Books at Holiday Time

December 14, 2017

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

It’s that time of year again. In my neighborhood, holiday decorations are up, houses glow with lights, and the stores are crowded (which I take as a good sign). It’s also a time when we all think again about songs and stories based on the holidays.

Maybe it’s just the writer in me, but I also think about books.

One of my favorites is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It’s undoubtedly one of the best-loved (and best-selling) tales in English literature. It’s been a holiday classic since its original publication almost exactly one-hundred-seventy-four years ago.

The story explored not only Scrooge’s redemptive journey, but the lives of the poor majority surrounding him. Inspired by his own rocky childhood, historians say Dickens was writing an indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism, and the disparity between the poor and the wealthy in early Victorian-era Britain.

He used the stingy-old-man character named Scrooge as a means of highlighting the need to return to traditional Christmas values, family togetherness and charity.

It’s a message we could all stand to hear again.

I was surprised to learn the classic only took Dickens six weeks to write. Published in London by Chapman and Hall on December 19, 1843, it was an immediate success with the public. The initial print run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve.

However, for its author, it was a grave financial disappointment.

Dickens insisted on a lavish format for what was to become the most famous of his holiday books.

He wanted A Christmas Carol to be a beautiful little gift book, and as such he stipulated a fancy binding stamped with gold lettering on the spine and front cover; gilded edges on the paper all around; four full-page, hand-colored etchings and four woodcuts.

Examining preliminary copies, Dickens decided he disliked the color of the title pages, and found the end papers smudged when touched.

He called for immediate changes and by December 17, two days before the book’s official release, the publisher had produced new copies, coupled with a number of significant textual corrections, which pleased the young author.

Dickens, who was still optimistic about sales, set the price of the book reasonably to encourage the largest possible number of purchasers. He hoped more sales would bring in larger profits, relieving some of his financial obligations.

You see, in order to get the story published fast, Dickens had agreed to an unprecedented publishing arrangement: he would assume all of the costs of the initial publication but, in doing so, would also gain all of the profits.

Dickens was initially elated with the public’s overwhelming response. But the cost of producing the book was so high that once expenses were tabulated, there was very little left over for the author himself.

When Dickens received the production receipts from Chapman and Hall, he found after the deductions for printing, paper, drawing, steel plates, engraving, coloring, binding, advertising and a commission to the publishers, the balance to his credit was only one-tenth of what he imagined, and far too little to live on.

“The truth,” wrote Dickens friend and literary adviser, John Forster, “was that the price charged was far too little.”

It’s interesting to note, despite the profitability shortfall, by February of 1844, less than two months after the book’s appearance, at least eight theatrical versions of A Christmas Carol were already in production. Since then, there have been literally hundreds more adaptations for stage, radio, television, and film.

The public loved it. The tale of one man’s redemption interwoven with Victorian Christmas traditions morphed into every publisher’s dream. The book has never been “out of print.”

I find it to be no small irony that for this instantly classic Christmas tale of greed and beneficence, Dickens received none of the millions Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge continue to generate every year.


My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;


You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Book Signing

December 2, 2017

Nevis at Sunset.

Last October, I attended the 10th Annual Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference. As always, I got a lot out of it. The host, Michael Dwyer, can be counted on to put together a good assortment of presentations for the day.

I meet a lot of interesting people, too. Ambitious indie-authors who, like me, want to learn everything they can in order to get their book to the next level. Their collective enthusiasm is always contagious, and I often learn as much from other participants as I do from presenters.

We’ve all experienced a combination of no-motivation days, beautiful sentences, writing blocks, sudden inspiration, painful editing days, re-writes, boosts of self-confidence and bouts of insecurity. Hanging out with fellow authors – people who truly get you – is fortifying.

There are many opportunities to get inspired, and even to get a keener sense of your own writing projects. By the end of a writers’ conference, attendees inevitably experience an endorphin high. Capitalizing on this state of excitement is crucial.

You will probably not feel more stoked than you do on the way home from a writers’ conference. Let that work for you. While some people feel light-headed from all the information, I say do something about it immediately! It will feel productive to have taken a first step, and even the smallest adjustment could create momentum.

Some of the ideas at a conference will strike a chord with you, others will not be right for your projects. Take the time to figure out what feels right. Allow yourself to get excited about small victories. That way you are enjoying the journey and staying engaged, instead of feeling burned-out or overwhelmed.

I used the good feeling to re-visit my website and make some much-needed adjustments!

However, to tell the truth, my batteries needed recharging and I waited a month to do it … taking some time to really think about it during a much-needed vacation with my eldest son and his family.

Birthplace of Alexander Hamilton on Nevis.

That’s exactly what I did on the beautiful Caribbean island of Nevis. I had a successful book-signing just before we left, and I have another one scheduled with other local authors at the Orion Township Library on Saturday, December 9 (from 1:00-4:00). During my time off, I uncharacteristically did no writing at all.

It worked. My writing block is gone and ideas abound.

Hopefully, it will be a fast and glorious road now to my next book, taking one step at a time.


You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Do You Define Horror?

October 28, 2017

Human skull
Photo courtesy Pixabay.

