Tag Archives: literary fiction

Between Eden And The Open Road by Philip Garber

Review: “Poetry is an expressive medium I would never choose to label good or bad, or even think of in such terms. It is subjective, and can be meaningful, but depending on who you ask, it may or may not have meaning for them personally. Some people look at the imagery, what they perceive as the message within the work, or how it compares to that which has been labeled great by critics over time, or dozens of other factors. I’m sure there is a list of how to rate and/or appreciate poetry out there somewhere, and I’ve taken a number of courses regarding such in college, but to me it’s individualistic. I never accept anyone else’s recommendations or protestations of worthy or lacking anyway, and especially not in poetry.

I liked the author’s dedication, “This book is for those to whom it speaks.” Based solely on that: there were some things that did not “speak” to me which were obviously intensely personal to the author, from a lifestyle and viewpoint very different from my own. There were other entries that did, such as “from my own weight,” a free form piece of personal reflection and analysis; or “this notion of participation” a comedic, yet triumphant expression of intelligent, adolescent defiance.

There were dialogues included in “that which causes me to react” that were cleverly indicative of conversations I’d similarly experienced so that I could readily identify with them. As a German speaker, some of the terms interspersed throughout “Between Eden” jumped out at me as being grammatically incorrect, and I thought different groupings of some phrases might have made it overall easier to understand and imagine, but in the end, the author wrote and used images and words as they felt necessary to express what they needed to express. That’s all that matters.

“Between Eden..” is made up of poetry and flash fiction suggestive of personal experiences that ably and perhaps inadvertently conveys the fact people can be quite different culturally, regarding sexuality and belief systems, yet there are commonalities between us that can be focused upon so as not to disassociate one from another across race, social class, nationality or anything else.

Varying in style and metre, subject and explicitness, some to none, “Between Eden And The Open Road” is the type of collection I would suggest for those with the willingness and ability to look at presentations of often ordinary circumstances of life that can still provide a profound “A-ha!” moment, or greater insight into their own life and ways of living.”

Description: “Teasingly mysterious, preposterously sparse, this collection of imperfect art populaire is brought to you in surrealist Technicolor. Read these small tales from the unconscious with unafraid eyes, when you’re barely tired or leading a life of sloth or on the threshold of maturity struggling to find a place outside yourself or if you’ve just woken up and can’t believe what’s become of your life.”

  • Published: June 23rd 2012
  • ISBN13: 9780615585864
  • Genre: Poetry, Flash Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Source: Author

Author Profile:

Philip Gaber currently lives and works in North Carolina. He spends the majority of his day attempting to reconcile differences between his conscious and subconscious. In his spare time he tries not to drift around his community as an invisible spirit or juggle more than a handful of moral dilemmas at a time.

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Filed under Literary fiction, Poetry, Reviews

The Stories Old Photos Tell: Visualizing Your Characters in Writing

Their Photo by Red Haircrow

Out wandering one Sunday morning, having promised to take my son to the traditional weekend institutions in Germany, namely flea markets, we returned to one of our favorites in Berlin at Rathaus Steglitz. It’s my favorite because there’s a vendor specializing in old books, postcards, letters and photos. I can literally take hours going through all boxes and boxes of material, but a 14 year old has little interest beyond the cursory. So, randomly choosing ONE box to go through, after considering to buy a number of postcards from the early 1900′s, and a newer one with the image of a kitten, I decided to go deeper, and I was lucky I did…for I found the perfect photo for my next project.

It was absolutely perfect.

It immediately drew my eye despite its small size and slightly out of focus nature: a tall dark-haired man walked besides three others in a nature landscape with trees on either side. They are casual in dress shirts and sweaters, two distinctly have jackets that look homemade, but its the positioning of the men, the way they look into the camera that is so arresting.

The time period could be anywhere from the late 50s to mid-70s, but I would guess it to be perhaps early 60′s. On the back of the photo there is a pencil written number but it could be interpreted as a quickly written “55″ or flipped around “39″. It’s also stamped with a violet ink mark saying: “Foto-Boss 11/15 Trept, Puschkinallee1″.

Whatever the date, two of these individuals are my muse for a literary novel tentatively titled “Zero Hour”. If you don’t know that term, it’s suggestive of the base state many Germans, Jews and others who survived WW2 came to following the monumental slaughter of millions, violence and devastation, both personal and societal, greater than any experienced in recent history. They came to an absolute state where there was total nothingness, zero, and had to somehow rebuild their sanity, their lives, their world.

My story is based on a young person who never felt comfortable in their gender. Growing up during this time period, in a small village in Germany where anyone different could be considered dangerous, he lived a mentally and physically precarious life, yet maintained an odd friendship with another older children who was a mix of protector and challenger. Nearing the end of war, they, like the rest, were broken and forced apart until several years later they met in Berlin.

