Lessons of Hope and Light

A Collection of Inspirational Short Stories by Marlo Berliner

Lately I’ve been preparing a second book of poems and short stories myself so, with the thought of checking out what sort of books are already out there, I borrowed this one through Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed it enough that I want to recommend it to you.

Lessons of Hope and Light has only three stories, all short and easy to read — took me about twenty  minutes. The first is about finding the silver lining in life’s clouds; the next is a religious parable of sorts, the third tells of an intriguing second chance. Practical, upbeat endings such as I like.

Of Internet and E-mail Issues

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband has switched internet providers. This involved a change of e-mail addresses, which has now been effected. While everything was in upheaval I decided that I’d set up another g-mail account, so as to have one for personal and one for WordPress mail.

Once we had our new service hooked up, I set up an e-mail through that provider, too. And our Xplornet account hasn’t been cancelled yet — so I now have FOUR e-mail addresses. 🙂

I’ve opted to use one g-mail for various sale ads and FREE BOOK stuff: Book Bub, Book Sweeps; Book Cave; Book Gobbler, InstaFreebie, Reading Deals.com. You may wonder why on earth I’m subscribed to so many, but if and when I have more books to promote, I hope to use one or two of these author services. Some are obviously better than others for my kind of writing. So I’ll call it Research, but it gives lots of e-mail I don’t need filling my personal In-box.

I really do like the “everything in its own section” idea. WordPress and other blogging-related stuff, with the many notifications, are coming to the other g-mail account, which frees up my new e-mail In-box for personal mail. I’m getting a handle on managing this three-way split and hope I haven’t missed anything really important in the last few days.

Otherwise, we’re enjoying our beautiful summer days. For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope you are, too. Have a great day — or evening, if you’re in Europe. 🙂

Book: To Have, To Hold

© 2017 by Darlene Polachic

This is the first in the Ever Green series and is available through Kindle Unlimited for those who are subscribers.

When Janet O’Grady’s wheeler-dealer husband Marty dies in a car crash, she learns that he’s put everything they own under ownership of the company he and his brother own. Looking through his desk, hoping to find a bank account with funds she can access, she discovers evidence that he’s been shifting company funds into an offshore account. Marty’s brother soon learns that millions of dollars are missing from the company’s account, he’s sure she’s been party to this deception. He wants his money and she m us know where it is.

Janet packs up what she can and leaves in the wee hours with her six-year-old boys, running scared, headed for her parents’ home in Washington. She’s hoping they’ll forgive the past, take her in and give her shelter until she can get on her feet again. She doesn’t want — but needs — help from a kind stranger en route.

Though she’d ignored their warnings when she ran off with Marty, her parents refrain from, “I told you so.” But they think she’s a rich widow now — and she doesn’t tell them the truth, fearing her father’s health is too precarious. Her sister Christa soon shares the news of her upcoming wedding to banker Grant Brooks — who turns out to be the kind stranger who paid for Janet’s gas a few hours before.

Grant, a generous man with an inkling about Janet’s true financial state, offers to let her live in his grandfather’s house in exchange for cleaning it out — his grandparent saved EVERYTHING — so he can sell it. Janet appreciates working with Grant to clean up the place and Janet’s twins, starved for a father’s attention, just love him. She’d like to, too — but Grant’s taken. She’s not about to snitch her sister’s beau.

There are so many things I like about this book! It’s a clean story and well written. The main characters are mostly mature, considerate people; the ones who profess to be Christians do try to practice patience and kindness. It’s not your stereotype modern romance punctuated by screaming matches all the way through. (I’ve grumbled about these enough in earlier posts!)The plot is interesting, believable, dramatic in places but not a high suspense.

The only thing I couldn’t quite see was Grant as a banker — or a successful banker with Grant’s easy-going nature. He’s personable and conscientious but to my mind a banker would have more clearly defined goals in life and be prudent in his spending. Would a professional money manager, at age thirty-four, let himself drift into an engagement with a woman who loved to spend his money. (We have a former banker in the family. 😉  )

That aside, overall, this is an upbeat, enjoyable read.

Getting the Scoop

Many thanks to Rochelle for hosting this Friday Fictioneers group and faithfully sending us prompts to set our computer keys a-dancing.  CLICK HERE to join the fun. This morning before I even saw the prompt I was inspired to write something this time. Now how can I resist with such an opportune prompt?

This unique photo was submitted by Connie Gayer — possibly taken at her peril. At least I wouldn’t want to get that close to anyone with a shovelful of mud. I suspect the subject here will need a bath in more ways than one after this week is over. 😉

Photo c Connie Gayer

Book Review: Getting the Scoop

In this fabulous book gardening guru Russell Gayer gives valuable tips on growing everything from soup to nuts. Readers will be impressed by the list of awards he expects to win.

Full color illustrations throughout. In this photo he demonstrates how to plant peanuts, a underground crop. According to Gayer, the deeper you plant them the more peanuts you’ll harvest.

