Mastering The Written Word

I want to Master the Written Word!

mastering the written word

Illustration by A. Skripin

Do you?

The idea of mastering the written word takes a lot of time and effort. My belief is that anyone – you, me, the guy down the street, that has an aspiration to be a great writer – must study the written word of others who have blazed a path before us.

I’m sure each  of us has our own plan of attack on achieving a level of success with our writing.

This has been my plan.

  1. I took online courses to make sure that I knew, understood, and implemented, the basic building blocks of good writing: punctuation, grammar, plot, dialog, etc.
  2. I began to volunteer (and become active) in various writing capacities around the internet. I wanted to learn from my peers. This effort resulted in landing me a position at Every Day Fiction as a slush reader. My experience there has been immeasurable in helping me grow as writer. I have learned from the mistakes and triumphs of other writers. Plus, I get to see first hand how real editors react to a story. I get to hear their ‘real’ thoughts; the thoughts that never make it into most rejection letters.
  3. I enter every contest that doesn’t try to take advantage of me as an aspiring writer. What does this mean? I don’t expect to pay an exorbitant entry fee. I don’t expect to give up my rights to my work. I don’t expect to have to keep my work in limbo for any longer than four months. Read the fine print on contests. The biggest career advancement (that I have achieved) through a contest entry was this – I placed 4th in a short story competition with Boroughs Publishing Group. As a result, they published my entry in E-book format. But that wasn’t the big deal as far as I was concerned. I got to work with a top-notch editor at Boroughs, for free. I learned the EXTREME value of a good editor to the final product (even a short story).
  4. I study the work of authors that I admire. And when I say study their work, I don’t mean that I just read their stories. I mean that I analyze their stories line by line. I look at every word. I try to figure out why their sentences, paragraphs, and ultimately their story move me so much. I’m especially attracted to writers from Latin America. They visualize the world and transfer it to the written word so eloquently. I don’t want to write just like them. But I want to incorporate their style into my writing. This is my goal.

Julio Cortazar

mastering the written word

Photograph by Modern Review.

Julio Cortazar is one of my favorite Latin American writers. If you haven’t read any of his works, I highly suggest that you read it, and study it.

To tantalize you a bit – I’m including one of his short stories, here today, in this blog.

The Continuity of the Parks

By Julio Cortazar

He had started reading the novel a few days before.  Urgent business made him abandon it for a time; but he returned to its pages while on his way back to the farmland estate.  He gradually let himself become interested in the plot, in the characters.  That evening, after writing a letter to his representative and discussing a matter of sharecropping, he took up the book again in the tranquility of his study which gazed out upon the park of oak trees.  As he lounged in his favorite chair with his back to the door that would have bothered him with the irritating potential for intrusions, he let his left hand stroke the green velvet once then again, and he began to read the final chapters.

His memory retained with no effort the names and appearances of the main characters, and so the novelist illusion came upon him almost immediately.  He took an almost perverse pleasure in letting himself tear through line after line of what surrounded him.  All at once he felt his head relaxing comfortably in the velvet of the old recliner, cigarettes persisting within reach of his hands, and, beyond the large windows, the evening air dancing below the oaks.  Word for word, absorbed by the heroes’ sordid dilemma, he cast himself adrift towards the images which concerted and acquired color and movement, evidence of the last meeting in the mountain cabin.  First the woman came in, mistrustful.  Then her lover arrived, his face hurt from the whiplash of a branch.  Admirably she clotted the blood with her kisses, but her caresses were rejected: he had not come to repeat the rituals of a secret passion protected by a world of dry leaves and furtive paths.  The dagger grew warm against his chest, and below beat cowering liberty.  A breathy dialog ran through the pages like a stream of serpents, which felt as if it had always been so.  Even as these caresses swirled around the lover’s body as if trying to hold him and dissuade him, they drew at the same time the abominable shape of another body which had to be destroyed.  Nothing had been forgotten: alibis, mishaps, possible mistakes.  From this hour forth, each moment would have its use, minutely detailed.  The merciless re−inspection was hardly interrupted for a hand to caress a cheek.  It began to get dark.

