Welcome to fiction writer Donan Berg's blog home. His latest novels include the romance "One Paper Heart" and the mystery "Adolph's Gold." He's earned a reputation for entertaining mystery with heartwarming romance. In his Skeleton Series Mysteries are "A Body To Bones", "The Bones Dance Foxtrot" and "Baby Bones." "Abbey Burning Love" has been published as an e-book only. Expect book reviews, writing tips, whimsy, a quote or two. He's always pleased to answer blog visitor questions.
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, www.bn.com, 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
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.
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.
Best genre is mystery/detective/police procedural. (44.69% )
To forge a conclusion from the above results adds further subjectivity.
The novel's length is approximately 86,000 words. Lower than the acceptable
range of generic words suggests the words written were specific. This may account
for the mid-range sentence difficulty, however, the sixth grade comprehension
level indicates readability wasn't hindered, nor was it a PhD dissertation.
Perhaps, the short sentence length coupled with active sentences (i.e., a low
number of passive sentences) mitigated the difficult sentences effect? The low
number of initial sentence pronouns supports sentence variety.
Authors should remember that the typical reader doesn't parse sentences or
count words. He or she reads. If the author makes the story interesting and easy,
the more read the work will be.
1. What conflicts
protagonist Adolph Anderson other than the fact he doesn’t clip a gold
detective shield to his belt?
2. Was Chief Ron
Howard right to pair Adolph and Luann? Was there ever any doubt that Adolph
would achieve his gold shield?
3. Did Adolph follow
correct police investigative procedure or fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants?
Does it matter? If not to Adolph, to reality’s criminal
4. Adolph finds
scraps of poetry, or what ascribes to be poetry. What do they foreshadow?
If someone said it was an author’s trick to advance the
story’s plot or to generate artificial suspense, would you agree or
disagree? What other foretelling is
5. Did the locale
add significance to the story?
6. There is a
multitude of secondary characters. Are all necessary? Did they distract or become
vital to understanding Adolph or his gold shield quest? How important is
Officer Finnegan? Rebecca? Dean Wainright? Lt. “Bulldog” Hunter?
7. Is Adolph’s
family important to understanding all sides of Adolph? What significance is his
relationship to his wife, his daughter? Does Adolph’s interaction indicate he’s
more concerned about his family’s well-being or that Adolph would act as he
does for any individual in peril?
8. Does any
character name remind you of an earlier Donan Berg mystery?
9. Is there a fear, an experience
or a contemporaneous event that motivates Adolph to alter or confirm how he reacts
the way he does? More than one?
10. Is it important to characterize the novel as a police
procedural? Would it fit or cross to other genres? Mystery? Thriller? Literary?
Character or family study?
It’s a mystery reader’s challenge and the name-of-the-game:
Every character who populates a page could be a suspect. While the author and
reader know who is and who isn’t, the reader can’t be sure. The author must
Secondary characters main role is usually to move the story
along. They serve food and drink to the sleuth, drive him or her around, are
family members or associates who attend holiday parties.
Often sketchy and written in without taxing the author’s
brain, these secondary characters challenge the reader, especially in early
chapters. The author also faces a dilemma. If drawn to narrow, the reader
quickly dismisses the character as not a suspect. Flat, one-dimensional
characters also create lifeless reading.
The author who desires to have as many viable suspects as
possible can not overlook the minor characters, especially on their stage
debut. That is because, if the only three-dimensional characters are the
hero/sleuth and the villain/criminal, the reader won’t have any fun in trying
to decipher whodunit.
The balancing fulcrum between reader and author must be fair
Fair play in that the reader knows as much as the sleuth and
there are multiple suspects.
If the sleuth enters a supermarket, what type of individual
might he find?
The obese, heavyset white-shirted male with the store badge
clipped to his black belt knelt near an aisle merchandise display.His gray hair and facial wrinkles said he
neared retirement. He chewed a yellow pencil stub as if it were a toothpick.
His brown eyes were downcast and hardly brighter than his scuffed black shoes.
Comment on Example one:
Many writers pass off this physical description as strong
characterization. Other than outward appearance, what do we know about this
character. Is he a clerk, a middle-level manager, or the store owner. Was he
concerned with merchandise or had he dropped something? There’s a lot we don’t
know and nothing that really makes this male memorable, except the writer
really wanted us to know the character carried extra weight by the needless
The purple-shirted male with a shaven head knelt with his
hob-nailed engineer boots blocking any grocery store cart that dared attempt to
pass him. The red of his bulbous nose contrasted sharply with deep-set dark
eyes. A red bandana tucked into his rear blue jeans pocket lay limp against his right butt.
Comment on Example two:
This exaggerated attempt to add “color” to the character
spins a blurry and confusing palette. Is this person young and not know better
or old and doesn’t care. Perhaps, he stopped into the store for water before he
was to set out for the costume party. Who knows? These types of characters
don’t ring true to the reader. It draws unneeded attention to the author. The
reader. as well, might question the motives of the author, and not in a good
The store clerk pushing a wheeled merchandise-laden cart
hummed “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Must be new, Detective Jim thought. He
hadn’t met this blue-jacketed young man before.
for Christmas Eve?”
the clerk. He grinned and Jim knew he wasn’t serious.
Comment on Example three.
What does this brief introduction tell the reader about the
young man? Yes, young, but we don’t know years so the reader must actively
engage his or her imagination and draw upon personal experience. May be a high
school or college student working during the Christmas break. He wears what
might be a common clerk uniform jacket so the reader can deduce he’s an
employee. If he hums, there’s an indication of how he approaches his tasks. His
response to Detective Jim indicates a sense of humor. Since he knows where the
eggnog is, he’s either studied the store layout or has worked there for a
sufficient time to become familiar.If
not naturally friendly, perhaps he’s sophisticated in how to hide his true
The store clerk in the last example hasn’t been over
developed. Yet, if need be, his character can reappear later. It’s the same
gradual process of creating major characters.
Examine your secondary characters. If the restaurant server
is mentioned only because a plate of food must be in front of the sleuth, there
is likely no reason even to give the server a name or gender. If the server is
in a cowboy outfit and that is a way to identify the restaurant as a BBG joint,
then by all means add this as one of the few details necessary to orient the
One last point, in real-life we often learn more about
another person by the way they act and talk than by their dress. Detective Jim
will likely remember the clerk’s humming rather than he wore an employee
uniform. Chances are the reader will, too.
Donan Berg's latest novel is a romance entitled One Paper Heart. Read a free sample of One Paper Heart by clicking the underlined link or at your favorite online bookseller.
His recent mystery is Adolph's Gold. Read a free sample at the following link Adolph's Gold or online at your favorite bookseller.