Timeless Tuesday: History Related to my Novel

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Photo acquired from Get Archive, LLC (public domain photos)

The above photo is a photo of the Patee (pronounced Pay-tee) House Hotel. It was a four-story, red brick building built in 1858 on the corner of South Twelfth and Penn Streets in St. Joseph, Missouri. It is believed to be the first hotel west of the Mississippi River.

In 1860, when the Pony Express began, the Patee House was the headquarters of the Pony Express.

The Patee House was also said to provide the last taste of civilization for pioneers and prospectors who were bound for the western frontier.

The hotel drew a lot of attention due to its size, and despite its elaborate appearance, its top floor was home to a sanitarium for epileptics.

Though the Patee House was the Pony Express Headquarters, I did not choose to house my Pony Express rider in the hotel for the purpose of the fictitious part of my story. However, my rider does spend some time in the Hotel on one or two occasions.

Wrong Place, Right Time by E. B. Roshan

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About the Book:
Anna Belko is a young woman living in the city of Dor. There is unrest in the city. Anna meets Boris Merkovich at a cafe called Oksana’s, when she stops for a cup of tea. A relative of Boris’s was killed but he doesn’t have time to grieve because he has to run the cafe. He nearly spills a pot of tea in Anna’s lap, and she prays for him.

Boris is deeply touched by Anna’s prayer for him and so begins a love neither of them expected.

However, stuck in a city filled with hatred, it soon becomes clear that the hatred isn’t just “outside” and Boris and Anna’s relationship is threatened.

The story, though centered around Anna and Boris, includes several other characters, including Anna’s parents and one of her brothers, whom she is close to. The story is filled with danger and troubles between the Sevian people and the Tur people.

As the violence escalates near their home, Anna’s parents decide to move to Dovni where things are not so volatile. Anna remains behind with her brother.

My Review:
The plot kept me turning pages. The characters captured and held my attention. The characters were realistic, and I cared about them and what happened to them. My heart ached for Anna and Boris as they struggled with their environment and their feelings for one another.

E.B. Roshan did an excellent job showing the difficulties of living in an area where danger and hatred are a part of everyday life. Not only did E.B. Roshan clearly show the dangers, Roshan did an excellent job expressing the thoughts and feelings of the people stuck amidst the struggles.

The story was very well written. Though it was a story about hatred and violence, the violence was not overly descriptive or gory.  It did not need to be to touch the reader’s heart and help the reader understand the setting and what was happening. I also liked how Roshan showed that hatred is a choice and no one has to allow it to consume them.

E.B. Roshan wrapped up the ending quite nicely, but even so, I was sad to finish the last page and say goodbye to these characters.

I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written story filled with struggles and different types of loving relationships.

I give this story 5 stars.

 

The Chosen Ones by Lisa Luciano

Have you ever watched the Figure Skating competitions of the Olympics? Years ago, I remember watching the likes of Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano, Katarina Witt, Elvis Stojko, Viktor Petrenko, Oksana Baiul, and Kristi Yamaguchi. And who can forget all the drama between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding? These skaters and the Kerrigan — Harding drama had me riveted to the screen.

Now, let me ask you another question: how many times did you think the judges didn’t give the skater, you thought gave the top performance, high enough scores? I know I often disagreed with scores. However, I never suspected that there was a story behind the scores.

That’s what The Chosen Ones by Lisa Luciano is about. Lisa was a sports reporter who covered Figure Skating for “The New York Times” and “International Figure Skating Magazine”. She includes four of the Figure Skating Articles she wrote for the New York Times near the end of this book.

No, this story isn’t about any of the ice skaters you may have followed on their Olympic journey. The characters and their stories in The Chosen Ones are fictional, but some of the scandalous, sometimes desperate, behaviors and corruption among judges’ scores are based on facts discovered by Lisa while she covered Figure Skating in her journalism days.

