Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: A Reason To Hope


A Reason To Hope

A.L. Marquardt


2008 Booksurge
ISBN: 978-1-4392-1626-2


"Hope comes in an unexpected way, but not without a price."

"A Reason to Hope" is an inspiring debut novella by A.L. Marquardt, inspiring not only because of its genre, Christian Science Fiction, but also because it's one of the best indie efforts I've yet seen.

The story of a female assassin thrown from her job by a disfiguring accident leads to themes of perfection vs. misfits, sexuality, acceptance vs. condemnation, drug use, and salvation. Atypical for Christian fiction, homosexuality is portrayed as a main issue and dealt with as a question more than as a definite answer.

Pulled right into Preeah's journey with a hard yank that refuses to let go, a reader is opened to thoughts and ideas but left to come to her own conclusions. Right and wrong is pondered, but not "settled," in the vein of John Irving. "A Reason to Hope" gives us a reason to stop and think. It ends softly, giving us the feeling it is not an ending, but a beginning.

Other than a minor criticism of wanting more varying sentence structures and less use of "she" instead of the character's name (which I heard from early critiques of my work), Marquardt's prose is smooth and well-edited (a big plus for indie work), with pacing that keeps a reader well into the story.

The back cover states the author is seeking an agent for her full-length novel. I hope that happens soon, as this is an an author to watch!

** Side note: a signed copy of "A Reason to Hope" is included in the raffle below.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Raffling to Support Injured Servicemembers



My new bookmarks!

photo by LK Hunsaker
(my website is not on the front of the actual bookmarks)


  As my front page shows, I'm an affiliate of Books 4 Boots, a program helping to provide funds for family members of injured servicemembers to visit them in military hospitals, since many can't afford to do so. They also provide books to help fill their time while recovering.

I'm going to be sending along books at the beginning of the year and would like to involve any interested readers. So, I'm holding a raffle where I give the gifts to anyone participating!

Yesterday I received new bookmarks with a photo of trees over a lake and an R.L. Stevenson quote on one side with my info on the other. As I'm quite happy with how they turned out, I'm anxious to share them.

Anyone donating $1.50 to the B4B donation fund will receive 2 signed bookmarks from me.

Anyone donating $3.50 or more receives the bookmarks and is also eligible for the raffle. So far that includes:

1-- A copy of the brand new book by A.L. Marquardt, A Reason To Hope, signed by the author, with bookmark! See for info on her work.

2-- A custom made pumpkin pie candle by

3-- A printed and signed excerpt of Off The Moon by LK Hunsaker, expected to be released in fall of 2009

4-- One custom image with theme of your choice (PG-13 rated or lower only) to use on Myspace, Facebook, your site, Blogger, or wherever you like. There are a few examples here:
(I'll use my own photos and art so no copyright issues.)

If something else comes up, I'll post an update. If any of you artists out there, writers or otherwise, would like to join in, let me know!

Funds for raffle prizes do not come out of the donations!

Donations are through Paypal. Be sure to mark the amount and your mailing address. Addresses will not be shared or used for other purposes. Feel free to include a brief note of support for the troops and I'll send them all along with the donation.

Raffle ends midnight, December 31st.

In case you'd like bookmarks without donating, see my website for the address to send a SASE.

Click to pay via Paypal


Friday, December 05, 2008

I'll hold my own, thanks.



Elephants at Disney

LK Hunsaker

Pointing to the dismal economic forecast, Brown sees Obama’s success as an exception, not the beginning of a trend. "Obama was able to put together a team that could make his presence felt," Brown says of Obama’s literary and political success. "But everybody who wants to have a book published can’t put together a team like that."

Certain black authors are looking for an extra shove to the top of the publishing game. Why? Because we’ll soon have a black president who wrote a couple of books.


Um, hasn’t pretty much every president put out a book or two either before or after his service? Why is this getting made into a "hey, maybe we can get extra help now" issue? I do realize not all black authors would lower themselves to seek extra assistance because of their race. I believe most would not.

I’m left wondering why those spouting this sentiment think they need extra help. I don’t get extra help. Heck, I get no help other than from a few loyal family members and good friends. And I’m an indie. Shouldn’t I be able to ... oh, I don’t know, apply for a government grant to fund my writing since I’m an underdog in the publishing world?

No thank you. If I get there, I want it to be on my own merits, on my own hard work and time. Do these authors not see how they are debasing themselves? Why do they need extra help when none of the rest of us get it (other than celebs and politicians, who are pretty much the same as celebs these days). I walk into a bookstore and see a whole separate rack for African American authors, making their books much more visible than most of the other books in the store.

Wait. If we want actual equality, shouldn’t things actually be equal? All we’re doing is telling a certain group that they need extra assistance because they happen to be of a certain race. That’s so extremely degrading to them.

If Obama has taught us anything, it would be that blacks certainly don’t need an extra hand up. Heavens, they can become president if they work at it (and have that certain ’team’ that all politicians have to have to get anywhere).

Several members of a writing group and I were talking about this issue before the article came out. One of the white ladies mentioned the guilt she carries for her ancestor’s actions. Another said no way did she feel guilty because she did nothing to anyone else. I have to agree with the latter. None of us should have to take on guilt for something we didn’t do. If someone’s father or grandfather goes to prison for murder, we don’t convict his whole family.

My ancestors are Christian northerners who fought to end inequality based on race. Of course, one of my ancestors also worked for Al Capone and I would imagine several of my ancestors from Sicily could very well have been mafia. Does that make me part of the mafia? Not hardly. I’ve never in my life caused physical harm to another human on purpose. Many of my ancestors were Scots-Irish, the ones treated like non-humans when they came to America. Should I push for extra help based on the fact McCain has Celtic ancestry and ran for president and ... doesn’t he have a book out also? (not sure on that one)

No. I don’t want extra help. (Good thing since that won’t happen!) I don’t want anyone telling me I need extra help because I can’t do it on my own. I won’t allow anyone to degrade me that way. I won’t be looking for grants for women or for indies or for any other separatist type thing. I’m not afraid of the competition with everyone else of all genders and races and creeds. I can hold my own. So can anyone else in America if they’ll stand up and do it.

It’s a very unhealthy thing, this white guilt attitude that’s going around. It’s bad for our children to think they are innately evil and need their hands slapped for what happened in the past. And yet, that trend is being propagated. White kids in inner cities try hard to act "black" so they can be "cool" and try to alleviate their guilt at being white. Very sad. Our children, any of them, should have guilt only for things they have done personally, and only to the extent they become responsible for their actions. They should never have to be responsible for the actions of people many years ago. It is unhealthy. And we wonder why so many of them are becoming such unhappy people.

