If These Walls Could Talk

After a long dry spell during which my literary muse appeared to have abandoned me, I was suddenly seized with the idea for writing a short story. I had shied away from this particular genre in the past because I believed that, like poetry, it required a brevity and conciseness that I found particularly challenging.

The idea began to germinate when I awakened one night with a vivid image of my grandmother’s house in my mind. It was one of those World War II bungalows that went up quickly in the suburbs to house returning veterans. The house was nothing spectacular, but it was a haven for me as a child and filled with memories.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that houses are much more than structures to live in, they are monuments to past lives. They are the keeper of secrets. If you listen carefully, the walls may echo the laughter and tears of those who once lived there. That is not to say all houses are haunted. The walls will only talk to you if you are willing to listen with your imagination.

This is not a particularly new idea to me. I used the same premise in my book The Stone House Legacy. The difference is that in “The House on Elmhurst Street” I focused on a single visit to a childhood home. The idea of revisiting one’s childhood through the eyes of an adult sheds a whole new light on the experience. Depending on your perspective, one can better appreciate the care-free experiences of youth or come to acceptance and understanding of the events of a difficult time.

Exploring one’s past can send one on a rollercoaster of emotions and physical places. Actions and motivations that were not clear at the time, become more evident when viewed through the lens of adulthood. For some, it can be a painful journey. “Why on earth does it matter what happened long ago?” you may ask. The answer is that the past is inescapable. Just as History studies the past and the legacies of the past in the present, our past connects things through time and encourages us to take a long view of these connections.

All people are living histories. We live in societies with complex cultures, traditions and religions that have not been created on the spur of the moment. People use technologies that they have not themselves invented. so understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding the the condition of being human.

Of course, it is easier to connect with your past if you come from a long-established, wealthy and powerful family. On the other hand, studying our past, no matter how painful, can help us to feel a connection with the present as we discover that some human experiences are universal across time. History reminds us of the fact that whole societies, not just individuals, face challenges which prove difficult to overcome.

That, in a nutshell, is why the past matters. It is not just “useful”, it is essential to our understanding of who we are in the present.

Click the link below to access the short story. I hope you enjoy it. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

https://facebook.com/Wandadehavenpyle and https://twitter.com/pyle_wanda

Wanda DeHaven Pyle

The House on Elmhurst Street

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Whispers From the Past

“The value of history is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society, but ourselves – a much more important thing; it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet rather than to foretell the future.”

Carl Becker, 1873-1945, U.S. historian

As a Baby Boomer, I grew up on my father’s war stories. He was only 17 when he enlisted in the Navy shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like many others who flocked to recruitment centers across the nation, he was motivated by a sense of patriotic outrage that another country would dare to attack our homeland.

Watching the horrific events in Ukraine unfold from afar brings to mind another invasion that set in motion the beginning of World War II. On September 1, 1939, the German army under Adopf HItler launched an invasion of Poland that triggered the start of WWII. On September 26, Polish troops were taken prisoner by the German invaders and Warsaw surrendered to Hitlers’ army.  The Poles fought bravely, but were able to hold on for only 26 days.

When I was researching material for The Stone House Legacy, I became intrigued by the repeated patterns of history and how the passage of time and cultural changes affect the way each generation reacts to similar circumstances. As the story unfolded, I looked deeply at the obvious similarities between the political and moral struggles during the turbulent years of the early 1960s as compared with those of a similar time in history one hundred years earlier.

Not content with a simple comparison, I wanted a more personal view of the moral and ethical decisions that drove some to commit heinous acts of violence against their fellow man and others to place themselves in grave mortal danger to stand up against it.

Most of us have at one time or another experienced a feeling of déjà vu when we were overcome with the strong sensation that an event or experience happening currently has occurred previously, and we already know the outcome. It is as if a small voice from the past is whispering the reminder in our ear.

In The Stone House Legacy, I used this phenomenon to create a historic conscience that would serve as a moral compass for the characters in the story. I also wanted to provide a ghostly reminder that we have walked this path before in a different time and place.

The challenge was to leave enough question in the reader’s mind to wonder whether we have actually learned anything from history or whether we are doomed to keep repeating it. Beyond the time periods addressed in the story, there are obvious comparison to the politics and cultural struggles of the present time.

Now, as we watch the valiant struggle of Ukrainians to defend their homeland against the far superior forces of the Russian invaders, we are once again struck by the repeating patterns of history. In a state of total war, the major participants place their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources just as they did in WWII. Our television screens are filled with stories of heroism and sacrifice as we learn of civilians taking up arms to defend their homes and cities, of restaurants opening their doors to feed the hungry, and of businesses providing shelter for those fleeing the bombs.

