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Author Interview: Ian Walkley

When I first learned of Ian Walkely, I was impressed by the following he has built up for his excellent thriller. He is an Australian author with a flair for executing personal goals. I am pleased to feature Ian here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Ian WalkleyI’m someone who likes change and experiencing new things. I wanted to be an air force pilot but a hearing loss prevented that. I didn’t have a plan B, so I’ve worked as a marketer, a social and market researcher, government policy advisor, and in business development. In 1993 I had a mid-career crisis and started my own consulting business, which I grew to an $8 million business with 35 staff. I sold my share in the business in 2008 so I could follow the dream of writing novels. I have a wife who’s a primary teacher and three grown-up children, two dogs and a cat. Life’s pretty good, really. Oh, and I’m also a very determined person when it comes to achieving goals.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like many writers, it started with a passion for reading. In my late teens I loved to immerse myself in a Wilbur Smith adventure or Robert Ludlum thriller. I began writing novels many times over the years, but never got past about thirty pages. Finally, I cut back to 3 days a week in 2008 and began writing. Just when ebooks began to take off and publishers almost stopped looking for debut authors.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When Kirkus Reviews gave me a good review of my debut novel No Remorse.

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

McCloud, or Mac as they call him, is a Delta Force special operations soldier, a highly trained killer, but not the type to just blindly follow orders. He makes mistakes, and is governed by a strong loyalty to his friends. I don’t think readers want to have more invincible heroes. They want them to have faults and prejudices that get them into trouble. Mac is not great with women, for example.

The bad guy, Sheik Khalid, he’s into all kinds of evil – kidnapping, drugs, slavery, organ transplants, terrorism. Yet he’s not a Bin Laden stereotype. I wanted a bad guy who readers could hate, but not just a terrorist. Khalid has rebelled against the teachings of Islam, especially since his first love was stoned to death. He is determined to overthrow the Saudi regime, and impose a more democratic regime, which would give people more freedom. But with his type of freedom comes a heavy price.

There are three tough female characters in the book, Tally, Sheriti and Anastia. The three female characters are all strong in very different ways. Tally is a computer genius, Sheriti is a trained Mossad agent, and Anastia is a skilled sniper for hire from Bulgaria.

The plotting in No Remorse is complex. It was quite tricky logistically to make it work, especially when you have seven POV characters, each with their own story, travelling between the US, Europe and the Middle East on planes and boats. I had to check, for example, that Mac could physically get to the island of Andaran in a certain time, given that he had to catch three separate flights, because there wasn’t a direct flight from London. Actually, that enabled me to write in a scene on a plane where he is confronted by a female assassin, which was a lot of fun to write. Some novelists don’t worry about that sort of detail. I know we’re writing fiction, but I like things to be realistic.

What inspired you to write this book?

I traveled a lot in business, and I’d often buy a book at the airport bookstore. They were invariably thrillers—global conspiracies, exotic places, heroes bigger than life chasing nasty bad guys and beautiful women. I wanted to write a thriller like that. And did.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have tried outlining, but I tend to keep diverting from any plot I try and flesh out. So I guess I have a big picture of the story, and do a little plotting, then write, then figure out whether I’m on the right track. I throw out lots of scenes. But sometimes I put them back in later, or hold them for use in a later book.

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

I tried fifteen titles for two years before I came up with the title, No Remorse. I wanted the title to reflect a theme. No remorse is often associated with a criminal’s attitude. However, in this case, it’s the protagonist’s attitude. He’s like Liam Neeson in Taken. Totally ready to take on the bad guys and destroy them.

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

The theme is that we need to destroy the evil in the world before it takes advantage of our goodwill and destroys us. And sometimes one has to follow one’s own judgment rather than accept authority at face value.

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

There is a great deal of research gone into the book. I traveled in the Middle East, and researched many of the elements of the plot, such as slavery, illegal organ transplants, missing nuclear material, financial banking scams and so on. So while No Remorse has the action of a James Bond thriller, it could be happening right now. That’s what my readers tell me.

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

In my younger days I enjoyed Wilbur Smith, Alistair Maclean and Robert Ludlum, Isaac Asimov and Philip Dick. More recently Harlan Coben, John Grisham, David Baldacci and Lee Child. I don’t think they’ve influenced my life, but I’ve enjoyed reading their stories. They’re inspiring now because I’m writing, and I can appreciate even more the wonderful imagery, and powerful characters and plots that they create.

