“Wounded Tiger” Mixed Bag, Mixed Genres

wounded-tiger

“Wounded Tiger” A Nonfiction Novel

“Wounded Tiger” is chiefly about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. This ambitious story opens on December 1941 in Tokyo, where Emperor Hirohito is described as falling weightless from a cliff’s edge, a metaphor for his decision to establish Japan’s dominance over the Pacific and East Asia.

Fuchida is well developed. We see this proud, talented military leader being challenged, disillusioned and transformed: “[H]e… observed the soot-covered poor carting off grotesque corpses, the veil of the elegant theories of war was torn away to reveal the hideous reality of a people enduring unimaginable suffering.”

T Martin Bennett excelled at finding the balance between conveying facts and demonstrating creativity. Authors writing in the hybrid category of nonfiction novel can flout some conventions of either or both genres. I would have appreciated meaningful footnotes or endnotes, an index and a bibliography to bolster nonfiction content. I would have liked a stronger spotlight on narrative arc to find this completely satisfying as a novel.

It’s evident that Bennett amassed a mountain of researched material, and the main story in this, his first novel, is overwhelmingly compelling enough to be, in the right hands, an important movie on a par with “Letters from Iwo Jima.” For that to happen, ruthless editing and disciplined script writing is necessary, especially considering standard movie runtimes. (In fact, Bennett first wrote “Wounded Tiger” as a screenplay.)

Enough material exists in the more than 450 pages of the first edition of the nonfiction novel to be reshaped into several books. As it is, “Wounded Tiger” tries to be too much – biography, history, conversion story, saga, creative nonfiction, novel – in one package. For that reason, I believe “Wounded Tiger” would be of interest to WWII enthusiasts, and have limited crossover appeal.

At times, it seems as though Bennett threw in scenes not to move the plot forward, but rather to remind readers about some of the other characters’ existence. For example, he included short scenes occurring at the Andrus farm in Oregon, where the family of an Air Force pilot who participated in Doolittle’s raid and becomes a POW, copes with the agony of not knowing where he is or if he’s alive.

The half-page final chapter, set in 1950, is given to the young woman whose forgiving nature inspired Fuchida’s conversion to Christianity.

The second edition, according to one of Bennet’s websites, includes 276 photos – there are none in the first edition. The newer edition includes more maps – the rudimentary maps in the first edition add nothing to readers’ understanding of situations that wasn’t adequately explained in the text. The second edition boasts 10,000 more words than the first edition. One hopes that typos littering the first edition were fixed before the second edition was published.

Overall, I liked the first edition and extend kudos to Bennett for his monumental achievement.  Nevertheless, the book could have been better if it were shorter.

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” 

 

 

Story Review: “Terms and Conditions”

Terms and Conditions: Must be Met

We meet the fictional Shoeb as he faces a life-threatening problem of his own making. We see the world through his eyes and emotions, yet sometimes we’re privy to other characters’ inner thoughts. While the short story could take place anywhere, anytime, it seems to be set in the present, in a city, perhaps in India or Africa. Setting isn’t so important. Character and plot points are.

In “Terms and Conditions” we follow a workaday man as he spirals deeper into a dilemma that has him saying and doing things against his morals. He tries bargaining with a higher power to get him out of this jam that could harm his beloved, pregnant wife and young daughter. O’Henry fans (and readers who haven’t read O’Henry) will appreciate the ironic twists and surprise ending. The opportunity to heighten irony was, I think, missed by not having both the antagonist and the protagonist utter the title words.

Aashish Jindal deftly handles emotions and descriptions where other novices might have been unable to resist overwrought pathos, schmaltz, contrivances and further insults to readers. The fact that Aashish includes the opening scene again later in the short story might indicate that he doesn’t have confidence in his writing skills, or in readers’ ability to retain a crucial scene, or he simply forgot to delete the redundant scene.

If you don’t notice comma omissions in this next sentence, reading the story will be smooth sailing for you. “‘You know that I want to but my boss is really after me to meet this collection deadline’ Shoeb replied apologetically.” If you did see a boo-boo or two, then this is your warning. The mistake is made throughout.

