/flightofdestinyshortstories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwNl0F6095Q

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00WSWYVNK

Book Review – The Mistreatment of Zora Langston

zora

Blurb:

Zora Langston is nine years old when her father dies, leaving her in the hands of a mother who is anything but loving and siblings who never considered her family. Without her father, she is truly alone. Before the dirt has even settled on his grave, there’s a new man of the house, and he has no interest in being Zora’s father. Despite her hardships, Zora remains true and allows faith to help free her from this new, horrible life she’s found herself in. She finds solace in her aunt and uncle and, for the first time, starts to discover what it’s like to have a real family. However, just when she thinks she has escaped her tormentors, new abusers emerge, old ones return from hiding and she must find the strength to survive.

Book Info:

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Lisa W Tetting; 1 edition (March 16, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0996142908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0996142908
  • Price on Amazon – $10.95

Book Review:

Told from the perspective of Zora, a nine year old girl who lives in North Carolina. This hard hitting book confronts us with Zora’s heart-breaking tale. Once her father dies suddenly, she is left with her abusive mother, who is best described as evil and seriously messed up in the head. Within a very short time, her mother moves in her lover and that’s when Zora’s life is completely turned upside down. Not only is she trying to deal with the loss of her Dad, she’s also having to cope with sexual abuse, domestic abuse and later she has school bullies to contend with.

Warning – this book may be a trigger if you have a history of being abused. I personally found the abuse scenes difficult to read (as they are very real, despite this being a fictional tale) but I do believe books like these can help people understand the tragedy of abuse. It’s important to break down the barriers and try to understand a survivors story.

The author has created strong characters, whereby I was desperate for Zora to break free and escape. I think the author could write another book, a part two perhaps. I’d like to know how Zora manages to construct her adult life after so much pain.

All in all, a heart-breaking, compelling page turner. I read this book very quickly and the style of writing is spot on. I’m Scottish and yet I felt I was reading it in a Southern American accent.

If you require a book review – simply get in touch. But first, please check out what genre of books I am currently accepting. Thank you!

Book Review: Maybe Baby by Ashlinn Craven

maybe baby

Blurb: Uber-organized Polly Malone leaves nothing to chance. Running her web design company on a shoestring, she’s determined to make it a success. Her career plan doesn’t include a man or a family. When she’s approached by a stranger with an unusual request, she hasn’t the heart – or the bank balance – to refuse.

Sexy, wealthy, top London games entrepreneur Julian Ripley is battling for control of the company he built and picking up the pieces of his post-divorce life. But his sister makes a plea he can’t refuse.

When Polly and Julian meet in a dusty post office, feelings spark to life, but each harbors a secret – one that both binds and repels.

Caught between family and commitments, can their love survive or is it inconceivable?

Book Info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Crimson Romance (15 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440580251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440580253
  • Buy for £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk, also available on Amazon.com

Book Review:

Told from the perspective of Polly, a young career-minded woman determined to make her web design company a success. Polly doesn’t want to have to stop her career just to have a baby and so she has a plan of action – she’ll freeze her eggs and use them when it suits her. This all sounds like a solid plan but then life happens! When she happens to meet Julian, her life takes a new pathway and her strong opinions on waiting for a baby are challenged.

I really liked Polly and could certainly relate to her. She’s smart, independent but also funny and warm. I’m sure many young women would relate to her and her modern life frustrations. She is trying so hard to create a successful professional life and thinks she can have it all, but ultimately she learns some compromises may not be such a terrifying prospect.

This book would appeal to young women who are considering having a baby or perhaps women going through the process of IVF. I discovered a lot about IVF and egg donation. The author has done her research! But thankfully, the book is not full of medical procedures as I’d find that quite boring. There’s plenty of romance and humor, and some surprising sinister twists to the plot. The characters are well developed, the descriptions are spot on and the story moves along at a good pace. This is chick-lit doing exactly what I want and need.

*This review will also be published on Amazon to further support the author. If you need a quality book review do get in touch with me via email. Please check and see which genre I am likely to accept.  Please be patient as I get a lot of requests.Thank you!

Your Best Piece of Writing Advice Would be…

creative5

You’ll know I am someone who has published non-fiction and I’m always working away on non-fiction projects. It’s something I’m comfortable with and I enjoy sharing the truth and reality, but what if I decided to try writing fiction? What if I changed gears and challenged myself creatively? What if I wanted to create something purely from my own imagination?

Why ever not!

I think people who can create a fictional book are amazing. To be able to capture a reader and take them on a journey. It’s something that intrigues me and I’d love to be able to do that.

So, I’m asking you if a non-fiction author was to ask you for your best piece of advice to get cracking, your best piece of advice to produce an enjoyable novel, well…what would you say? How do you develop characters? How do you establish a setting? How do you move the story along? How do you motivate yourself? How do you come up with ideas for your story telling? What books or resources do you read to support your own writing development?