I read a variety of genres, and even occasionally literary fiction and YA. I enjoyed The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I forced myself to read Fifty Shades of Grey, but like many others I found it hard to understand the phenomenon’s appeal. To me it’s a romance that doesn’t deliver on its promise. I’m loving Game of Thrones at the moment. But mostly I read thrillers and crime.

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

I would love to have a mentor. Perhaps someone like David Morrell, who lectures in writing thrillers. But I think the sessions I attend at writers’ conferences and the courses I have done are as close as I’ll ever get. Often a writer presenting will have one pearl of wisdom that resonates for a long time.

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

I ran a competition among graphic design students at the Queensland College of Art, and chose the best one to work with me. Her name is Nicole Wong. Unfortunately, she has disappeared. I’m trying to find her because she expressed interest in designing my next book. So far without success. A real life mystery.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I guess I would strongly recommend to emerging writers to study the craft by attending courses and conferences. They say it takes at least five years just to learn the basics. Writing is something one can only improve on. And for self-publishing authors, I would strongly recommend paying for a professional editor. I hate seeing poorly formatted self-published books with typos and grammatical errors that give self-publishing a bad name.

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

My first novel took three years to write. I love getting feedback from readers who’ve enjoyed No Remorse. Fortunately, I get lots of kind words, which inspire me to continue. Writing is not an easy job. It can be lonely, and for me, anyway, there is lots of re-writing and editing before I get it right. “Emerging” writers like me need lots of four and five star reviews on Amazon to help readers become aware. So please, if you like No Remorse, write me a review (and write to me too).

No Remorse Book CoverIan Walkley
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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Publisher: Marq Books
Cover Artist: Nicole Wong

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Author Interview: Patrick C. Greene

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was seeped in the legends of Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch as the Native Americans in the area call them. Naturally, I found myself interested in a fictional story based around these old legends. I want to welcome Patrick C. Greene and his novel Progeny to No Wasted Ink.

Author Patrick C GreeneI’m Patrick C. Greene; actor, martial artist, horror geek, comicbook nerd, metalhead, cineaste, father, husband, philosopher and…oh yeah; author.

When and why did you begin writing?

My father was a journalist and novelist so I had a good bit of exposure to the business as a child. I was writing, in a sense, before I knew how via drawings and telling nonsensical stories, even if nobody was around.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In about the seventh grade, I decided I would be a writer. I was small for my age, and easy target for bullies, and of course the “weird kid”, so at some point, I decided to learn how to defend myself and quickly became obsessed with martial arts, setting my interest in writing aside to train and learn all I could about fighting. I didn’t start writing again seriously until right after high school, when I was pursuing a career as an actor and decided to write my own screenplay to star in, as Stallone did with Rocky. I started knocking out short stories as well, just for fun. Ultimately, coming to a place of calling myself a writer was a gradual process that took many years.

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

In PROGENY, Owen Sterling is a successful author who has just bought a large tract of forest land from a Native tribe. Soon after moving into his new house, he experiences a series of strange events that lead him to believe a family of sasquatches lives close by, and further, that they are potentially quite dangerous. He refuses to let local hunters come anywhere near the property, coming off like an aloof, wealthy outsider. Zane Carver, the alpha male of the locals, decides to ignore Owen’s directive, and takes a group of hunters, including his increasingly rebellious fifteen-year-old son Byron along. Pretty soon, the inevitable happens-hunters and monsters cross paths in a tragic manner, and the result is a game of cat-and-mouse that favors the creatures, forcing Zane and company to seek shelter with their old nemesis Owen.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been intrigued by Bigfoot, and I was always trying to come up with a way to write something about the phenomenon, without resorting to the usual band of teens being offed with Bigfoot as a stand-in for a slasher figure. The idea of a three-way struggle appealed to me, as it blurs the lines between “good” and “bad” and makes potential outcome less predictable.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m tempted to say “neo-splatterpunk” because I read a lot of stuff from that era. I’m not one of those writers that finds no value in gore (though it can be overdone). I think literal viscera can be used to underscore figurative viscera, and a visceral experience is definitely what I hope to achieve. I am an emotional guy so I write about people in highly emotional states. I believe readers want to care about their protagonists, beyond even whether they will come out all right by the end, but also what it would mean if they didn’t–what that protagonist might potentially leave behind.

