This blog is a tribute to female authors in the dark thriller genre, whom I’ve appreciated more and more in the past few years. There are many good ones, and I’ve been going through their books like they are a giant bag of Twizzlers. I just can’t stop.
One of my best discoveries is bestselling British author Rachel Abbot. She writes psychological thrillers, most of which are set in Manchester, England, close to where the author grew up.
According to her bio, “After being turned down by several literary agents and publishers, she decided to brave it alone and go into self-publishing.” I’m so glad she did because her success story encourages us writers and thrills her readers and fans, including me!
Her books are suspenseful, page-turners I can’t put down even when dinner’s calling! They are the type of books you can lie with for hours, snug under the covers on a wintry Saturday morning, or what have you. There are good characters to root for, especially detective Tom Douglas and Becky, his partner. Ms. Abbott’s books are well-written with believable dialogue and good pacing. I enjoy the plots and how they unfold. Just as I think I have it figured out, there are brilliant twists. Her books are addictive. I’ve read them all, and I’m waiting for more.
We hear a lot these days about your “happy place” and “living your best life.”
Your best life may be nonstop traveling or vacationing in a tropical paradise. Many are content going through the years with their extended, continually growing family, enjoying all the milestones and get-togethers. For some, it’s tending to their garden or going on a cruise, maybe taking photographs of nature. It may simply be achieving your professional goals, especially a long, fulfilling career helping others.
Ten years ago, when both of my parents were ill at the same time, I had panic attacks—even in my chiropractor’s tranquil office while listening to her soothing music. She was a gentle soul with an ethereal beauty about her, and she told me, “Don’t think about it. Just go to your happy place. Visualize it. Focus on it.”
For a lot of people, that happy place is a sun-filled or moonlit beach. Some find immediate comfort thinking about God or Jesus or prayers while surrounded by nature. I pictured a magical place with flowers, trees, birds, and a glistening lake. Taking out a rowboat was a nice thought, too.
Of course, we can have many happy places. I picture people—ones who make me smile and laugh a lot. Then there’s reading books, watching dancers, hearing people sing or play music. I love all of that.
Now, what about that timeworn phrase “happily ever after?” Is it what fairytales have dictated, something we’ve held onto since we were children? There’s a bit of societal pressure, whether it’s your dream or not, but I think most people do genuinely want to find their ideal partner and live a comfortable life with a house, pets, and children.
As I see it, the problem is what others expect of us and what we expect of ourselves. I’ve encountered many people who automatically assume everyone wants what they have. Have you met anyone like that? At best, they feel sad for you. At worse, someone thinks you want to take what they have away from them. Sure, that happens in some instances, but, more often, we’re not reading each other or reading the room, as they say.
I learned, long ago, that I don’t want what most people want, plain and simple and don’t necessarily like what most people like. I never felt the need to run out and get the latest thing because everyone else had it. I got it when and if I needed it. I’ll say, too, another of my happiest places is writing. Any artist might understand that, but a great many others may think that’s just pathetic!
What’s evident to me is, people often envy a life they don’t even want. They may see themselves as failures. It often happens that they didn’t succeed in creating that life because they never really wanted it in the first place. If so, they might have tried harder to get it. They think they should have gotten it, and that maybe something’s wrong with them. Or course, they worry, too, about what others may think.
Well, I agree with those who say, “You do you.” The truth is, it is 100% okay for people to want everyday, traditional things or to want something else entirely. That’s hard for a lot of people, I know. They want to fit in. Me? I only want to fit where I belong—where I’m welcome, accepted, and embraced as who I am.
I’ve been shut down and holed up here in my little world, feeling very disconnected. It’s like I activated my “off button” and can’t seem to switch it back on for long. I wonder how many of you need to do that now and then. I also had a sinus infection and then a pinky toe stress fracture, which I still have.