No longer looking, bound rigidly to the task which was awaiting them, they separated at the door of the cabin.  She had to follow the trail that led north.  From the opposite trail, he turned for a moment to watch her run with her hair flowing loosely.  He then ran in turn, taking shelter beneath the trees and hedges until, in the mallow mist of twilight, he was able to make out the avenue that led to the house.  The dogs were not supposed to bark; and they didn’t.  The majordomo (master of the house) would not be in at this hour; and he wasn’t.  He climbed the three stairs of the porch and went in.  In the blood swishing between his ears rang the words of the woman: first a blue room, then a gallery, then a carpeted staircase.  Upstairs, two doors.  No one would be in the first room, no one in the second.  The door of the living room, and then the dagger in his hand, the light of those large windows, the old recliner with green velvet seat, the head of a man reading a novel.

The End

What did you think of this story?

I love the way the words flow, the unusual use of description, and the hidden plot.

I would love to hear your thoughts! I would also love to hear what steps you’re taking to advance your writing career.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

How to Perform a Clichéctomy – or – How Not To Write the Obvious

Don’t Write The Obvious!

don't write the obvious

Stating the Obvious. Photograph by macca.bsch.au.com

Over the weekend, my wife and I attended a family function in Florida. As we drove down Interstate 95, my wife asked, so what did you do this morning? (I was out of bed several hours before her.)

I told her, among other things, that I’d had my morning coffee, and I did some slush reading for Every Day Fiction.

“How did that go? She asked.

“Not so well,” I said. “I read five stories and four of the five had the same story-line. I don’t know why authors seem to have so much trouble coming up with ideas that are new and interesting. The stories are filled with cliché situations and predictable subject matter.”

“Like what?” She asked. (I could tell she was going into literary mode.)

“Well today, the four similar stories were about lost love. And two of the four took place in a coffee shop. And three of the four were primarily the MC‘s thoughts with little or no action, Two of the four also involved a dream sequence. And all four ended with the same outcome; the MC is forlorn over their lost love.

don't write the obvious

Photograph by perfectionlove99.blogspot.com

My wife raised her eyebrow; but didn’t say a word.

“I don’t get it!” I rambled on. “With so much to write about in this world, why do people keep writing about the same thing over and over.”

“Like what?” She stretched her bare feet out on the dashboard.

I thought quietly for a moment. “These are probably the top four repetitious stories that come through Every Day Fiction: lost love, a confession (to a counselor or psychiatrist), an alien invasion, or a story that ends up being a dream.”

“Maybe you should write an article on this for NovelNook?”

“And say what? Quit writing these stories. They’re old and repetitious, and boring!”

“People will never stop writing about subjects that appeal to their heart. Obviously, those subjects are very appealing. That’s why they’re in the minds of writers. Maybe you should write about the concept of approaching these subjects from a new angle? Keep the subject but remove the clichés. Wouldn’t you find that more appealing?”

“That’s interesting thought. What did you have in mind, oh wifey pooh, master of my mind?”

“This conversation reminds me of the story, “La lluvia y los hongos“, by Mario Benedetti. Do you remember that one? I read it to you once.”

Don't write the obvious

Mario Benedetti

“Wasn’t that, The Rain brings the Mushrooms?”

“Do you remember the story?”

“Refresh me please.”

“It’s a short story, and it incorporates two of your clichés; but the story is told in a very different way. So different, that you probably wouldn’t even realize that the subject is cliché.

The story starts with a man talking  to a one-night-stand about his friends. He’s just picked her up from a bar. Benedetti never comes right out and says it. But it’s intimated that they just had sex and are now having conversation in the bed afterwards. As the story unfolds, it sounds like he’s in a therapy session, like he’s confessing. In fact, if you found out at the end that he was with a psychiatrist, it wouldn’t surprise you at all. But that would be that ho-hum storyline you’re talking about.

So his monologue leads to one friend in particular, a woman, a woman he stole from another friend of his, and the woman became his lover. He talks about all the quirks this woman had that made her different, made her special. He tells how she wasn’t very elegant, or very book-smart, or the most beautiful, but she had a way about her, a way that commanded attention. People were drawn to her. She was everything that he wasn’t, and he loved that about her.

So, they became lovers. And after things became intimate, it began to unravel for him. All the perfection he had loved about her as a friend, he hated about her as a lover. He felt that she didn’t appreciate him, or need him. It made him feel like less of a man to be with her because she required very little from him and gave very little back.

In the final paragraphs of the story, the man confesses the rage that grew within him and his growing obsession with her perfection. He felt a need to put her in her place and when he just couldn’t stand it anymore, he killed her.