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

PROGENY relates to the three father/son relationships that are highlighted in the story, especially Owen and Zane. Owen, the writer and Zane the hunter both have boys with whom their relationships are not ideal. Both are struggling, in different ways, to bridge that gap, to build some foundation for a long-term relationship as the boys grow, and the night of the siege is the crucible for that.

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

As a father, it was important to me to address for myself what that means. It’s dedicated to my oldest son Deklan, an exceptional writer in his own right. His mother and I broke up when he was still very young so I haven’t had as much time with him over the years as I would like. The message, I suppose, would be to treasure every moment with your child.

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

Not so much the horror elements, but some of the clumsy efforts by Owen and Zane to maintain good relationships with their own sons are very much influenced by my own experiences, not just as a father but also as a son. All the characters have pieces of people I know.

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

I think Poe suffered from depression, as I have from time to time, so the way he used it and created from it is inspiring.

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

Definitely Vincent Hobbes, because he has bent over backwards to make sure PROGENY and the short stories I’ve submitted for THE ENDLANDS have been top notch. He always has time to help other authors and offer encouragement and I’m very grateful.

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

Jordan Benoit is the cover artist, and I couldn’t be happier! His work on this and THE ENDLANDS is intriguing, mysterious and captivating. I wish I could take credit for choosing him but he was hired through PROGENY’S publishers, Hobbes End.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, and it’s nothing you haven’t heard before: if you’re driven to write, you should be doing it. If the ideas are pounding at your brain seeking release, then release them, dammit! If you love your man or woman then write about it. If you’re afraid that the words just won’t come when you try to write, then write about that. The more you write, the better you’ll be at it, and the more you’ll want to write. So go! NOW! Do it!

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

I want to hear from you guys! Love my work or hate it, or find it pointless-let me know. And thanks for the time you set aside to read PROGENY or my short stories or even just this interview. I love having the opportunity to tell you a story!

Progeny Book CoverPatrick C. Greene
Asheville, North Carolina

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Progeny was published by Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

Book Review: Les Miserables

Book Name: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo
First Published: 1862

Victor Hugo was a genius who would have excelled at any medium he undertook. He was a poet first and then a novelist and dramatist. His hobby of sketching was such that it is said that had he chosen to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have out done the masters. He is remembered as one of the more well-known French Romantic Writers of his time. In France, Hugo’s fame comes more from his poetry, but to the world he is best regarded as the author of two novels, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Hugo was born two years after Napoleon Bonaparte came to power as Emperor of France. His father was an officer under Napoleon and later became the administrator of several provinces under the Emperor. Due to his career, the Hugo family was forced to move often during Victor’s childhood. His mother, a devout Catholic and royalist, grew tired of the travel and settled with the children in Paris. She then had much influence over Hugo’s early beliefs and interests during his early years because of this, but during the events that led up to France’s 1848 Revolution, Hugo rebelled against his Catholic Royalist education and upbringing and instead embraced the ideals of republicanism and free thought.

Victor fell in love as a young man with his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher. They had five children together. His first child died as an infant. His eldest daughter, Leopoline drowned at the age of nineteen along with her husband who perished trying to rescue her. Hugo learned of her death while in traveling in the south of France with his mistress, learning about her death impersonally while reading a newspaper at a café. Hugo wrote many poems in honor of his daughter, but never quite recovered from her loss. Later in life, Hugo would also lose his two other sons and his wife.

When Napoleon III took power in 1851, Hugo left Paris and went into exile. He lived in Brussels, the Channel Islands and then to the smaller island of Guernsey in 1855. Although Napoleon III proclaimed a general amnesty in 1859 when Hugo could have returned to France had he wished, the author stayed in exile and refused to return until Napoleon III was forced from power as a result of the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. After the Siege of Paris, Hugo returned to France where he remained for the rest of his life.

Hugo’s early work brought him fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry published when he was twenty years of age earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. His work was a reflection of the romanticism that was popular in France and combined with his new passion for Republicanism. Unfortunately, it was his political leanings that lean to his exile from his home country. However, as he continued to publish, he revealed himself to be a natural master of lyric and creative song. Much of Hugo’s poetry has been adapted to music and become the inspiration of many musicals and operas.

After the success of his poetry, Hugo began to work on longer works. His first full-length novel was The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It shamed the city of Paris into restoring the Cathedral and it inspired a renewed appreciation for pre-Renaissance buildings which fueled the tourist trade for France.

