Storytellers: New Cover!

Like interior decoration and wardrobes, book covers can need updating. Bjørn Larssen has a new cover for his haunting novel Storytellers, and I’m pleased to show it to you today.

If you don’t tell your story, they will.

Iceland, 1920. Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, dwells with his animals, darkness, and moonshine. The last thing he wants is an injured lodger, but his money may change Gunnar’s life. So might the stranger’s story – by ending it. That is, unless an unwanted marriage, God’s messengers’ sudden interest, an obnoxious elf, or his doctor’s guilt derail the narrative. Or will the demons from Gunnar’s past cut all the stories short?

Side effects of too much truth include death, but one man’s true story is another’s game of lies. With so many eager to write his final chapter, can Gunnar find his own happy ending?


My 2019 Review:

Set against Iceland’s harsh but beautiful landscape in the late 19th and  early 20th century, Bjørn Larssen’s debut novel Storytellers explores the multi-generational effect of the evasions, embellishments and outright lies told in a small village. The book begins slowly, almost lyrically, pulling the reader into what seems like situation borrowed from folktale: a reclusive blacksmith, Gunnar, rescues an injured stranger, Sigurd. In exchange for his care, Sigurd offers Gunnar a lot of money, and a story.

But as Sigurd’s story progresses, and the book moves between the past and the present, darker elements begin to appear. Gunnar’s reclusiveness hides his own secrets, and the unresolved stories of his past. As other characters are introduced and their lives interweave, it becomes clear that at the heart of this small village there are things untold, things left out of the stories, purposely re-imagined. Both individual and collective histories – and memories – cannot be trusted.

The book was reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, in both theme and mood. Both books deal with the unreliability of memory; both are largely melancholy books. And perhaps there is allegory in them both, too. Storytellers is a book to be read when there is time for contemplation, maybe of an evening with a glass of wine. It isn’t always the easiest read, but it’s not a book I’m going to forget easily, either.


Bjørn Larssen is an award-winning author of historical fiction and fantasy, dark and funny in varying proportions. His writing has been described as ‘dark,’ ‘literary,’ ‘cinematic,’ ‘hilarious,’ and ‘there were points where I was almost having to read through a small gap between my fingers.’

Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in mathematics, and has previously worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). He currently lives with his husband in Almere, which is unfortunately located in The Netherlands, rather than Iceland.

He has only met an elf once. So far.


Purchase links on Bjørn’s website.

Writing for Effect: A Dialogue with Mary L. Schmidt

Mary L. Schmidt writes under her given name and a pen name, S. Jackson with her freshman book a memoir, and she now has 30 books under her belt ranging from three memoirs to comic books, one recipe book, and a lot of children’s picture books. She chose to discuss three topic from three different books for this conversation.

  1. Childhood cancer is scary, horrific, and all consuming.

After surviving the cruel rage of tyranny from her mother and ex-husband, Sarah Jackson traveled a new path, a journey of loss, heartbreak, and ultimately strength. How do we survive the unthinkable, our child suffering from a terminal illness? They say there is no greater loss than that of a child; I say losing a child is the king of loss. Sometimes the thing that helps us survive it, is knowing we are not alone. Bestselling author, Sarah Jackson, will take you on her journey of hope and strength as she provides an intimate raw look at her life.

“I want to go to Heaven, Mom.” as my son lay in his hospital bed in the presurgical area.
“We don’t always get what we want in life, so you might have to come back to me.” I replied as my heart was breaking.

When Angels Fly

One cannot stop an angel from flying and when a child of age five wants to go to heaven, ask your child why, and what he or she knows of heaven. Don’t fear your child’s death but ask them. They will tell you what they know or have seen. My little boy had already spoken with Jesus.


Marian:
In this excerpt, you speak to the role of faith – both a mother’s and a child’s belief – in surviving the unthinkable. No parent should outlive their child, it is often said. But not all parents nor children will have a belief in a divine being. One of your stated goals is for people going through this life-altering experience to know they are not alone. Does your book speak to those who do not believe in a divine being or an afterlife, and if so, can you explain how?