What’s really shocking in the end is that the woman who is currently with him (the one-night-stand) doesn’t even react to this news. And the man seems even less concerned  that he just shared that he is a murderer with a total stranger.

“Wow,” I said. “Great story. And you’re right! This is exactly what I’m talking about.”

The theme of lost love, and a confession, told in a unique way.

Putting Your Thought Process

Outside the Box Doesn’t Take that Long!

My wife, and I, brainstormed as we drove down Interstate 95 in Florida. In less than five minutes, we came up with several interesting ideas.

For some reason, the lost love theme often occurs in a coffee shop.

We decided for our story with a new thought process, everything would stay the same: the coffee shop, the forlorn memories, etc. But in the end, the MC would toss their payment on the table and leave with the thought, I’m glad that bitch is gone.

Our thought process lead us to an alternative outcome.

Then we talked about the confession story. In the slush pile this ALMOST ALWAYS occurs in an office of a therapist. So, what if the confession is the same but the listener is different; just like Benedetti’s story.

Alternative ideas, the MC confesses a murder to a: child? a dog? the wife of a friend? the pest control guy?

How would these alternatives affect the story? This is what my wife and I thought…

  • a child would react with innocence
  • a dog would not react, it wouldn’t care
  • the wife of a friend would react with shock or fear
  • the pest control guy might enjoy it, breaking up the monotony of his day

Just a little thought took our story to a completely different place.

All of us here at NovelNook.com hope that you’ll spend just a little extra time thinking about your next story. Reach deep down and search for a new angle for your story; one that will make it rise above the crowd; just like The Rain and the Mushrooms!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

The Wacky World of Literary Devices!

You Have Now Entered the Wacky World of Literary Devices.

For the grand prize you have 60 seconds to answer the following…

(Disclaimer – This is just a joke folks)

What is Hyperbole and name one famous story that makes use of it?

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock…

You learn forward, grab the microphone, your eyes stare unflinchingly into the crowd as you say –

Hyperbole is the use of over-exaggeration for creating emphasis, or humor, but it is not intended to be taken literally. One example of this story telling technique would be, The Tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph by The Arches

Yeah! Excellent Answer!

This idea of looking into literary devices came to me the other day when a companion asked me how to spell allegory. I spelled it out for her flawlessly. But the next question was the one I was dreading…

“What does allegory mean?”

Ummm… ummm…

I didn’t know what it meant.

She giggled at me. “And you’re a writer?”

the wacky world of literary devices

Graphic courtesy of myteachingspirit.blogspot.com

Well that was enough to make me go look it up. But, I would have done that anyway, because I am an extremely inquisitive person, and I love to learn. So, for those of you that don’t know what the literary device, allegory, means –

Here you go!

An allegory is a symbolism device where the meaning of a greater, often abstract, concept is conveyed with the aid of a more corporeal object or idea being used as an example. One famous example of allegory is the book, The Lord of the Flies. This story features a group of schoolboys stuck on an island, and the novel had allegorical representations of rational mind, democracy, order, civility, and many other such abstract terms.

the wacky world of Literary devices

Cover photograph by lordalford.com

I’ll be the first to admit it to anybody. I didn’t go to college for writing. I was born into a working class family. I’ve learned what I’ve managed to learn in life through dedication and hard work.

Many of the literary devices were familiar to me by word, but I didn’t really understand what they meant until I dove into this investigation. I was amazed at how many literary devices exist. There are dozens of them! Just reading through the list and their descriptions got my creative juices flowing.

I want to share some examples

along with their definitions

And some literary works that made use of them

Bildungsroman – This is a very popular form of storytelling whereby the author bases the plot on the overall growth of the central character throughout the timeline of the story. As the story progresses, the subject undergoes noticeable mental, physical, social, emotional, moral, and often spiritual advancement. A very famous example of this literary device is, Gone With The Wind, which was published by Margaret Mitchell in 1936.

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph by stuffforcrafts.com

Litotes – It is an understated expression where the idea to be expressed is quite significant. Litotes, are defined as ‘an ironical understatement where the affirmative is expressed by the negation of the opposite’. To put it simply, in litotes, instead of saying that something is attractive, you say that it is not unattractive. Litotes are often used to mimic speech, since we lazy humans tend to drop words to make things quicker. Here are some examples:

  • The food is not bad.
  • She is not as young as she was.
  • He is not unlike his dad
Father & Son

He is not unlike his dad. Photograph by Tony Alter

Hubris – Hubris is another way of saying overly arrogant. You can tell the difference between hubris and regular arrogance by the suggestion that the character has seemed to allow reality slip away from them. Hubris is the buildup of arrogance and pride and is generally followed by a catastrophic fall at the end of the story. An excellent example of Hubris is the story, Arabian Nights.