Despite being overjoyed to see one another again, the scars the war left on each are deep, with some still healing. New wounds are sustained as one needs to express his sexuality and desire for change, and the other is both repulsed and attracted by the courageous struggle of his friend, yet their tumultuous feelings for each other may cause the death each had previously escaped.

I’m a long time student and researcher of the Holocaust and world war two era Germany; the precendents which led up to the events and the various hardships that occurred during its rebuilding. This is a project I’ve planned for several years, wishing to incorporate my knowledge of the people and their times, as well as the unique, often deadly situation homosexuals and others, especially transgenders or intergenders found themselves in both before and after the war.

(Side note: I recently met and became friends with a young man here in Berlin who, among other things, volunteers at the Gay Museum in Mehringdamm, Berlin. As we discussed this project, his enthusiasm for the history he works with every day really fired my own for telling this story, and accurately portraying local and gay history in this way.)

It is a story in which my own struggles will be situationally included. Often considered a “bittersweet” author, this fits within some of my usual themes of internal battle, inexplicable love and heartbreak and healing.The nature of the photo conveyed this same mood for me.

We don’t know where they came from or where they’re going, or their relationship to each other, save they appear to be on quite familiar terms and are likely friends. The two central figures in the photo are the basis for my main characters. As soon as I saw them at the bottom of the cardboard box I knew they had to be mine. I could sink myself into the image and look out from their eyes:

I am the shorter figure, I could look left up to the taller form of my friend. I trail him just a bit, glad to be near but not obtrusively close. I feel a small shiver of excitement to be photoed this way next to him. I don’t want to smile too widely and appear forward, but my pleasure shows on my face and the relaxed set of my shoulders.

I am the taller figure. If I glance down to my right I can see him just in the corner of my eye. I am out front, the leader, the protector, one hand unencumbered to reach out and help if necessary, or hold him back with caution while I assess any coming situation. My head tilts just enough to show a mild exasperation with the photo taker. I can’t do anything but submit but I would have preferred not to be in the photo. We are only walking after all, so why take it?

I love old photos. I love the stories they can tell. I love to immerse myself into them, into other people, feel their feelings and express it through my writing. Sometimes I become them. With the old, old photos I have, I know the people are dead now, but I make them live again inside my head. Some of the characters in my stories are incarnations of myself, the situations based on actual events, while the two individuals from “Zero Hour” are, I believe, those who actually existed somewhere in time…and I found them again through their photo.


Filed under Writers and Writing

A Kiss Before You Leave Me by James Hulbert

Review: “A Kiss Before You Leave Me” cast a spell over me from the opening words. It was so strange and unexpected to be drawn into a place and time so smoothly, introduced to characters who were both apathetic and intense. I loved the introspective air of the narrative, the reflective nature of the thoughts and ideas presented as the narrator invites you to see the world from their omniscient view.  There were times when I wanted to just read the story, the actions and conversations taking place, without “that voice” pointing things out but honestly I would say I prefer the author’s method instead of a point of view switching back and forth.

Heavy with dialogue in some places, at others, there were mostly descriptions. Normally that’s a writing style that is also problematic for me, but yet again, that spell the author had cast upon me smoothed everything into a mesmerizing, compelling whole.

I enjoy the contemplative, the complex, and the subtle, as relationships, whether of a romantic nature or other kind, can be thus. “A Kiss Before You Leave Me” develops as the kind of affair you might have had (if you were lucky or cursed, depending on how you look at it) that makes you think deeper, drawing emotions not only from your heart and mind, but your very soul. Surface things are not always as they appear, motives, intentions, people. Seductive, powerful, whatever things I might wish had been different are meaningless because I found “A Kiss Before You Leave Me” to be excellent overall. Very pleased to have been offered review of this work of literary fiction.

Description: Three master manipulators–and a woman in love–clash in the worlds of surveillance, voyeurism, and art.

Miranda Kincaid used liquor and other men to flee the control of her husband Vince and his mother Kathleen. Now divorced, sober, and man-free, she’s putting her life back together. Vince, now her friend, wants her back–and his mother will stop at nothing to keep them apart. Kathleen’s secret weapon? A new man: a seductive, married misfit, a once and future painter with demons of his own–and his own plans for Miranda.

Equal parts moral tale and “guilty pleasure,” “A Kiss Before You Leave Me” is plotted like a thriller, but its most memorable violence is emotional–and all the more disturbing because it’s done in the name of love.

Kindle Edition
Published September 9th 2010
ASIN: B0042JT19G
Source: Author

Author Bio:

Although James Hulbert has spent the bulk of his life in the United States, he has lived and worked on three continents, as a bartender, food bank coordinator, government worker, Peace Corps Volunteer, research assistant, teacher, translator, and video rental clerk. He is married to a painter, for whom he has somehow never posed nude, at least not in a professional capacity. His blog is at http://jaschawrites.blogspot.com; at Twitter he is @jaschawrites; his Facebook Page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Hulb… ‘A Kiss Before You Leave Me’ is his first novel.

