Thursday, June 8, 2017

Week of Reading Contrasts

A simple truth: Reading always teaches. What it teaches is a separate inquiry.

This week the pages of two books filled my brain.  Both were book club selections.

The first, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, surpassed the first obstacle of "Oh, here's another book dealing with World War II." Spoiler alert: The hype that this was a "love story" between a French blind girl and a young German Hitler youth doesn't pan out.

The back-and-forth juxtaposition of their two lives transcends. The rich detail of their lives driven home by strong verbs. The horrors of war sketched without becoming all consuming. What is captivating is the inner drives and obstacles of multiple characters brought together by a jewel that strings out the novel's suspense.

The second, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, mounted page-after-page of disappointment for its tale of Mexican illegals on a "quest" to recruit men who had crossed the border to return to a Mexican village to protect it against banditos. Billed as a comedy, there was an absence of laughs and many attempts to use crude, boorish, and bathroom references to create humor.

The plot was shallow. Clich├ęs abounded. There were stereotypical characters.

Better one read The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande for a better factual and emotional understanding of illegal immigration along the United States southern border.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clarity, the writing challenge.

Writing clarity is always a challenge. It's one reason authors have editors. With humility, this writer fills both roles with herculean effort to keep them separate.

This posts harvests true-to-life examples taken from works, if not yet published, then designed to be published. In each example, see if your mind hesitates while it grasps for meaning.

I'll refuse to divulge the names of the authors and their titles. This post is for educational purposes, not shaming. If you chuckle, don't tell me.

Let's go:

Number one:  "He walked haltingly into his walker and turned it off and then sunk into his chair by the window."

Response:  Can you tell exactly what he did?  If he could walk, why the need for a walker? What do we miss? Wheelchairs are motorized, walkers generally not.

Number two:   "The master bedroom was larger, with a deck overlooking the beach and had an attached bathroom."

Response:  Wouldn't it be great if the beach had an attached bathroom? Those pesky connectors like the word "and" always send the wrong signal.

Number three: "Caroline glanced around then bent low and whispered a warning."

Response:  Punctuation can help with clarity. Wouldn't it be a faster read if the sentence said: "Caroline glanced around, bent low, and whispered a warning." Generic words always pose a problem. "Around" is one such example. What if, Caroline glanced left and right before she bent low. If she did go in a circle, the word "twirled" adds more clarity than "around."

Number four:  "Though, if I had to shoot through my purse today, I'd be madder than a hornet." She wrinkled her nose and untucked it from the pit of her arm. "It's new."

Response:  Plastic surgery, anyone? Yes, it's a difficult day when one has to untuck their nose from their armpit.  The purse would be easier.

Number five:  "Well what's wrong then?" Jackson asked, then before she had time to answer ran another question to her on its heels. "You haven't been spotted...?"

Response:  As with the previous example, body parts can be cumbersome to reference. Why not identify the other speaker with greater specificity than a pronoun? Place a period after asked. Insert "Judy's mouth gaped without a word spoken. 'You haven't been spotted...'"

Undoubtedly there's more examples in the world of writing. I'm returning to my efforts to craft words imbued with clarity so strong no reader misunderstands or has to detour into a foggy mist of vagary. My fingers are crossed for both you and me.

Donan Berg's latest literary effort is Alexa's Gold, a romance mystery with extra thrills. Click this link for to obtain a free sample of Alexa's Gold e-book , multiple e-readers supported. The trade paperback arrives at major retailers April 25, 2017.

Author Berg's 2016 First Place Gold Award romance, One Paper Heart, remains available at, libraries, and major book retailers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Alexa's Gold Arrives April 11, 2017

Author Donan Berg, 2016 Feathered Quill Romance Gold Award winner, releases his latest romance thriller on April 11, 2017.

The new novel is entitled:

Alexa’s Gold

Mystery, Romance, Thrills

 Fall in love with Alexa’s grit. She has it all: pluck, courage, stamina, and the endless farmyard gravel she waits to inherit from her Grandma. Yes, Grandpa’s buried gold coins are hers, if? Multiple BIG IFs. If she sleuths Grandma’s recipe clue. If she outwits those who would steal it. If Grandma’s lawyer fights off her mother’s will challenge.