Mary:

Great question! I can answer this one as my ex-husband is a practicing atheist and for his actions. My arm was wrapped around my son the final moments of his life. My ex wanted medicine for when my son’s heart stopped but no compressions. I wanted nothing done. I knew where my little boy wanted to go, and I knew he was moments away from death as he was in transition.  I had to beg my ex three times to let him go as his heart stopped for the third, and last time. He nodded his head yes. I rocked my dead son, after all tubes and such were removed. I talked to him in heaven. My ex simply watched. Then got up from the rocking chair and motioned for my ex to sit, after which I placed my son in his arms. He held him a few minutes then left the ICU. Essentially, as an atheist, my ex had to deal with his grief and such internally without help from the divine God. That led him to get drunk. But I turned to Jesus, and I was not alone.


2. A book on bullying evoking change in children.

In ‘The Big Cheese Festival’, we meet Stubby Mouse and his family and friends. We learn that Stubby Mouse has a secret, that he is being bullied by another mouse, simply because his tail is short. This story illustrates how everyone is different and unique, and it is a delightful read with adorable and eye-catching, cute illustrations for both children and adults. Take a stand against bullying today! 

“See! I did it! I stood up for myself and Cutter Mouse can’t bully me anymore.” replied Stubby Mouse.

The Big Cheese Festival

Thus, Stubby Mouse’s self-esteem increased, and he no longer allowed himself to be bullied by others.

Marian:

I’m curious to know what it is Stubby did to stand up to Cutter!  I like the choice of a simple thing like a short tail, because children can fixate on the smallest difference. How did you portray the bullying? Who helps Stubby stand up for himself?

Mary:

Stubby Mouse was happy and excited when he woke up on the morning of the Big Cheese Festival. All the mice in his neighborhood looked forward to this big event. There would be dancing and lots of cheese, and they would elect a King and Queen of the Festival. This was Stubby’s first Big Cheese Festival, but when Cutter Mouse came to pick up Stubby’s brother, Zippy, he made fun of Stubby’s short tail. Cutter laughed and said that no girls would want to dance with him. Zippy got angry with his friend for picking on his little brother, but the damage was done. After Zippy and Cutter left, Stubby began to cry. Cindy (a girl mouse) heard him crying inside the house, and she wanted to know what was wrong. She told Stubby that she liked him the way he was, and thought Cutter was an awful bully. They went to the festival together, and Cutter made fun of Stubby and knocked him down onto his short tail. Stubby informed Cutter that he would not be bullied anymore, and he pushed Cutter down on his normal size tail. This impressed all the mice attending as they loved Stubby and his bravery. Stubby became King of The Big Cheese Festival for his bravery.


3. A book regarding shyness in children as related by a turtle who was too shy to come out of his shell.

Tommy Turtle is a shy land turtle who likes to hide inside his shell. Tommy Turtle helps parents and teachers reinforce positive behaviors in an imaginative setting of a park and mud puddles as they learn about land turtles and shyness. Learning and sharing are essential for social development in all children.

“I’m scared to come out, I can’t splash the water puddles like the other turtles.” replied Tommy Turtle.

“I will be at your side, and you can jump when I jump. Okay?” said Jerry Turtle.

Tommy took a deep breath and poked his head out of his shell. He watched the other turtles playing, and finally decided to join in. Tommy made the biggest splash in the puddles, and learned that he could have fun, play, and be accepted by other turtles. Tommy also learned that he didn’t have to talk when he was a little more nervous. It was okay to watch, listen, and learn. It was okay to be shy at times. Tommy had the best afternoon, ever!

Tommy Turtle

Marian:

Is Jerry the same age as Tommy?  Or is he an older mentor?  Why does he take Tommy under his wing?  As you indicate, these are important skills for children to learn, but it is something they can do on their own without adult modelling? 

Mary:

Jerry and Tommy are nearly the same age. Tommy is new to the park this story is set in as some kids change schools, move around, and it’s natural to be shy. Tommy was shy and hid inside his shell because he didn’t know the other turtles. In Jerry’s case, he had been new to the same park the year before. Jerry befriended Tommy and drew him out of his shell. Tommy played and overcame his shyness. In the end, Tommy decided that he would help other new turtles when they arrived in the park, just like Jerry helped him. Children can read this book on their own and model their experiences to the experiences Tommy went through.


Find all books published as Sarah Jackson here and as Mary L. Schmidt here, or connect with Mary at her website www.whenangelsfly.net.

Would you like to be part of this series? Authors published or unpublished are welcome – leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

How Has Writing Changed Me?