Any author who can craft a short story that depicts the believable transformation of a good guy gone bad, seriously bad, deserves serious consideration when you’re looking for a quick read. According to the description, this is Jindal’s second book. Keep writing, Mr. Jindal. You’ve got a knack.

https://www.amazon.com/Terms-Conditions-Must-Be-Met-ebook/dp/B01NACF2YS/ref=cm_rdp_product

End

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

Critique this short story, please!

tanzola-house-with-pretty-shadowsI’m thinking of submitting this short story to a fiction contest. Would appreciate your constructive comments.

A Star on the Farm

 

“I don’t care about silly movie stars,” I said.

My big sister Elma, our nearest neighbor Lucy, and I were lying on our stomachs under the shade of the giant lilac bush next to our chicken coop. Lucy had brought over the movie magazine.

“You’ll care when you’re grow up like me and Elma.” Lucy had turned twelve last week.

“Listen!” My sister Elma read from the magazine: “It says more movies will be shot in color in 1937.”

Lucy grabbed the magazine from my sister. “I get to cut out Claudette Colbert for my scrapbook!”

I taped a four-leaf clover onto the first page in my scrapbook. Lucy and Elma sang “I’ve Got You under My Skin” as they clipped movie star pictures.

When Lucy wasn’t looking, I scratched myself as if something itched under my skin. Elma giggled behind her hand, partly so Lucy wouldn’t notice and partly to hide her crooked teeth.

 

About a week later, Lucy galloped right through our vegetable patch, shouting, “Elma! Elma! A photographer is….” Lucy gasped to catch her breath. “A photographer from the city newspaper is coming tomorrow afternoon!”

“You smashed our seedlings,” my sister said.

“Never mind about that.” Lucy bounced on her toes. “I’m going to braid my hair and wear my satin dress for the photographer.”

 

 

 

“Why would a photographer come here?” Elma asked.

“Daddy said a photojournalist is writing about farmers,” Lucy said. “Put on your Sunday dress and comb your ratty hair if you want your pictures in the newspaper.”

Elma was silent. Two sparrows raised a racket tussling in the dust. My sister was probably searching for the right words to explain to Lucy that the way we looked was the way farmers are supposed to look.

“My picture will be in the paper,” Lucy said over her shoulder as she left. “Just like a movie star!”

Momma stepped of the chicken coop with a bushel basket. “Remember the crazy quilt we sewed last winter?” she asked.

“Yes.” I remembered embroidering chain stitches onto the patches.

“I traded that quilt for these eyes.” Momma called pieces of potatoes “eyes.” She plopped the basket down. “Let’s plant these eyes before the sun gets too hot.”

She dug a hole in the dry ground. I dropped an eye in it and Elma pushed dirt over it.

Elma tugged her overalls. “We don’t get the city newspaper anyways, so it doesn’t matter if I won’t gussy up for the photographer.” She said that to an eye before kicking soil on it.

Momma moved along the furrows, digging more holes for the eyes. Gardens don’t wait for newspaper photographers.

 

The next day we were eating fried chicken under the lilac bush when Lucy bounded into the backyard. I think she stayed clear of the garden so she wouldn’t get her black patent shoes and white anklets with the pink lacy trim dirty.

“Aren’t you the looker!” Elma said.

Lucy was wearing a shiny dress with matching ribbons in her braided hair. She smelled soapy.

“Is he here yet?” Lucy pinched her cheeks to make them rosy.

“Who?”

“The photo-germal . . . photojournalist,” Lucy said.

We heard a motor and saw a dust cloud floating over the hill. Soon, a car pulled up to our fence. A man wearing a stiff white shirt and a bow tie and hopped out. He carried a box.

Lucy ran to him. “Are you the photojournalist?”

“Yes. Are you the lady of the house?”

“No. But you can take my picture and put it in the city newspaper,” Lucy told him.

