Tag Archive for: Dickens

A Husband’s Tale —by T.K. Thorne

Yes, I am Jewish and don’t “officially” celebrate Christmas, but well, I’ll let my husband tell it [except for my added comments, of course.]:

“She had me at Dickens. You need a bit of backstory to understand that.

During some of my wife’s travels earlier this year, she discovered a Dickens festival in some far away world called California. Being a wonderful wife, [this is my favorite part] and knowing my deep affinity for anything related to Charles Dickens, Mrs. Thorne started formulating a plan to get us to that festival as a way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and my birthday. I choose not to release the number of anniversaries of the day I made my appearance on this planet, but suffice it to say this year was a milestone.

Saying I sorta like Dickens’ writing is like claiming Elmer Fudd sorta likes to hunt wabbits. I’ve read everything Dickens wrote (more than once) especially all the works regarding Christmas. Yes, there is more than A Christmas Carol, but I’ll spare you the list. I also love to watch the many, many, many versions of ACC that have been produced on film. I dare not tell you my favorite for fear of influencing you, but suffice it to say I watch them all, every year. My darling wife  [Why doesn’t he talk like this the rest of the year?] flees in distress when she hears the opening line, “Marley was dead, to begin with.” I can “hear” her eyes roll even though she may be in another room when she realizes what I’m watching.

The problem for her was to get me to the mystical land of California and keep it a surprise. I suppose after discarding the idea of using a baseball bat and burlap sack, she decided the best course of action was to just ‘fess up; she told me about the event and asked, “Would you be interested in going?” My heart skipped a beat and I tried to contain my joy. I replied, I think in an even voice, “Yes, but why don’t we go to the one here in Alabama?”

You see, I knew that just up the road in Tuscumbia, they’ve had a Dickens festival for the last eight years. It’s called “It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all!” I discovered it in a North Alabama tourist booklet last year, but knew my wife would never want to go immerse herself in my Dickens fantasy, so I stuck the information in a drawer.

Here is where this little story reminds me of another favorite writer. Do you remember O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi? In it both husband and wife give up something important in order to buy Christmas gifts. The wife sold her long, lovely hair to buy a chain for her husband’s prized pocket watch; he sold the watch to purchase the jeweled hair combs she had long admired. The story is about sacrifice in the name of love.

In our case, my sacrifice was stifling the desire to check out Tuscumbia’s festival by tucking the brochure away and hers was a bit of her sanity in offering to go.

This story has a happy ending because we did go and both had the jolliest of times. It was the best gift I have ever received. Not only did we attend, we went in costume, which is not a requirement, but enhances the experience.

[These photos are from our return trip this year-2022.Left to right, with ghost Marley and Christmas Future, with Tiny Tim, and carriage ride.]


There were plenty of events that catered to kids. Even though I felt like a youngster, we didn’t go to those. Instead we went to a feast on Friday night and the light and water show in the park on Saturday night. Between those two, we packed in a snack of scones, a reading of ACC, a canine costume contest, poetry, music, a carriage ride, and wandering around the town enjoying the food, the shops, and most of all, the people.

The volunteer Tuscumbia Retail Development group organizes the festival with the help of the city council. If you’re interested in going next year, give the folks there a call at 256-383-9797. They are the most sincere, friendliest, fun-loving group of ladies it has been my privilege to meet. From the moment we met, they treated us like old friends, and now we are. [Indeed!]

We will not be waiting until the Christmas season to visit Tuscumbia again though. There’s plenty to do and see anytime including the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Belle Mont Mansion, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, Railroad Depot Museum, and Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller. As for the Dickens festival, we’ll be there next year. Hope you will join us.

Merry Christmas, y’all!”* [And Happy Hanukkah!  …You didn’t think I’d let him get the last word, did you?]

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

*Originally printed in The Blount Countian (Dec 25, 2019) by Roger Thorne


The Characters Who Break Our Hearts

by Barbara Kyle

A recent fascinating post by Lois Winston on
this blog asked: “
Are there
characters that you wish the author would kill off? Or characters you wish an
author hadn’t killed off?”