A guest post by Raina Nightingale

I hardly remembered when I first started to write. I was eight years old, having just learned to read. And what I wrote first was something that was at least half fanfiction: sometimes simply out of love and enjoyment, I would write stories very much like those I read, but other times, when it seemed to me there was something lacking in a book, or something that was wrong and not the way I wanted it to be, I would try to write a story that was like it, but different.

I think in stories. Both reading them and writing them is a big part of my thinking. In some ways, the exploration that comes from both is similar, but in some ways it is different, and different books are very different to read and very different journeys, though I do love some good escapism now and then (especially if it has nice world-building that speaks to me, more on that later)! In reading, I explore other people’s thoughts and am sometimes prompted to consider things about myself and what I like from angles I might not have considered on my own, and it does not take the same energy that writing does.

But writing, making up stories and exploring them as I will, is how I really think, how I discover, challenge my thinking, and consider new thoughts that I find in other places or other people suggest. Or sometimes thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Character, plot, and world-building can all be a part of thinking to me. A lot of my world-building, even – especially – the more magical parts of it, is inseparable from my appreciation for and understanding of this world, and helps me to articulate things I see better.

My characters are more wild. Sometimes I don’t understand them very well, and sometimes what I think I ought to have learned from them, whether their relationships with each other or their responses to their environments, I’m not at all sure that I do.

Probably most of my characters share some likeness with me, even if it’s as trivial as an aesthetic appreciation or a taste in cuisine. Some of them are very unlike me, while others can be largely deep explorations of aspects of my personality, dreams, or desires, or questions about these might be, but in general I don’t think too much about whether a character is like or unlike me, or how. Yet I always find it fascinating when I’m writing a character like none that I have ever written before, and I keep having moments of, “Oh, this is how someone who is like this thinks!” It’s really quite surprising. Yet, in real life, I sometimes feel like my empathy, my ability to understand and feel for people, is far behind my characters. Yet what would it be if I didn’t try? Or what would my stories be if I didn’t try in real life?

It’s hard to enumerate, or even really define, how writing and stories have been a part of my life and thinking, since it is so interwoven altogether. I don’t think there’s anything where it can be fully separated: sometimes I learn, through writing a character who enjoys something, to have more appreciation for it myself. Some recent examples are that I see the beauty in the ocean so much more after having written Corostomir, a man who is in love with the ocean, and writing a dry plains-loving people sharpens my appreciate for desert climates, something that used to not exist at all: the greener and the wetter the better, I thought.


Raina Nightingale has been writing fantasy since she could read well enough to write her stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She enjoys rich characters and worlds where magic and the mundane are inseparable. She calls her fiction ‘Dawndark’.

Author/Review Website: https://www.enthralledbylove.com

Universal Book Link for all my books: https://books2read.com/raina_books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Areaer_Novels

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20243136.Raina_Nightingale


Are you a writer who’d like to contribute to this series? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

September

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay 

Even after years of retirement, I still plot the rhythms of the year by the start of school here in Ontario. The first week of September starts a new year, as it has since I was five and beginning kindergarten. New clothes, new shoes, new pencils and erasers, new teachers.

I left home for the first time, to attend university 500 km away, in this week in 1976.  44 years ago, I met the man who would become my husband in this week, and 41 years ago in early September, I married him.

For another 33 years, it was the start of the academic year, first studying, then teaching. Even when I was out of grad school and was doing research, no longer a teaching assistant, the university campus changed. Students arrived for the fall semester, and the summer quiet gave way to the buzz of autumn energy.

Eight years ago, I started the chemotherapy that saved my life in this week, too. The year after, when the calendar clicked over to September and neither I nor my husband went to work, it was the real start of retirement.

In the past eight years, I’ve written six books, every one between September and a date 6 to 12 months later. I finished the latest (finished the story; there’s still a lot of work to do) in the last week of August; I began the book in early September a year before. September is still for beginnings: new notebooks, fresh pencils, new courses, new students, new patterns, new books.

It’s new patterns I’m looking for this year. The next book might wait until the calendar’s new year, January. Complicated by the restrictions of the pandemic, I’ve spent far too much time in the last two years at my desk, writing, blogging, doing marketing and promotion, in Zoom meetings, on social media. I need a breather, and I intend to take one.