Caesura – involves creating a fracture within a sentence where the two separate parts are distinguishable from one another yet intrinsically linked to one another. The purpose of using a caesura is to create a dramatic pause, which has a strong impact. Finding out about this device means a lot to me personally, because I use this a lot. Here is an example of Caesura; “Ludwig – How your music makes me soar!”

the wacky world of literary devices

Photograph courtesy of parentpreviews.com

Polysyndeton – is a sentence construction in which multiple conjunctions are used in very close succession to infuse a sense of exaggeration. In other words, you use a lot of ‘ands’ to emphasize a point by stretching the sentence out. Here is a great example from Ian Fleming‘s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:

‘Most motor-cars are conglomerations of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and petrol and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday.’

I’ve had a lot of fun studying up on literary devices

And I bet you would too!

Here’s a challenge for you. I’m going to list some literary devices that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the term. Could you define that term? Could you point to an example that uses the device? Do you use it in your own writing? Might you consider doing that now, after reading this article?

Here you go-

  1. Allusion
  2. Antithesis
  3. Cacophony
  4. Deus ex Machina
  5. oxymoron
  6. simile
  7. syntax
  8. verisimilitude
  9. juxtaposition
  10. epithet

There will be a test on Tuesday.

(Just kidding!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion. I would also like to encourage you to comment. Tell me if there is any subject matter that you would like me to weigh in on. (what literary device was that?) Keep writing friends!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

The ‘Value Added Marketing’ of the First Line in your Book

Value Added Marketing

as explained by Shrek

Video courtesy of ryanmorrison31

Marketing Has Layers

Value added marketing

Photography by Joe Gatineau

Marketing is the message that brings buyers to your story.

Imagine marketing as an onion.

Now place yourself in a book store.

You’re walking along the aisle and a cover catches your eye. It looks interesting.

You pick it up. (Layer one, of the marketing onion, has just been peeled away.)

You hold the book in your hand, and then you flip it over to the description on the back. The description tickles your imagination. (Layer two, of the marketing onion, has been peeled away.) You flip the book back to the cover. Your hand opens the book, and your eyes gaze down at the first line of Chapter-One. (You are now staring at the third layer of the marketing onion.)

What is value added marketing?

Value Added Marketing: Creation of a competitive advantage by bundling, combining, or packaging features and benefits that result in greater customer acceptance. (Courtesy of businessdictionary.com)

How does the first line of my book become value added marketing?

Let me tell you a little story

Many years ago, I was visiting a friend. As we chatted, I perused their bookcase. My eyes settled on the spine of an innocuously colored book. It was the typography, title, and author’s name that caught my attention.

I pulled the book from the shelf and looked at the cover. This author is a particular favorite of mine. In fact, I would go so far as to say that two of their books (in that time) were some of my all-time favorite reads. But, I’ve also read some real clunkers by this same author. I stared at the cover; I was intrigued, but not sold.

I flipped the book and read the description on that back. Oh crap, I thought. It was the first book in a long series. If I commit, I’ll be reading this ‘ongoing’ story for months.

At this point, layer one of the marketing onion had succeeded, but barely. However, it did its job because I picked up the book. That’s what cover design is all about. Layer two, the book description, was less successful. It almost cost the author a reader. It was really the author’s reputation that pushed me to move forward to layer three.

This is a really important point. Imagine this scene in your mind; I was within seconds of sliding that book back into it’s slot on the shelf. If I had, there’s a good chance it may never have resurfaced in my life. But, I didn’t. I flipped it open to page one and read the first line. It read –

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.

Value added marketing

Photo courtesy of theaudiobookbay.com

By Stephen King

Here is where the concept of value added marketing comes to play.

Mr. King’s first line of, The Gunslinger, induced me to action. The cover got me to pick up the book, the description almost cost him the sale, it was the first line of the story that sold the book. I bought that book within days of reading it at my friend’s house. Then, because The Gunslinger is book one of a seven book series, (and it is superbly written), I went out and bought books two, three, and four about a month later. Finally, about five months later, I bought books five, six, and seven.