I thought
I’d dig deeper into Lois’s topic with another question:
character’s death broke your heart?


I once asked that
of my Facebook friends and the replies were extraordinary. People recall with
vivid clarity how a fictional death left them feeling bereft.


Beth March in Little Women. Sydney
Carton in 
A Tale of Two CitiesNed Stark in A Game of Thrones.
Charlotte, the valiant spider in 
Charlotte’s Web.


Pic: “Sydney Carton” painting by Ralph Bruce

Characters’ deaths that broke
my heart include Mariko in James Clavell’s 
Shogun, Robbie and Cecilia in Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Gus in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome


                                  Pic: Yoko Shimada as “Mariko” in the 1980 TV series “Shogun.”


That affecting experience as a reader applies
with equal force to an author. Every time I’ve killed a beloved character in
one of my books, I wept. The poet Robert Frost said it eloquently: “No
tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I must be shaken by a
character’s death myself if I am to render it faithfully to my readers.

Three kinds of characters’ deaths shatter us the

1. The Innocent Friend

The most dangerous relationship a character can
have is being the best friend of the hero. If the hero has been reluctant to
accept his destiny, or his responsibilities, the death of his friend is often the
turning point that galvanizes him to take the next steps and the necessary
risks. By his friend’s death the hero is changed, made stronger, grows up.

2. The Victim of a Wicked World
When we shudder at Fantine’s death in Victor
Les Miserables we
shudder at the hellish poverty that killed her. In 
Atonement Robbie and Cecelia lose their lives pitifully in
the gruesome grind of war. In
 A Game of Thrones Ned Stark is executed in a naked political power

3. The Self-Sacrificing Hero
When Mariko, the courageous noblewomen in Shogun, goes to Osaka Castle to obtain the release of
innocent hostages, she knows she is going to her death. She sacrifices her life
to save Lord Toranaga from his enemies, and restore peace.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton takes his awe-inspiring walk to the
guillotine with selfless resolve, sacrificing his life so that Lucie, the woman
he loves, can be reunited with her husband.

These are deaths of valor – to me the most
poignant of all – in which the character accepts death as the price of
saving someone they love. That’s powerful stuff. What reader is not moved to
ask in admiration: Could I do the same?


And, speaking of killing . . . 


I hope you’ll enjoy my new
video: “What Makes a Killer Mystery? in which I
outline the essential elements of the genre and show interviews with five
acclaimed mystery writers, including Denise Mina and John LeCarré (below). 
Watch the video here.





Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling
Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of
acclaimed thrillers. Her latest novel of suspense is The Man from Spirit Creek. Over half a million
copies of her books have been sold.
Barbara has taught
hundreds of writers in her online Masterclasses and many have become
award-winning authors.
Visit Barbara at https://www.barbarakyle.com/ 


It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all!–by T.K. Thorne

Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all!

Every December, I hide. This has nothing to do with the fact that it’s Christmas and I’m Jewish. Like many Jewish families in the South, I was raised with a Christmas tree and presents in addition to Hanukkah traditions with beautiful menorah candles lit each night and (yea!) more presents.  What kid can complain about that?

No, my allergy to December has to do with my husband. He is a beyond-the-pale Dickens fan. Every iteration of the more than two dozen versions of A Christmas Carol plays on our television repetitively all December.  I head for the hills . . . or at least another room.

But last year at the Left Coast Crime Conference (that’s crime writers, just so you know), someone mentioned a Dickens festival in California.  My ears pricked. (Okay, I wish my ears could prick because it’s so expressive, and I’ve always wanted a fluffy tail too––can’t you just imagine having it drape saucily over your shoulder?  But I digress).

This year is hubby’s 60th birthday and our 30th wedding anniversary.  Seemed like going to a Dicken’s festival would be a great surprise gift. The problem was we live in Alabama and the festival was in California.  I angsted for months about how to plan a secret trip to California. Finally I broke down and told him what I had up my sleeve.