Across the road in the university’s arboretum, and along the river trails, September brings fall warblers, migrating south. Kettles of turkey vultures will circle above; great egrets and sandhill cranes will move from marsh to marsh; blue jays will gather in flocks, calling raucously. The hedgerows are laden with berries, and the crabapples hang heavy on the trees this year. Thrushes and waxwings and blackbirds gather. September is a new start for many birds, too, the beginning of their long journey to wintering grounds.

I expect I’m wintering here in Ontario again this year, and when it’s cold and the snow is deep and the paths icy underfoot, I’ll be glad of the work to keep me engaged and the computer to keep me connected. But for the next couple of months, I’m putting life away from both first.

A Dialogue on Writing for Effect: Submissions Wanted

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

In planning this blog for the next year(?) or so, I’d like to do a series of author spotlights with a difference – a dialogue rather than a guest post or interview.  This is how I envision it working.

Part One

You tell me (via a Word document) about all or some of your work (not plot, but in terms of genre, themes, setting, mood), then identify three things you care passionately about in your writing. (Examples could be evoking setting, witty dialogue, thought-provoking themes, raising awareness of social issues, complex plot….whatever it is YOU care about most.)

Then you choose an excerpt (up to 100 words or so) that illustrates each of those three topics (so three separate pieces, from any of your works)  and discuss how this excerpt meets the goals you had for it.

Send those to me  (along with all the usual links). You don’t need to be published.

Part Two.

I will describe my own reactions to those excerpts and ask questions about them. I won’t be negative, but I might ask about your reasons to choose tense, POV, specific words, etc. 

I’ll send those questions (and others that occur to me as I read your submission) back to you; you answer them to create a blog post which is a dialogue about your writing. The idea is not only to spotlight your work, but illustrate the variety of ways the techniques of writing can be used, and how styles differ.

Scheduling will be likely first come/first served, unless there is a specific date you want for promo purposes. Frequency will depend on the number of submissions I get! 

Let me know if you’re interested via an email to marianlthorpe at gmail dot com. I’m happy to have both submissions from you for ‘How Writing Changed My Life’ and this one. I reserve the right to choose whose submissions I decide to use.

Research, Imagination, Empathy

Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In both my next two novels, the work in progress, Empress & Soldier, and the planned last book of my series, Empire’s Passing, death and grief play an important role. In Empress & Soldier deaths transform my central characters in different ways. For both, deaths are the pivots that change the directions of their lives. One grieves in ways he cannot articulate (he may not even realize he is grieving); one is forced by circumstance to pick up the pieces of a shattered life far too soon.

The personal relationships of the characters of my Empire’s Legacy series have always been a metaphor, or a reflection, of the political relationships among their countries, their creation of an unusual ‘found family’ and the depth and expression of love among them echoes their work towards understanding and cooperation among their nations. The loss, in Empire’s Passing,  of two of these central characters, deeply loved, deeply grieved, will also reflect the fragility of the political alliance; both families and political unions can be strengthened or destroyed by catastrophic events.

I am 64 years old. In my life death has, of course, touched mine. But not yet the deep, life-changing grief of losing life partners that my characters will experience. My parents died at 93 and 99: I mourned them, miss them still, but life didn’t change in any significant way. My brother’s too-early death came closer, hit harder, but I wasn’t left to find a way forward alone.

So I turned to others accounts: CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Personal accounts, too: friends, family – not interviews, but remembering what they said or described. Listening, squirreling away words and concepts, as writers do.

I know what my characters do, in response to their losses. The challenge is entwining the feelings, the mental response, the confusion and darkness and irrationality with their actions in a way that is plausible and to some extent explanatory. Grief is universal but intensely personal, and in what I am attempting I am conscious I am not writing from lived experience,  but from research, imagination, and empathy.  Will my characters, who live only on the page and in a world that has never existed, express their pain and grief and love in ways that speak to readers? I will find out in time, I suppose.

Featured Image: Stele of Titus Fuficius in Split Archaeological Museum, Split, Croatia

Siege

by Alistair Tosh
Edge of Empire: Book I

Edge of Empire – and the edge of my seat. I had the privilege of reading Siege during its development, and I loved every page – and that’s saying something, because books that focus on battles don’t usually hold my interest. Yet this one did, because of the humanity of the characters that are involved in the fighting.  Here’s its author, to tell us more about the history behind this spectacular debut novel.