By early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany had conquered or subdued much of continental Europe. In December 1941, the Empire of Japan which aimed to dominate the East Asia and Indochina, joined the Axis, attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and quickly conquered much of the West Pacific. As China remains silent and uncommitted, we wonder. Are they waiting for the right moment to expand their own empire? As the crisis in Ukraine draws renewed attention to the status of Taiwan in the Pacific, China warns us not to interfere with its attempts to build block coalitions. Vladimir Putin recently made similar accusations ahead of his invasion of Ukraine.

As the Russian army advances through Ukraine, will NATO be better prepared than the Allied Nations of WWII. Hitler gambled correctly that the Allies would be slow to respond. Have we fallen prey to the same hesitations? Only after German tanks began to stream into France did the Allies fully accept that stopping Hitler would require another full-scale world war. We are still haunted by memories of WWII, in which millions of lives were lost and the proliferation of nuclear arms only increases our concerns.

Let’s hope we are better prepared to avert the tragedy of war this time.

https://www.amazon.com/Stone-House-Legacy-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00STTDKEMhttps://www.amazon.com/Wanda-DeHaven-Pyle/e/B00GDJ9HTM

What’s It About?

When I published my first book, I was encouraged to write an “elevator pitch” to help promote it. I was confused. I wasn’t trying to sell an elevator. I was trying to sell a book. So I began to do some research to find out exactly what an elevator pitch was and how to write one.

The pitch gets its name from the following scenario: Imagine you are in an elevator with a well-known publisher or agent and he asks you what your book is about. You have approximately 30 seconds to give him a persuasive, concise introduction that provides him with a solid idea of what your book is about and why he should be interested in it.

First impressions count, and with research showing that a first impression is formed in just 7 seconds, it becomes necessary for an author to ‘wow’ prospective readers right off the mark. Ultimately, if the first 7 seconds don’t succeed in capturing the reader’s attention, chances are they will move on to something else.

It’s well worth taking the time to form a great elevator pitch, as your pitch can be used in a wide range of different marketing and sales scenarios. Most commonly, an elevator pitch is used at meetings, but there are other times when it can prove useful, including networking events, conferences, and pretty much any time that someone asks, “So, what’s your book about?”

Here are 5 simple steps from Jennie Nash, book coach, the author of seven books, and the Chief Creative Officer of authoraccelerator.com

  1. Write down what your book is about in no more than 50 words. Don’t try to be clever or witty, just write down the facts or the bare bones.
  2. Readers want a sense of what world or philosophical mindset they will be immersed in. They’re going to spend a lot of time with you in your book, so give them a sense of what to expect.
  3. Readers read in order to get something very specific. They are not randomly attracted to the books they choose to spend their time on: They know what they want. They want to be educated or entertained, inspired or challenged.  When describing your book, you want to tell them very clearly why they should care.
  4. Polish your description to a high shine by adding texture, details and rhythm. Allow your unique voice to shine through so that readers will get a sense of your style, and let your elevator speech “breathe” so that readers get a real sense for what you are offering. Read your description out loud to hear how it sounds, and revise until it’s perfect.
  5. Are you an award-winning writer? A respected leader in your field? Was your last book a New York Times bestseller? Is this book the next installment of a beloved series? Did someone give you a killer blurb? Add in this kind of accolade. If you don’t have anything that qualifies as awesome and relevant, don’t add anything — and don’t worry. The most important thing to readers is the book itself. 

Here are some sample pitches for my books.

Windborne –Three generations struggle against the elements and changing cultural mores to build a life in America’s heartland.

The Stone House Legacy: Book I of the Legacy Trilogy – Reverend Simon Kingsley is caught between two opposing world views in the turbulent 1960s when he attempts to revitalize the legacy of ecumenical thought and understanding that began in an old stone house in the limestone hills of Indiana.

The Steel Canyon Legacy: Book II of the Legacy Trilogy – After the death of her husband, single mother, Tessa Kingsley, must make her way in Chicago’s male-dominated corporate world of the 1970s.

The Edgewater Legacy: Book III of the Legacy Trilogy – Eldest son, Christopher Kingsley, strikes out on his own to make a name for himself in Los Angeles’ corrupt music industry of the 1980s.

