Book Review: Don Quixote

Book Name: Don Quixote
Author: Miguel de Cervantes
First Published:1605 (part one) 1615 (part two)

Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547 in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. His father’s profession was that of a barbar-surgeon from Cordoba. He set bones, performed bloodlettings in addition to shaves and haircuts. Cervantes’ mother was the third child of a poor nobleman who sold his daughter into matrimony to pay his debts. Although their marriage was not a happy one, they still managed to produce seven children together. When Cervantes was a young man, he fell in love with a girl named Josefina, but because of his family’s poverty and Cervantes’ poor prospects, the girl’s father forbade her to see him.

Cervantes left Spain and enlisted with the Spanish Navy Marines in Naples in 1570. The following year, he sailed with the fleet of ships that defeated the Ottoman forces in the Battle of Lepanto. Cervantes had a fever during the battle but he chose to fight for his King and his God instead of hiding below decks. He was shot three times, which left his left arm immobile, but he considered his combat as a badge of honor.

In 1575, Cervantes sailed to Barcelona. His ship was attacked by Algerian pirates near the Catalan coast. It was a terrible battle in which the Captain and many of the crew were killed. The survivors were captured and taken to Algiers. Cervantes was enslaved for five years as a prisoner of war. He was returned to Madrid only after his parents paid his ransom. It was this period in his life that inspired much of the subject matter for several of his later literary works, The Captive’s Tale in Don Quixote and two plays that were set in Algiers, El Trato de Argel and Los Banos de Argel.

Cervantes life settled into middle-class normality after his return to Spain. Like many authors of his time, he was not able to support himself via his writings. Instead, he worked as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Navy. He also took the position of a tax collector, moving from town to town demanding the back taxes due the crown. Many of the characters and situations in Don Quixote were inspired by these “day jobs”. In his senior years, he managed to gain a sponsor and was able to turn to writing full-time.

In 1584, he married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, whose uncle was accounted the basis for the character of Don Quixote. He remained poor until 1605, when his novel Don Quixote was released. The book was written as a satire of chivalric romance and the general public enjoyed Cervantes’ use of everyday speech in his writing. The book did not make him rich but it made him a popular writer internationally.

Cervantes died on April 22, 1616, a year after the second part of Don Quixote was published, of type II Diabetes. He was buried the next day in a convent in Madrid. Later his remains were lost due to construction work at the convent.

Coincidently, William Shakespeare also died on April 23, 1616. To honor the date when two of the greatest authors of all time died, UNESCO established this date at the International Day of the Book. What is not often acknowledged is that Spain had adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, but England was still using the Julian calendar. There is actually a eleven day difference in the date of these two author’s deaths. But why ruin a good holiday concept over a few dates?

“Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” -Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote the novel begins with Alonso Quixano, almost 50, lives in La Mancha with his niece and their housekeeper. He is rational for the most part but his obsession with books about chivalry has distorted his perception into believing that those books were real. Inspired by the stories, he decides to be a wandering knight and look for adventure. He wears an old suit of armor and renames himself “Don Quixote”, refers to his thin horse as Rocinante and recruits his illiterate neighbor Sancho Panza to be his squire.

He goes out and arrives at an inn, believing that it is a castle, and asks the innkeeper to make him a knight. The annoyed innkeeper agrees just to make him go away. It is at this inn where Don Quixote spies the barmaid Aldonza Lorenzo and re-imagines her as his lady love, Dulcinea del Toboso. Next, Don Quixote discovers a man who is beating a boy and the mad knight forces this man to swear that he will treat the boy well. The man, however, continues with the beating once Don Quixote is away. When an encounter with traders ends in a fight, after the men insult Dulcinea, Don Quixote is beaten. It is then that Sancho and a peasant return him to his home and worried family. While he is unconscious, his housekeeper and his niece, with help from other local residents, burn the man’s chivalric books and close his library. They hope this will halt the old man’s dreams of adventure and keep him sane.

When he recovers, Don Quixote and Sancho continue with their journey and meet different characters, with Don Quixote’s imagination turning these meetings into quests. The man’s tendency to intrude in other people’s affairs and to skip paying his debts results in injuries and embarrassments. He tilts at windmills with his lance, believing them to be vicious giants and he ambushes a group of friars traveling with a lady.

In the second part of Don Quixote, published 10 years after the first, the people that Don Quixote and Sancho meet already know about the duo. Some of these characters trick Don Quixote to entertain themselves, sending the pair to adventures that end in practical jokes. This tests the knight’s sense of chivalry and his professed love for Dulcinea. Even Sancho tricks him one time, bringing back three peasant girls and claiming that they are Dulcinea and her two ladies-in-waiting. Near the end of the story, an encounter forces Don Quixote to reluctantly go home and possibly cease his chivalrous acts.