Think about this – That first line of, The Gunslinger, was the motivation behind a seven book sale. It had residual value and that’s value added marketing! 

Don’t we wish we could all do that.

I’ve thought about that line many times over the years. What makes it so powerful, so intriguing? The prose is quite simple. I think there are three components that are key to its success –

Antagonist, Protagonist, Conflict

It reveals all three of these elements in a twelve word sentence.
There’s no blood, no violence, no complicated structure

It introduces the Man in Black (mysterious), the Gunslinger (strong mental image), and conflict (the word fled). Stephen King could not have chosen a better word than fled. Even just speaking the word conjures up a feeling that something is about to happen!

There are all kinds of famous first lines and lists of them are plentiful in every corner of the internet. Stephen King’s line from, The Gunslinger, is almost always on the list. It’s that powerful. It sells books. It sells a series of books. For me, it is the epitome of the perfect first line. It has value added marketing!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but every story I write gets considerable processing time for that first line. I want that value added marketing in my books. I want a potential reader to get hooked from my first words and find themselves compelled to buy more of my books because they remember that line.

I’ll share this first line from one of my stories. It’s an unpublished short story titled, You Don’t Shoot No Owls.

Claire Brown, was fourteen years old the first time her daddy stuck a gun in her hand and told her to go shoot something.

value added marketing

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

This is my favorite first line (of my creation) to date.

I’m striving for that powerful simplicity that Stephen King captured in The Gunslinger. I know I haven’t hit it yet. But, I keep trying and that’s what’s important.

One other interesting note about, The Dark Tower Series, if I had picked up any of the other volumes that day, their first lines would not have had the same effect.

A fantastic first line is not easy.

Back to value added marketing

I hope that today’s blog will inspire you to consider how important each component of your book is:

  1. Writing an interesting story
  2. Giving that story a powerful first line
  3. Writing a synopsis, tagline, and book description with the same dedication that you wrote the story.
  4. Edit every aspect of your writing, thoroughly
  5. Design your cover carefully

Each of these components bring value added marketing to your efforts. As human beings each of us is unique. We all see things differently. You never know which element, or combination of elements, will click with a book buyer.

And finally, maybe one of your first lines will bring you a dedicated reader. One that will follow your efforts for years to come, just as Stephen King did to me.

I’d love to read some of your favorite “first lines” in our comments section.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Theme In Fiction – A New Direction

What is the Theme of your current Story?

Theme is the broad idea, message, or lesson of a story.

I have noticed in my reading, (and I’m talking emerging independent writers primarily), that there is a repetition of theme and subject. Some of the most common ones are love, lost love, death, an apocalypse, horrible parents, alien interference,  corrupt government, murder, mental illness, friendship, lost friendship, deceit, betrayal, forgiveness, treachery, supernatural occurrence (zombies, ghosts, werewolves, mystics), sex, gay sex, unusual sex, (the emphasis being on the sex part of the story),  etc.

In the world of independent authors it’s rare to come across a story that is truly fresh in its view.

Why is that I wonder?

Jonas ponders.

Photograph by Ollie Crafoord

I think it has a lot to do with the culture of our modernized world. We are bombarded with images, concepts, stories, books, movies, advertising, and music. It’s so easy, (at a subconscious level really), to rehash something we are already familiar with rather than dig deep into our imagination and discover something new.

This entire discussion came about because of my wife.

I have talked a lot about my wife here on NovelNook and there is a reason for it. She has a huge influence on my writing life.

(I can only hope that all of you have someone like her in your life as well.)

For today, I’m just going to tell you that she is extremely well read, extremely intelligent, and one of the finest plot analysts I’ve ever come across. She is also a native of Argentina which often leads us to the discussion of Latin American authors.

Two days ago, she began to tell me about a short story by Chilean author, Isabelle Allende.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

As the story unfolded, my mind raced through the prospect of writing this blog article. The story is titled, Nina Perversa (Perverted Girl) and it is a short story published in the book, Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna).

Now you might be saying, “Wait a minute! Sex was on your list up there,” and you’re right.