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The Bravery of Editing: Allowing Your Work of Art True Freedom

Some people view editing as negative or tedious or something for someone else to do for them, but I actually enjoy editing as I love the stories I am in the process of creating. To revisit them again and again, I never tire of it though understandably I can be frustrated when I am unable to direct them in the manner I wish them to go. That’s when I step away and give both of us peace and quiet. I visit other “friends” in their stories.

To quote myself from a post at Goodreads.com“Every word I write is like a drop of my blood. If it’s flowed passionately and long, I need time to recover from the emotion spent before I began a new story. My characters are my life. I have to respectfully and carefully move between them.”

Yet some writers view each word cut away from the manuscript in the same way. I can appreciate wanting your work to remain exactly as you’ve written it, but I look at editing in a different way.  To me editing is a way to better showcase my characters, scenes and plot. If superfluous words or descriptions are holding them back, then those words need to be slashed away to reveal the true heart and depth of my meaning and purpose.

Think of it as bringing a human’s form out of block of marble. The most beautiful person you can imagine is inside waiting to emerge. You wish to present them to the world in all their finest glory. If the sculpture is still rough edged with some areas not as clearly defined or conversely, if it is draped with unnecessary materials, such as cloth or leafed branches, you need to remove anything distracting from your work of art.

The idea for this entry occurred to me after reading an article at “Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog” by Chuck Sambuchino, it was titled “Agents Chapter 1 Pet Peeves”. Happily, only one pet peeve out of the list could I be considered truly culpable of, and that was having descriptive phrases some might find unnecessary.

Partially it is my writing style, which tends towards the (I’ll put it nicely) archaic in that I seriously dislike the brevity “modern” electronic based books have elicited in so many writers. Many people who prefer ebooks or books they can view with electronic devices want them to be “scrollable”. They seem to want to breeze through a work and not actually have to think about what they are reading. They pay a minimal amount compared to print hardcovers, and they want to move on to the next work. Enjoy the moment and then put it aside.

I am a thinking reader, therefore I am also a thinking writer. When I create a story, I choose to not simply “tell” it, but within the scenes or descriptions the reader is encouraged to learn about the characters, their motivations, their weaknesses and even past occurences by thinking the scenes through. Descriptive phrases help me do so, but I absolutely having too many, too quickly, or in too great of detail can overwhelm the reader and bog down the pace and flow.

This particular pet peeve of some agents elicited many comments although they’ve been removed now for whatever reason. The summation from the majority questioned whether an agent’s personal preference for not having descriptions should automatically disqualify the whole book. Some agents indicated they tossed a book after the first chapter if it had too many descriptions, a fact I personally commented on also, which I thought was very much lacking in objectivity.

One “work in progress” of mine is a literary fiction project named “The Agony of Joy”. I love the characters, and I wish for readers to also come to know and care for them. Without descriptive phrases of some sort, one cannot visualize those characters. I do not ascribe to the view of giving only a sketchy outline of appearance and letting the reader use their imagination to create the person as they wish them to be. I prefer them to use their imagination to visual the person I wish them to see. Thus, very strongly I want those characters seen in their “best light” whatever emotions or behavior they happen to be displaying.

I’ve had a number of betas going over my story, and it had been noted I used too many descriptions too densely although, by majority, they liked the characters, story, settings and plot. I agreed with their assessment, and have “whittled” them away to streamline my work. I felt eager to have direction. Out of 30K words I’ve roughly  pared away 2,000 or so, but I feel it’s better than ever….and I will continue to try to improve upon it.

Don’t be afraid to edit effectively. Think of your work objectively. I am very stubborn and contrary person in a way, and I very much prefer to do things my way: write my way, create my way, present my work my way, but it is insensible to not take into account suggestions and constructive criticism which might help me improve the story I wish to tell.

In fact, when I went back to edit “The Agony of Joy”, I felt a new love for my characters, an excitement I hadn’t felt for weeks. I felt no hesitation in cutting away what was unnecessary. Yet to test my enthusiam, I did create a document solely containing those slashed phrases or paragraphs. Periodically I insert them again, but I’ve yet to find one which is needed any longer.

One dissenting voice of the betas said my whole story was pointless and it simply needed to be deleted.

“Is there a purpose to this story? Who is protagoninst? Whose story is this? Is there an antagoninst? Is there a sruggle? What is it that Lexx or Adrian want? What or who is preventing them to get it? How are they going to go about resolving the obsitcals? Is there a clear character arc here? Are they same persons in the beginning of the book, through the middle and do they come out the same? Do they learn from their jurney? None of this is set forth in these opening passages. I don’t see any purpose to anything that is written here.”

Well in that, you can determine that for yourself, as the description, blurb and first chapters are available on one of my webpages, The Journey of Red Haircrow: The Agony of Joy.  My response basically was: read the description, then realize this is not pulp fiction but literary fiction.

And editing is always an ongoing project, up to a certain point that is…


Filed under Writers and Writing