Do we not realize that there were black slave owners in America? Or that many of the slaves sent over here were sold by black slave traders? Do our children hear this in their history books, also? I don't think so. I didn't.

Do we not remember that there were Native Americans who sided with the whites against other Native Americans to help decimate the tribes? Do we not look back and see that slavery and injustice toward certain groups has gone on from the beginning of time? It didn't start here, by any means. It started to end here. Maybe that's what we should be focusing on. (more of that in another blog)

Equality will only happen when we stop giving extra help to those who are really quite capable of standing on their own.

One of my writer group friends is white and has black and bi-racial grandchildren. It makes her and their parents furious to think that anyone sees them in such a low value that they need special help. They refuse to allow it or to let their children think they do. Those kids will do well and go far.

While we’re at it, let’s abolish the "ethnic" genre. It’s separatist, based only on race. But think about this ... we are all ethnic. Every one of us. So what? Let’s stop making an issue of the whole thing and really start moving ahead.

Authors, if you want a hand up in publishing, look for it at the ends of your arms.


People weren’t talking about Barack Obama’s own books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, which both sold over 100,000 copies in less than one week after the election. No, the Obama effect that many authors of color, myself included, are hoping for is much more personal. Bernice McFadden, the award-winning author of Sugar and This Bitter Earth, posed the simple question on her blog: "Will a black president help me, a black writer?"
(link above)


Friday, November 28, 2008

Shopping from home today?


I pulled my tired, reluctant body out of bed first thing this morning for Black Friday. No, I didn't go shop. I dropped my daughter off at work. Retail. Poor baby.

She does well with craziness. Me? Not so much. I'm shopping from home today.

For anyone else shopping from home, I have a Black Friday special going on! For each book sold through my website store today, November 28, 2008, I will donate $1.00 to Books for Boots []. Along with each book will be a $1.00 gift certificate for any future purchase from my store. Use it yourself or pass it along to a friend. All books also come with a signed bookmark -- if you want one signed for a friend, also, let me know while you're ordering.

My newest book is still currently at preorder price since I've been unable to do the intended 'grand opening' promo for its release, so you get preorder price, a $1.00 gift certificate, and the donation goes to help family members of injured service members visit them in military hospitals.

For every 5 books sold, I'll also send along a book for the service members to help fill their recovery time.

my store:

[fine print: the special combination price for the 2 first books of Rehearsal count as one book sale]

Happy Shopping! While you're at, check out the other participating authors.  Books make great Christmas gifts! 


Saturday, October 11, 2008









What is it about pirates that intrigues us so? Is it because they do things their own way, going against the bandwagon? Is it because they don't settle, instead wandering from place to place having adventures often viewed as glorious, although maybe on the gory side of glorious? Maybe it's their willingness to get dirty and not mind. ;-)

As anyone who has been reading my ramblings very long knows, I'm a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and not only because of Mr. Depp looking so adorable in his pirate garb and with his graceful swaggering. It is funny, though, that before the movies, the mention of "pirate" made me roll my eyes. I don't like the skull and crossbones symbol that now graces all children and teen clothing. It's rather a dark, depressing image, and I tend to shy away from that. And of course we know the horrific stories of murder and rape and plunder. Pirate was not something I had any interest in considering.

One thing I really like about the movies, though, is they made me think. They aren't simply entertainment. They are historical, dealing with issues such as the East India Trading Company, and ethics, and moral code, and blurring the lines between who is "right" and who is "wrong" depending on the situation and particular viewpoint. It shows that although an action might look completely self-serving and impractical, there may be undercurrents behind the action that turn out opposite of that, benefiting the many instead of the one (sorry, Star Trek flashback).

In a previous post, I compared pirates to indies (minus the gore other than for horror writers, of course). I see them as much the same. The pirates came into being when their countries' ruling authority began to make it impossible for them to work, other than as minions. The authorities overtaxed them, added tons of restrictions, and ran them out of business until the only option left was to take it on the run (REO flashback) and work illegally. Either that, or give in to a too highly controlled government which continued to make its populace weaker and poorer while stuffing its own coffers.

Today's indies are doing much the same. It started largely with music and bands that decided to forego labels that restricted what kinds of music would be allowed for sale and recorded on their own. The punk era was heavily responsible, and although punk isn't my style of music, I applaud their efforts to say, "Hey, we're artists and won't have our hands tied by you guys in suits telling us what YOU want to hear." They didn't get huge sales like mainstream music, but then, without wide mainstream media coverage, which only the big companies can afford, you don't get huge sales. Sales are much more about promotion than about genre or quality. Still, they are now firmly entrenched in our music history. And they opened the door for other indie musicians. You find them everywhere now, some moderately successful, other very successful. With the internet and outlets such as Myspace that provide free promo, indie musicians have the capability, after decades of struggling against the stigma, to completely support themselves.

I applaud every one of them doing so. I have nothing against mainstream music and I buy a fair share of it, but I'm spending more time finding indie music I like and supporting them.

Now we have a bunch of writers following in their footsteps. Like the music industry, the publishing industry is controlling what genres get published, who gets promoted, and setting advances and royalties on a scale where the publisher makes more than the author (at least in many cases). Heck, even Amazon makes a fair amount more on each book sale than an author makes on it.

[for those who haven't heard of the Amazon controversy: ]

Bestseller lists are also manipulated. Why does every store in America have to wait to put out a book on its exact release date and not 2 hours before? It doesn't actually matter if one reader gets it two hours before another reader. They do it for bestseller lists. If a particular book sells the best on one day, which is most easy to control upon its release, it's marked as the #1 bestseller. They know about buying schedules and what day is most likely to provide the most sales and they work with that. They also know that the more the public hears about a book everywhere it turns, the more it will sell. How well the book is written is besides the point.

Of course, they also accept only manuscripts that will fit in their "high sales" brackets. Where does that leave the rest of us who don't write within that particular niche?

We're becoming the indies. We're standing up and saying, "You can't tell us we can't share our work just because it doesn't fit your model." Luckily, this is getting much easier for us to do, with a plethora of options. Unfortunately, the ease of it leads to a reader having to filter through a ton of books that weren't ready to put out to find the ones that were. *shrug* We have to do the same with music, whether or not it's indie, and with traditionally published books that also may not be good quality.

The stigma for indie authors is now what it used to be for indie musicians. I'm an indie. I've had plenty of doubts about whether I was hurting myself by refusing to join the mainstream. At times, I've nearly at least partially given in. But I've changed my mind about pirates (not about the gory parts). Sometimes we have to stand up to the authorities and say we won't be held back and be denied our right to work in our field in our own way, or be willing to accept everyone else making more from us than we make ourselves. We don't have to accept it. We have a fight on our hands, but we're making history.