Don Quixote Book CoverMy first exposure to this classic tale of madness, fantasy, and ideas of what is important as citizens of the world, was a live performance on Broadway of Man of La Mancha. It was my first time in New York City as a young woman and my cousin suggested that I pick this play because it was classic theater, and it was a little less expensive being a revival. I was traveling on the cheap, so it seemed a good idea to me at the time. As I sat in the darkened theater, I was carried away by the scenes of Cervantes in the Algerian prison, pleading for his life by playing the tales of Don Quixote to his fellow prisoners, amusing them enough to spare his life. The songs from this play haunt me still. Later, I read the book Don Quixote and was transported into a world very different from modern America, a story that would be considered the first modern European novel and is regarded among the greatest works of fiction ever written. Cervantes’ himself was dubbed El Principe de los Ingenious, ”The Prince of Wits”.

If you have not read Don Quixote, I urge you to place it in your to-read list. You can find a free download of this classic novel at Project Gutenberg. There is also a movie version of Man of La Mancha (1972), starring Peter O’Toole as Don Quixote, Sofia Loren as Dulcinea, and James Coco as Sancho Panza. If you would experience the beautiful music of the Broadway play, I can recommend the film as well.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksAs I hopped about the blogosphere, I was struck by the number of name dropping article titles. Upon reading said articles, some of them turned out to be pretty good. So do a little name dropping yourself and check out these writing links featuring famous science fiction authors.

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How to Keep your Story Moving and Your Character Believable

Anoint Your Character with Inner Conflict, A Master Technique

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Ursula K. Le Guin talks to Michael Cunningham about genres, gender, and broadening fiction

J. Kathleen Cheney on Forgiving Anne McCaffrey

Author Performance: IWOSC Reads Its Own

As I drove in my car toward the city of Pasadena, CA, I felt a number of emotions. The first was annoyance at the traffic, one can hardly travel anywhere in California without feeling the press of automobiles around you. The second was gratitude for the air conditioning that combated the summer heat and the third was a sense of curiosity for the event I was planning on attending that afternoon.

Twice a year, the Independent Writers of Southern California holds an open salon where members of the society read short excerpts from their novels at the independent bookstore Vroman’s. I am in love with this book and stationary shop. They sell fountain pens, ink, notebooks and Filofax binders along with the usual assortment of books. Upstairs is a lovely gift shop and a small auditorium where they host events. So while I come for their events, I also plan an extra 45 minutes afterward to shop for stationary goodies.

I have never read my work in public, I was not planning on doing so this day, but I am interested in seeing how these published authors prepared for the event, how they performed, and if it would be well attended. Perhaps one day, I might decide to read at this event myself as I gain experience as a writer and more confidence in my own reading performance.

The books being read were a range of subjects, from medical advice, to cowboy poetry, and a woman that claimed to be the ghostwriter for her cat. The event was well attended by an an audience of 40 people that fit comfortably at the Vroman’s Bookstore stage area. Before the readings, the authors circulated around the audience, passing out bookmarks, flyers and other information about their books. There was also a program listing the fourteen people would be be reading and a little information about the authors and their books.

I was impressed by the reading style of each of the authors. They made eye contact with the audience, had flourish to their voices in the manner of storytellers the world over. Afterward, they set up to sell their books to those that were interested. I noticed that many people left with new autographed books at the end of the event. This turned out to be a wonderful event for both authors and audience.

Author Gagik MelikyanAuthor Gagik Melikyan is a scientist, teacher, writer, panelist, publisher and public advocate. His non-fiction book is entitled, Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Antioxidants, Foods, Supplements, and Cosmetics. Mr. Melikyan read a short excerpt from his book, but spent most of his allotted time telling us why his book would be helpful in learning what is going on in the food industry. He had a great sense of humor and he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

Karen Kondazian Karen Kondazian read from her novel The Whip which has received many awards for best historical fiction. She is also an actress who has appeared in over 50 television programs, is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio and is currently working on her second novel.

PW ConwayP.W. Conway is an author and cowboy poet. Along with his book Buckaroo Poetry, Cowboy Poems for Young and Old, he is working on a historical novel. He performs his cowboy poetry and chairty events, cowboy festivals and country fairs. He is a member of the Ventura County Cattlemen’s Association and the Simi Valley Historical Society.

The entire cast of authors that performed this day were: Mark Miller, Maryrose Smyth, Karen Kondazian, Flo Selfman, Peter Conway, Erana Leiken, Gagik Melikyan, Adolphus Ward, Janiss Garza, Daniel Lavery, Vickey Kall, Gary Young, Bo Kyung Kim, and Jon Chandonnet.
IWOSC Readers of 2014

Author Interview: A. R. Silverberry

A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. I’d like to welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Peter AdlerA day in the life of A. R. Silverberry:

Wake up between six and seven, roll out of bed, find my cat, and soak up the morning love. Place face deeply into Persian fur and listen to him purr. Pet him until it’s clear what he really wants is food. Promise to continue to fool myself this tomorrow. Clean litter box. House boss now content, retreat to my office. Hammer at words for two hours. Feel happy with what I’ve written. Or not. If not, try not to drive my wife crazy talking about it. Commute 75 minutes, listening to audio books. Currently engrossed in Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep. Twenty to thirty minutes before arriving at day job, give left-brain a rest, turn off book, and tune into classical station. See psychotherapy clients 5 – 6 hours. Listen. Play games on the floor—most of the clients are children. Thank God this is fun! Back in the car and back to Dr. Sleep. Wind down munching on chips and watching reruns of Dance Academy on Netflix. Sleep. Dream, dream about the novel you’re writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