Last Friday, I went to have blood work done—all ready to do the people thing. The nurse drawing the blood didn’t have a printout for the thyroid part of the order. She told me to go to the front desk and ask them to print out that order. When I did that, they printed the same one she already had, and the nurse told me to go back again and tell them it wasn’t the correct printout. So, the woman at the front desk got all flustered. She complained to someone on the phone that this was “really stressing her out.” I have to walk back and forth with one sneaker and one shoe cast s to get printouts that should be in the lab, and she’s stressed out. Then she keeps repeating into the phone, “I know. I know, right?”
At one time in my life, I would have had to say something to her, but I just wanted to achieve what I was there to accomplish and get out of there. I explained politely, remaining calm, and someone eventually took care of it. I mean, have your little hissy fit, just give me what I need, and I’m gone. These little things are not worth my peace anymore.
Anyway, during the healing process, I have been writing a lot. My new poetry book is almost complete. A paranormal fantasy book is underway, along with the sequels to Shattering Truths.
The idea I had for a non-fiction book has turned into something else entirely—a somewhat shocking recovery memoir. It’s not fiction like Shattering Truths, so, for me, it is a huge deal. I’ve written most of it already, and I hope I don’t change my mind about publishing it. I believe it can, at the very least, be helpful to someone.
I’ll be looking for beta readers who’d like to read along and give input for any of these projects.
Of course, I’ve been reading a lot of books, too. Right now, I have a few lined up that are about Edinburgh detectives. It’s what I’m into right now, reading about Scotland and these mystery thrillers.
I watched a lot of the heartbreaking Derek Chauvin trial, and I’ve read about all these shootings across the country (including a recent one in my county on Long Island). For quite a while now, this whole world has needed a reset button. I always thought if there is a divine message for us, it would be, “Start over, people. You can do way better than that.”
On a lighter note, I’ve also been watching:
Netflix – Bridgerton, Lucifer, and the 100.
Prime -Dark Shadows, Mad Men, and Suits.
Network TV – I love Good Girls and Manifest.
I am such a fan of the 100. I love Suits, and Dark Shadows is one of my all-time favorites. Lucifer is hilarious, and I like Bridgerton, but I’m still waiting to see what all the fuss is about.
(It takes me a long time to get through a series because I may watch one show a night.)
What about you? What are you watching? Let me know in the comments, and, stay safe and well! ❤️
My brilliant beta readers are the best that I could hope for, as a writer. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for them!
You see, they’re not afraid to tell me what they do or don’t like and what does or doesn’t work in my story. Thankfully, they don’t mind having to answer more questions once their work is complete. They see it as an ongoing project they’re helping to shape. They not only provide feedback, but they’ll also catch the occasional typo or inconsistency, and let me know when a transition didn’t go as smoothly as it should have. And, believe it or not, they do this for free!
What I’ve gotten in the way of beta readers has been ideal, I’ll admit, but there are guidelines that help in choosing the right beta readers. And while most of them don’t charge, you’re entitled to have higher expectations if they do.
What’s important to note is, you’re not hiring a beta reader simply to proofread. You can hire an actual proofreader for that. I have several people look over the work for that purpose, including my editor.
You’re not hiring a beta reader to edit your work either. You absolutely need a professional editor for that, no matter how good of an editor you are or how qualified your beta reader may be in suggesting edits.
You don’t want a beta reader who will come back with, “I like it. Everything’s good.” A sentence or a small paragraph of feedback is not going to help much.
Writers are sometimes to blame for that. Many of them get pissed at beta readers for giving their honest opinions, but if you think you can do no wrong, you will get nowhere. We’re not perfect. Mastering our craft is an ongoing thing, and if we’re doing it right, then we continue to grow as writers. Some may say, “But I am the writer, and they are just readers.” Forget that word “just.” Readers are everything! It is the reader you want to appeal to, and it’s their feedback you are requesting. We always benefit by listening and learning. There are a lot of great writers out there. We can’t kid ourselves, thinking we are beyond any competition.
Yeah, we can get a little stubborn about certain things. I’ve found that I can be stubborn, too, so it helps if I give myself time to process what my beta reader is saying. Ultimately, I’ll be able to see their point and let go of what I’d been holding onto so tenaciously. We can be biased, and, no matter what, it’s personal, and so we can have tunnel vision. We need to ask ourselves, “Why is this so important to me? What’s going on here?” Sometimes I engage in a debate with the beta reader, and he or she will convince me that it needs to be a certain way. It may turn out that they see my point, or that it results in a compromise, but we have to be open to omitting or changing things. It’s good to have people who are not going to get upset with you or you with them. It takes a level of maturity on both parts and an ability to set ego aside.