"I don't make movies because I think audiences will want to go see them."

"And usually the studios they don't want you to have credit for your movies because they want to take credit for the movies because if you get credit for your movies they've got to pay you more."

"I like to make pictures about people who make a difference."

"Because you can't do anything halfway, you've got to go all the way in anything you do."

Jerry Bruckheimer

Thursday, September 11, 2008

3 hours and 7 miles



Cross at Ground Zero
New York, NY
©LK Hunsaker



Three hours
sitting outside Washington D.C.
trying to get 7 miles down the road.

Three hours
to sit and reflect and to wonder
if it would be the last 3 hours.

Seven miles
from where the Pentagon smoldered
7 miles from my daughter's school, to home.

Would it be safer on the road
in between there and home
than at home, on the military base
just outside D.C.?

Did we pack up and get out
as soon as we could get there?
Would it matter?

My husband couldn't.
His job was there. Many would be released, I supposed,
allowed to leave and excused for it.
We've never had that option.
At least, not all together.

When the hurricane was due to hit our coastal town,
we stayed, although ordered to go.
Why? Why the risk?
He couldn't go.
His job was to stay. So we stayed, taped, prayed...
and breathed again as it passed.

So we would stay.
That was our life.
We stayed, when others ran.

Separated even then, during those three hours,
he was at work, in Florida supporting the mission.
The cell phone was on, waiting...
Nothing. Only three hours of waiting,
nudging forward, stopping for eternity,
considering ditching the car
and walking.

A child sick in the back seat
and a looming sense of right and wrong
told me we weren't ditching anything.
We were waiting.

And praying
for all those also wondering
and waiting
for the call.

Faces in cars surrounding us
showed fear, distress, sadness
I had small kids.
Fear had to stay smothered. As though they couldn't tell.

Nothing new for us.
Fear was a part of life, the not knowing,
the separations, the moving to unknown places...
it was always there
We learned to manage it.

this was something beyond
what we ever could have believed we would have to manage.

It changed US that day,
some of US forever,
some for a short time as memories faded.

It is now part of who I am...
that 3 hours on the road
the lingering wondering whether to pack and go
wondering if we were still whole
as a family
as a nation.

I won't forget.
I won't forget the three hours.
I won't forget the phone call saying the return flight was delayed,
but still coming.
I won't forget the images we all were given.
I won't forget the image of the military spouse who came in
a few days later, picking up a layaway her husband put in for her...
before he was lost in the Pentagon.
She was going home. Never the same.

I won't forget our temporary pride and quest of justice,
for healing.
With some of US it wasn't temporary.
Some of US know why we're where we are.
We saw too much. We lost too much.
We don't want to go there

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Raffle Day..



Rehearsal: The Highest Aim
LK Hunsaker

ISBN: 0-7414-4887-4
Infinity Publishing 2008


Susie, Evan, and Duncan lead Raucous, a Seventies rock band, through rising popularity. Secrets are revealed, new additions come along, and the friends must redefine themselves within new roles.


Through today, get the newest release at the discounted pre-release price of $20, which includes shipping and is personally signed. Tomorrow, the price goes up a bit.

Also, sign up for the newsletter by 9pm Eastern US to qualify for book-themed raffle prizes!

I'll be in and out of here today, as well as on my Myspace and message board if anyone wants to chat or has questions about my work. :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Romance Is NOT A Bad Word!







Couple at Sunset
©LK Hunsaker 2007


Maybe it is nowadays.

I posted last night on a romance list about people turning suddenly away at my book signing yesterday when they heard the word "romance," as though I was a leper. I wanted to know if others had the same experience. Turns out they have. And fortunately, their potential readers sometimes explained why they were turning away. It seems a majority of current novels entitled "romance" are much too graphic for many readers. They have found it so often, they refuse to buy romance from new authors, instead scouring garage sales for older romances that are safer.

Is anyone really surprised? We can't go anywhere without sex slammed in our faces. We promote contraceptive use for teenagers and balk at any mention of maybe ... uh, NOT having sex. Heaven forbid teenagers/young people actually abstain until they find a deeply involved committed relationship. We can't have that. And we apparently can't have romance that doesn't include graphic sexual acts.

I had a friend fuss about the first book of Rehearsal because ... (no spoilers here) well, sometimes sex doesn't need to happen and sometimes it didn't when it could have. Enough said at the moment. Several others, however, sent reviews applauding the moral character of the story, how refreshing it was. (Don't get the wrong idea.. it's not preachy, it's emotionally explorative.)

What is wrong with us if we can't have a relationship without sex? If we can't have romance without sex? If we can't teach our young people it's quite okay not to have sex before they're emotionally ready?

Why should I feel like an outcast if I want to read romance novels without graphic scenes? You know how hard it is to find recently? Apparently, readers do. Apparently, there is a large population of readers out there who do want romance without verbal graphics. Who want story and characterization and care about how something is written. Why should the ultra-liberal idea of sex any time anywhere with anyone force us all to read about it or have it shoved in our faces? Like anything, the smallest, most vocal group expressing their own freedoms is infecting all of us.

Yes, there can be romance without explicit scenes. If you want the full details, fine and dandy. It doesn't mean we should all have to have it. And, if you want that, don't bother with my work. You won't ever find it there.

Sometimes, romance is actual romance. It does not equal sex. Maybe those writing graphic romance should have to call it erotica instead of romance and help the rest of us not be shunned by those who don't want that.


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Friday, August 29, 2008

Join the Celebration and Win the Newest Book!



From the cover of
Rehearsal: The Highest Aim

©LK Hunsaker 2008
Use only intact with text, & credit to
Email to let me know where you're using it:
info @ (no spaces)


On September 4th, I'm having a double celebration. First, for the release of Rehearsal: The Highest Aim and also ... uh, for my birthday. Why not? This is a party for which you don't bring gifts. I'm supplying gifts.

I've been teaming up with other artists and plan to have some cool things to give away. The list so far includes:

-- a copy of Rehearsal: The Highest Aim signed not only by me, but also by the members of Adam's Attic, the band that graciously allowed me use of their lyrics as the music epilogue. [ ]

-- custom made candles and soaps (soy based, non-allergenic) matching the themes of both Finishing Touches and the Rehearsal series by

-- printed and signed copies of the short story "The Water's Touch" that features Duncan O'Neil from Rehearsal.

-- [still in the works, but hopefully a CD or 2 or 3 signed by the artist(s) -- watch my Myspace for updates: -- blog open to public, no account necessary]

To be eligible for the raffle, you have to be signed up for my newsletter by 9 pm US Eastern time on September 4th. I'll use virtual dice to pick a number and count in order of sign-ups. If you're not already subscribed, go to Emails are never shared or used for other purposes. The newsletter comes out every month or two as needed. Make sure to set your spam filter to allow it! 