 
The ancient battle of Burnswark
A guest post by Alistair Tosh


 Walter Baxter. CC 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Burnswark Iron Age hillfort, near Lockerbie in the southwest of Scotland, is a unique site.

In part because of its isolated location and suitability only as pastureland, the archaeology below its turf has remained largely intact. It is a beautiful place, overlooking the silver waters of the Solway Firth and the fells of the English Lake District beyond and the heather-covered mountain of Criffel dominating the Scottish side.

It is a changeable location. When standing on its distinct flat-top summit, one moment you can be in brilliant sunshine with a cooling breeze, enjoying the 360 degree views. The next instant a hard wind blows in off the Irish Sea, cloudcover lowers, shrouding all before you. It is then that the hill takes on a more forbidding character.

I visited it many times in my childhood, often cycling there with friends during the long summer holidays. I saw the mounds of the Three Brethren, that my school history teacher told me had been platforms for Roman ballistas. But it was not until I started research for my first book ‘Siege’ that I truly began to understand the site and the ferocious battle that had taken place on its ramparts between the legions and the local tribe. 

The hill is held in a vice-like grip by two siege forts. The one to the north is unusually elongated, clearly designed to prevent the escape of the defenders as final defeat beckoned. To the south the true siege fort, or more accurately assault fort, lies hard against the hill’s base, only a mere 130 metres from the hillfort’s main entrances. Three huge gateways, ten men wide, cut through its deep north facing ditches to enable rapid deployment of troops.

The three ballista platforms sit to the fore of each of the gateways. Fist sized, carved stone balls have been found on the hillforts summit. This ammunition was not designed to shatter walls, but rather to shatter bodies. Metal detectors identified and aided recovery of hundreds of lead sling ‘bullets’, lemon shaped and heavy. Under test conditions it was established that they had roughly the same kinetic energy as a modern handgun.

A second and unique type of sling ball was uncovered. This one was smaller and capable of being slung in groups of 3 or 4, like an early form of grapeshot. But what was most startling was the 5mm holes drilled in its side. When ‘fired’ it emitted a sound like an angry wasp. You can imagine the racket that a barrage of these, shot by experts, would make. Certainly an early form of psychological warfare akin to the terrifying effect inspired by the screaming of diving Ju-87 Stukas during the Blitzkrieg in early World War II.

Additionally multiple arrowheads were located, of the type used by the renowned archers of the Hamian auxiliary regiments, from modern day Syria. This topped off by the finding of several scorpion bolts. A century of a legion had one or two allocated to them and  when fired by practised hands were both accurate and devastating, especially on unarmoured bodies.

It is hard not to pity the warriors of the local tribe, possibly the Novantae, who had gathered on its summit. Exposed and forced to take cover, faces pressed into the earth as they were assailed by wave after wave of thousands of missiles, their screams of fear and agony filling the air, accompanied by the sound of a swarm of angry wasps.

Finally, when the Roman commander, possibly the veteran Quintus Lollius Urbicus fresh from the Bar Kokhba Revolt in Judea, was satisfied, he would have sent in his legions, through the three 10-man wide gates, in testudo formation. In the battle’s aftermath, it is hard to imagine there were any survivors left for the slave markets.

                                                                         
 
 Alistair grew up in the Dumfriesshire countryside for most of his childhood. A region of southern Scotland filled with ancient place names such as Thorthorwald and Caerlaverock. But it was his visits as a boy to the site of Burnswark hill and hearing the tale of the Roman siege of the Iron Age fort that fired his love of Roman and Dark Ages history. From there the kernel of the stories for the Edge of Empire took root.

On leaving school he began a 35-year communications career. Firstly with the Royal Navy, that included covert riverine and seaborne operations during the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, before moving into the corporate world. Military life is unique, and Alistair aims to reflect an authentic view of that experience and its language in his stories. When not writing or spending time with family, Alistair, his wife Jenny and Hurley the cockerpoo love to walk in the hills of both the UK and Andalucia.

Why I Don’t Write Actual Historical Fiction

In my work-in-progress, Empress & Soldier, the last third of its story overlaps with about a quarter of my third book, Empire’s Exile.  In Exile, we see this section through the eyes of the narrator, Lena, and the characters of the soldier Druisius and the Empress Eudekia are peripheral (although very important) to the story.