On the other hand, if you’re hiring someone just to validate that you wrote a perfect book, that’s a different thing entirely.
As for me, in searching for the right beta, I also look for people who may be particularly helpful for what I’m writing. I do a ton of research (probably too much), but for my current work-in-progress, I’m interested in cops, detectives, veterans, people who’ve lived in or traveled to Spain, and people who grew up in the Bronx. I like to have both male and female readers because I love appealing to both audiences. I have three beta readers now and can take on one or two more.
Your beta readers are part of your team. At the very least, I like to thank them in the published book’s acknowledgements section and provide them a free signed copy.
My beta readers help me write a better story, and that’s what you always want—a better story.
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.
Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!
We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.
In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:
A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.
The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.
Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.
For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.
We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.
Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.
We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.
We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.
For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.
Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
It is my honor and privilege to offer a blog spot for this book tour because I truly love this series! Kids will, too! You’ll want to read it to your children and grandchildren. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and as colorful as the characters. You will love the sweet, heartfelt and poignant messages. It’s just adorable and will make you smile ear-to-ear! 🙂
BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for Author Michael John Sullivan and the SockKids. The SockKids are partners with Friends of Kids With Cancer, a non-profit organization that helps kids be kids during their cancer treatments. We are honored to help out with YOUR help too. The blast will run from April 30 – May 14, 2018.
The SockKids – Solving The Mystery Of Your Missing Socks! Where do our missing socks go? Readers find out in our children’s series, The SOCKKIDS. We follow the Socker family through many adventures; from encountering the slobbery mouth of the family dog to meeting Santa as he comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve to helping a fireman save a baby to the most shy Socker going to the school dance for the first time. Thanks to the time-travel opportunities afforded by the spin cycle of the washer, they learn about some of the most important humans in the world. Children two and up and their parents will be drawn to the diversity of the family and the universal and timeless lessons they teach: don’t be afraid of new experiences, treat others as you would like to be treated, and of course, beware of the spin cycle!
Where Do Our Missing Socks Go? We tell you! Readers find out in our children’s series — The SOCKKIDS. We follow the Socker family through many adventures, from encountering the slobbery mouth of the family dog to meeting Santa as he comes down the chimney to helping a fireman save a baby to the most sky sock going to the school dance for the first time. Thanks to the time-travel opportunities afforded by the spin cycle of the washer, the Sockers learn about some of the most important humans in the world. Children two and up and their parents will be drawn to the journeys of the family and the universal and timeless lessons they teach: don’t be afraid of new experiences, treat others as you would like to be treated, and of course beware of the spin cycle! In this book’s story, we read about Sudsy landing on the foot of inventor Ben Franklin. Sudsy, the bug-playing boy sock, discovers with Ben Franklin the wonders and dangers of electricity. The book includes safety rules and discussion questions put together by an experienced classroom teacher in helping parents and children respect the power of electricity.
The SockKids focus on educating children and adults how bullying affects us all and what we can do about it.
Do you know where your socks go when they go missing in the washing machine? Well, the SockKids know! The SockKids are a mismatched family of socks that sometimes time travel through the spin cycle, teaching universal lessons of love and kindness, and focusing on creating a greater awareness of the many social issues that children are faced with today. The SockKids help to educate and encourage children from 2 to 92 to find solutions in helping to make this a better world.
In this story, Sudsy and Wooly discover their human is being bullied at school and team up against bullies with Ethan’s newest friend, Olivia. They discover bullying hurts everyone and staying silent is not an option.
More Inside! Children’s counselor and licensed therapist, Jamie Ross, gives adults and children guidelines on how to handle bullies.