Is it any wonder Halloween comes at this time of year? Falling leaves, wind, sudden chills, early darkness. It’s obviously the season for such things as witches and ghosts.

I write all the time, but as All Hallows Eve approaches again, I find myself pondering a new book to follow my award-winning horror novel BLOOD LAKE. Gotta be something in the air.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a horror story, too, remember the word comes from the Latin horrere, meaning to tremble or shudder. According to the Oxford English Dictionary horror means an intense feeling of fear, shock or disgust.

The best horror stories share several elements in common:

    1. They explore ‘malevolent’ or ‘wicked’ characters or deeds.
    2. They arouse feelings of fear, shock or disgust, as well as the sense of the uncanny. Things are not what they seem. There is a heightened sense of the unknown and/or mysterious.
    3. Horror stories convey intense emotion, mood, tone and environments. Together, these elements produce the sense that everything is charged with ominous possibility.
    4. They contain scary and/or shocking plot twists and story-reveals. In horror stories, ghosts and werewolves are always very, very real.
    5. They immerse readers in the macabre. Horror tends to deal with morbid situations, from repetitive cycles of violence to death-related uncanny scenarios.

So, how do you write a horror story like Stephen King?

Good question. Start with these tips:

Use a Strong, Pervasive Tone
How you describe settings, character movement and actions creates an overarching tone in all fiction. If you do it right your writing can have readers’ spines tingling before a single character has spoken, or made a terrible decision.

You can also create an ominous tone through indirect means. For instance, when objects that should be stationary move. Or when the viewpoint character is disoriented, or a peculiar character seems to materialize out of nowhere.

You should work at creating consistent mood and tone no matter what kind of fiction you want to write, but if you want to write a scary novel, your focus should be on ways you can make actions and descriptions work together to establish an uneasy atmosphere.

Give Wicked Characters Credible Motivations
When you write a horror novel, it shouldn’t read as though a malevolent force is sitting at a bus stop, waiting to infiltrate your unsuspecting characters’ world.

You need to give every malevolent character a strong, clear motivation. Revealing exactly what the motivation is can be part of the mystery that sustains your story and keeps readers guessing why unsettling things keep happening.

If there’s a malevolent force in your horror novel, make their motivation similar in magnitude to the character’s actions. Readers will scoff if the creepy doll in your novel goes on a murderous rampage simply because somebody took out its batteries.

Use the Core Elements of Tragedy
Horror is best when it’s about tragedy in its most theatrical form. Tragedy is born through character flaws, bad choices, or grave missteps. In horror stories we get scared because, as readers, we see the signs foolhardy characters don’t.

In other words, to write a credible horror novel, you must show that the horror-filled situation is dependent on a network of character choices, past or present. At its heart, horror fiction reminds us that cause-and-effect is real, even in the fantastical realm of storytelling.

Tap Into Common Human Fears
Making readers scared creates tension and increases the pace of your story. Even so, there should be a reason for making them fearful. A terrifying situation should be central to the plot, and should be driven by some cause (even if the reader can only guess what the precise cause is).

If the point of horror writing is to arouse fear, shock or disgust, think of the things of which people are most commonly afraid.

For instance, here are some of the most common fears people have. Most relate to physical and/or mortal danger, but you can also draw on other common fears, such as humiliation, inadequacy or failure.

    Fear of animals (rabid dogs, snakes, sharks)
    Fear of flying
    Fear of the dark – one of the most fundamental fears
    Fear of heights
    Fear of other people, and their often unknown intentions
    Fear of ugly or disorienting environments

Think of how common fears can be evoked in your horror fiction. A less precise fear (such as the fear of certain spaces) will let you tell the horror story you want with fewer specified must-haves.

Terror vs Horror: Learn the Difference
To learn how to write horror novels, it’s useful to understand the difference between the two. Both have their place in horror writing.

Terror describes a state of feeling. Oxford Dictionaries simply define it as ‘extreme fear’. Horror, however, also suggests elements of disgust and surprise, or shock. Thus, the word ‘horror’ describes not only extreme fear but also revulsion and a sense of surprise.

Horror writers understand the difference between terror and horror. For Stephen King, terror is a feeling the author tries to evoke in the reader, before resorting to shock tactics such as surprising them with the extreme or unpleasant.

“I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll try to gross you out. I’m not proud.”

King’s quote suggests that if you can create terror in the reader before there’s even a gross-out moment or sickly reveal in your horror novel, you’re winning.

I succeeded once with BLOOD LAKE. I’m going to try to do it again.

Are you game to try?


My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

On Saturday, October 21, 2017, I attended the Tenth Annual Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University. Once again, it was a spectacular day. I strongly encourage you to attend the next one, if you can.

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, I was invited to participate in the Books & Authors Event at the eclectic lifestyle store, Leon & Lulu, in Clawson, Michigan. There should be another one in the spring, and I hope to see you there.

As a four-year student of Monteith College, the former honors college at Wayne State University, I was invited to attend a special celebration and recognition ceremony on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, honoring Monteith’s contributions to the WSU scholarly legacy. It was an interesting night. I’m glad I went.


You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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