The story has a lot of characters, which, in the beginning, was a bit difficult to follow, especially as Ms. Luciano does a lot of head-hopping without page breaks, frequently jumping from one character’s head to another’s from one paragraph to the next. Therefore, it was sometimes difficult to determine whose head I was in sometimes as I was reading, and I had to back track to figure it out. However, in order to really give the reader accuracy and the actual feel of figure skating competition, I honestly don’t know how Ms. Luciano could have written a story as accurate and compelling as The Chosen Ones, with fewer characters.

Also, as I continued reading, I became accustomed to her head-hopping writing style and became very involved in the lives of the characters.

The story was full of drama and conflict. I loved some characters and disliked others, but every one of them kept me turning the pages to see where this was all going and who was going to be a winner, who would be a loser, and who would lose his life before the end of the Olympics.

The only warning I have to issue, because those of you who follow my book reviews know that I do not read books with sexually explicit scenes, is that this book has a few of such scenes, which I was not aware of when I agreed to review this book.

However, if you can skip or overlook such scenes, and have a love or fascination with Figure Skating, you will not be disappointed with this book.

Because of the trouble I had following the characters in the beginning chapters of the book and because I was disappointed to find the unexpected sexual scenes in this story, I give this story four stars.

Reviewer’s Note: I was given a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Additional Book Review Posts

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Hi Everyone. I want to make you all aware of my new addition to this blog. I have been posting Book Reviews here on my blog on Mondays. However, as I have become a much more sought after Book Reviewer, reviews won’t be posted soon enough if I don’t add another day for Book Reviews.

Therefore, from now on, Book Reviews will be posted on Sundays AND Mondays, beginning this coming Sunday — tomorrow, when my review of The Chosen Ones by Lisa Luciano will be posted. Then, for those of you who enjoy reading my Book Reviews, be sure to stop by and check out my Sunday and Monday Book Review posts every week.

Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments about Writing

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Just a reminder for any of you who may still be interested in participating in last week’s Writing Prompt, please be sure, if you have a short piece, to post it in last Thursday’s comments section. If you have a longer piece, please email it to me at: cre8tiveme07@gmail.com so that I can post it for this coming Saturday’s Special Post.

Now, for today, I’m going to talk about:
Character Back Stories

Character back stories are important for your main characters, and can also be important for a few other characters, depending on the part they play in your story.

What is back story? Back story is what happened to your character before the story you are telling. In other words, if your character is thirty years old, what happened to him in his first thirty years that played an important role in creating who he is or what flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and goals he has.

Heed this word of caution: It is important that you know your character’s complete back story. However, it is not necessary that your readers know your character’s complete back story. You need to know the back story so that you can create a well-developed character, so that you know what drives your character. What does he want?

For example: maybe your character’s father was never satisfied or happy with your character as a child and teenager, treating your character like he never did anything right. This could cause your character to have very little confidence in himself. He may believe he is unworthy of a career promotion, an award, a woman’s affections. He may fear being a father because he doesn’t want to raise a son to feel the way he feels.

These feelings could affect him in a way that makes him a loner, keeping to himself, not having friends, and not allowing himself to take an interest in any woman.

These things can create conflicts between him and other characters, in addition to the inner conflict he struggles with. For example, maybe there’s a woman who is attracted to him, tries to get his attention, and grows frustrated when it seems an impossible feat.

Another word of caution: when you do choose to share some of your character’s back story in your actual story, do it in short doses and in a way that weaves it into the story in a place where it is relevant and adds depth and meaning to the scene. It can be part of his internal thoughts, or part of dialogue he shares with another character, or an action or reaction triggered by a memory.

If you just “tell” what happened to him and “tell” it in a long paragraph or two, it will pull your reader out of the story, and it will be known as an “information dump”.

Any questions or thoughts you’d like to share in regard to character back story, please share in the comments below. If you see someone else’s question or thought, feel free to respond respectfully. And, as always, I will respond to every comment.