But…

When I finished hearing the story, I was stunned by the theme, (the message), behind the story. I felt this way for several reasons:

  1. It is a really good story
  2. It is written in a fashion that is uncharacteristic of American authors.
  3. This particular theme had never occurred to me in my writing, (not even the tiniest notion of an idea), nor had I ever read anything in my slush pile that addressed it.
  4. The act of sex has very little to do with the story.

 a synopsis

(I’m going to tell you the story. I encourage you to read it anyway. It is available in English. See my link below)

The Stories of Eva Luna

The Stories of Eva Luna

A woman runs a boarding house, and she has a precocious eleven-year-old daughter. One day a man comes to the woman to rent a room. He is a singer and quite handsome. Not long after renting a room at the house, the man develops a relationship with the woman and they become lovers.The man eventually moves in with the woman and her daughter. The girl is in puberty and developing sexual curiosity. She secretly witnesses her mother and the man making love. Her hormones rage, and she becomes obsessed with the idea of sex.

One day the girl and the man are alone in the house. The man is asleep on his bed. The girl enters the room wearing nothing but her underwear. She jumps on top of him waking him from his sleep. He forces her off even as she presses her body to his and pushes her tongue into his mouth. He jumps up angry and pushes her to the floor, calling her a perverted girl.

The next day, the girl was sent away to boarding school.

The days turn into weeks, and then months, and finally years. The girl never returns to the house. Her mother visits her, but the man always finds a reason not to go.

It was during this time that the man’s life unravels; turning into a living Hell. He cannot sleep. He cannot sing. At first, he is overcome by guilt (despite the fact that he rebuffed the girl). But, he begins to fantasize about his moment with the girl. He becomes petrified that he has somehow turned into a pedophile. But still, the encounter won’t leave his mind. He becomes tortured by his own actions as catches himself staring at girls in the local schoolyard, or buying girl’s underwear and fondling them; then filled with anguish, he burns them behind the house.

The girl on the other hand has grown into a woman. She graduates from her University and becomes a banker. Not long after that, she meets a man and falls in love. She marries him. Then one day, many years after the incident, she finally returns to the boarding house with her new husband.

This is the first time the man has seen the daughter since her departure years before. In the hours leading up to their reunion, the man practices over and over what he might to say to her. How he might answer her questions and try to bring sanity back to his life.

Here are the last lines of the story

At dusk, when all the euphoria of the arrival had passed, and mother, and daughter, had shared all the latest news,  they pulled some chairs into the yard to take advantage of the cool breeze.

The air was thick with the smell of carnations.

Bernal, offered a drink of wine, and Elena followed to get the glasses. For a few minutes they were alone, face-to-face, in the cramped kitchen.

And then the man, who had waited so long for that opportunity, retained the woman by the arm, and said that everything had been a terrible mistake, that, that morning he was asleep and did not know what he was doing, that he never wanted to throw her down and call her that terrible name. He asked for compassion, and forgiveness; to see if he could restore sanity, because in all these years an ardent craving for her had bullied him relentlessly, burning his blood and corrupting his spirit.

Elena stared at him and did not know what to say.

What perverted girl did he speak of?

For her, childhood was far behind, and the pain of that first unrequited love was sealed,  locked in her memory.

She kept  no memory of that remote Thursday.

Wow! Pretty Powerful Stuff.

Do you see the theme here? You never know when some action, or statement, that you commit to the world might alter someone else’s life immeasurably; without even knowing, or remembering, what you did.

It still causes me to pause, and contemplate that statement, even as I write it here.

Such a strong theme!

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to read authors from other countries. My wife has introduced me to some authors from South America; authors like Isabel Allende, Julio Cortazar, and Mario Benedetti. These Latin American authors seem have an insight into the human condition, an insight that seems to escape us here in our busy world.

If you’re interested in the English version of “The Stories of Eva Luna”, click below

The Stories of Eva Luna

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, by Isabel Allende

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

They Said, I Said, You Say

Writing Tips By Famous Authors

I would like to try to make this blog a more interactive experience for those of you who read my articles. My goal is to establish a relationship with you. If I could parlay some of my knowledge to you and learn from your experiences as well; that’s the perfect scenario!

Authors and Readers Interacting

In an effort to try to garner that kind of interaction, I thought that I would create this post (even title it) with the hope of inducing my readers to leave a comment.

The Game

The Game

The Game

Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to list several of my favorite quotes, by famous authors, on the craft of writing. These quotes come from world-renowned authors. We can pretty much assure ourselves that they know what they’re talking about.

But, as with everything else in this world. We all have an opinion. What works for one individual, may not work for another. So, I’ll state their quote, give my opinion on the subject discussed in that quote, and finally, I’m hoping to hear back from you, (my readers), on what your thoughts are.