Also on the 4th, I'll be in and out of Myspace for a Q/A session, as well as on my Message Board if anyone wants to chat: [ ] password to post is raucous (I'll likely disable the password that day). There will be scheduled live chat times posted on the board, as well.

Anyone attending can request free signed bookmarks.

To find info on the Rehearsal series, check the new opening page:

Feel free to pass this announcement along to other readers. For those unfamiliar with my work, I write mainstream romance, written for adults but safe for 14/15+ unless otherwise marked on my site. The rating will never go beyond 18+ (for language and adult situations, nothing explicit).

Hope to see you on the 4th! Post here or send a message with questions.

For anyone in the western PA/eastern OH area, I'll also be at Creative Gifts & More in the Shenango Valley Mall, Hermitage PA tomorrow (Saturday, Aug 30) for a book signing from 1:00 to 4:00. As I just received my order of  The Highest Aim, I'll be signing all three novels.

LK Hunsaker


Sunday, August 24, 2008

hitting ground



"To leap is not only to leap, it is to hit the ground somewhere."
Elizabeth Bowen

Bird In Flight
©LK Hunsaker 2008


Have you ever forgotten something you did, something major, that bugs you endlessly when reminded that you did it?

I joined Facebook recently and found two of my favorite college friends. One of them asked if I had gone to a Michael W. Smith concert with them. At the question, my mind said, "Oh. Wait. I remember talking about going. Did I go?" I had to admit to him that I don't remember if I went or if I only talked about going. I have no idea. He likely thinks I'm a nut case.

Should I admit it gets worse? A while back my little sis was talking about how I took her to see REO Speedwagon when we were teens for her birthday. I looked at her and said, "I did what?" She gave me that "are you losing it?" look and reminded me it was a surprise and I wouldn't tell her where we were going until she figured it out on the way there. Oh. Wait. I do kind of remember that part of it. I remember chatting with her in the car on the way there. I don't, for anything, remember being AT the concert. She said it was a great concert. I'm sure it was. Why is it completely lost from my memory?

I remember vividly seeing Kenny Rogers three times, and Sawyer Brown when they first came out and I insisted they were going to be big. I remember John Cougar and the Go Gos. Don Williams who was with Kenny and Sawyer Brown. I saw Petra with a church group. I remember the Swan Lake ballet Mom took my older sis and I to see. I remember seeing Dracula on stage for a college class. I don't remember seeing REO. I sure wish I did. I've always liked them.

I went through a very long dry spell when I was unable to attend concerts, due to kids and such, but I can't imagine ever forgetting that I saw Meatloaf or Paul McCartney, or Elton John, or the 3 Duncan Faure shows. I imagine I won't even forget Avril Lavigne although is was pretty unmemorable and only for my daughter.

Where did that memory go? Why did it vanish? (no, I will guarantee no illegal substances were involved)  Did I go to the Michael W. Smith concert? *shrug* Maybe.

It makes you wonder what else you've done you don't know you've done. Where's the Ginsana?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review: Asking For Murder


Asking For Murder

Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN: 978-0-425-22331-4

Taughannock Falls, NY   --LK Hunsaker 2005


“People who aren’t in our profession don’t like to hear that their shrinks might have these thoughts – especially about them.”

In “Asking For Murder,” Roberta Isleib crosses a line or two: she makes therapists sound human, and she reveals that “shrinks” don’t always have all the answers. I’m all for crossing lines, especially when doing so open doors into formerly private worlds and aids in understanding.

Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a clinical psychologist, finds her best friend who happens to be a social worker specializing in sand therapy beaten and close to death in her own home. Rebecca, as a sideline to her therapy, has already come to the local police agency’s attention as an amateur private detective without credentials. To their consternation, and while raising eyebrows from the rest of the local therapy world, she refuses to let the police handle the case alone. Oh, it should be mentioned that Rebecca is also secretly an advice columnist.

In a story full of twists, including the therapist dealing with her own family-related issues and failing relationships, Rebecca is not what “people who aren’t in our profession” would expect from a clinical psychologist. She is human – fallibly and laughingly human while jumping to conclusions, searching everywhere she looks for possible suspects, admitting she doesn’t have a clue about what a sand scene could mean or even what sand therapy is all about, and ignoring advice she would give clients when it comes to her own affairs of the heart. She is a delightful character, full of energy and ambition with a charming mix of arrogance and insecurity, and leads the search for a killer through routes we can’t guess, up until the time of revelation.

In the midst of the story, we get to peak into the world of a therapist, inclusive of professional conundrums and defined disorders. We also get a look at a therapy technique the public has often never heard of: sand tray. While I would have liked to see the definitions of sandplay versus sand tray more differentiated, I enjoyed Isleib’s inclusion of sand tray and her way of handling this branch of the art therapies.

An admission: I don’t read mysteries. However, if more were like this one, I would be searching them out. “Asking For Murder” does open a door – to a large audience, including those in the psychology field, those not in the field who may want a closer look, to romance readers interested in something different, to readers looking for a light weekend or beach read, and to anyone who enjoys spunky fallible female lead characters. If you don’t read mystery, try it anyway. I finished the novel thinking I would have to go back and catch up on more of Dr. Butterman’s adventures in Isleib’s Advice Column Mysteries.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Writer's Voice


"Writers aren't exactly people ... they're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person."

F. Scott Fitzgerald



I'm pulling a comment from the 'fact in fiction' entry for this one. TC mentioned a writer's voice and that an editor said his writing sounds like him as he speaks.

I've seen a lot of writers saying they need to "find" their voice for their work. Do we? I guess I never worried about it. I always expected my characters to simply speak as who they are, since I write in close third person POV, and I try to give them their own voices. I never thought about what part of it was my voice. And then someone who knows me well said when she reads my work, it's like I'm sitting there telling a story because she hears me in it.

I would guess that's my voice. *shrug* It's just there and it comes out unintentionally. I've also been told I say things in funny ways when I talk and sometimes others don't quite get it or have to stop and figure it out. I was quite taken aback by that one. I know how to use English, after all! I actually use it properly most  of the time. My husband said that was the issue ... I talk like a writer, not like a regular person.

If I write the way I talk and vice versa, I suppose that's my voice and my writer's voice and they're both the same. I wonder now if other writers think there are two different voices -- the natural voice we use without thinking about and a separate voice we use purposely for writing. Are there more voices down there trying to get out? Or is there only one?


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Review: The Wolf's Torment by S.G. Cardin


ISBN: 978-0595417339
370 pages


Let me start by saying I’m not generally a paranormal reader. In fact, this was the first paranormal I can remember reading. I do like historicals and romantic stories, however, so I stretched my wings an extent and gave “The Wolf’s Torment” a try. The combination of historical paranormal romance was intriguing.