Timeless Tuesday

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As I mentioned before, there are quite a few horses in my upcoming novel. In the 1860s horses were a big part of daily life. They provided transportation. They carried loads, pulled wagons, carriages, and more. And, of course, horses were used by the Pony Express.

Did you know that it’s not true that a horse won’t let you mount from the right side? Mounting from the left side is just a tradition. Soldiers mounted their horses on the left side so that their swords, which they anchored over their left leg, wouldn’t harm their horse’s back.

However, it is important that a horse let its rider mount and dismount from either side, especially on the trail. On the trail, it is not unusual to encounter a rocky cliff, mud hole, or other trail hazard that may require the rider to mount or dismount from the right instead of the left.

In addition, mounting and dismounting a horse from either side will enable the horse to use the muscles on the left and right side of its spine equally. This may help prevent an injury to one side of the horse’s back.

It’s also important for a rider to listen to his horse. The sounds horses make mean something:

Nicker: If your horse makes a sound that resembles a soft tapping, with its lips closed, often with its head raised, it is saying “Hi, I’m glad to see you.”

Blowing or Snorting: If your horse is frightened by something, they will make a blowing or snorting sound. Some will also snort when they are excited.

Neighing: A neigh is a long, loud, high-pitched sound. This can mean your horse is experiencing anxiety or confidence. Also, if one horse neighs when in a group of horses out in a field or pasture, he is warning the group that he sees something unusual.

Sighing: This is a sound you’ll want to hear before you mount. The horse will usually put its head down and release a deep fluttering breath through his nostrils. This means the horse is relaxed and calm.

Keeping Creed: A Samuel Creed Novel by Shaun Holt

Keeping Creed (Samuel Creed series Book 1) by [Shaun Holt]

I won a signed copy of this book via a Twitter contest. It is not Shaun Holt’s first novel. However it is the first novel by Shaun Holt that I have read.

About the Book
In the first part of the book, Samuel Creed informs his oldest brother that he wants to enlist in the military. His oldest brother tells him he’s too smart and should do something else with his life. However, Sam’s oldest brother, Sawyer, is killed in the September 11th attacks, leaving behind a wife and a daughter. This event solidifies Sam’s determination to join the military, now with a strong desire for revenge.

The story follows Sam to Afghanistan, where he fights several combat tours, before he returns and reunites with his family. Still feeling a need to finish what he started in Afghanistan, he obtains a job with a counter-terrorism agency in Washington, D.C.

In addition, his niece introduces him to Tessa, a librarian with a love of literature.

My Review
After the initial introduction to the main characters, I felt the pace drag a little after the death of Sam’s brother. For several chapters the focus remains on September 11th and Sam’s brother’s death a little longer than I thought was necessary. However, it did not lag enough for me to put the book down.

The story’s pace picks up again when Sam gets to Afghanistan, and the pace doesn’t drag again. I found it very interesting reading about Sam’s military experience, but my favorite parts of this book are when Sam is home and spends time with Rose, his niece. Sam and Rose have a relationship that is so much fun to read. He challenges her and has deep conversations with her, and has fun with her. Their interactions are completely delightful.

When Sam meets Tessa and they begin a relationship, I find myself skipping quite a few scenes due to the fact that they are sexually explicit, and I prefer not to read sexually explicit materials. I found that skipping these scenes did not take away from the story, as there was nothing of importance to the actual plot in those scenes. (I did not know until I had won the book that there were such scenes in it. However, the author does state that fact quite clearly in the early pages, before the story begins.)

I must say that Shaun Holt is a very good storyteller. He engages the reader and his characters are well-written. Some are endearing and very likeable. Some are very interesting, and maybe a little irritating until you get to know them, just like some people in real life.

Near the end of the book, Mr. Holt included a twist that completely surprised and shocked me. I never saw it coming, and it was extremely well written.

All-in-all, I enjoyed this story and its characters and I give it 4 stars.