Momma staggered out of the house, lugging rolled up carpets. She hung them over the rope between two trees. She squinted at the man and said, “You can take your pictures if you want, but we have work to do.” She beat the carpets with a paddle, making the dust jump off.

Between grunts as she whacked the carpets, Momma told me to draw enough water from the pump to make dinner. “Elma, you stack that cord wood over there.” Elma’s eyes rolled toward the huge pile of logs.

“Perfect,” the man said. “I prefer to shoot candid photographs. And I’ll deliver a copy of the city newspaper to your doorstep, to boot.” The man loosened his bow tie and peered into his camera box hunting for candid photographs.

Elma stacked wood straight and tight like we’d been taught. I put all my weight into the pump handle to coax the water up. Lucy twirled to make her skirt and braids flare out.

“Where’d she go?” the man asked, looking for Momma.

“In there.” Elma pointed to the chicken coop.

The man with the camera stood by the door to the chicken coop. He waited for Momma to step out so he could to take a candid picture. He aimed carefully.

In a less than a second, Momma flung that bird onto the stump and chop!

The people at the newspaper company weren’t going to get any pictures of Momma killing the old hen for stewing. The man had forgotten to press the button.

He leaned against the coop and wiped his face with his untied bowtie. Large wet spots darkened the armpits of his white shirt. Lucy stood next to him, fluffing her dress.

He took a picture of her. Then he took another one of Lucy on the porch swing. Lucy at the gate. Lucy in the grass. Lucy in the garden. Lucy on the cordwood Elma had stacked.

Elma sat on the fence rail for a breather before feeding the chickens. Dust streaked her face and around her eyes. Damp hair stuck to her forehead.

“Look at you!” Lucy said. “You look like something the dog drug in.”

I couldn’t hear what Elma said to Lucy as the camera clicked one final time. Lucy left, walking on stiff legs like one of our hens.

 

It wasn’t until after we’d dug up potatoes one day that Momma found a brown envelope tucked just inside the front screened door.

“Lookie here, girls,” Momma said.  She pulled a handwritten note, a five-dollar bill and a clipping from the city newspaper out of the envelope.

She read the note to us. “I won an award in a photojournalism contest and thought I should share at least some of my winnings with you.” A fountain-penned squiggle was in the spot where you’d expect to see a signature.

The photo in the clipping showed the back of Lucy’s head, kind of blurry. You knew it was her head ‘cause of those two big ribbons in her hair. In the middle distance my sister stood with thumbs hooked in her overall straps and a slight frown on her face.

Elma and I read the caption aloud together. “ ‘Looking pretty fades. Working hard pays,’ says Elma Green, the face of farming’s future.”

I taped that clipping into my scrapbook next to the four-leaf clover.

End

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

What is True? What is Creative?


A writer honors the creative nonfiction contract by not presenting anything as fact that he or she doesn’t know to be fact. To comply with the contract, and earn readers’ trust, the writer signals when a bit of info is, in fact, not factual. 

As you read “Good Things” identify the words and phrases I used to signal what I was imagining and interpreting as opposed to what information is factual.

Good Things

cnf-mrs-clair-k-decker-cookbook-cover

“Mrs. Clair K. Decker.”

“Mrs. Clair K. Decker.”

Grandma had fountain-penned her new name in graceful letters on the canvas covers of a recipe booklet. The cover shows a nifty illustration of a youthful woman and tendrils of art nouveau steam wafting out of bowls.

Every four years or so, I pull “Good Things to Eat and How to Prepare Them” off my cupboard shelf and contemplate selling it. Or even donating it. Copyrighted in 1906, the 80-page collection of “more than 250 choice recipes” had cost 15 cents in the early 1900s.

Enjoying the feel of the soft, yellowed pages, I learn that “whether dinner is served at noon or at night it is the hearty meal of the day,” and try to imagine Grandma – whom I was told married Clair when she was 12 – preparing Stuffed Potatoes and Banana Salad.

My imagination fails. Those weren’t dished up at her extra-long oak dining table. Pancakes, I remember, and turkey with bread stuffing. But they’re not in this slim volume.