The Dutchman – After the death of the woman he loved, Harke DeJong flees his Dutch homeland during the Gilded Age of railroad expansion to chase the American Dream of independence and landownership armed only with a packet of old love letters and a promissory note from George Washington.

All of my books are currently available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback and ebook at https://www.amazon.com/Wanda-DeHaven-Pyle/e/B00GDJ9HTM   

The Lure of Toxic Relationships

It seems that the most exciting people can also be the most dangerous. They tend to have the emotional range of a roller coaster. When they are experiencing one of their highs, they can be irresistible. People are drawn to them like the proverbial moth to a flame. Unfortunately, when they go down, they go down hard, and anyone in their path will be dragged along with them.

We are often drawn into relationships that perpetuate a pattern with which we are familiar. Therefore, we often pick partners who are reasonable facsimiles of our parents. In the case of toxic relationships, we may choose our partners in the hope of finding the love and approval we longed for and may not have gotten from our parents. This often leads to heartbreak and disappointment when the partner is unable to live up to the unrealistic expectations that we have set for them. It can also lead to the perpetuation of abusive relationships.

Another reason we are drawn into toxic relationships is the belief that our partner will provide something that we lack in our current relationships, or something we aspire to, such as wealth, security, or social standing. When we sacrifice this control over our lives by placing the responsibility for our own happiness on another’s shoulders, the burden can be too heavy to bear.

Throughout several of my novels I have explored these toxic relationships between men and women and discovered that while opposites may attract, they also may also be detrimental to the health and well-being of a solid partnership.

 Take for example the attraction between the realist and the dreamer. They are often the most unlikely of friends, polar opposites in fact, often standing in direct opposition from one another. Dreamers love to indulge in the land of “Imagine if….” They are “big picture” people with ambitious ideas and high hopes for radical outcomes and experiences in life. They live with their head in the clouds imagining and wishing for a better tomorrow. This is the case in the relationship between Simon and Tessa in The Stone House Legacy and Harke and Lainie in The Dutchman. Unfortunately, dreams do not often become a reality based on enthusiasm alone.

Dreamers are romantics. They are inspirational people to be around, and their “Land of Oz” mentality makes them charismatic leaders. The difference between dreamers and realists is that dreamers recognize the change necessary for their desired outcome. Instead of wallowing in thoughts that reassert the limitations and tribulations, they indulge in their dreams and desires and focus all their energies on what they passionately crave.

The realist, on the other hand, is much more concerned with the practical details. They pride themselves on having their feet firmly planted on the floor and their head in the real world. They are practical thinkers and analytical people, high-achievers and highly productive. The realists have good intentions to bring constructive ideas and feedback to see forward movement, but they are oftentimes accused of being dream destroyers because of their profound ability to instantly identify potential obstacles and issues that can destroy a dream and smash it into a thousand pieces with one word!

When the best aspects of these two characters come together magic happens! When the dreamer can encourage the realist to lift his/her head a little higher and dream a little bigger and when the realist can encourage the dreamer to come back down to earth long enough to put form and structure in place, the sky is the limit! The result could be one very dynamic and successful partnership. The best chance of seeing a dream fully realized is to get both aspects of these characters on board. And it is the hope of creating this magic that draws the two together like moths to a flame.

Unfortunately, the relationship can just as easily turn toxic. The dreamer is constantly frustrated because he feels as though the realist is always negative. The realist is driven mad by the unrealistic fantasy-like ideas of the dreamer. Dreamers are often narcissistic in that everything centers on their own needs and wants. The relationship begins to sour when realists feel they must sacrifice their own needs just to keep the dreamer from jumping on the roller coaster and taking them on another emotional ride. The relationship grows weaker and weaker as one partner devotes more time in the service of the other, while the other partner grows less vested in the relationship.

 So why would anyone get caught up in this terrible situation in the first place? Why wouldn’t they get out at the first sign that the relationship has turned toxic? The easiest choice is to continue the relationship and hope that the other person changes. This is rarely successful, but the one most socially acceptable to previous generations of people caught in toxic relationships. It is what perpetuates the myth of “Ozzie and Harriet”­- that we all lead lives of perfect harmony. The second is to attempt to minimize the damage that the relationship is causing by limiting contact, also known as “The Silent Treatment,” and trust that the other person will get the message. Neither of these methods of dealing with the situation has ever proven highly successful. The third and most challenging and painful choice, is to confront the issue head-on and either try to resolve the conflict or end the relationship altogether.