Cardin has put extensive research into the development of the story and interweaves it easily into the narrative. We get brief bits of history here and there when appropriate, enough to flavor the book and add to our knowledge of Romania. It’s enough to lead us to our own research if we decide, but not enough to distract from the storytelling.

Other than minor things such as some extra repetition and a certain word used more often than necessary, at least for my own taste, Cardin has done a nice job with weaving meticulous detail into a romantic story in which we feel we have a personal stake. I would like to have seen more of Viktor before the event that causes his change of paths, as he is the most interesting character in the novel and I think he had much more to tell us. I didn’t make much of a connection with Mihai or Theresa as they were both playing parts – but then, maybe that was the point.

What I did really enjoy was considering the struggle between Mihai holding his personal values and trying to bend to adjust to loved ones. The story lets us make our own decision about which he should do even while it is unfolding. Also, we are led to consider what is meant by strength and weakness, and what is love and what is only the disguise of love. There is much to ponder and I found myself thinking of the story even when not reading it. The end is not an end, but a pause, letting us know there is more to this tale in the making. I’m interested in knowing where it will go.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stories Behind the Books -1- fact in fiction



"The first problem of the media is posed by what does not get translated, or even published in the dominant political languages."
Jacques Derrida


One of the themes in Rehearsal: The Highest Aim is how facts behind stories we hear are often untrue, especially in public roles such as politicians and entertainers. The series and sequel expand on this point because it is something I believe strongly that we should consider.

At my book signing on Friday night, I met another writer who mentioned a deconstructionist theory relating how fiction is never fiction. He couldn't remember the theorist's name and my only thought is Jacques Derrida, possibly, but anyway ... I had to agree. There is generally more truth in fiction than there is in non-fiction. Do any of us still trust what we read from "true stories" in the media? I take all of it with a huge grain of salt.

On the other hand, there are myriads of truth behind any mainstream fiction novel. I think he was wondering how much of my work was truth disguised as fiction. Honestly, all of it comes from reality. That's what mainstream/literary fiction is -- the realities of life gathered into story format. Are any of the characters people I know? Nope. I have borrowed names as a form of honoring some people I know and/or respect, but the names are only that -- names, not the people themselves. Many are quite opposite of their namesakes. Some have a few similarities, but only when that works for the story. They are all bits and pieces of people I have known as well as strangers I've studied here and there, and ideas that represent what I want to say.

The first of the Rehearsal series, A Different Drummer, introduces readers to who the characters are in reality -- their dreams, hopes, fears, personalities, likes and dislikes, needs and desires. The Highest Aim moves toward their more public lives, beginning the contrast between reality and fantasy/hearsay. This was the crux of what started the series. I knew there was a difference. Even back as a teenager following favorite bands, I know what we saw wasn't the truth.

The thing about hearsay is that it multiplies and intensifies, often in destructive ways.

Friday, August 01, 2008



"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it."
William Styron

photo: Nessie at the Caledonian Canal
©LK Hunsaker - All Rights Reserved

I have recently been looking at definitions of genres. I'm switching mine, at least what I call it. The term  "literary" scares readers, many of them. And it sounds a bit pretentious, I suppose. What I do is more mainstream than literary, by definition ... but then, it depends which definition you read. They vary.

One site equaled mainstream novels to "blockbuster" fiction. Hm.

Mainstream, to me, equals "all of the rest of us" -- meaning, all of us not easily categorized and making lots of noise as to "what" we are. Genre fiction is like the term "Republican" or "Democrat" or "Activist" or "Hippie" or "Goth" or "Emo" or "Prep" or "Shy" or "Outgoing" or any other term that defines narrowly. Genre fiction is romance that has a basic plot with a happy ending. It's a mystery that is solved at the end. It's a horror that has more fear than understanding. Society's versions of genre fiction are the activists who yell to have no drilling of oil in our country, the goths who see everything as black and negative, the hippies who think no weapons is the only answer, the republicans who are all white and wealthy business people, the democrats who live in city apartments and fight for underdogs.

The problem with genres is that they are limited. They are important. They pick up the basic issues and expand on it. They choose an aspect and dig deeply into that one aspect. But, they are limited. There is always so much to the story that remains unseen.

They get the most attention. Those following labels and staying within the realm of their chosen aspect are louder, better seen, more vocal. But there is more.

Mainstream: all the rest of us who don't fit neatly.

We're the moderates. We're part shy and part outgoing. We're part prep and part emo. We don't focus enough on one thing that everything else is lost. We wander. We meander into different genres, using parts of several, expanding into other things, other paths, smelling the daisies along the highway, going to small-town parades just to hear the band. We have many interests and if you stick with us long enough, you're bound to enjoy the ride.

We're the backbone of fiction (Irving, Robinson, Hemingway) pointing out true life in all its shades. We're also the backbone of society, blending the genres, making little noise and pulling little attention, but standing stalwart and steady.

We're Mainstream -- in the middle of everything. We're opposite of Blockbuster, although some of us do stand out now and then. We aren't looking for quick and easy and get-rich-quick. We focus on the art of it, the gritty, unglamorous work of it. And we may be fairly silent, but we won't be silenced.

We have things to say. Listen closely and "see the wood through all the trees..."

["see the wood" lyrics quote from Steadman: Come Alive ©2000]

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rehearsal: The Highest Aim -- preorders!










   Infinity Publishing 2008

With rising fame comes rising tensions and decisions that build relationships or destroy them.

Susie, Duncan, and Evan lead Raucous through the music world jungle heading toward the top. Along the way, family secrets are revealed and new additions come along, and the friends must redefine themselves within their new roles. While making sacrifices and reconsidering relationships, they’ll have to choose between clinging to their current worlds and letting go to explore new possibilities.

The Highest Aim is the second in a series of four.


Now available as a pre-order through:
for a discounted price. Discount ends when the book is released. Expected date is the end of July.

Find the first book of the series, with reader reviews, excerpt, & trailer  here:

from the publisher (also with reader reviews):

(warning: this is a bit of a spoiler for Rehearsal: A Different Drummer)

28 July 1974

Grabbing an amp from the storage compartment beneath the rumbling bus, Evan straightened and jerked sideways enough for his guitar case to return to hanging over his back. Susie chastised him for overdoing the load, her eyes still sparkling from the excitement of the proposal. He assured her he was fine in the gentle tone he used only for her. Engaged. She was getting married. Evan couldn’t quite let it register in his brain and tried to let the strain of his muscles distract him from the strain of his thoughts.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Or maybe it was, as happy as Duncan made her. Still, it left Evan drifting in the confusion of losing his life-long expectations.