The author began the planning for his next major novel which would feature social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but he would take seventeen years to complete the manuscript for Les Miserables and publish it in 1862. It was an instant success with the first installment of the novel, labeled: Fantine, to sell out within hours. The book would have an large impact on French society and the novel remains his most remembered work. It is celebrated around the globe and has been adapted for film, television and the stage. Les Miserables the Musical is one of the most long running musical productions in history. I’m sure the new Les Miserables motion picture will also be a huge success.

Les Miserables can be translated from the French as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims, but in English the publishers have chosen to keep it in its original French title. Even the musical is usually referred to as “Les Mis”. Perhaps the translation is too dour for popular tastes to describe what is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. The story begins in 1815 and finishes in 1832 during the June Rebellion, the novel details the lives and interactions of several common people, focusing on the struggles of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean and the steps he takes to gain redemption. The story of Les Miserables is incredibly complex and details the misery that the common people of France lived in. From the corrupt innkeeper’s family, to Fantine who dies while trying to support her illegitimate child Cosette, to the struggles of Jean ValJean and his nemesis Javert, and finally the students who fight against the royalist army and lose their lives. The misery transforms into poetry and through their suffering you gain a sense of hope for the human race.

Perhaps the best description of this masterwork comes from Victor Hugo himself:

“So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century – the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light – are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; – in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.”

Like many people, I saw the musical first before I read the book. The musical Les Miserables is a masterpiece in unto itself and it transformed me into a lover of live musical theater. I realize that many people do not go on to read the original novel by Hugo. I feel that this is a mistake. This is one of the greatest novels ever written and it is one that should be on your must read list. Do let those that say that this novel is another “book by some dead white guy” mislead you. The human condition is not dependent on race, century, or country, but it is a universal constant. Let the ideas of this long ago genius transport and change you as he has done for me.

Les Miserables Book CoverYou can find the complete unabridged version of Les Miserables free of charge at Project Gutenberg. Be warned, the full version is full of tangents and long passages about subjects that do not have direct bearing on the plot itself, however many of the subjects are quite fascinating. I feel it is worth the time and effort to read the full complete version of this work instead of the abridged version.

Author Interview: Christopher and Heather Dunbar

As an artisan jeweler, I often attend Renaissance Fairs and Highland Games to sell my wares. When I met Chris and Heather Dunbar via an online Writer’s Cabal, I was delighted to find two kindred souls that enjoy these venues much as I do. They’re genre is historical fantasy and their participation on the RenFaire circuit certainly helps them get into the spirit. I am delighted to feature them both here on No Wasted Ink.

Authors Heather and Chris DunbarI am Christopher Dunbar, and along with my wife Heather Poinsett Dunbar, I write the historical fantasy novels and other works of the Morrigan’s Brood Series. I also dabble in leatherwork and the playing of ancient musical instruments, such as the didgeridoo and the Djembe (from Ghana); lately, I have even taken up street performing during lunch outside of the building where I work in Downtown Houston.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing creatively, outside of school, after I met my wife-to-be. I wrote with her on a few projects, but she really drew me in when she needed help with her first book manuscript. I helped her revamp the plot, spice up the characters, and provide a masculine perspective for the men in the story. The funny thing is that the writing started before we got married, and we still write together. She really helped bring out lots of creativity in me that I did not know existed. Just look at my bio blurb…

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t consider myself a writer. Rather, I am a storyteller. Some the stories I tell are expressed through the written word… or sometimes with the spoken or the sung word, sometimes with music (although this is my weakest medium thus far, but I work at it), and of course sometimes through the Celtic knotwork in my leatherwork. Heather, however, I consider to be a writer. I think I first considered myself a storyteller when I could first string together elaborate fibs, that were obviously made up lies, to my parents, but they apparently found them entertaining.

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

The most current release from our series is Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III, although it is really the fourth book, counting the novella between books 2 and 3. Book 3 takes place in 801 CE, the year after Pope Leo III crowns Karl der Große Imperator Romanorum. Heather and I felt that the era of Charlemagne would be an excellent backdrop for our historical fantasy series… in fact, novels 3 through 8 take place during Charlemagne’s lifetime and even include him and Pope Leo III as characters. An eruption of heinous murders all across the empire cause ripples in the delicate balance between emperor and pope, bringing each closer to their doom, but only through the intervention of beneficent races of blood-drinkers will they have any hope of saving themselves.