“I’ll arrange the whole thing, if you want to go.”

“I would,” he says, “but why don’t we just go to the one in Tuscumbia, Alabama (2.5 hours away)?


He pulls out a brochure he had put in his drawer (thinking the last thing I would ever want to do was have a Dickens-immersion experience) with info about Tuscumbia’s 9th annual “It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all!” (And I thought it was just the birthplace of Helen Keller.)


A few days later, he shows me a dapper Victorian costume of Ebenezer Scrooge online. It was so spiffy!  Hubby communicates in code, and it  dawned on me that maybe he was feeling out what I thought about him actually getting it and wearing it to the festival.

If he is going to dress in a top hat, vest, and coat, I am all in. What girl does not want to be Cinderella? Found a red and black gown with black lace sleeves, foo-foo hat, lace white gloves, and a bustle (as close to a tail as I am likely to ever get) and we are going to the ball . . . or 1843 London in Tuscumbia!

Christmas Present, Christmas To Come, Christmas Past, Mr. and Mrs. Scrooge, and Marley’s Ghost
Festivities began Friday night with a feast, a reading from A Christmas Carol, music, and a chef-prepared dinner. Saturday, the streets were closed to traffic, sporting gift venders, snow machines, and horse drawn carriage rides. Scones and hot chocolate (or coffee) awaited with the spirits of Christmas and Marley’s ghost at “Scones and Moans,” poetry readings and song at a mid-19th Century church, a high tea, and cookies with Tiny Tim at the beautiful Cold Water Bookstore.

Such a charming town and charming, warm folks!  We had the best time meeting people and couldn’t walk but a few steps without being asked to pose for a picture with someone.  Paparazzi! 

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”––Dickens

Ironically, sometimes this is a very difficult time of year. Whatever your faith, whatever your situation, I wish you peace and joy now and in the coming year.


T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch.

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list.

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with a dog and a cat vying for her lap.

More info at TKThorne.com

Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”


or How a Gas Cap Helped Me Write
by Bethany Maines

So today as I was driving to the Starbucks (because I was too lazy to make my own oatmeal) I saw a woman driving with her gas cap perched on the hood of her car. I was going to honk and try and indicate the issue when I realized that little door covering the gas hole was completely missing.  So I didn’t honk.  I figured that clearly this wasn’t the first time she had a problem like this and it might be better for her if she just rid the car of all accessories that weren’t bolted on.  Less to keep track of.
Facebook friend reaction says this was not the appropriately kind, good-Samaritan thing to do.  I should have honked and pointed, or pulled up alongside and yelled my message.  My reaction to such ideas?  Meh.  What would be the point?  She’d probably just do it again three weeks from now.  Some people are just Teflon coated against help.  And then I realized… I was the villain! Admittedly, the villain on a very small scale in a very tiny drama, but still, I was the bad guy!
Maybe I shouldn’t be so excited, but when I’m writing I sometimes I have a problem with villains. What excuse could possibly be enough to justify the villainous behavior of the bad guy? If my villain isn’t a sociopath or someone with a personality disorder of the highest degree, then they have to have a reason for doing what they do. At some point, they have to choose to do the bad things. And that where I struggle – coming up with reasons of sufficient validity to actually kill someone (or any of the other dastardly deeds they do). I remember a villain in one of my early attempts a novel writing seemed to have been cut from a Dickens novel – abused, with an evil uncle, penniless and starved as a child he set out to seek his revenge on all and sundry. He was one twirling moustache away from being Snidely Whiplash. My writer’s group told me in kind and restrained terms that just like my hero couldn’t exhibit all the traits and talents of herodom, possibly it would be more realistic if my bad guy acted like a human being.
In The Wild One Marlon Brando was asked “What are you rebelling against?” and he replied “What do you got?” Maybe that’s closer to the truth of villainy. It’s not that they’re not bad for a particular reason; maybe some villains are bad because they just don’t care.