His mom echoed Susie’s protest about carrying too much at once. It irritated Evan in a way Susie hadn’t. With a polite glance to say he heard her, he pushed on toward the apartment building, through night’s darkness and a cool breeze slapping his face. Janet held the door, mentioning how she enjoyed the lavender scent in front of the apartment building. Evan never cared for the herb before Susie planted it the previous spring, before he noticed how she loved it. Last year, they often sat on the steps to talk, enjoying the Massachusetts summer evenings, the freshness of nature, and each other. They hadn’t needed anything else.

He didn’t answer Janet, not wanting his girlfriend’s thoughts to invade his memories.

Voices swirled around the hallway and followed him into the basement while the band unloaded their equipment. Despite it being nearly one in the morning, they were all still talkative. Stu especially wouldn’t quit. He kept discussing the wedding, teasing Susie and Duncan about whether they would at least be engaged as long as they had dated. Janet countered with the necessity of waiting longer than that; four months wasn’t enough time to plan a wedding.

Unloading the amp onto the floor against the wall, Evan turned to see Duncan grimace while setting part of the drum set down. His ribs weren’t healed from the attempted mugging enough to carry much of anything yet. Wondering how Duncan got past his girlfriend … fiancée … in order to do so, Evan glanced around the basement. He didn’t see her. Amazing. He expected her to be glued to his side until they parted for the night.

Evan stopped him. “If Susie had seen the pain in your face I just did, she’d be all over you.”

“So do no’ tell her.” Duncan threw a grin.

“Deal, but only if you stop now. You can’t heal that way.”


“I’m not backing down on this one.” Evan watched his friend’s face. There was a trace of wanting to tell him to back the hell off, as Duncan normally would, but mostly it was calm, relenting.

“So y’ are no’ pissed at me?”

“About what? You think I didn’t know you would push yourself too fast? How long have we known each other?”

“That is no’ what I meant. Y’ have no’ said anything about it yet, other than in front of everyone.” He looked over at voices in the distance, and returned the gaze. “Should I ‘ave told y’ I was going t’ propose?”

“Why would you need to tell me first?”

“Because she is closer t’ you than to anyone else. I did talk t’ her dad, but maybe I should ‘ave said something t’ you.”

“You asked John’s permission?” Evan couldn’t hide his surprise. No one did that anymore. Or maybe they did in Scotland? In 1974? Evan rather doubted it was the norm there, either.

“His opinion matters t’ her. I wanted t’ know it would no’ cause more trouble.”

“Who are you?” Evan grinned at his friend’s raised eyebrow. “I don’t mean that as an insult. But I’ve been so focused on how Susie has changed that I think I’ve missed something. Since when do you ask permission to do anything?”

Duncan looked across the room when Susie’s laughter cut through other voices, studying her a moment as she stood talking with Kate and Alison. “Y’ know I am lucky she will have anything t’ do with me. I do no’ know why she does or why she accepted, but I do not want t’ screw things up now.”

“Lucky?” Evan shook his head. “You’re good for her.” Despite himself, he had to admit it. “Duncan, if you had asked me, I would have told you I have never in my life seen her as happy as she is now. People screw up. Hell, I screw up all the time and she hasn’t walked away from me yet.” Evan glanced over and caught her eyes; she knew they were talking about her.

Commotion caught his attention – Stu trying to carry too much at once. Setting a hand on Duncan’s shoulder, he knew he had to say more. “You don’t need my approval, but you have it. I meant my congratulations sincerely.”

“Then y’ will stand up with me? Be my best man?”

Duncan’s best man, while he married the love of Evan’s life. Something was rather unjust about the idea. “You’ve been planning this for a while?”

“Since the day she said she was in love with me. I only waited t’ be legal so I knew I would no’ be makin’ her choose between me and her home.”

Making her choose. Except she already had. Susie would choose Duncan over anything, or anyone. Evan stifled his thoughts. “I would be honored to stand up with you.”

Accepting a handshake and thanks, he went to help Stu and to finish unloading. Walking past Susie, he paused to mention her fiancé was having a hard time not letting himself carry equipment, knowing full well Duncan had followed and was listening.

“Oh? Well, I think he’s not going to.” She smiled at Evan and set a hand on Duncan’s stomach, her other arm wrapping around his back. “I’m still in charge.”

Duncan raised an eyebrow. “Are y’ now?”

She kissed him.

Evan continued toward Stu.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Who Says Authors Are So Smart?








A quote by a best selling author:

"I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got, the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s, it’s not as bright. So, that’s my little commercial for that."

Before revealing the author, if you don't know already, I have to comment on the quote. There are so many things wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to start.

First, the most obvious: the Army is NOT full of the uneducated/illiterate. Trust me on this. I know LOTS of them. And, being in the Army (or any other military branch) does NOT mean you can’t or won’t read! This author is largely supported by the military, in fact, since his books are one of the staples of their free time while living in tents in the desert away from their loved ones. That’s much of what they do: they read. Tons of books are shipped over to help fill their downtime when they get it and to help them escape from where they are. Books are highly requested items.

Second, people do not join the military, especially nowadays when they know they’ll be going overseas, just because they can’t get anything else. Not true. They sign up because they have the brains to know how important it is to support your country and because they have the guts to do it. (I’m quite sure that author wouldn’t make it in the Army. He would never even get through boot camp.) Many of them actually sign up in order to help pay for college because they are bright and determined to make something of their lives and are willing to work hard for that college money instead of sitting around asking for free government handouts. Very bright, indeed. Top of the line Americans.

Third, even besides the military viewpoint, what makes him think he has the right to degrade those who are not good at reading/language? Seriously, does he think that’s the only sign of intelligence? It isn’t. We all have our strong points, but being better at one thing as compared to another does not make that group smarter. Not at all. Some of us are good at language, others good at science or math, others can build anything you need built and learn how to use any tool/machine someone can create. Is one more important or does it put those people above others? No.

I have very good language skills, I’m a good editor, and I’ve been told I have a way with words. But give me something to build from scratch and ... you better stay out of the building because it’s not likely to stand. And don’t try to ask me how tall or long something is unless you give me a ruler. Mechanics? Forget it? I can’t grasp the concept. So, between me and the person who can measure in his head and build houses from ground up or rebuild an engine and make it run better than before, which of us is the more intelligent? Can’t tell? Neither can I.