Dreamers and realists will continue to be attracted to one another as long as there is a chance that they can create the magic. But if the relationship turns toxic, they must be willing to cut their losses and move on. Once we know why we make the choices we do, we can begin to constructively change our way of thinking about relationships and choose the healthiest option, rather than the most comfortable one.

It seems that the most exciting people can also be the most dangerous. They tend to have the emotional range of a roller coaster. When they are experiencing one of their highs, they can be irresistible. People are drawn to them like the proverbial moth to a flame. Unfortunately, when they go down, they go down hard, and anyone in their path will be dragged along with them.

We are often drawn into relationships that perpetuate a pattern with which we are familiar. Therefore, we often pick partners who are reasonable facsimiles of our parents. In the case of toxic relationships, we may choose our partners in the hope of finding the love and approval we longed for and may not have gotten from our parents. This often leads to heartbreak and disappointment when the partner is unable to live up to the unrealistic expectations that we have set for them. It can also lead to the perpetuation of abusive relationships.

Another reason we are drawn into toxic relationships is the belief that our partner will provide something that we lack in our current relationships, or something we aspire to, such as wealth, security, or social standing. When we sacrifice this control over our lives by placing the responsibility for our own happiness on another’s shoulders, the burden can be too heavy to bear.

Throughout several of my novels I have explored these toxic relationships between men and women and discovered that while opposites may attract, they also may also be detrimental to the health and well-being of a solid partnership.

 Take for example the attraction between the realist and the dreamer. They are often the most unlikely of friends, polar opposites in fact, often standing in direct opposition from one another. Dreamers love to indulge in the land of “Imagine if….” They are “big picture” people with ambitious ideas and high hopes for radical outcomes and experiences in life. They live with their head in the clouds imagining and wishing for a better tomorrow. This is the case in the relationship between Simon and Tessa in The Stone House Legacy and Harke and Lainie in The Dutchman. Unfortunately, dreams do not often become a reality based on enthusiasm alone.

Dreamers are romantics. They are inspirational people to be around, and their “Land of Oz” mentality makes them charismatic leaders. The difference between dreamers and realists is that dreamers recognize the change necessary for their desired outcome. Instead of wallowing in thoughts that reassert the limitations and tribulations, they indulge in their dreams and desires and focus all their energies on what they passionately crave.

The realist, on the other hand, is much more concerned with the practical details. They pride themselves on having their feet firmly planted on the floor and their head in the real world. They are practical thinkers and analytical people, high-achievers and highly productive. The realists have good intentions to bring constructive ideas and feedback to see forward movement, but they are oftentimes accused of being dream destroyers because of their profound ability to instantly identify potential obstacles and issues that can destroy a dream and smash it into a thousand pieces with one word!

When the best aspects of these two characters come together magic happens! When the dreamer can encourage the realist to lift his/her head a little higher and dream a little bigger and when the realist can encourage the dreamer to come back down to earth long enough to put form and structure in place, the sky is the limit! The result could be one very dynamic and successful partnership. The best chance of seeing a dream fully realized is to get both aspects of these characters on board. And it is the hope of creating this magic that draws the two together like moths to a flame.

Unfortunately, the relationship can just as easily turn toxic. The dreamer is constantly frustrated because he feels as though the realist is always negative. The realist is driven mad by the unrealistic fantasy-like ideas of the dreamer. Dreamers are often narcissistic in that everything centers on their own needs and wants. The relationship begins to sour when realists feel they must sacrifice their own needs just to keep the dreamer from jumping on the roller coaster and taking them on another emotional ride. The relationship grows weaker and weaker as one partner devotes more time in the service of the other, while the other partner grows less vested in the relationship.

 So why would anyone get caught up in this terrible situation in the first place? Why wouldn’t they get out at the first sign that the relationship has turned toxic? The easiest choice is to continue the relationship and hope that the other person changes. This is rarely successful, but the one most socially acceptable to previous generations of people caught in toxic relationships. It is what perpetuates the myth of “Ozzie and Harriet”­- that we all lead lives of perfect harmony. The second is to attempt to minimize the damage that the relationship is causing by limiting contact, also known as “The Silent Treatment,” and trust that the other person will get the message. Neither of these methods of dealing with the situation has ever proven highly successful. The third and most challenging and painful choice, is to confront the issue head-on and either try to resolve the conflict or end the relationship altogether.

Dreamers and realists will continue to be attracted to one another as long as there is a chance that they can create the magic. But if the relationship turns toxic, they must be willing to cut their losses and move on. Once we know why we make the choices we do, we can begin to constructively change our way of thinking about relationships and choose the healthiest option, rather than the most comfortable one.