I have to say that I am inclined to read the next Samuel Creed Novel, when Mr. Holt releases it because I love the characters, and for me, characters are what make a story. Of course, there has to be a plot to keep things interesting, create tension, and move the story forward, but, in my opinion, without great characters, even a great plot loses something.

Mr. Holt included a bit of the upcoming Samuel Creed novel at the end of this one, and I am already intrigued.

Flash Fiction Friday: Puppy Love

Puppy Love

by Kelly F. Barr

Janie rode her bike home from school, but stopped outside the pet shop display window. In the window was a litter of eight puppies – some were black and white, some brown with white spots. Janie put her hand on the window and a black and white puppy waddled over and pressed his nose against the window across from the same spot. Janie squatted down, put her face near the window, and said, “Hi there. You are so cute!”

She parked her bike where it wouldn’t block sidewalk traffic and raced into the pet shop.

“Well, Janie. What brings you into my shop this sunny afternoon?”

“Hi Mr. Walters. I was looking at the puppies in the front window. Could I hold one of them?”

Mr. Walters smiled at her. “One of them caught your attention, huh?”

Janie bobbed her head up and down. “A little black and white one. It came right up to my hand at the window.”

Mr. Walters walked to the front window, Janie on his heels. He opened a panel and let Janie look in and point out the puppy that had caught her eye. Then he reached in, brought the pup out, and handed him to Janie.

The little ball of fluff nestled into her neck and put it’s head up and licked her chin. Janie giggled. “See, Mr. Walters, he likes me!”

“Yes he does. But Janie, a dog needs to be well taken care of. He needs to be fed twice a day. He’ll need to be trained to go to the bathroom outside. You’ll need to take him outside quite frequently until he gets bigger. And he’ll need to be taken for walks. He’ll need annual checkups at the veterinarian’s clinic too. It’s a big job to take care of a puppy.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I can do it because he’s so cute, and he’ll be my best friend.” Janie paused and wrinkled her brow.

“What is it Janie?”

“Well … first I have to buy him. How much is he?”

“He’s $200.”

Janie frowned. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Yes it is, but it’s not as much as a purebred puppy would cost.”

Janie looked up at Mr. Walters. “What kind of puppy is he?”

“He’s called a Borgi. He’s a mix between a Border Collie and a Welsh Corgi.”

“Mr. Walters, could you promise not to sell him until I can talk to my parents and, maybe, bring them to see him?”

Mr. Walters looked at the puppy, now asleep in Janie’s arms. He rubbed his chin with an index finger. “Well, usually, puppies are sold on a first come, first served basis.”

Janie’s lower lip quivered, and Mr. Walters said, “I suppose … well, you are the first one to ask about him. So, I guess I can wait until … Friday?”

A wide grin spread across Janie’s lips. “Two days? Do you mean it?”

Mr. Walters nodded. “Parents take their time to make such decisions, so, yes. But you have to give me an answer after school on Friday, okay?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Walters. Thanks!” Janie handed the puppy back to the pet shop owner, rushed out to her bike, and pedaled home.

She raced into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam behind her.

“Janie! Where’s the fire?” Her mom placed two chocolate chip cookies on a plate, then poured a glass of milk.

Janie dropped her backpack on a kitchen chair and plopped down in the chair beside it. Her mom placed the plate in front of her on the table.

“I don’t know anything about a fire, but guess what I saw at Mr. Walters’ pet shop?”

Her mother smiled. “I don’t know. What did you see?”

“Puppies! Mr. Walters has eight puppies in the front window. I stopped and put my hand on the window and one of the puppies came right up to my hand. I went in and talked to Mr. Walters. He let me hold the puppy. Do you think Dad will let me get him? Mr. Walters said he’ll hold the puppy for me until Friday.”

“Oh Janie, I don’t know. Taking care of a puppy is a big responsibility, and it costs money. Not just to buy the puppy but to feed it and buy some items you’ll need to care for it. Then there’s the annual veterinarian costs.”

“Mom, I really want this puppy. I promise I’ll take good care of him.”