I felt the call. That’s something we either listen to or we don’t. If we do, we’re happy and we’re dong our soul work. If we ignore it, we’re on a fast train to a miserable life. Sometime in my twenties I understood this. I had dabbled with writing in the 1980s. I may have the beginning of a few stories lying around. It wasn’t until 1998 that I got serious after reading a slew of Oz books. I haven’t looked back.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when I was wrapping up the first draft of my first novel; I saw that I had actually woven a story that held together. But maybe it was before that. My wife had asked me to write a story for her to illustrate. I came up with two of them, but one tale had a clear voice, which, while it’s evolved over the years, is still essentially mine.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?

After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?

Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea came from a conversation I was having where I was using the metaphor of a stream. But the philosophical underpinnings of the story date back years. I did a lot of yoga and meditation starting in middle school. In high school, Herman Hesse’s masterpiece, Siddhartha, had a huge affect on me. Who wouldn’t want to achieve Nirvana? I took a class called Eastern Religion and Philosophy, adding to my understanding and interest in Buddhism. More recently, I’ve embraced the use of mindfulness and compassion in my work as a psychologist. But maybe it really dates back to that sailing trip I took with a good friend and his father when I was in high school. We journeyed up the Sacramento River and anchored in a peaceful byway. Those images found their way into the book.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Everyone does. The trick is to get out of the way of it and let it sing. I’m also a pianist and a composer, so I’m very aware of the rhythm of my sentences, not just individually, but next to each other. If it doesn’t sound right to me, if it feels off, I rework it. I also love the sound of words. Sometimes I’ll choose a word as much because of how it sounds as what it means.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Titles are the hardest for me. I came up with several options and polled my beta readers as well as people who hadn’t read the book. There were several strong candidates, but I opted for the simpler title, which seemed fitting for a fable like this one.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Absolutely, but you’ll never get me to say it! As Stephen King said, you want the reader to feel the emotions, not think. So you’ll excuse me if I just invite anyone out there to feel the emotions of the book. I promise you’ll smile; I promise beauty; I promise darkness descending with a vengeance; I promise hope.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

My wife teases me that I’m all the characters in my stories. That may be partially true, but most of my characters amalgams. Some, though, spring fully blown from who knows where. Those are the ones I love.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

First and foremost, the many peoples across many lands and time who formed the myths and fairy tales that distill what’s at heart in the human condition. One of the first books I saw, The Way of the Whirlwind, my parents bought for my brother and me before we were born. It’s about two aborigine bush children, Nungaree and Jungaree, who set out to find their baby brother, who trickster, Whirlwind, stole. The illustrations were colorful and magical, and made me feel that all things in the world were sentient and animated. Fertile ground for a budding fantasy writer! A fifth grade teacher turned on to The Hobbit, and as soon as I could find The Lord of the Rings, it was all over for me.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

The real life mentor was my father. He wrote a play, Open Secret, that was included in a volume of best one-act plays in the 40s. He also wrote the original screenplay for the movie, Baby Face Nelson, starring Mickey Rooney. He used to play a game with me as kid. We came up with characters with opposing motives, and then made up stories to fit the characters. It seemed like magic to me, and of course, I never forgot the underlying message: characters make your story.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My website designer, Diane Widdon, is also a graphic artist. She did a fabulous job on the cover for the ebook edition of my first novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, so I knew I wanted her for The Stream. For both books, I selected several photos (after sifting through hundreds!) and asked her to work up three designs. There was no doubt which one I would use for Wyndano’s Cloak. The black background, the intensity on the girls face, the sword, the silver lettering, all said FANTASY! Including the cloak wasn’t necessary. Diane came up with two great covers for The Stream. I polled people to see which design would most likely get them to buy the book. The majority chose the mysterious one you see here. I’m keeping the other one, though, and may use it down the road.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write the truth.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

The best part of writing is sharing my work with you. I’ve met you in bookstores and online; many of you I’ll never forget. The most profound thing for me as a writer is knowing that what’s in my heart, resonated in yours.

The Stream Book CoverA. R. Silverberry
Northern California, USA


The Stream

Publisher: Tree Tunnel Press
Book Cover Designer: Diane Widdon of Novel Website Design





No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksPlatform has been on my mind as of late. I’ve been tweeking my own author platform in small ways to help make it reach more new readers. I’ve been reading up on the subject and I have shared some of what I’ve gleaned down below in the links, along with a few general writing articles. Enjoy!

Don’t Take Author Obesity Sitting Down

Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now)

6 reasons why your book isn’t selling


Does music fill your writing soul?

How Not to Write Yourself into a Corner (in Your Novel and in Life)

How to Impress an Agent or Editor with Your Platform

Pulse on Pacing: How Smooth Transitions Keep Your Story Moving

The Indie Girl’s Guide to: Conventions

AUTHORS, YOU NEED TO READ THIS! (About publishing on Amazon)

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays on Writing * Writer's Links

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