For more about my books, check out my Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/Wanda-DeHaven-Pyle/e/B00GDJ9HTM or follow me on Facebook and Twitter at https://facebook.com/Wandadehavenpyle and https://twitter.com/pyle_wanda

Seeking The Garden of Eden

In James Madison’s view, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

Ever since they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, mankind has been seeking a return to a self-sustaining utopian society based on peace, harmony and communal living. Perhaps at no time in history was this more evident than during the 19th century when hundreds of such societies littered the nation’s landscape, most disappearing within a few years without a trace.

Often led by charismatic leaders with high religious or secular moral ideals, these settlements experimented wildly with different models of government, marriage, labor and wealth. Unfortunately, paradise in the present has always been elusive, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Modern-day seekers, attempting to leave behind the conventions and restrictions of traditional society, have created self-sustaining communities ranging from groups of tofu-making hippies in rural Virginia to expatriates living in treehouses in the Costa Rican rainforest.

So why have they failed?  For one thing, the bar is constantly being raised. Life in a modest American home today would have been the envy of those living in the last century.  It seems that in spite of their efforts, humans are not able to maintain a moral, financial or educational equality.  People will always want more than they have, or covet someone else’s toys.  Competition is a core human quality of “survival of the fittest.” And the land of milk and honey automatically attracts swords and muskets.

Secondly, although acceptance into these societies is often carefully controlled and outsiders are not welcome, internal power grabs are even more poisonous to utopian dreams than external threats. Utopian leadership based on the model of the “benevolent prince” or “philosopher king” is inherently unstable. There are inevitably factions out of power who are unhappy with things. Charismatic leaders typically do not provide successors with the building blocks necessary to sustain the order they have created. Therefore, the competition for succession invariably favors not the wise, but the ruthless.

Finally, ideals are constraints, and the more constraints one tries to impose, the less viable the community will be. Since most religious utopias imposed constraints on the members’ worldly desires, they needed a mechanism for self-selection and, thus, exclusion of non-believers. Over time, however, these constraints become weakened through changes in leadership and outside influences and the lines between the society and the outside world become blurred.  In the end, each member must choose whether to remain in the communal organization or strike out independently. This forced choice often leads to the fracturing and disintegration of the community.

In The Stone House Legacy: Book I of the Legacy Trilogy, I explore this phenomenon in more detail. I take an in-depth look at the failure of one such settlement through the lens of modern-day society. Are we doomed to continue to make the same mistakes in our search for paradise?

Set in the birthplace of the John Birch Society during the turbulent years of the early 1960s, The Stone House Legacy reveals mankind’s stubborn inclination to repeat the mistakes of past generations. When Reverend Simon Kingsley is invited to attend Vatican II as a protestant observer, he returns with new ideas regarding long-held religious beliefs that he had taken for granted before.

When Simon discovers an old stone house abandoned deep in the Indiana hills, he is consumed with the idea of developing the site as a religious retreat for ecumenical thought. He dreams of developing the site as the center of a new order of religious and cultural tolerance that he believes will be paramount to world peace and understanding.

But the old stone house harbors secrets of its own. Secrets that begin to reveal themselves through an old journal that Simon’s young wife, Tessa, discovers among the ruins. As she reads, the ghosts of the past begin to haunt their future plans with an ominous warning. They soon discover that there are forces working against them who see this dream as a threat to their current way of life and a direct link to communist thought.

Find all my books on Amazon and Kindle or follow me on Facebook and Twitter

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Seesaw Relationships

Tom Cruise’s oft-quoted line to win over Renee Zellweger in the movie, Jerry Maguire, is “You complete me.” Like the characters in the movie, most of us are seeking a balance in our relationships so that our lives can achieve the equilibrium that we believe will bring us happiness.

Relationships can be likened to a child’s seesaw in that they are balanced as long as the weight at both ends is equally distributed. Sometimes one end might be up, sometimes the opposite end might be up, but in order for it to work at all, there has to be equal weight on each end.  In relationships we are magnetized to each other because we see in the other person something that we need to achieve the balance. We strive to meet someone’s need and fulfill our own need at the same time.  The happiest couples never have the same character. They just have the best understanding of their differences. This is true of friendships, work situations, and partnerships of all kinds.