I leaf though the booklet again, this time with a purpose. I’m looking for the most splattered pages as a clue to what recipes she might have favored as a new housewife.

Desserts. Brown stains freckle the dessert pages. The chapter subtitle is, “ ‘Pretty Little Tiny Kickshaws.’ Shakespeare.” Kickshaws? Might Strawberry Sago be a kickshaw? Or Orange Pudding? Custard Pie?

Custard Pie! I do remember that kickshaw.

I also remember that Grandma hunted deer and went trout fishing with Grandpap. Together they raised potatoes, gladioli and three children.

One page in “Good Things to Eat” depicts the components of an eight-piece place setting arranged just so. The accompanying instructions are stiff with exacting adverbs: carefully, perfectly, squarely.

For the good of the marriage, Katie Kendall must have learned to compromise early on. You only had to notice Clair’s Camels, stinking cigarette lighter and rattlesnake tail buttons on the kitchen windowsill to know that. And what grandchild could forget that gawd-awful sound of his phlegm projectiles?

Once, when she didn’t know I was within earshot, Grandma described someone as being “full of piss and vinegar!” in a voice that sounded, to my young ears, admiring, envious perhaps. I’d hoped I would become a grownup full of those key ingredients.

I tucked the booklet back onto the shelf.

Did I comply with the creative nonfiction contract?

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 

Unique Third Person POV Activity

Guesstimate: How much cash do you think you’re carrying? $______

Empty your pocketbook, tote bag, wallet.

man-with-big-bagFrom the third person point of view (he/she, his/her) write assumptions a stranger might make about the person who carries the items in that pocketbook, tote bag, wallet. For example, what would someone assume about the person’s:

  • Free time
  • Hobbies
  • Habits
  • Work
  • Family
  • Fears
  • Health
  • Values/morals
  • Worldview
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Idiosyncrasies

How much cash are you REALLY carrying? How close was your guess – within $5, $10…?

Now that you’ve considered the contents:

  1. What Bible verse, adage, popular title or idiom best describes your findings?
  2. What can you throw away right now?
  3. What surprised you?
  4. What do you want to stop carrying around?
  5. What do you want to start carrying with you?
  6. What do you hope to carry with you always?

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

A Matter of Choice

In this award-winning story, teenager Monica sets out to push her parents’ button, but was it the one she was aiming for or something unexpected?

A Matter of Choice

teen girl angry“Your parents didn’t tell me why they want you to stay with me for a while,” Aunt Jo said.  “They said it had something to do with what they discovered on your Facebook page.

“Don’t ask me.” Monica replied. “Talking to my parents is like bumper cars at the fair.” It was OK to talk like this. Aunt Jo was cool.

Monica lifted her suitcase onto her aunt’s spare bed and glanced around the guestroom. Aunt Jo’s large, carved Kachina doll, known as Left-Hand in Hopi tradition, stood on the bureau. Monica knew her mom would geek out in here. Her parents’ bedroom was mauve, which Monica pronounced moo-vah to irk her mom. It did. Their room resembled a furniture showroom. Stiff. Formal.

“It’s not like I’m pregnant or anything. I’m not stupid.” Monica shook her head at the ridiculousness of it all.

“Ah, I figured it was a fella.” Aunt Jo said.

Monica laughed. The Kachina doll was called Left-Hand because he did everything in the opposite.

“I knew it would freak them out.” Monica confessed. “I mean, I always left the room when he called me when I was at home. And I’d tell ‘em I was meeting Ashley at the mall or the library.” Monica told herself she’d done her parents a favor by preventing them from knowing about Zeki. “Besides, staying here with you doesn’t mean I can’t see Zeki. They just don’t want to be bothered with me. They don’t know how to handle me.

“He must be some special fella.”

“He’s African-American.” Monica felt her head float like a balloon. “And Muslim.”

Aunt Jo’s eyebrows shot up. “And you think that’s why your parents are upset?”

“They’re old school, you know?”

