Tag Archives: To Kill a Mockingbird

Here’s to Dads…everywhere. Real and fictional

We live in a society that for some reason values LISTS. My Google search this lovely father’s day morning was for the BEST DADS IN LITERARY FICTION. I had upward of 20,000 links I could have clicked on to. I chose a random 1o, and from those I whittled the names down to the dads who showed up on each list. I must admit, I was impressed – but not really surprised.

1. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockinbird. I’ll admit this even though it’s embarrassing, but I don’t know a great deal about Harper Lee’s background. I don’t know if this fictional father was based on her own, someone she knew, or a total compilation of her imagination of what she wanted in a father, but Atticus Finch, for me, is it. If I could have personally ordered a dad from God, this is the man I would have selected. Calm, patient, kind, smart, fair…the descriptors could go on and on, but the aspect  of Atticus Finch that I took away from the book was his incredible sense of morality and Godliness. He not only believes all men are equal, he lives and breathes it. He walks the walk, talks the talk, and backs up when he says with his every action. This, this, is the man I would have gladly thanked God for daily, if he were my father.

2. Mr. Bennett, Pride and Prejudice. Some people describe him as a sad-sack, a man married to a harpy who disappears from the world to his solitary library whenever the pressures of his wife, daughters, and life in general get too hard for him. Well, maybe that’s true. But it can not be denied Mr. Bennett loves his daughters and simply adores his second girl Lizzy. My favorite line- hands down-he delivers to Lizzy is this, and it shows how much he truly values her not only as a daughter, but as a woman as well: “I can not believe that anyone can deserve you.”  Call him what you will, but the man loves his daughter to no end.

3. Matthew Cuthbert, Anne Of Green Gables. While not exactly, biologically her father, Matthew is the first male during Anne’s formative young life who shows her kindness, acceptance, and ultimately the unconditional love of a “father.” It’s not often you read or hear of a confirmed, lifelong bachelor, set in his ways, who has an orphan thrust upon him and learns how to be a better person for it.  As Anne tells him, they are kindred spirits who found each other among all the people in the world.

After writing this, I realized the men listed above all had daughters. (Atticus had a son as well, but the book is Scout’s.)Maybe the reason why I am not surprised these three are top rated is because I am a daughter as well, and what daughter wouldn’t want a father with all the qualities of character these men possess. To be loved unconditionally; to be valued as a person; to be treated with respect and love in equal parts; to be guided through and into life; and to know there is always, always, someone right there who will protect, love and support you, is tantamount to my thought of the perfect person.

On this day we celebrate our fathers, the men who would be dads, and the special men who are as close to being fathers as can get, take a moment and think about what your dad means or meant to you. What qualities made him the man he is(or was) and for what kind of man do you think he would like to be remembered.

And then…call him, talk to him, give him a physical or spiritual hug. But most of all, acknowledge all he has done for you, simply because you are his little girl.

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Filed under Alpha Hero, Author, Characters, Literary characters, Romance Books, Strong Women

Titles…

Someone asked me the other day how I come up with the titles to my stories and novels.  They are all different and don’t really follow a common thread. Book titles, I feel, are like your children’s names: you want them to be unique, but not so unique they become albatrosses or points of ridicule. I discovered through research  (okay, through Google!) there is an entire industry devoted just to this: how to pick the correct words to capture a reader from the get-go; the word combinations never to use in a title; the words that have the most impact on sales.

I know some writers who use song titles for their books and expound on them in the story.  I love this idea. I know another author who writes down every combination of a phrase based on what the book is about until the perfect title presents itself. I also love this idea.  Some experts say never to have more than one word or two at the most in the title so that it grabs the reader’s attention.  Long winded names can be turn offs to people glancing at the book rack in Barnes and Noble. The key, advertising executives always say, is “short, punchy, and memorable.”The original working titles for my favorite all time book, Gone With The Wind, were Tomorrow is another day and Ba! Ba! Black Sheep.

Now would GWTW have been such a mega hit if it had one of those titles? Who knows. I certainly don’t think the movie would have done as well with the sheep title, do you?

To Kill a Mockingbird was called Atticus before Harper Lee – thankfully – changed it.

And my favorite title change – more about why in a bit – was Pride and Prejudice. Austen originally called it First Impressions.