There is a magnetic draw that causes us to be initially attracted to those who fill what we perceive to be a void in our personalities. In our attempt at balance, we often attract others that are on the same continuum as we are.  If someone is aggressive, he may attract someone who is meek.  In fact the meekness may bring out the aggression in that person.  To achieve balance, one needs to learn to set boundaries and the other to respect boundaries. Holding on to resentments only causes them to build until, finally, the relationship breaks.

In the case of dreamers and realists, the balance is often achieved when both parties move toward the center or the extreme together. However, if one party begins to move toward the center and the other does not, the balance is thrown off and the relationship begins to tilt to one side resulting in disharmony and disillusionment.

When relationships are in full bloom, there is an energy about it.  There is enthusiasm and communication as each party learns what the relationship has to teach them. Then sometimes, with no apparent reason, all the energy goes out of the relationship.  There is no enthusiasm for the job, the people at the job, a particular friend, or partner.  This seems to indicate that we may have learned all we can from that relationship, and it may be time to move on to another one of life’s lessons.

In my first novel, Windborne, the three women who are the central focus of the novel are also seeking this balance in their relationships. When the relationships end, they must reflect on what really makes them happy and what doesn’t.  They must learn to apply the lessons they learned from their relationships and pay attention to any red flags that come up in the future.

They must learn not to be afraid to be alone for a while if that’s what life has in store.  In spending time alone, they are actually giving themselves the opportunity to get to know themselves as individuals and to incorporate and integrate the experiences they have had into their new sense of self. They must learn that one of the most important relationships they will ever have is the one they have with themselves.

This theme is carried through again in my latest novel, The Dutchman. Here the main character, Harke DeJong, is attracted to women who represent the future he sees for himself. They are women of class and social standing that he aspires to but that seems just out of his grasp. After a disastrous first love affair, he is hesitant to commit a second time, choosing instead to prove himself worthy by achieving his dream of independence and land ownership on his own. After many years alone, he eventually discovers that achieving wealth and social standing were not enough. There is still something missing in his life. Like Jerry Maguire, he is incomplete, and there is only one person who can fill the void in his life.

Although every relationship has its ups and downs, the key is to never make the other person feel abandoned or alone as long as you are there. A strong relationship means choosing to be together and finding common ground even when your differences are pushing you apart.

You can find all my books at the following link. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=wanda+dehaven+pyle&i=stripbooks

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter at https://facebook.com/wandadehavenpyle and https://twitter.com/pyle_wanda

Flint and Gristle

“It is defeat that turns bone to flint, and gristle to muscle, and makes men invincible, and formed those heroic natures that are now in ascendency in the world. Do not, then, be afraid of defeat. You are never so near to victory as when defeated in a good cause.”  – Henry Ward Beecher

As evidenced in the story of Louis Zamperini who survived shipwreck and Japanese prison camp during World War II or the story of Aaron Ralston, the young hiker who amputated his own arm when it was crushed by an 800 pound boulder, the notion of the will to survive is an important concept when attempting to understand and comprehend why we do what we do. This can be related to either one’s push for survival on the brink of death, or someone who is just trying to find a meaning for continuing their life in the face of severe hardship. Some researchers say that those who have a reason or purpose in life during such dreadful and horrific experiences, will often appear to fare better than those that may find such experiences overwhelming. Every day, people undergo countless types of negative experiences, some which may be demoralizing, hurtful, or tragic. An ongoing question continues to be what maintains the will to survive in these situations.

In my debut novel, Windborne, the characters are pitted against the hardships of climate extremes, from drought to floods, from blizzards to dust storms. In addition, they must contend with the political and economic issues prevalent during the time. Like most of use who have lived through times of tribulation, they survive through sheer determination and perseverance. They dig deep to find the strength to carry on in spite of the difficulties they face.

The years of The Great Depression were especially hard on farmers in the Midwest because the economic crisis coincided with years of drought and dust storms. Farmers and economists alike had not foreseen the drop in demand for American goods at the end of World War I.  The abundant harvest coupled with falling demand left an excess of crop and not enough profit to pay for expenditures.  Overproduction led to plummeting prices which led to stagnant market conditions and living standards for farmers in the 1920s. Gradually, the small family farm that had long been the model was replaced by larger and more business-oriented farms.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers had taken out mortgages and loans to buy out their neighbors’ property, and now were unable to meet the financial burden. The cause was the collapse of land prices after the wartime bubble which left farmers saddled with heavy debts. More and more small farmers were forced to give up the land and seek employment elsewhere in order to survive.