A good command of language does not make you smarter than anyone else. I know authors who really aren’t all that smart, which apparently includes the author of that quote.We, as authors, are part of the entertainment industry, as much as I hate to admit it. The entertainment industry as a whole needs to take a step back and realize their place in society. They are not the end all and be all. They are ... entertainment. Not that it isn’t important. Of course it is. At the end of a hard day of real work, people deserve to have some entertainment to help them unwind. However, it doesn’t come first. First, they need food, shelter, and safety. Without those three NEEDS, entertainment means nothing. Without all of those laborers (farmers, manufacturers, retailers, secretaries, mechanics, and of course our military), entertainment would be nothing but a joke. Who needs a novel when you don’t have clothes to put on your back or food to eat or a safe place in which to read it? Seriously, let’s remember what’s important, here.

My husband was a soldier. He fought in Desert Storm. The rest of his twenty years of career service, he did such a vast array of jobs I can’t begin to imagine being able to do. Bright? Very. He can figure out how to make anything work. I’m constantly impressed and humbled by his abilities. Try putting that author in charge of millions of dollars worth of weaponry and figuring out how to get a whole group of soldiers and all of the equipment to training and back again with not one piece of equipment unaccounted for, not to mention being in charge of a group of soldiers and training them well enough to get them all home again safely. Actually, don’t. What a fiasco that would be!

Yes, I have a good command of language, have two books published, am an avid reader, have a bachelor’s degree, and ... and nothing I have ever done can stand up to what he has done. I’ve been called a wonder woman (hm?) while he is the one in the background doing the daily hard labor that allows me to do what I do. At least I’m not arrogant enough to think I’m more intelligent or that my work is more important. It’s not. It can’t touch the importance of his work. In all reality, we work FOR them, not the other way around.

That author’s work, even though he’s a best seller many times over, does not come close to the importance of what our military is doing. He’s more arrogant than intelligent.

For those arguing that he didn’t mean it the way he said it, read his memoir/writing instruction book. Yes, he meant it. It wasn’t a one-time slip. He has a very low opinion of our military. I would love to be able to ask him how, if he thinks they are all illiterate morons, we have the world’s strongest and most powerful military. It isn’t because of the leaders, guaranteed. It is because of each one of our troops, because they are strong and smart and educated in so many ways we can’t begin to understand. And they are protecting us from having to live under Bin Laden’s rule, or Hussein’s, or Hitler’s, or whoever else would decide to walk in and take over if not for our military. Consider that, Mr. King. Try writing under those circumstances.

"We need a very strong military to protect the freedoms we do have."
Jerry Bruckheimer

"I’m inclined to think that a military background wouldn’t hurt anyone."
William Faulkner

"If everyone who graduated from high school was required to do some form of public service, you would have enough people in the military."
Montel Williams

"Successful organizations, including the Military, have learned that the higher the risk, the more necessary it is to engage everyone’s commitment and intelligence."
Margaret J. Wheatley

** I posted this on my writing blog earlier today and a couple of things said in comments need to be included:

1-- Today's military uses very high tech weaponry that takes a fair amount of intelligence and skill to use. The illiterate would never make it in to any service branch. These are not people who were drafted. They are volunteers who have to pass tests to prove they can do the jobs. If they can't, they get kicked out.

2-- This author's former multi-drug use (to the extent he says he barely remembers writing at least a couple of his books and had no idea what he was writing part of the time) helped to fuel the wars our soldiers are now fighting. Where do you think those drugs came from? They support our enemies. Illegal drug users are helping to fund their fight against us.

I would love to know what actual value this author has been to his country. He provided entertainment. Great, but if people weren't reading his books, they would be reading someone else's. *shrug* What real USE have you been to us, Mr. King? Try asking the same of any service member. They have an answer.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

A small matter of quality


"I think all of us like to do things to the best of our ability and it has nothing to do with the competition factor, it has to do with quality."
Jerry Bruckheimer


I think too many of us have forgotten the definition of quality, or we've stopped caring.

In the quest for more and more and faster and faster, we've lost this important attribute. We all know we have. We all complain about the lack of quality in items we purchase. We fuss if our 'fast food' meals takes more than 15 seconds to receive and then fuss when the quality isn't there. How much quality should we expect to get in food prepared in 15 seconds?

As much as I would like to believe Jerry Bruckheimer's quote, I have a hard time doing so. I believe most of us just want more and faster, and cheaper. The cheaper things are, the more things we can buy. Never mind if they fall apart quickly or are less than truly satisfying; we have more of it.


I see it in my own profession, as well. I've read excerpt after excerpt of new books coming out. I browse bookstores and read the first two paragraphs from new authors, or at least new to me. It becomes rather disparaging as I continually find weak openings, incomplete sentences not used purposely or for effect, repetition to the point where I want to scream, "Enough already! I get that's she's busty and he's well built! Okay!"

I see a flux of adverbs used instead of strong verbs. I see sentence structures and paragraphs that fourth graders could write (no offense to fourth graders).

I've read the first 25 pages of a book where nearly nothing happens and what does happen is cliche and ... repetitive.

I see authors bragging about having four or more books published in a year and I have to wonder how they have time to rewrite and edit and rewrite again when they're producing so quickly.  And ... when do they find time to study the craft in between selling it? I see them say they don't have time to read. Then, how are they learning and improving?

Maybe I don't have room to talk about producing since my most recent book was supposed to be out last fall and still isn't, and since I have only two books out since 2003. One of them is 3-4 times as long as most of the 4-book-a-year novels and I have been working other jobs in between, so I'm sure those are both factors in the difference. I'm sure some writers see my producing stats and roll their eyes. Still, much of the time in between, I've been continuing to study the craft: reading, reviewing, perusing how-to articles and books, and going back to rewrite and edit several times.

I do believe it should be about the quality, not the competition. How many matters less to me than actual content. I prefer a nice sit down dinner even if I have to do it less often than numerous 15 second meals.

Although I've been trying to stretch into the many contemporary writers, I find myself falling back into my beloved classics when quality still mattered. They tend to take longer to read, but oh, how much more I get out of them!

"You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal."
William S. Burroughs

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Amazon and PODs


The buzz is flying furiously. No, the bees aren't out again yet, not here, anyway, but POD publishers and authors are being stung by Amazon's new policy.

If you didn't know, Amazon bought Booksurge, a POD company, back in 2005. Although Booksurge was not one of the better names in the industry, with inferior printing being charged by some of the authors, Amazon's name helped to make it one of the better known companies, and they say the quality has improved.

Now, Amazon has taken a new direction with their POD plant by insisting that all POD books must be set up through Booksurge in order to have "Buy it" buttons on Amazon listings, or they must go through Amazon's Advantage program.

What does that mean to authors and other POD companies? It means extra setup fees. Authors going it their own instead of through traditional publishing companies already pay fees to whatever company they find that best suits their needs. This policy means they will also need to pay set up through Booksurge, unless, of course, they simply decide to abandon their chosen company and work only with Amazon's company. It means Amazon is trying to pull a monopoly on the POD business.