He does warn readers, though: “Before working the soil you should verify with your city engineer’s office just how deep the sewer lines are installed in your area, if you want to produce nuts and not soup.”

New Culinary Cozy Mystery

A few days ago I wrote about P G Wodehouse and his quirky characters, his humorous turns of phrase. Well, as chance would have it…
A week or so ago I downloaded a mystery through Book Bub and finished it last night. The author has created a main character, Chef Maurice, reminiscent of Hercules Poirot and humor that echoes tones of Wooster and Jeeves. Zany, delightful, and a mystery right to the end!

Chef Maurice. and a Spot of Truffle
a Chef Maurice Mystery

by J. A Lang

I’ve heard of truffle-snuffing pigs before, also temperamental French chefs. When Ollie, the local forager and mushroom supplier doesn’t turn up with the needed omelet ingredients one day, Chef Maurice goes to collect and discovers in Ollie’s fridge, in the guise of potatoes, some rare and precious mushrooms. And they carry the scent of an English woods. Where did Ollie discover these? Are there more nearby just waiting to be unearthed?

Chef Maurice adopts Hamilton, a micro-pig who proves himself well able to snuffle a truffle, and they check out the local forest, with good friend Arthur along to temper the exuberance of the chef. Searching for this valuable variety they come across Ollie’s body.

Now they need to know if Ollie’s death was the result of a secret truffle turf war. Or was it because Ollie had a little business on the side selling another species of mushroom to local teens?

With his up-beat, well mannered disposition, Hamilton is a hit with the staff. Everyone is horrified when he’s pig-napped and the Chef receives a package of shrink-wrapped bacon and a warning note.

The only minus point, which may bother some readers: clues aren’t all revealed up front. On the last day Chef Maurice does some investigating, the results of which remain unknown to readers until that evening when he explains his conclusions and reveals the guilty party. I didn’t mind this — it made the ending more of a surprise. I couldn’t guess before he actually named that person, who it would be.

This is one case where you really can judge a book by its cover — kudos to the artist. When you see Hamilton’s jolly grin you know the story is going to be funny.

Writing Prompt Sources

Like so many of you, I read the announcement last week that WordPress is discontinuing some of its regular features, including its Daily Prompts on May 31st. I haven’t been using their one-word prompts for a long time; nevertheless, this announcement sparked my curiosity. I decided to have a look at how many other sites on the net offer writing prompts.

Hello Mr Google… WOW! I could write a story a day for a hundred years with what’s available out there.

Some sites are maintained by publishers like Writer’s Digest. Some are blogs by published authors like Graeme Shimmin and John Matthew Fox. (For your convenience I’ve put their links at the bottom of my sidebar under Writing Help)

Searching specifically, you can find random first line generators, random plot generators, random character generators, movie script generators. There are prompt sources for teachers, for students, for songwriters. There’s one titled, “Twenty-one writing prompts to help you finish an entire novel this summer.” There’s even “80 Letter-writing prompts” from Compassion International.

Just for curiosity I clicked on THIS ONE and generated a random set of ideas; you can click the buttons and come up with a story line that suits your fancy. Much like WriterIgniter, a site I’ve used before.

Just for fun I clicked the buttons and this is what I came up with:
MC: A young man in his late teens who is very wise
2nd character: A woman in her late thirties who is very lively
Setting: The story begins in a nursing home.
Situation: something precious has been lost
Theme: It’s a story about justice
Character action: MC reluctantly becomes involved

This combination called to mind a real happening, back when I worked in a seniors’ home. Something precious really did go missing. I don’t know if the truth was ever revealed, so I’ll have to fake it. Stay tuned for my tale — with details changed to protect the guilty. 🙂

The Daily Post also has a free e-book of writing prompts that can be downloaded as a pdf. Get it HERE.

When I go to Amazon.ca and do a Writing Prompts search, again I’m bowled over by the 84 pages of books containing writing prompts — and I see a lot of these are “Read Free with Kindle Unlimited.”

The down-side of picking a prompt at random instead of using a central source like Daily Post Prompts is lack of the sense of community. You’re on your own; there aren’t hundreds of people using the same word or photo. For those of you currently connecting via the Daily Post will you miss this? Will you try another community like The Write Practice (link in side bar) or one of the various Flash Fiction groups going?

And for anyone reading this post, what writing prompts sources have you found useful?

Negative Self-Talk. Delete, Delete, Delete

A Reader’s Opinion

While I’ve been laid low with back problems this week, I took the opportunity to read a novel by P G Wodehouse. Like all his novels, Jill the Reckless is a great story! Six stars out of five. The author has created a memorable cast of characters and, like Agatha Christie, has such a delightful way with words and phrases.

Writers like D E Stevenson, Wodehouse, Sayers, Christie, etc., used strong story lines and an interesting cast of minor characters to showcase their heroes. There was a STORY in their story. Even in tales with a romance woven in, the overall focus was as much on the main character’s triumph over adverse circumstances as on their relationships.