Many of these same hardships are faced by the protagonist in my latest novel, The Dutchman, almost a century earlier. The power to ‘hold on’ is mental strength characteristic of anyone who persevered in the face of adversity.  They may lack in some other area, have many weaknesses or eccentricities, but the quality of persistence is never absent. No matter what opposition they meet or what discouragement or obstacles they face, they manage to survive through sheer strength of will. It is not so much brilliancy of intellect, or fertility of resource, as persistency of effort and constancy of purpose, that helps them survive. They know that if they ever accomplish their personal goals they must do it by determined and constant industry.

We hear a great deal of talk about wealth, genius, talent, luck, chance, or cleverness playing a large part in one’s personal success. Leaving out luck and chance, all these elements are important factors. Yet the possession of any or all of them, unaccompanied by a definite aim, a determined purpose, will not insure personal success.

Opposing circumstances create strength. Opposition gives us greater power of resistance. To overcome one barrier gives us greater ability to overcome the next. Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has encountered, and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. Not the distance we have run, but the obstacles we have overcome, the disadvantages under which we have made the race, will decide the prizes.

Persistency of purpose is a power. An encouraging start is nothing without backbone. The persistent man never stops to consider whether he is succeeding or not. The only question with him is how to push ahead, to get a little farther along, a little nearer his goal. Whether it leads over mountains, rivers, or swamps, he must reach it. Every other consideration is sacrificed to this one dominant purpose.

These are the qualities I embody within my characters, whether they be male or female. They persist and persevere in spite of incredible hardships, demonstrating the strength and fortitude that have formed the backbone of this nation and continue to exist as a testament to the power of the human spirit.

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Editorial Reviews for Indie Authors

Hi All!

You may recall from my last post, that I was taking a break from writing to read and reflect. Over the past several months, I have been focusing on reading and writing editorial reviews for indie writers in a variety of genres through The International Book Review. I have discovered a wealth of wonderful writers who, like me, have chosen to forgo the traditional publishing route and self-publish their work. And it it has been an amazing experience! The quality of the books I have reviewed is easily on a par with and sometimes surpasses those I have read from traditional publishers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “indie author”, it defines those of us who have chosen to retain creative control of our work from concept to completion through marketing promotion and beyond by publishing our own work. Unfortunately, publishing your own book has received a bad rap in the past. It is often snootily labeled as second-class, amateur, slipshod, self-centered, unprofessional and much worse. However, there is difference between and indie author and those who self-publish a book for family, friends or community. An indie author hopes to make a living from writing and publishing books. They are “indie” because compared to authors who sign exclusive deals with a single publisher, they are relatively independent.

Indie authors employ a variety of services to accomplish the publishing process to professional standards, including editorial, design, production, distribution, marketing, promotion and rights licensing. They understand the value of their own intellectual property. Though they may selectively license rights to trade publishers and other rights buyers, where advantageous, it is a business arrangement between equals.

Indie authors seek validation from readers, rather than publishers. Therefore, the importance of reviews cannot be understated. Editorial reviews are one of the most underrated tools in a self-publishing author’s arsenal—that’s because most authors either don’t know what they are or how to access them. Editorial reviews and customer reviews are two completely separate things. Customer reviews are written by people who have bought your book and are thus a fiercely guarded component of Amazon. Whereas editorial reviews are written by people who’ve received your book and agreed to do a review for you. Editorial reviews are book evaluations that are usually written by an editor or expert in the book’s genre or field. In an editorial review, no correcting or rewriting of a manuscript occurs, even if a professional editor does the review. The review would be more accurately described as editorializing, meaning the act of offering opinions or interpretations of a work.

Editorial book reviews are consistently one of the most powerful tools available to traditional publishers for promoting their books, making them one of the most powerful tools available to indie authors for book marketing also. They are a legitimate form of social proof on your book’s sales page. They establish credibility and competence in the publishing marketplace and help set the tone for reader interaction. They distinguish your work from the millions of other books that are vying for the reader’s attention and help to crystallize what your book is about. Many potential readers may never see your book in print at a bookstore, but your reviews will be easily available on the internet and add credibility to your books in a digital environment.

Editorial reviews are NOT Amazon reader reviews, and thus do not follow Amazon review rules. Editorial reviews add evidence that your work has been evaluated and validated by professionals. Readers often check out the editorial reviews before they decide to buy. Along with the blurb, cover and look inside, editorial reviews are one of the factors that help readers decide whether the book is worth their time or not.