“They’re of a different generation, but I don’t think…Tell me about your friend.”

“I dunno. He’s cute.” There were lots of cute guys. Some of them were her friends. She pulled her shirts and shorts out of her suitcase and tossed them into a drawer.

“You’re doing what every girl does. Stretching your wings. Finding out, exploring, growing. Better now than when you’re my age.” Aunt Jo hiccupped.

“Did you ever do something sneaky, Aunt Jo?”

“Yes! I dated two fellas at the same time. They tried to outdo each other. Your mother and your grandparents scolded me and lectured me. ‘People are talking!’ they said. ‘It’s time to settle down with one fella.’ I ended up losing both fellas. I was seventeen then.” Her eyes sparkled. “Your mom got married when she was seventeen, you know.”

“I know. Nineteen ninety-eight.”

“Ninety-nine.”

“You got your years mixed up,” Monica said. “Mom and Dad were married in ’98. I was born in ’99.”

“Somebody told you the wrong year. You were born in ’99, the same year they were married.” She smiled ruefully.

Monica’s thoughts knotted. Simple math. “Mom had to get married! I was a surprise. Wait till I tell her!”

Should she make a big scene? Blow her mom’s cover? And be a self-righteous geek like everybody else? Monica squinted at Left-Hand Kachina, whose expression sometimes looked angry and other times surprised. Let Mom and Dad have their little secret. And then the next time they got all flamed about something, she would give them a math lesson.

“Do you love Zeki?” Aunt Jo asked.

“We’re just friends. We hang out together. I’m not gonna fall in love until after I graduate from college, and I’m not gonna get married until I have a career, and I’m not gonna have kids ever! Too much hassle.”

“Why were you sneaky about your new boyfriend?”

“I asked Mom, what if I dated someone of a different background.”

“And?”

“She got twitchy. She was peeling potatoes. Cut her finger. I ran to get a Band-Aid… They’re always around, my parents, but never there. You know?” Monica’s face twisted. She unfolded the skimpy top she had worn when she went with Zeki to the party. “Mom didn’t say I couldn’t date someone different…a Muslim.” Monica knew she was using what her English teacher called “specious reasoning.” What would Left-Hand Kachina do?

Monica rolled her eyes at Aunt Jo. “OK, yeah. I knew Mom and Dad would geek out big time. Zeki didn’t pick what color or religion he is!” Monica slammed her empty suitcase shut.

“I guess I did,” Monica said.

“And you chose to lie. Numerous times.”

Left-Hand Kachina waited patiently, his inscrutable expression seemingly on the verge of shifting to something altogether new.

This story by Beth Fowler won 3rd Place Creative Nonfiction in the York PA literary contest. Fowler is the author of “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

Don’t Give Up the Search

books on writingIf you are a writer who’s serious about getting your next article or book published, then you no doubt have endured some rejections. Ow. That’s a harsh word. Let’s call them “declines” or “no thank you’s.” Or, how about you comment with clever names for the letters and emails we get when an agent, editor or publisher doesn’t want our work.

You’ve probably also grown accustomed to waiting, waiting, waiting for a response. Fortunately, many  agents are more lenient now and accept queries that have been sent simultaneously to other agents, making our wait for one to respond less of a time waster.

And boy can time be wasted. I sent a query December 2015 and received a reply July 27, 2016. Here it is:

Dear Author,

On behalf of the agents here at Lowenstein Associates, thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. I apologize for the form letter, but the volume of query letters we receive means we cannot send every writer a personal response. Please know that we do give each and every query serious attention.

Unfortunately, we do not feel strongly enough about your project to pursue it further. Agenting is very subjective, however, and even though we could not take on your project, another agent might feel differently. 

Please accept our best wishes for success in your writing career.
 
Sincerely, 

Assistant to Barbara Lowenstein and Mary South
Lowenstein Associates
www.LowensteinAssociates.com
I’m not giving up. I know my query is written well and my novel has a readership waiting for it.
How about you? Do you know you are sending your best work out? Will you give up?