Now my titles are usually the first thing that pops into my head when I’m working a new plot through. I don’t try to be cute or fancy or erudite. I just “see” the title in my head, and that’s it for me. I’ve never had an editor or even a reader tell me the work was mis-named or would have been better suited to some other title. Maybe this is arrogant on my part, and okay, I’ll agree with that. They are, after all, MY titles. But again, just like when  you name a child, you want the title/name to be a reflection of your thought and love. You want it to be able to convey something of what the book is about when you are trying to capture a potential reader’s attention. Skater’s Waltz has two words and is actually a piece of music. There’s No place Like Home, has 5 and it’s a sentence in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. My third book, which I am thrilled to announce just went to contract, is First Impressions. See now why I like that Austen changed her title?

Titles are like names. They should be individual, coherent, and special. They should capture a reader’s attention and their desire to want to read more. Think of your favorite book titles. Do they fit in with this thought? I know mine do.

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Filed under Characters, Dialogue

The 10 Book Challenge

Recently on Facebook, I’ve seen several posts about people who have been challenged by friends and family to list 10 books that changed their lives. No one has challenged me, but I think this is a great blog topic, so here goes.

The 10 books that have had a profound impact on me during my life are – in no particular order:

1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Best book about self actualization ever written.

2. The Wizard of Oz ( Dorothy’ Adventures in Oz)  by Frank L Baum. Because there really is no place like home.

3. Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts. First Nora I ever read. This story and this writer gave me my love of romantic fiction.

4. Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  First romance with actual sex in it I ever read. Quite an education, in addition to being a great story.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Helped me focus on the goals I wanted to attain during my lifetime.

6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. In my opinion, the most perfect book ever written.

7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As a child raised in the 1960’s and 70’s, this book brought home the meaning of racial inequality like no other to me.

8.  The Oxford American Dictionary. Hello! It’s filled with WORDS!! Fabulous words!!

9. The Bible. This one needs no explanation.

10. Become a Better You by Joel Osteen. This book really did help make me a better person.

So, what are the books that have influenced you?

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Family Saga, Literary characters, Romance

Why I re-read my “how to” books

Someone who read a recent blog of mine blog asked me “why do you re-read your old writing texts and “how to” books? Didn’t you get enough out of them the first time? Did you miss important stuff? Instead of answering the question directly, I asked this instead: “Haven’t you ever read something – a book,or an article – that was just so good you read it again just for the pleasure of it?” The answer I got back was typical of most people: “No. Once I read something, that’s it. I’m done.”

A sad, but a very common occurrence among  people. Most people will see a movie more than once if they like it – this is evidenced based fact: look at how many movie DVD’s are sold each and every day, not rented. Or, they will listen to a song endlessly. But to re-read a favored book? Not happening.

I’ve read Gone with the Wind  11 times. Cover to cover. And I could read it again tomorrow if I had the time to devote to it.

I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird 8 times. I can quote descriptions and dialogue when prompted.

Last year I re-read every “In Death” book by J.D.Robb again, starting with the first one in the series, Naked in Death and finishing with the most current one Concealed in Death, straight out. I didn’t read anything else until I finished all of them. Re-reading the list in order, the way it was written, was very powerful for me.  I could see and watch how J.D.Robb grew her characters with each book, building on their personalities, using their individual backgrounds to advance the plot and the series characters themselves. It was  like taking a master class on how to develop character and plot arcs effectively. I gleamed so much valuable information and writing development wisdom from re-reading the series that has helped me enormously with my own writing.

To me, re-reading a favored book is more pleasurable than seeing a favored movie over and over again. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen The Birdcagat least two dozen times – and every time I laugh while I quote the dialogue! But to spend time to re-read a book, one that gave you such treasured hours of pleasure, one that, every time you read it, you learn something new, or find something new from, something you didn’t see before, is to me one of life’s most wonderful ways to spend a few hours.

Re-reading my writing craft books and texts brings me the same pleasure, because every time – EVERY TIME – I find something, some tidbit, some phrase of wisdom, I didn’t see when I read it the last time. And to me, that is time so valuably spent.

What’s your favorite book? When was the last time you read it? Why not get reacquainted and read it again? Believe me, you’ll be happy when you do.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, research, Romance