I would also like to hear some of your favorite quotes and how they influenced you.

Here we go!
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

This quote, by Oscar Wilde, really resonates with me. As a writer who reads a lot of work by emerging authors, I see way too much repetition, by that I mean, writers who write in a style , theme, or on a subject that is already in widespread publication. By publication, I mean books, stories, movies, and television. A good example of this in recent years would be the vampire theme. While, I do believe that imitation in art is a good training tool. I also believe that work produced this way should be retained for your own benefit, don’t attempt to publish it. Submit only work that reflects the uniqueness of you. Does that mean you can’t write a vampire story? No, it means don’t write one that reads like the many others that are already published. And just to clarify- If you change your vampire, so that he is half vampire, and half werewolf, and he works as a plumber, but your plot line is exactly like Twilight; that’s not enough.

famous author quotes

Photograph courtesy of biography.com

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

This one means a lot to me for several reasons. One, I am guilty of this myself. Two, I also see it in many of the stories I read seeking publication. Have you ever heard the phrase, show don’t tell? That’s what Mr. Chekhov is talking about. Authors have a hard time understanding this concept and an even harder time incorporating it into their stories. The difference between showing and telling is engaging the readers senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. One trick that I use- is to read back through my manuscript and if I come to a section that reads like this- He did that. She did that. He did that. They did this, etc. I know that I’m telling and not showing. It is important to remember that a bit of telling is necessary. It is completely acceptable to “tell” in your exposition. But that should be a small part of your story, If not, your readers will be asleep long before they get to your dramatic conclusion.

Erica Jong

Erica Jong

“You are always naked when you start writing; you are always as if you had never written anything before; you are always a beginner. Shakespeare wrote without knowing he would become Shakespeare
― Erica Jong

This is really an interesting quote. I think that we all believe that as we pump out story after story, we are no longer beginners. What I take from this, is adopting the philosophy of continued learning. If we believe that we’ve achieved the goal, then our work will become stagnant. I also think it speaks to the idea of writing because you love to write, not because you’re seeking fame and fortune.

A really good example of this mindset is Vincent van Gogh. I saw this van Gogh painting at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia a few years back.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

I can tell you (without a doubt) that if you haven’t personally stood in front of a van Gogh painting you cannot fully appreciate the mastery of his work. This painting literally blew my socks off. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. The subtlety of color and stroke was simply amazing.

But back to my point

Vincent van Gogh never achieved fame during his lifetime. He produced the work that he did- just because he wanted to.

James J Kilpatrick

James J Kilpatrick

“Five common traits of good writers: (1) They have something to say. (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood. (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.”
― James J. Kilpatrick

I totally agree with Kilpatrick’s quote with one small exception. I think some of the best stories are told out of sequence. It does, however, take an expert level of writing skill to pull that off effectively. If some of Kilpatrick’s points don’t come naturally to you- you can train yourself with a lot of hard work.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

This quote really speaks to me. I have contemplated this fact-of-life for a several years, especially as it relates to the area of social media. People will forget you (and very quickly). That is just plain fact. But if your writing alters them emotionally, you will forever remain somewhere in their mind (I’m convinced that this is THE KEY to success). I recently wrote a short story titled, The Power of Fine Furniture. It was published online and it is now available in an online anthology. This story started out from a word prompt. It’s a horror story. But, it is told in a very subtle manner. I keep the reader guessing until the last possible moment and the setting is incongruous with a horror story. This was the first story that I’ve ever had published where I received hate mail from some readers. These readers weren’t telling me that it was a lousy story, or poorly written, in fact they were saying quite the opposite. It was the subject and the tone of the piece that bothered them so deeply. I had one woman ask me, “How in the world could I write about fine furniture that way!” I also received a lot of kudos on the story, but, it was the hate mail that intrigued me. For reasons, that I still can’t quite completely quantify, this story really touched an emotional nerve in a lot of people. It’s the stirring of an emotional response that is the true power of writing.