Perhaps I should take this free course with the Open University titled Start Writing Fiction. Have you seen this? Looks great!

Thanks in advance if you have any advice to share with me and other people reading this blog. Happy writing.

Guest Post: How being a bookworm can boost your mind and well being

reading3

There is nothing quite like the feeling of settling down in your favorite chair and immersing yourself in a good book. Unfortunately there seems to be an increasing trend towards computers and the wide variety of electronic gadgets available. This leaves people with no time to read a book despite the fact that there are many benefits to doing so:

Research

The latest research shows that reading books, writing and brain stimulation exercises can actually help you to preserve your memory in the long term. A long term study which involved 294 patients involved monitoring their brain and memory capacity every six years via a series of tests. Results show that those who undertook mental stimulation activities, such as reading experienced a much slower rate of decline in their memory abilities.

Theory of the mind

It has also been shown that those who like to read literary works are much better at understanding and predicting the thoughts and feelings of others. This is because a reader is exposed to many different attitudes, perspectives and theories. These all serve to broaden the mind and appreciate other points of view. The more you read the higher chances you have to understand others better and from different perspectives.

Relaxing

Life is hectic and stressful at the best of times. There are constant demands on time; these may be work related or home related. Both can contribute to increased stress levels in the body. Reading transports you to another world and temporarily removes all the stress. The result is a decline in stress levels in your body and a healthier you. In today’s busy societies, we should all spend at least 1 hours a day reading a book and unwinding our mind and body.

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease

There have been numerous studies and research projects into Alzheimer’s and what methods assist in delaying or stopping its onset. Some of the latest research indicates that those who have active brains, particularly reading a wide variety of books, are less likely to have Alzheimer’s. Not reading does not mean you will get Alzheimer’s but reading or other similar mental activity will keep the brain exercised and healthy. This should help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep

The more stressed you are before sleep the more likely you will be to have a bad night’s sleep. This is because the brain is still wired and takes time to shut down from processing the multitude of thoughts going through your head. Reading a book before bed will allow you to switch off and relax. This will contribute to a much better night’s sleep. It can be helpful to keep the lights low when reading as it lets your body know it is nearly time for sleep.

Empathy

Many people seem far less capable of understanding other people’s feelings or of putting themselves in their shoes. Research has shown that reading a good book can help address this issue. Losing yourself in a world of fantasy and seeing the world from a variety of different viewpoints allows you to empathies more with others. For it to be truly effective you must become completely immersed in the book you are reading.

Self help books

These types of books have been shown to help those who are suffering from depression. Several research initiatives have been conducted in this area. The findings have shown that reading self help books combined with support sessions saw lower levels of depression in patients after one year. This was in comparison to those who received traditional treatment during this time. Depression deals with people’s motivation to undertake any activity. Reading of any sort can inspire people and self help books are aimed at getting people to improve their lives. This appears to be why the use of these books has proved so effective.

Being a bookworm has a lot of advantages. Reading doesn’t just keep the brain active and healthy; it also improves our knowledge and general perception of the world. Books help us see and interpret things different. Some motivate us to make a change; others give us hope that life can be beautiful too, in spite of all the challenges.

Author Bio: Edward Francis is a tech writer basically and he loves reading books. His favourite hobby is to read eBooks and he prefers http://www.lovereading.co.uk/ to get a variety of books at the same place.

Book Review: Novy’s Son – The Selfish Genius by Karen Ingalls

Novy's Son

Book Blurb: From his early childhood, Matthew Collins sought love and acceptance from his father, who was raised as the bastard child of a famous artist. Matthew struggled with jealousy toward his younger brothers, and he questioned the morals and values of people around him. As an adult, Matthew lived life his way, with years of lying, womanizing, and heavy drinking. Though married four times, did he ever find unconditional love? Would Matthew’s high intelligence, his love for his two daughters, and his unique philosophy of life help him rise above his demons?

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1497330394
  • ISBN-13: 978-1497330399
  • Price: $10.72
  • Available to purchase as Ebook or paperback from Amazon here.

Book Review: A deep and dark tale, told from the perspective of Matthew. A young boy with so much going for him, and yet he allows his darker side to sway him over and over again.

The story begins when Matthew is only a little boy of 4 and he carefully takes us through his life until he is 94. As a young boy, he struggles with jealousy and craves approval and attention, no doubt compounded by the frequent and unpredictable changes in his personal life. He is rather rebellious and questions everything from religion to sex.

As he moves through life, he struggles with his sex addiction, alcoholism, depression and personal frustrations. He seems to blame everybody for his problems and rarely admits his own mistakes in life.