 As a Chicago probation officer, Alexa witnesses crime firsthand. Her goal is simple: she doesn’t wish to be the lightning rod that attracts harm to her two-year-old son Samuel.

 America’s Heartland poses her biggest risk. Who does she trust? Is she safe? Will romantic love find her? And blossom?

Alexa’s Gold spins an elaborate web of unsuspected twists and turns sprung with gusto.

About the Author

Donan Berg intrigues readers with characters who battle everyday concerns to become truly heroic. He writes an addictive antidote prescription to the blues. His life’s journey has been as a journalist, corporate executive, and lawyer living in America’s heartland with roots in his native Ireland. In 2016 he won the Feathered Quill First Place Gold Award for Romance.

E-book, multiple formats, April 11, 2017 at
or at major book retailers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Explore New Writing

Merry Christmas

Wishing all, individually and collectively, the merriest 2016 Christmas ever.

I filled a lull to engage in reading aspiring novel writers outside the stream of those for whom I get paid to do freelance editing.

The novel picked up today, women's fiction, stopped me cold in the first few pages.

This book and writer, who shall remain anonymous, hit me with the following two sentences:

1.  "Anne spent the next year was in a blur of creative frenzy."

Obviously the word "was" should be deleted as one simple grammar cure.
Even then the narrative presentation smacks of dullness. I think I know what is meant. You may get a greater understanding if I reveal Anne is a portrait painter.

Would you say "blur" is the right word? Blur can be defined as "obscure," "haze,"
"stain," "cloud," and "dim."

Rather than "spent" would you be more impressed if Anne "unleashed" a frenzy of creative talent?

2.  "Inside the warmth and happy mood lighting welcomed them, and they ...."

Are you dangling with me? If you read further, the scene starts as two people walk into and begin a conversation in a bar. You might rearrange the words to state: "Warm lighting and a happy mood welcomed ___ and ___ ." That may not be true. It could be "____ and ____, in a happy mood, were welcomed by the bar's warmth." "Happy mood" could be expanded to tilt one's understanding in another direction: "Joyous voices, interrupted by song and laughter, greeted _____ and _____."

No matter what you decide, isn't the fact that you had to delay your reading to grasp an understanding of what the words were crafted to mean annoying?

Still, it's no reason to avoid new writers. Pick up one of their books or download a digital copy. The hunt for hidden treasure is always exciting.

Again, Merry Christmas. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

It's been awhile since I posted.

Obstacles have been cleared and I return to wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

While it's untitled, a new romance after 2016's Gold Award One Paper Heart has been
completed and will debut in early 2018. The timeline extended to make room in 2017
for the promised mystery Into the Dark, the return of Sheriff Jonas McHugh. He was first
encountered as the Iowa sheriff in Baby Bones.

Keep writing. Be aware that if you have to take multiple breaths before the end
of the sentence, it's likely too long, or mindless. Be aware of words. The term "awful" in the beginning was meant to be "full of awe." Not what you find today. It's meaning is the exact

While spoken words "disappear" into the air as soon as spoken. Words typed on a computer
screen are often viewed as provisional. That is, not as permanent as words struck by the
letters on a typewriter. Technology has created an easier path to the mind, not one that is
different in hope.

The hope still remains that words have impact, an intended impact.

Enjoy the holidays with friends and family. I'll be back sooner than expected.

Until December 15, 2016, One Paper Heart is available for 50% off only at with coupon code JC59M entered at checkout.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Read both Amanda and Why Does One Write?

For a limited time, read a complimentary copy of Donan Berg's Amanda. Visit Read Amanda, Click here. While at the website be sure to read the code to be entered as a coupon at checkout. Say thank you by posting a review at Barnes and Noble,, or Goodreads.

Why does one write?

For a limited time

For the innate joy?

To mask the pain?

To tell or retell a story?

For a buffet of riches?