Michael John Sullivan is the creator of the SockKids. Constantly searching for his socks, he wondered whether the missing foot comforters had found another pair of feet to warm. So he searched and searched, until he discovered these elusive socks likely time traveled. Before his interest in socks, Michael started writing his first novel while homeless, riding a NYC subway train at night. After being rescued off the train, he spent much of the past two decades helping raise two daughters while working at home in New York.
Michael eventually returned to his subway notes in 2007 and began writing Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness (Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books imprint). Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreakone of the year’s best in 2010. His second novel, Everybody’s Daughter (Fiction Studio Books, 2012) was named one of the best books of 2012 by TheExaminer.com. He completed the trilogy by having The Greatest Gift published by The Story Plant in 2015.
Michael has written articles about the plight of homelessness for CNN.com, The Washington Post.com, Beliefnet.com, the Huffington Post, and America Online’s Patch.com service. He is a former board member of the Long Island Coalition For the Homeless.
Shelley Larkin performs many tasks for the SockKids. She develops ideas, co-writes books, and is the marketing and promotions director. She has spent a lifetime of wondering where her missing socks go. The SockKids are grateful to finally solve this mystery for her.
She loves that children and their parents are drawn to the diversity of the SockKids family and the universal and timeless lessons they teach: don’t be afraid of new experiences; treat others as you would like to be treated, and of course, beware of the spin cycle! In addition, she is dedicated to finding the right soap for Sudsy.
Shelley is also a passionate child advocate, working with a variety of cause-driven organizations such as Destination Imagination, Up & At It!, Child Abuse Prevention Council, 3 Strands, the International Bullying Prevention Center, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters Youth Organization. Shelley has developed a keen sense of awareness of what children experience today in dealing with such important issues including bullying and recognizes the importance of putting into place the type of value-added programs that will effectively strike a nerve in preventing our youth from losing their way to a safe and productive future.
In her spare time, she is an event planner and resides in California.
Susan Petrone lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, her daughter, and two silly dogs. When she isn’t writing SockKids stories, she writes novels and short stories (her work has been published in Glimmer Train, Featherproof Books, The Cleveland Review, Muse, Conclave, and Whiskey Island) writes about her beloved Cleveland Indians at ItsPronouncedLajaway.com for ESPN.com’s SweetSpot network. Her most recently, Throw Like A Woman, was published by The Story Plant in 2015.
Alexandra /SugarSnail dreamed of becoming an illustrator since childhood, even though she didn’t know the profession actually existed. She later graduated from college with an MFA in graphic design.
She never gave up on her dream, so she decided to do what she loved best – become a children’s illustrator. SugarSnail’s beautiful artwork can be seen in many children’s books.
To reach Alexandra Gold/SugarSnail, follow her on Facebook.
Book Blast Giveaway
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or $50 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice and a second winner will receive One pair of SockKids Socks Giveaway ends: May 14, 11:59 pm, 2018 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Michael John Sullivan and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.
If you’re planning to read the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, or watch the Netflix series, you may not want to read further. This blog does contain a few spoilers.
I became interested in the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, when a reviewer of my book, Shattering Truths, said that fans of Thirteen Reasons Why would absolutely love Shattering Truths.
It is true that we explore similar topics, even though the premises are different.
In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker takes her life and leaves behind cassette tapes that retrace her steps and explain her reasons.
In case you haven’t heard, the backlash over Thirteen Reasons Why is the perception that the book glamorizes suicide.
Romanticizing suicide in art isn’t new. Did people want to ban Shakespeare? I’ve listened to Don McClean’s Starry Starry Night and Chord Overstreet’s Hold On —songtributes to suicide victims that inspire hauntingly beautiful imagery, and their lyrics have moved me to tears. Maybe there is something about giving up that most of us can relate to—the notion that if worse comes to worse, no one can make us stay here. At the same time, we are also filled with profound sadness over the depth of another human being’s despair.
Interestingly enough, I once wrote my own book about the aftermath of a protagonist’s suicide— not Shattering Truths but an earlier work. I was nineteen at the time. The editor I submitted it to felt readers would not find this character sympathetic because, as a suicide, he’d be considered psychotic. That bothered me more than anything else—the distressing mentality—the heartbreaking reality—that even in these modern times, people are uncomfortable with any mental instability and quick to reject it. I submitted it anyway. The publisher said they would be interested only if I changed the ending and had my character survive. I wouldn’t do that. My whole point in telling the story was that the guy died, and he shouldn’t have. I shelved the project.