What inspired you to write this book?

Heather and I felt that history glosses over Charlemagne the man… What kind of man was he? What kind of leader was he? What drove him to conquer? Who did he love? We wanted to delve into him and into his world. He is such a dynamic person that six of our novels will occur during his reign.

Do you have a specific writing style?

From a construction perspective, Heather and I have developed a style that creates one voice, rather than two. We both work together on the first pass of the manuscript, without editing, until we get to the end of the story, and then we rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. From a content perspective, our stories are journeys that enable the reader to explore other times and places as well as characters we hope people find dynamic… not just one- or two-dimensional. We also strive for a level of historical plausibility, if not accuracy.

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

I think Heather came up with this one… In the story, two lines of blood-drinkers that were at war with one another in the previous two books find themselves with a common enemy. With that in mind, and considering that our blood-drinkers cannot come out at night, “Dark Alliance” seemed like a good title, especially considering the various meanings of ‘dark’, given the right context.

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

I am sure the novel contains several messages, both hidden and obvious… some intentional and some accidental. The fun is finding them, so I do not wish to cheat our readers out of their fun.

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

The premise of the series is that these ancient lines of blood-drinkers have formed secret societies that are the powers behind kings, emperors, and popes, but that these lines are also in conflict with one another… so to are their mortal pawns. One has to wonder, given our current (and previous) political strife whether blood-drinkers are the puppet masters behind the scenes today… one wonders.

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

I wouldn’t say that authors have influenced my life… perhaps my writing style or storytelling, but not my life. Some of my influences for storytelling include skits at the various powwows when I was in Indian Guides and reading about old Irish legends and tales. Influential authors include Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.G. Wells. I liked Wells. because he was far ahead of his time and could imagine worlds few others could fathom. Poe, I feel, can horrify with sweet words. I like London because he invented himself… he deliberately lived a tough life and wrote about it, I thought he wrote great adventure stories.

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

R.A. Salvatore. I met him at a book signing recently. He said to me that he started writing fantasy because he had read everything ‘fantasy’ out there and he wanted more. I told him I wrote historical fantasy because I don’t see a lot of good works from our ancient history out there. Some of our readers have compared our writing to his… I just smile. I have read most of his Forgotten Realms books, which I started reading in college, and I even got him to sign his first… my first of his. I think he would be a cool author to consider as a mentor.

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

Khanada Taylor is the brilliant artist behind the cover art for all of our books thus far and to come. She has a keen ability to gleam the physical realities of form, color, and texture from the written word and depict them in a manner that conveys meanings both shallow and deep. Just a few observations off the top of my head from book three’s cover… a man, Mandubratius, is sitting casually in Charlemagne’s throne, dangling the Emperor’s crown on his toe, hefting the Emperor’s sword in his left hand, and with his right he dangles marionettes of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III… oh, and there is a mysterious black cat. In the background is the triskel of Morrigan’s Brood, which I helped draw. The cover contains lots of symbolism, if you know where to look. Khanada is also an activist for many good causes, as well as a dear friend.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Work… hone your craft… learn, practice, do… and keep doing it. If you need something else to do for a bit, do something creative.

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

Thank you for delving into the universe Heather and I have created, and we hope you enjoy your visit.

MBDA-Front-CoverHeather Poinsett Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar
Houston, Texas

She, the librarian-author, who once sauntered through the picturesque Epping Forest, danced around the awe-inspiring standing stones of Avebury, and traipsed through the misty moors and vales of Scotland, not knowing that her experiences in those mystical places would spark creative passions within. He, the often kilt-clad disaster prognosticator, leather smith, author, and pseudo-musician who never thought he possessed a creative bone within him, yet one woman encouraged his creativity to flourish. Together, they write.

Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III (paperback: 978-1-937341-20-6, Kindle: 978-1-937341-21-3, Nook: 978-1-937341-22-0)
Triscelle Publishing

Khanada Taylor: Cover Artist

Free ePub of Morrigan’s Brood Book I on Goodreads

AMAZON for Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III

BARNES & NOBLE for Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III

Book Review: A Christmas Carol

Book Name: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
First Published: 1843

Charles Dickens was thought of as the “literary colossus” of the Victorian age. He was an English writer and social critic who penned some of the world’s most memorable fictional characters and stories. During his lifetime his work enjoyed great popularity and fame and today his genius is recognized by critics and scholars everywhere.