“We’ll see what your father says. Now eat your cookies and drink your milk, then get that backpack up to your room.”

“Yes, Mom.”

That evening, when her father came home, Janie was setting the table for dinner. She put the stack of plates on the table and ran to greet him. She threw her arms around his waist and squeezed.

“Well, what a nice greeting.” Her dad squatted down to her level and gave her a proper hug. “It’s good to be home.”

“Did you have a good day?”

“It was okay. Why do you ask?”

“I just want to know if you’re in a good mood.”

“Uh-oh. Sounds like you’re up to something. What is it?”

“We-ll.” She told her dad about the puppy. “So, can I have him?”

“Janie…”

“I know. It’s a big responsibility. But I can do it. I promise.”

“I’ll talk to your mom about it after you’re in bed, and we’ll let you know tomorrow at dinner, okay?”

Janie nodded.

“You may have to do more chores around here too, if we decide to let you have the puppy.”

“Because it’s expensive?”

“Yes, because it’s expensive.” Her dad kissed her on the forehead.

* * * * *

The next day, Janie stopped to tell Mr. Walters she’d have an answer for him the next day.

When she got home from school, she went straight to her room to do her homework.

After a while, she heard her mother call, “Janie, please come down and set the table. Your dad will be home soon.”

Janie pounded down the stairs and hurried into the kitchen. She finished setting the table just as her father stepped through the door.

“Hi Daddy.”

“Hello pumpkin.” He bent down and kissed her cheek.

He was in a good mood. She hoped that meant she could have the puppy. She wanted to ask, but knew she needed to wait. Her parents would tell her when they were ready.

Janie pushed her food around on her plate. She couldn’t get food past the butterflies in her stomach. If her parents would just tell her, maybe she could eat her dinner.

“Janie, is something wrong with your food?”

“No mom.” Janie speared a piece of chicken and forked it into her mouth.

Her father grinned and looked at her mother. “I guess we shouldn’t hold her in suspense any longer.”

Her mother smiled and nodded.

“Janie, I’ll be leaving work early tomorrow, and your mother and I will pick you up from school. Then we’ll go to Mr. Walter’s pet shop.”

Janie’s fork clattered as it dropped onto her plate. “You mean…?”

“This puppy is going to be your responsibility, along with extra chores, which we’ll talk about later. As long as you are responsible and work hard, the puppy is yours.”

Janie got out of her chair and ran around the table to give her father a big hug. “Oh, thank you!” Then she moved to hug her mother. “Thank you!”

Janie returned to her seat and finished her dinner.

* * * * *

Friday, Janie struggled to keep her mind on her classes. She kept clock watching, wishing the hours would pass faster.

When the final bell rang, she forced herself to fast walk out of the building, but she really wanted to run. Once outside, she raced down the steps and out the walkway to her dad’s Ford F-150.

Her father drove to the pet shop, and the three of them walked in together.

Mr. Walters looked up and smiled. “Well, Janie. I’m guessing, by the smile on your face, you’re here to take home a certain little puppy.”

“I sure am, Mr. Walters.”

Mr. Walters retrieved the puppy from the front window and placed it in Janie’s arms. Then he helped them pick out the items she would need to begin life with a puppy.

“So, what are you going to name him, Janie?”

Janie looked at the puppy, then looked up at Mr. Walters. “His name is Jasper.”

Thursday writing prompt

Here is the first response to this month’s writing prompt which was posted earlier today. You can find the writing prompt post right below this post. I hope you all enjoy it, and I hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at writing something for this prompt as well.

Stine Writing

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This photo prompt comes from Kelly at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/11546674/posts/2799580154

Strolling

Through the deep woods we go strolling

Sweetly talking of love and hope

Silent ‘cept the sound of our feet

Although air is humid, we cope.

Yellow lilies bloom in the brush

Waving so softly in the wind

Love blossoms here alongside us

Happily showing there’s no end.

©2020 CBialczak Poetry

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