At the time, I did romanticize my character’s suicide. I hoisted the guy up on a posthumous pedestal and became obsessed with his life and death. But I didn’t want to die.
Sorry (and not so sorry) to say, that as a poet, a writer, and an artist, I embrace all of it—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly, the dark, the light and the scary.
But I am also an adult who realizes that death is not pretty, and it’s likely to be quite lonely and painful. Nothing about Thirteen Reasons Why gave me the impression that it would be anything but lonely and painful. There was never a moment I envied Hannah Baker or wanted to be her—before, during, or after. What happened to her seemed anything but glamorous.
I’d go so far as to say the story makes it clear that taking your life is not the solution; that there is always hope. A few minutes, days, or weeks could make all the difference in the world. That hope is extinguished when your light goes out for good.
I also happen to think that people who hurt you don’t deserve to take anything more from you!
From my perspective, the book actually provides clear examples of how not to behave, how not to treat others. It brings to light how little thought teens give to how their behavior may affect someone else, although, this is also sadly true of adults. Some will live their whole lives hurting and punishing others without thinking it through, without ever trying to understand the people they target.
That’s one of the messages in Thirteen Reasons Why. We need to be kinder to each other.
No doubt, some people will read this book and see it all differently. They’ll see that Hannah is talked about more and with more sensitivity after her death. They’ll see that people feel guilty. They may think that would bring satisfaction, but true bullies who destroy other human beings are not usually the ones who feel guilty. They don’t have consciences.
To a lesser degree, Hannah Baker herself lacks empathy in this story and is rather self-absorbed. That’s okay. Victims don’t need to be depicted as saints. A character can be tragically flawed in fact, and still not deserve the torment. It is normal for a trauma survivor to go through a period of victimhood that includes a great deal of introspection and a degree of self-pity. She has a human response to a rude and painful awakening. Yes, trauma does quite a number on the psyche. It changes a person, causing behavior that won’t make sense even to the survivor. The point is, what happened to Hannah Baker should not have happened to anyone. It’s sad that she’ll never have the chance to heal and evolve beyond what she became, so it’s a story worth telling and worth telling right.
I’m willing to bet that most of us can make a list of at least thirteen people who screwed us over and/or possibly scarred us for life. Some of the reasons might be the same or worse than what Hannah Baker experienced, but, for most of us, suicide was never an option we considered.
We are all different. We have varying degrees of ability to cope, and those who are coping well may be at less challenging stages of the healing process. To some of us, a burden is a challenge, and we push back. No matter what happens, we keep pushing. But not everyone can do that. It’s not weakness, and it’s not for lack of trying. We are where we are. None of us have control over the circumstances we are born into or everything that happens after that. We can’t be sure why we take the paths we take or what we need to learn. Healing begins when we are ready. It’s a long, grueling process that, unfortunately, some people will never begin.
I think it’s safe to say that Thirteen Reasons Why will be triggering for certain people and not others.
There’s always a chance that any one of us will find something we read, see, hear, or experience to be triggering. But that doesn’t mean we should censor ourselves, as writers, or as artists. We can’t. We can’t shy away from controversial subjects or prevent others from having those important conversations. For those wanting to sue and to ban, do we really want to set that precedent? Where would we draw the line? Would we have to stop talking about rape, about murder, about mental issues, and about everything that could be triggering? I hope not!
A common complaint people have made is that the book doesn’t delve into the mental illness factor when it comes to suicide. No, it doesn’t. Thirteen Reasons Why focuses on raising the level of awareness for bullying/harassment/character assassination, etc. and depicting how the victim feels—how a suicide victim feels. Hannah, in my opinion, sought to educate the culprits. She may have wanted them to feel her pain, too, but more for their benefit, I think, than in retaliation. As a trauma survivor, I can relate to wanting to raise the level of awareness. Even if the people who need to hear it most are not listening, someone is. And making a difference to anyone at all is a great start.