But Empress & Soldier is told through the alternating viewpoints of Eudekia and Druisius, and so we are seeing the same events through different eyes – and discovering some those events can have very different motivations and interpretations. That’s not the problem: I enjoy exploring the ‘what ifs’ of different perspectives. But everything that happens in this section of Empress & Soldier must fit the chronology of events in Exile. Actions must occur within a framework that is set. Just like a real historical novelist, I can’t change what has already happened.

For me, working within this constraint is a huge challenge. It’s not how my brain works. I’m used to saying ‘oh, look, I really like how The Battle of Maldon is described, so I’ll borrow that but change its outcome.’  Now I can’t even change a conversation, a dinner served, a walk through the city. At the same time, these things are now background events, most happening off-page. My focus is on what Druisius and Eudekia are thinking, doing, feeling, learning—from and alongside the actions and events that already exist.

Which is, of course, what writers of real historical fiction deal with, in every story—and the more recent the history, the more records of events, the more constraints there are. I am not sure I could do this for an entire book, let alone more than one!

This is how I’m handling it: by a detailed analysis of each chapter (and each scene) in Exile that is reflected in Empress & Soldier.  This is an exacting and layered process that is very different from the creativity of writing, and is remarkably tiring.  But it must be done, and once it is, my mind will switch back to writing mode—and another challenge: how much of Lena’s story do I retell? (Enough for a new reader to understand what’s going on. Not too much, or I risk boring a returning reader. A fine balance.)

I occasionally consider writing a novel based firmly in historical fact. To save my temper, my hair, my liver—and perhaps my marriage— I don’t think I will.

Show, Tell, Hint

Working with one of my editorial clients a few weeks ago, I pointed out to him that he had several dropped story threads in his novel.  “But,” he said, “the entire action takes place over only a few days. Not everything can be resolved in that time.”

My response?  There’s a difference for the reader in leaving a story thread in a place where the reader can speculate about it, and just dropping it.  In one case in my client’s novel, the protagonist had expressed (to himself) his interest a woman he worked with. And that was it. The brief scene was there for a number of reasons, but mostly to show that, regardless of personal grief and a building complex political situation, the protagonist wasn’t entirely wrapped up in those two things. But it went nowhere, leaving the reader unsatisfied.

I made a few suggestions, and in the next draft there were a two more brief scenes of interaction between the two which fit smoothly into the narrative, and leave the reader with the hint that this relationship’s going somewhere. We don’t know it, but we can sense it, and that’s enough. Readers don’t need every thread tied up neatly; in fact, it’s good to leave a few minor open-ended questions for them to speculate about, a technique that helps keep a book in their minds.

In my own work, I have a few of these, the most prominent being a question of what happened to two of my characters. No one really knows, but suggestions are made, the search for them has a role, but in the end, I leave it to the reader to decide whether they’ve survived or not.

There’s another way to use ‘hints’ instead of showing or telling, again to leave questions in the reader’s mind, and that’s to be ambiguous. Not often, but this is the classic ‘is Deckard a replicant or not?’ question from Blade Runner. But the ambiguity doesn’t need to be that central; it can be about a characters’ motivation, or the nuances of a relationship.

Here’s an example from one of my books:

“Cannot we both just be content with what we have, at least for a little while?” I said, straightening. “You are alive, and recovering, and you have Lena, and the baby very soon.”

His hand was still on my arm. “And you, mo duíne gràhadh?”

My beloved man. A sudden restriction in my throat made my voice hoarse. “I have enough,” I managed to say, “being here. With you.”

The first-person narrator here interprets the question ‘And you?’ to mean ‘can you be content?’ – a reasonable response to the first statement he makes to the second character.  But there’s a second interpretation: he has gone on to say ‘you have Lena, and the baby…’  The question ‘And you?’ can also mean: ‘Do I have you, too?’ 

In this case, I know which of these two questions was really being asked (and no, I’m not telling.) But occasionally, I don’t know the answer, or not at the time I write it. And sometimes these ambiguous hints get clarified later in the story, and sometimes they don’t – allowing, again, for speculation.

I believe that for a reader to be fully immersed in a story, there needs to be these unanswered questions that involve them in the world, not just show it to them. What did happen to the Entwives in The Lord of the Rings?  What was it Ada Doom saw in the woodshed? Does Shane ever return?

(By the way, I think Deckard is a replicant. Your thoughts?)