Have modern genre formulas become like a corset, rigidly holding writers to a specific shape deemed to be attractive in our day? Stories tend to be so focused on the conflict between the two love interests. Furious outbursts, insecure characters full of negative self-talk, a lot of internal dialogue use up word count without adding variety. I read one novel awhile back where I’d estimate 75% of the word count was spent on the MC’s conversations with himself — basically why she’d never have him anyway so forget it.

I find almost no negative self-talk in those older novels. Miss Marple doesn’t constantly berate herself for snooping. Lord Peter may babble about his silly curiosity but the writer doesn’t devote long paragraphs to his self-chastisement. Wodehouse’s characters act and react in a lively way; they spend little time mentally rehashing their own actions and reactions.

In real life negative self-talk is usually destructive. It’s the devil on our shoulder that berates us for how we are without giving us any power to change. Sometimes we do need to admit faults and make changes, but negative self-talk rather tends to paralyze.

So, in our age of promoting self-esteem and ridding ourselves of guilt, why do we allow our book characters to indulge in so much self-criticism? Do readers really find it that appealing?

Imagine yourself standing in a long supermarket checkout line and striking up a conversation with the customer in front of you. You notice she has two boxes of Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream. You’re quite fond of it yourself. You say so, and she replies:

“I really shouldn’t be buying this. I know it’s not the best for me; it’ll only go to my hips and I really should lose weight. I can hardly resist the delicious taste but I know I shouldn’t indulge and it’s so foolish of me to be buying it. My best friend’s brother’s such a hunk and I wish some romance would take off between us but he makes fun of me for eating it and says I’m turning into a dumpling. Well I don’t like him anyway. But still, even if the taste is exquisite and I can hardly resist, I am just getting fat eating it every day. What kind of a wimp am I? I need to develop some backbone and not ever touch the stuff again. But then I might as well eat because no guy’s ever going to look at me anyway.”

Worse luck, every few days you visit that same supermarket, stand in line beside the Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream addict, with another two boxes in her cart, and hear her recite her insecurities again.

Welcome to the modern novel. No, not all. But too many. Recently read another one myself.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to edit some current book — your choice. So you open it in a new window, start at Chapter Two and delete all the negative self-talk. How much will be left?

Can you fill in those gaps with ACTION? An outside CRISIS they must deal with? Other issues going on apart from main character blow-ups. Maybe leave just a phrase here and there to let the reader know those feelings are still in the background. Once in every  chapter is often enough, IMO.

Can you add some ENVIRONMENT? In one story I read, the female MC and her parents had joined a wagon train. Though they would have been crossing amazing new territory, scenic description was scant. (Saves research, I guess.) Pages were filled with how she was attracted to/ couldn’t let herself fall for/ the scout or he was attracted to/ couldn’t let himself fall for/ her.

What about adding a new CHARACTER? A jolly old auntie or uncle to give readers a break from the intense focus on the lovers’ spats. Wodehouse added the smooth-talking, conniving Uncle Chris who squandered Jill’s inheritance in poor stock market investments, but was always ready to fleece some new lamb. The author devotes some paragraphs to Jill’s assessment and acceptance of her uncle’s nature and weaknesses; these in turn show Jill’s compassionate nature.

Maybe you could add a nosy neighbor? If the story already has one, write in another and have the two interact with each other and with the main characters. Sprinkle in their WRY COMMENTS ABOUT HUMAN NATURE and each other. Have them play “Pass the Rumor.” Display your hero’s nature in the way they deal with these minor characters.

I believe these subplots are what made novels so memorable and writers so successful in years gone by. As a reader, I’d like to encourage all writers to loosen the constrictions of formula and put more STORY in your stories.

The Typhoon

omiri-gate-story.jpg

Photo by Nicki Elisha Shinow

The storm lasted four days. At first the rain poured down in buckets, later it sounded like the whole heavens was pouring down on the surrounding mountains. Villagers huddled together all through the typhoon, covering their possessions as best they could, praying they wouldn’t be washed or blown away.

The oldest of the elders remembered a deluge like this back in their youth. They recalled the year of hunger and poverty after. But most of the people living in the area had never seen such a storm. They wept to see their precious soil washing down the mountain. The small plateaus that sustained them were sliding into the lake down in the valley. Where would they plant their crops?

It would take many months to haul earth back up the mountain in baskets. The elders nodded. It would be so.

Finally the storm passed. All over the mountain folks shook off their stupor and wandered out to survey the damage. So much had been lost! They were shocked to see how the lake had swallowed up so much of the valley below. Even the Omiri gate stood in water.

They shook their heads. This would bring hardship. Every summer visitors came in droves to stand in this gate where the great prophet had once stood and shared his wisdom with his disciples. The locals had always welcomed the pilgrims. Their coming brought much income to the surrounding villages that hosted and supplied them.

Some despairing, some tearful, the people made their way back to their homes. They could see the churning clouds of hunger on the horizon.

The elders nodded. It would be so.

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Story written in response to today’s The Write Practice exercise. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com, a site for free images.