It doesn’t mean we should ignore the mental illness factor in our conversations about this topic. According to the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, “Of those who die from suicide, more than 90% have a diagnosable mental disorder.
Mental Health America states that “substance abuse may be involved in half of all suicide cases with 20% involving people with alcohol problems”.
Sadly, families often have a difficult time acknowledging and accepting mental illness in a loved one. There is rejection, ridicule, even mind-boggling cruelty. For the person with issues, it leads to a social ineptness that only results in more ridicule and cruelty. The damage is hard to shake, and it’s heartbreaking because, with acceptance and unconditional love, a lot of the issues can be minimized or managed.
Shame is a key word here. Many parents and siblings are more concerned about what others may think. Are we sending a message of, I will not love you unless you are normal by my standards and anything less will be ridiculed and rejected? Are we teaching our “normal” kids to ridicule and reject?
The truth is, we have dangerous psychopathic narcissists running amok in this world, and they are considered normal by many. Meanwhile, people who struggle with things like autism, Asperger’s, bipolar, anxiety, etc. are met with skepticism.
I’ll admit, due to lack of acknowledgment/acceptance in my own life, it took me quite a while to realize and understand the problems I had with anxiety, OCD, and possibly other afflictions. I may never have realized if I hadn’t met some of the people I met along the way, people who had the same problems and steered me in the right direction. Awareness is key, and it helps to learn as much as you can about what you’re dealing with. It is a lifetime struggle with good days and bad, but it can keep getting better.
So, in light of all I’ve stated above, I believe Thirteen Reasons Why, is a profound experience for the reader. I felt like a part of the story, swept right in and completely absorbed, turning page after page. I loved the powerful descriptions of how the characters felt in critical moments. The book, written straight from the heart, shows compassion in abundance, and it brought me to tears.
Co-protagonist, Clay Jensen, in fact, shows considerable empathy while listening to Hannah’s tapes. He wants to understand what happened to Hannah. He not only forces himself to listen to every excruciatingly painful word—he follows her instructions, putting himself in her place and allowing himself to feel what she felt.
Imagine living in a world where everyone sought to understand one another like that! That would be beautiful indeed!
Among my favorite teachers was one of the two male teachers in an all-girl high school. He taught English, my favorite subject. In junior year, he took our class to see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. The original black and white version of A Christmas Carol featuring Alastair Sim was part of their holiday spectacular.
Though I saw the movie decades after its original release, I found this old 1951 trailer for the film rather interesting.
Dickens painted Ebenezer Scrooge sympathetically and quite vividly. I fell in love with the spirited imagination of Dickens in all of its brilliance, his extraordinary larger-than-life characters, and the potent messages behind every one of his tales. My love of 19th-century British literature began, along with an ongoing yen for England. I was sixteen years old.
It may have been Oliver Twist that I read next. I recall being shocked by the harshness of this child’s reality.
By the time I turned 25, my love for Dickens knew no bounds. I named one of the two dwarf parrots I owned “Pip” after Philip Pirrip, the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. I named the other one Nicholas after the character in Nicholas Nickleby. I had a fish tank I called “Copperfield Gardens” in homage to the hero of the Dickens’ book I loved most, David Copperfield. David, with his courage, strength and beautiful, benevolent heart, triumphed through one heartbreak after another. In this version, below, he was portrayed by a very young Daniel Radcliffe, better known to all as Harry Potter.
The same year I got the dwarf parrots, a precious friend from England gave me a miniature book of Dickens’ life story as a Christmas gift. I moved several times over the years, and this little book has always made it back onto my bookshelf. I loved reading about the man behind the fascinating tales.
Charles Dickens was already famous when he helped injured passengers in England during the 1865 Staplehurst train crash.
I saw, in Dickens, true heroism in the face of disaster and everyday heroism, as he was a tireless champion for the oppressed.
This final video is fitting in wrapping up my tribute. It’s my favorite song from the 1970 musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney in the role of Scrooge. In future visions foretold by the third visiting ghost, a town celebrated Scrooge’s passing singing, “Thank You Very Much.”