I wanted him to sort his head out and do the right thing, and many times, he tries to make good choices, but often he seems to be determined to complicate things and mess up. Anything that goes wrong – he takes very little personal responsibility. He lets down people and you can sense they grow tired of his schemes, his bad temper, his narcissism and his manipulation. He always finds fault in other people and claims to be the victim despite his own behavior. He’s quite a frustrating character as he does ‘try’ to be a good man but often his inner demons take over and determine the outcome.

Overall, the author creates highly credible and well-rounded characters. I think I’d struggle to ‘like’ Matthew if I knew him in real life. I’d want to like him but his manipulation, his inability to face up to his own mistakes and his foul moods would be quite unbearable to live with. The author does a great job with creating this difficult, complicated man.

If you are interested in American history, particularly the period involving the Depression and you are fascinated by human psychology and what makes people tick – you’ll certainly enjoy this revealing and compelling insight into the darker side of human behavior.

This review will also appear on Amazon to further support Karen’s work. If you need a quality book review of your book, do get in touch but first please check out what genre I am likely to accept before emailing. Thank you!

Guest Post: I’m A Published Author, But No One In My Family Cares!

success

It takes so much work to make it…so what happens when nobody really cares?

Getting published – it is what separates the published book author, novelist, poet, columnist or magazine article writer from the aspiring weekend blogger. It is also that grand and glorious moment when we leap up from our chairs and scream out for the whole world to hear: “I GOT PUBLISHED!”

What happens after that epic moment though may not be what we expect from our closest family and friends or even from our work colleagues. Subdued jubilation and a quick high five may be the only words of praise and admiration we receive at best.

So, how do we deal with that sudden success and at the same time the lack of enthusiasm from the people who we thought would be and should be our biggest cheerleaders?

It is a defining moment in any published, writer’s life and a crucial one that could have a long-lasting effect on our confidence and the future of our writing career.

I know, because I have been there. I have felt the joy, the disappointment and the unexpected indifference from people I love towards my minor, and even my larger, literary bonanzas.

The Joy

About 20 years ago, I had a book published by McGraw-Hill. It was a book about locksmithing (Locksmithing: From Apprentice To Master.) I loved writing and I desperately wanted to be a published author. I didn’t care what I wrote about as long as it was published. However, I decided it would be more strategic to write a book about something I was an authority on and would increase my chances of getting published. (I had two security trade books published previously, so I guess that helped.)

But I wanted to go to the top – straight to the top and publish a book that would be sold to the general public – so I threw away my fears and wrote up a book proposal and brazenly mailed it to the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. Surprisingly, two-months later, I was awarded a book contract.

The Disappointment

However, when that book was published, I could not understand why I was not being asked to go on a book tour or appear on the “Tonight Show.” Why was I not being offered half a year’s salary for speaking engagements in half a dozen writers’ workshops? Did anyone in the writing world care what I had to say? Didn’t my friends, family and neighbors want to know the incredible story of how I wrote that book? Didn’t any of them want to be seen out in public with me enjoying dinner at a pricey and upscale, Manhattan restaurant?

No autograph requests?

The Reality Sets In

Nothing – just a standard paper contract, a small advance and a promise to sue me later if I did not submit my completed manuscript in time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter and complaining that the world did me an injustice and failed to give me the praise I deserved. There were quite a few congratulations from family members and some high fives from friends, but not the ‘key to the city’ from the local, town mayor.

But there was the “Wow, I never would have thought you had it in you,” comments, and even one “Who do you think you are, Mario Puzo?”

Welcome To The Dark Side

When you become a published author, many people start looking at you differently. Some people seem to think that your income is in the six-figures. Others think that you are snobby and act as if you are better than everyone else, and some people make believe that they did not know you were an aspiring writer at all.

And then – some people are just plain jealous.

Sometimes success is met with contempt and that contempt and jealousy breeds its ugly face on some of the people who are the most important in our life. It is what I refer to as coming face to face with the dark side of being published.

Some Advice

People around us do not always show glee and exhilaration when we become successful, and that is a reality that we as writers have to contemplate. However, when we do become successful, we should try our best to remain humble and remember that the world does not revolve around us and stop because we had a poem published or won a short story contest.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being proud of our literary achievements and wanting the whole world to join in our celebration. And we should be proud, but we should also know when the right time is for letting the accomplishment speak for itself.

When the day finally comes, and you see your name on the byline of that magazine article, poem or a book that says “The New York Times #1 Best Seller,” and want to share it instantly with the world – take a step back, close your eyes and than bask in total and unabashed glory.

You deserve it, and you don’t need anyone to tell you so.

Recently, I received word that I have a second book contract. At dinner the other night, I mentioned it to my daughter. She just looked up at me, then said, “Wow, dad, that’s great…now can you please pass the salt?”

Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer, book author, and a pollster/Opinion Writer at “1World Online” – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine. His blog (The Political and Social Chaos Blog) can be seen at http://www.josephrathjen.wordpress.com