Find that power in your own writing and you are well on your way to success here at NovelNook.com.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, 3024AD, by DES Richard and edited by Corissa Poley

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

Top Self-Published Authors

We discovered a great list of some of the most famous self-published authors.  We bolded a few of our favorites:  

  • What Color is Your Parachute by Episcopal clergymen Richard Nelson Bolles. 22 editions, 5 million copies and 288 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now published by Ten Speed Press.at first brought them to the attention of the world.
  • The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list.
  • In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Over 25,000 copies were sold directly to consumers in its first year. Then it was sold to Warner and the publisher sold 10 million more.
  • Real Peace — Richard Nixon in 1983.
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. His manuscript made the rounds of the mainstream houses and then he decided to publish himself. He started by selling copies out of the trunk of his Honda — over 100,000 of them. He subsequently sold out to Warner Books for $800,000. The number-one bestseller in 1996, it spent 165 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. Over 5.5 million copies have been sold.
  • The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson sold over 20,000 copies locally before they sold out to William Morrow. It has now sold over 12 million copies since 1982 and is in 25 languages.
  • Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth spent seven months on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 4.5 million copies in its original and premium editions.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White) was originally self-published for his classes at Cornell University in 1918.
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham. He sold his first work out of the trunk of his car.
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was self-published in 1931. Today Scribners sells more than 100,000 copies each year.
  • How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir sold over 2 million copies and led to the establishment of a publishing company.
  • Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts sold 486,000 copies before selling out to Warner Books.
  • Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie spent 76 weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List, 123 weeks on the Paperback List and was sold to Bantam Books for $1.5 million. The audio rights brought in another $100,000. Then she established Onjinjinkta Publishing to publish her future projects.
  • Sugar Busters! by four Louisiana doctors and a former CEO sold 165,000 copies regionally in just a year and a half. Then they sold out to Ballantine Books.
  • The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton has sold over a million copies in Canada (second only to the Bible in Canada) and two million in the US.
  • When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple has been through the press 42 times for 1.5 million in print. It allowed Sanda Haldeman Martz to build Paper Mâché Press.
  • Mary Ellen’s Best of Helpful Hints by Mary Ellen Pinkham became a bestseller and then she sold out to Warner Books.
  • The Macintosh Bible by Arthur Naiman has become the best-selling book on Apple products with over 900,000 sold.
  • Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard has been in print more than 45 years, 20 million copies are in print and it has been translated into 22 languages. The book started a movement and later a church.
  • Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan sold 370,000 copies before it was sold to HarperCollins for $1.7 million. It was sold to two book clubs and the foreign rights were sold to 14 countries.
  • Feed Me, I’m Yours by Vicky Lansky sold 300,000 copies. She sold out to Bantam and they sold 8 million more.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associations by Frederick Ruffner led to the establishment of Gale Research Company, with 500 employees.
  • The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. Joe Karbo never sold out and never courted bookstores. He sold millions of his books via full-page ads in newspapers and magazines.
  • The Christmas Box by Rick Evans. The 87-page book took him six weeks to write. He published it and promoted it himself. It did so well he sold out to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million. It hit the top of the Publishers Weekly bestseller list and was translated into 13 Languages.
  • Twelve Golden Threads by Aliske Webb was rejected by 150 publishers. After self-publishing and selling 25,000 copies, she signed a four-book contract with HarperCollins.
  • Life’s Little Instruction Book was initially self-published by H. Jackson Brown. Then it was purchased by Rutledge Hill Press. It made the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in hardcover and soft at the same time. Over 5 million copies were sold.
  • The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Salzman was turned down by eight publishers. The glossy hardcover book made it to The New York Times Bestseller list.
  • Let’s Cook Microwave by Barbara Harris sold over 700,000 copies.
  • Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy has sold over two million copies and it led to the establishment of Klutz Press with over 50 award-winning books.
  • Ben Dominitz published Travel Free and then founded Prima Publishing. Prima now has 1,500 titles, 140 employees and does $60 million a year.
  • How to Flatten Your Stomach by Jim Everrode was self-published before he sold out to Price\Stern\Sloan. Since then, the book has sold over two million copies.

Other well-known authors who started as self-publishers include:

  • Deepak Chopra
  • Louise Hay
  • Mark Twain
  • Ken Keyes, Jr.
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Zane Grey
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Carl Sandburg
  • James Joyce
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Ezra Pound
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Stephen Crane
  • Mary Baker Eddy
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Anais Nin
  • Thomas Paine
  • Virginia Woolf
  • E.E. Cummings
  • William Blake
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Walt Whitman
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • William E.B. DuBois
  • Robert Ringer

This list was compiled by Dan Poynter of Para Publishing and the author of The Self-Publishing Manual.