Dickens began life by being forced to leave school to work in a factory pasting labels on pots of boot blacking for six shillings a week after his father was thrown into debtors’ prison. Soon after, his mother and younger siblings followed his father into the prison and young Charles was sent to live with an old woman that he later immortalized in one of his novels. Eventually, an inheritance was gained by his family and his father was able to be released from prison. The family all moved in with their friend Elizabeth Roylance and slowly regained a more normal life for themselves. However, his mother insisted that Charles continue to work in the factory. The boy was livid and it is thought that his views that men must be the master of their family and women keep their place in the household sphere was originated by this event. Dickens did gain a formal education of sorts, but most of his learning came by his own initiative.

As Dickens grew to adulthood, he found work as a clerk at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore. He taught himself shorthand in his spare time and soon after left the attorneys to become a freelance journalist. One of his relatives was also a reporter at Doctors’ Commons and offered to share his box so that Dickens could report on the legal proceedings there. Dickens remained for a period of four years. This hard knocks education was later incorporated into his novels such as Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son and Bleak House, where the vivid portrayal of the bureaucracy of the English legal system did much to enlighten the general public of his time.

Dickens worked as a political reporter for many years until he landed the editors position at Bentley’s Miscellany where he wrote a serial known as the Pickwick Papers. During his time as editor, he also wrote his first novel, Oliver Twist, as a serial. He also wrote and oversaw four plays during this time period. Gradually, his success as a novelist began to grow and when he left Bentley’s Miscellany, he earned his income via his novels, all written in serial format for various publications and later converted into novel form, lectures and other philanthropic endeavors.

He met and married Catherine Hogarth and they had ten children together. Dickens edited a weekly journal for twenty years, wrote fifteen novels, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles. He lectured and campaigned for children’s rights, their education and other social reforms. He died at the age of 58 of a stroke and is buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abby in London, England.

Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, is considered one of the most influential stories ever written. It remains as popular in present day as it did in Victorian times. The well known classic tale has a simple plot about how a man becomes mean spirited over time due to age and lack of human interaction. He is Ebenezer Scrooge, who has lost the joy of living and cares only for earning the cold hard dollar. Enter three ghosts, one of the past, one of the present, and one of the future. Ebenezer travels through time and space, to alternate realities and revisits key points in his life. In the end, the man that views Christmas as “bah humbug” is redeemed via positive choices in his life.

Charles Dickens weaves a tale that was unique to his time. During the rise of industrialization in England, the old traditions of agricultural society were on the wane. A Christmas Carol helped to rescue the holiday and set a guideline to the modern world of what the spirit of this holiday should mean. There are wonderful contrasts built into the story of hot/cold, company/loneliness, wealth/poverty, or heaven/hell, and throughout the novel are detailed descriptions of Christmas and what it means to those that celebrate it. Since he was writing during Victorian times when the concepts of Christianity were well known and understood by the general population, he did not spend much time in explaining quotations from the bible or talk about how Jesus was a part of Christmas. English Victorians would have understood these concepts without being reminded and so he allows religion to become more of a backdrop of his tale. I sometimes wonder if this is what makes this tale more powerful to us today in this more secular time when Christian ideas are not as prevalent in our public society.

The ghostly visitors that change Ebenezer’s life forever are not particularly Christian in nature. They simply offer him information that allows him to understand what he has done and what the consequences of those choices are. The ghost of Christmas past is youthful and spring like. Christmas Present is a happy spirit that simply wishes to spread joy. Christmas Yet To Be is a somber spirit, perhaps hinting at the bitter end that awaits Ebenezer if he does not see the error of his ways. One of the main Christian tenants is that a sinner may be redeemed if he honestly repents. The ghosts allow Ebenezer to make that choice for himself.

Like many people of my generation, I saw the movie first and then later live plays of this classic work before I read the actual novel. Through the various media, this tale has woven into our culture and has defined what we consider the spirit of Christmas to be. I understand that many people like to read this novel either to themselves or share it out loud with their families during the holiday season. I believe that it is a tradition that I will join in the future.

A Christmas Carol Book CoverThis classic novel is one of the very first that was transcribed from the bound paper version into ebook form. A Christmas Carol is available for free download at Project Gutenberg. The original illustrations by John Leech are included in the download.