I also thank my beloved Dickens for his incredible contribution to the world, for all the inspiration, and for truly enriching my life.
Some of my favorite Charles Dickens quotes:
“Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again.” ― A Tale of Two Cities
“I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” ― A Christmas Carol
“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.” ― A Tale of Two Cities
“Give me a moment, because I like to cry for joy. It’s so delicious, John dear, to cry for joy.” ― Our Mutual Friend
“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
“Never,” said my aunt, “be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.” ― David Copperfield
As I read Peter Cottontail to my son for the third or fourth time, feeling a bit tired, I bungled a line.
He said, “No, mommy, he lost one shoe amongst the cabbages and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.”
Yes, that is important! I hugged him dearly for that.
It was quite an improvement from six months earlier when he ripped Alice in Wonderland to shreds.
I wanted to be a relaxed, nurturing parent. I did not want to raise my son in a palace of dangers. I childproofed. I permitted him to take books from the bookshelves, sit in a pile of them and explore. When he tore up the book, that party was over. I had to tell him only once, because he knew already, I was reasonable and always for him, on his side. I taught him, we love books. We respect books. We read them. We enjoy them. We never destroy them, and we never crush the spirit of their creators.
The love affair with books began in my own childhood. I fell in love, first, with writing and reading. Writing is still the love of my life.
The fantasy genre inspired me – Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, fairy tales. It provided me with a much-needed escape from reality.
As I grew, the books I cherished most fit into the category of literary fiction, which is reality-based and generally more profound and philosophical. However, I never heard the term ‘literary fiction’ or all this talk about genres. Many people are still confused about it and have no idea what literary fiction is. I was confused myself.
I struggled to categorize my work. Yes, there is a love story. There are quite a few. There is a psychologically thrilling mystery. There are many of those. Yes, it is dark and intense with elements of gothic fiction and quite a bit of horror, but the ongoing saga does not revolve around any particular theme. Do you know why? It is literary fiction.
Literary fiction is pretentiously termed ‘serious’ fiction, though that could be misleading. It indicates a profound work with literary merit, a celebration of language, a critically acclaimed classic. However, genre fiction can also be poetry in motion and a work of art worthy of acclaim.
If I have to answer as to whether I am working on ‘serious’ fiction, well if it means painstaking torture, yes, I am quite serious, and this is as serious as it gets.
The well-constructed plot in literary fiction should be riveting, but it is not the focus. Literary fiction has a slower pace with many rewards for your patience along the way.
It is character driven with well-developed, introspective characters. The story is about the character’s journey. We become emotionally involved in his or her reality, the struggle, the challenges, the losses and triumphs. We glimpse into the character’s psyche, experiencing the love, the hate, the joy, and the pain. Works of literary fiction are good human-interest stories that move and inspire those of us fascinated by the human condition. Genre novelists can create deep characterization, but this is the hallmark of literary fiction.
Literary fiction defines some of the best books ever written: Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Rebecca, Little Women, 1984, Brave New World, Anna Karenina and many Shakespeare tales. The list goes on. My favorite authors, including Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, wrote literary fiction in classic Victorian-style, which I love with all my heart.
I believe creative work in every category has potential for greatness. I have yet to find a genre unworthy of respect. I don’t think we should make fun of people for enjoying some nonsense book or series where the writing isn’t up to par. As professionals and critics, we may seek a certain quality, but I am of the opinion, if there is a mass audience for a book or series, and it made scores of people happy, it has earned its place in the world of literature. I am simply another writer in an endless sea of writers and one of billions of readers. It doesn’t matter whether I like it. Readers, by consensus, have the final word.
Here is the bottom line for those of us who share this passion: books are a treasure. I feel fortunate in a world of books. I am infinitely grateful. I am giddy with delight. This is our inspiration, our high, our bond. There is plenty of room for everyone, and I am beyond thrilled to be on this journey.
I would love to hear from you about what you love to read or write. In the meantime, enjoy these videos as part of my celebration of literary fiction with an appreciative nod to all genres.