Whatever the motivation to slide a pen across paper or to click keys and have characters pop up on a monitor’s screen, truth clashes with fiction. Even if our brain were infallible, would we want to record the minutiae of living? Would anyone desire to read it? The simple answer is no, or at least probably not.

And then there is the horrifying thought that perhaps someone else has said what you want to say or it has been said by others. Where is the idea, the turn of phrase never before spoken or set forth in writing? It is there. No one has had your experience, your perspective, your daily life. There’s the richness, the subtly, the unique emotion coursing from your brain to your fingertips. Whether it be a roar or a gentle nudge, it seeks expression, your exquisite unique expression.

And, with high hopes, you’ve begun. You inch the pen off the paper or press the “shift” button without pairing it with another key because you fear the “right” word exists, but not in your mind. Don’t wait. Perfection in the first instance is not your goal.

 First thoughts can be best, or fuzzy or out of context as the hand fails to match your mind’s speed. No worry. Experience will guide you and the first recorded thought is part of the required experience.  The sun shines every day at 36,000 feet. At sea level, there are lapses to allow daydreaming spurred by cloud images. Both the sun’s rays and their blockage frame the experience of the sun to give alternate and wonderful days not filled with monotony.

There be no need to worry that your first efforts drive a slow romantic dance step into a somersault. The journey into the box canyon is not lost. The return along the same road can offer new insights.

Do not be stymied by literal truth. Even if there is such a thing, differentiate between what the world may see and what you see and sense.  Be strong and forceful in all directions. If you envisioned one story and end up telling another, that’s not failure. It’s success.

About the author

Donan Berg, a heralded mystery writer, in 2016 won the Feathered Quill 1st Place Gold Book Award for Romance. He’s received comments from readers who said they don’t read romance, but One Paper Heart was an exception they enjoyed. You can read a One Paper Heart free sample by clicking on the link or at major online book retailer websites.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review. Tom Brokaw, A Lucky Life Interrupted

Tom Brokaw's seventh novel, A Lucky Life Interrupted, need not interrupt your life.

It's a short work, 256 pages in its Random House large print edition. The story's hook is the famed journalist and NBC anchorman's diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable cancer affecting the blood's plasma cells

While there are memorable artful twists of the English language, e.g., the neighborhood of life has no long term leases, they are too few. The constant straying from the disease to past events and celebrity name-dropping is disheartening. The back page blurb says Brokaw writes to help others. That may be his intent, but how many people jump on planes from Minnesota's Mayo Clinic to Sloan-Kettering in New York and have General Electric subsidize the cost of a $500 chemo pill, taken twice daily. Brokaw said his co-pay was $15 per pill. Thus, he pays out-of-pocket $30 while GE pays $970 and Brokaw doesn't mention the cost of two other major drugs and other injections and/or care.

Even the presented facts (which are not disputed) get jumbled to lose apple to apple comparison. For example, "The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 1,658,370 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and that in the same year about 1,600 people will die from cancer-related conditions daily." Doesn't it seem that deaths are low?  Then note that the first is an annual figure and the second is daily.  To be comparable, the second must be multiplied by 365.  Moreover, let's not forget that the elapsed time between diagnosis to death is not always less than twelve months or one year. There is overlap and it's left uncommented upon.

If that is not disquieting, the ending is. At page 253, Brokaw asks the rhetorical questions: "Has cancer changed  me? Am I a better person? That's for others to judge."  The word "copout" rings in the mind. It's ironic that a great communicator can't say, or more likely won't, which is the impression given.

Brokaw does acknowledge in brief sketches that his situation, based on income, doctors in the family, being a Mayo Clinic public trustee, and with employer insurance coverage, he is far from the everyman experience. One might even say light years from the experience of the World War II generation he wrote eloquently about in his first book.

It is not a research book if a reader is concerned about the United States healthcare crisis.

Donan Berg is a freelance editor and independent author. His latest novel, One Paper Heart, won the 2016 Feathered Quill Gold 1st Place Romance Book Award. One Paper Heart e-book or One Paper Heart trade paperback .  His mysteries and other stories can be found at Amazon .