Now, they say they are trying to make the shopping experience better for the customer because they can provide faster "one box" shipping if they print the books themselves and lower transportation costs by not needing to ship the books in. Here's their statement:

There are several problems with this statement:

1) Even when a customer orders several items using their free super saver all together shipping (one box, supposedly), it often comes in separate packages, even when the customer has stated no shipping rush and if they come one day apart. My last order included 3 items, super saver shipping, no POD books, and all 3 things came separately.

2) If publishers use their Advantage program, which means selling on consignment for a large discount, they have to ship their books to Amazon's distribution services, anyway.

3) When LSI (the printer for most all POD companies) prints books for the companies that are sold from Amazon, they ship them directly from their own distribution center using Amazon boxes and Amazon sales slips. There are no additional transportation fees and there is no additional waiting time.

So what does it really mean? Authors and companies using POD and not using Booksurge are getting screwed for no reason except Amazon first makes money printing the books and then makes money selling them.

I will no longer be buying from Amazon until this policy reverts, and my 'buy it from Amazon' links will be removed from everywhere I advertise my own books.

This is a blow against indies and individual choice in favor of big business monopoly and I won't support that.

You can order my books, as well as any book with an ISBN,  through any independent bookstore. Find your local store at Booksense. A link is to the left.

Angela Hoy at Writer's Weekly

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It was a...

Earlier today, I was taking part in a conversation at Coffee Time Romance [] about what readers need in a novel to hold their interest and whether or not they would give an author a second chance if the first they read wasn't very good.

It reminded me of another conversation at Author Nation [] recently where a genre writer was cursing "literature" (meaning literary fiction) and said he couldn't tell anyone why "It was a dark and stormy night" was not a good opening line.

Personally, I'm not interested in reading work by an author who does not know why it isn't, regardless of their genre. That was one thing I pointed out in the first discussion.

I realize the writer's point was that much literary fiction is overdone and pretentious. However, the generalization that it all is and that authors shouldn't have to study the craft well enough to be able to write pretentiously makes me shake my head. Yes, they should. No matter what genre an author writes, the craft should be studied and the rules learned, even if they are broken.

What do you think? How many of you readers and writers know the problem with that opening line? How many think I'm crazy to think it isn't a good way to start a novel?

The rest of my answer as to what I need for a novel to hold me:

1) Characterization -- they have to have real depth
2) Writing quality -- beautiful, deep characters will mean nothing if the craft of the story is poor

Oh, and watch the adverbs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Romance Chat!

Come on over to my message board and let's virtually chat about romance, books, authors, heroes, heroines, writing, or anything else romantically art related! I'll be in and out all day..

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

"Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking."
Kahlil Gibran

At the end of Anna Karenina, this quote by Gibran seems a good summary of the novel that many call the world's greatest.

It took me a fair amount of time to read the sprawling epic set in Russia before her revolution. As a writer, I often thought it could be enhanced by better editing. The repetitions in it served to make it longer than necessary while not adding to the story line, and at times, it seemed an impossible task to get through.

However, I love character-driven stories that show "why" more than "what." Anna Karenina is all about the "why" the characters act as they do. Set in Russia before its Revolution, Anna Karenina is a true psychological study of not only the Russian people and their society, but societal and personal issues of all mankind.

Following the story of a married woman disenchanted by her dull life and marriage who steps out of bounds to seek passion, Anna Karenina shows the effects not only on herself, but on those she left behind and on all those who love her. At the same time, we have a story of the wealthy class versus the laborers, and the faithful versus the faithless and the searching. We have views of the government from the inside and out, of the arts, of philosophers, and of both men and women.

Tolstoy puts himself in the novel as one of the characters, with much of the story imitating his lfe. He was writing what he knew. Levin's thoughts are his. Many of the events are real events, fictionalized. This, somehow, makes it feel all more legitimate. The swaying emotions of the story are so passionate and true that it does have a tendency to exhaust the reader at times. Still, we remain pulled in by the unending action, the closeness of the characters who are vivid enough to be as real to us as they were to Tolstoy, and the truths revealed along the way.

Tolstoy was a well-educated man, but he did not stop at book learning. He went beyond, pondering the difference between book learning and real life experience, and laying all of that pondering out for us in the novel. There is no moral slapping us in the face and no judgment of any of the characters. They are who they are and we learn from who they are and how it affects their lives.

This is a story of love, of society, of faith, of doubt, and of truth. It should be required reading for all high school seniors before they enter the world where their decisions will be affecting all of us.

My favorite quotes from the book:

In the discussions which took place between the brothers on their views of the peasantry, Koznyshev was always victorious, precisely because he had definite ideas about the peasant -- his character, his qualities, and his tastes -- while Levin had no definite and fixed views on the subject, and so in their arguments Levin was readily convicted of contradicting himself. (pg.258)

The better he knew his brother, the more he noticed that Kaznyshev, and many other people who worked for the welfare of the public, were not led by an impulse of the heart to care for the public good, but had reasoned out in their minds that it was a right thing to take interest in public affairs, and consequently took interest in them. (pg.259)

God gave the day, God gave the strength for it. And the day and the strength were consecrated to labour, and that labour was its own reward. For whom the labour? What would be its fruits? These were idle considerations beside the point. (pg.297)

Levin maintained that the mistake of Wagner and his followers lay in trying to make music enter the domain of another art, just as poetry goes wrong when it tries to depict the features of a face, which is the function of painting. (pg. 717)

I assume that a salary is a payment for value received, and should conform to the law of supply and demand. If that law be ignored when fixing a salary -- as, for instance, when I see two engineers leaving college together, both equally well trained and efficient, and one getting forty thousand while the other is content with two; or when hussars and graduates of the law schools, having no special qualifications, are appointed directors of banking societies with gigantic salaries -- I conclude that these salaries are not determined in accordance with the law of supply and demand but simply through personal influence. And this is an abuse of great gravity in itself, and one which has an injurious effect on the Government service. (pg.754)

So it is with the unanimity of the Press. It's been explained to me: as soon as there is a war their circulation is doubled. How can they help considering that the fate of the people and the Slavonic races ... and all the rest of it? (pg.844)

When Levin puzzled over what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer and fell into despair; but when he left off worrying about the problem of his existence he seemed to know both what he was and for what he was living, for he acted and lived resolutely and unfalteringly. (pg.824)

I was in search of an answer to my question. But reason could not give an answer to my questions -- reason is incommensurable with the problem. The answer has been given me by life itself, through my knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. And this knowledge I did not acquire in any way: it was given to me as it is to everybody -- given, because I could not have got it from anywhere. (pg.832)

-- Note: page numbers refer to the 1978 edition by Penguin Classics entitled Anna Karenin, London, England.