Both types of reviews bring different value to authors and readers. Editorial or critical reviews offer third-party or professional opinions on the work. Customer reviews provide feedback from those actually buying the book. There can be a huge discrepancy between critics’ and customers’ opinions of a book. So which one wins? These days, genuine customer reviews can carry a lot of weight with buyers. Editorial reviews can carry weight with true fans who often want more in-depth opinions.

My advice: seek both.

Check out the editorial reviews for my books at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Wanda+DeHaven+Pyle&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Break Time!

I started writing novels in 2013 and published my fifth book in November of 2020. I have learned a lot along the way and (I think) my writing has improved since I started. My goal when I started was to capture on paper some of the stories that had been rolling around in my head for decades. When I finally retired and had time to write, it seemed that that the stories that had been screaming to be let free, just wouldn’t stop.

But now it’s time for a break.

Most of my early stories were based on childhood experiences and stories from my past. Now I find that in the autumn of my years, I am through with looking back, and instead, I am eager to look forward from the vantage point of age and experience.

But to do so, I need to take a break and take time observe life as it is rather than as it was. This is a new chapter for me and one that is not often addressed in fiction. I’m not sure what my approach will be, but I am anxious to explore the possibilities.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it’s going. But in the meantime, please visit my Amazon page and check out my work to date. https://www.amazon.com/Wanda-DeHaven-Pyle/e/B00GDJ9HTM?

Predictable Plots and Plot Twists

Most of us have read a book and been able to guess what was coming, and to be honest, that’s part of the fun. However, if your plot becomes too predictable and boring, then your reader won’t be that impressed with the overall story.

Most plots are a variation on each other. They’re the same plots, or share the same plot points, but are written in many different ways. Georges Polti identifies only 36 basic plots and anything else is really just a variation on a them. What sets them apart is the way we structure the story, the characters we create, the themes we explore, the information we provide to the reader, the subplots and of course, the outcome.

According to Isabelle Rodriquez, there are several ways a writer can add originality to the plot.

1. Consider a different approach – in other words, throw in some unpredictable plot twists, the kind that your reader won’t be able to second guess. Writers love to wrong-foot their readers, so don’t be afraid to thrown them off course.

2. Try to be fresh and different with your themes – readers like the unexpected. Be political, be controversial; themes are there to explore.

3. Ask provocative questions about your story – What would the main character really do in a given situation? The predictable action or the unpredictable action? Sometimes the unpredictable works better.

4. Add in some surprises. Again, readers love surprises – they make for the unpredictable. As the writer, you can create any surprise, but just make sure they are not too far-fetched that the reader thinks they are silly or ridiculous.

5. Avoid clichés. Does your detective have to be male, with a female sidekick, usually seen as a foil to the main character?  Then reverse the roles. Have a female detective, with the male foil.  Are your female characters generally written as weak and sometimes stupid? Have a reality check. Not all women are weak or stupid. And not all men are heroic and strong. These are all clichés.

6. Don’t be afraid to take a different direction with your story – keep your reader on their toes, so don’t be afraid to take a risk with the story arc.

In The Dutchman, I use a variation of the “Boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl” plot. The originality comes in the form of plot twists.

Harke DeJong had loved Lainie Van Huel since the moment he first saw her, but her family were members of the liberal elite who ruled the Dutch government, and Harke’s father was the leader of a group of Dutch Seceders who secretly opposed the liberal views of the state church. When Lainie’s body is discovered floating in a rain-swollen stream, her brother, Dirk, threatens to bring ruin upon Harke’s family in retaliation for her death. Haunted by grief over Lainie’s death and consumed by guilt for the hardships now facing his family, Harke flees his homeland to seek a better life in America. Predictable.

Armed with an old promissory note from George Washington and a packet of love letters written to his grandmother by a Dutch privateer, he sets out to pursue his fortune in America. Hank soon learns that his ability to survive in the American West depends on his ability to navigate a world filled with greed and graft, fueled by the siren’s call of railroad speculation. Plot Twist.

You should always consider whether having a plot twist to spice up your writing is necessary. A successful plot twist is all about set up and execution. The twist should not slow the plot, but instead, help move it along and get your character to the resolution.

You should keep in mind that you can almost never outwit your audience. In a sea of a hundred readers, at least one will be able guess what will happen. It’s not an indicator that you’re a bad writer, but rather that the individual is a sharp reader.

With only 36 definitive plots, writers might think they are limited, but in fact, there is a wealth of stories we can create, just by shaking things up, being different or provocative, by putting a new spin on things, by approaching the story in a new and fresh way, by creating unique characters and by taking risks.

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