Recommended Reading

Are you a Book Dragon like me? Check out these fantastic reads!










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Believable Trauma in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling

Welcome, readers and writers! I’m excited to talk with you about Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. For me, this book rates five stars! I loved the book because of the characters. What follows is an annotation exploring Fledgling from a writer’s perspective…and why I appreciated it.



Some writers are capable of making a reader feel so deeply about a character, the readers cry. I was connected to Shori in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling because she is pitiful and I am empathetic—even though she is a vampire, her entire life was taken away from her. Butler created a dynamic character because of Shori’s memory loss due to a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this annotation, I explore how Butler shows Shori’s memory loss, including Shori’s short-term memory of the accident, her inability to recall events, and the reactions of the people around her which reinforce the feeling of tragic event.

In the beginning we only know that something awful happened to the main character—she doesn’t even recall her name (1). Instead of describing the symptoms of injury—physical, psychological, emotional impairment, and behavioral impairment—Butler chose to dive into the character’s head and explore the emotional reaction, the visceral reaction of what it feels like to have no memory. “I awoke to darkness. I was hungry—starving!—and I was in pain. There was nothing in my world but hunger and pain…” (1); she even questions if she is blind or not (1). Butler goes on to describe an emotionally-impactful event—the eating of “the creature” (2)— and she is so grateful because all she can do is function—eat, sleep, heal. This is an effective use of Maslow’s hierarchy because it shows that everything—even the taboo of eating a human—is thrown to the wayside because basic needs are not met. Later in the chapter, Butler writes:

I saw all this, but still, I had no idea where I was or where I should be or how I had come to be there or even why I was there—there was so much I didn’t know. (3).

Butler uses Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs throughout the novel, but specifically in this section to show that when a creature is wounded—even a vampire—it goes back to the basics. Maslow’s Hierarchy divides needs into categories based: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization; Maslow suggests that if a lower need such as physiological is not met, a higher need like social or esteem cannot be met—basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and safety must be met before dealing with other things…like memory loss (Maslow). For Shori, it sets off a journey of life and death and a search for who she really is. We learn later that she has amnesia because of the blow to her head (33, 61-62). This story isn’t just about vampires—it’s about the human condition. Butler continues to explore the memory of the accident and the amnesia throughout the book.

One way Butler achieves the exploration is through Shori’s continuing inability to recall events that occurred before her recovery in the cave. Butler writes about Shori’s physical symptoms (“two places [where] my head felt crusty and lumpy and … almost soft” [1]), her sensory symptoms including the lack of light (1, 2), and cognitive symptoms “somehow I had been hurt very badly, and yet I couldn’t remember how” (4). The character doesn’t even remember that clothing is normal until her other symptoms are taken care of (4). These are typical reactions of someone who has TBI, and Butler uses specific examples of this behavior to showcase Shori’s symptoms.

The reactions of the people around her reinforces the buy-in. The people around her either know her and love her or want to kill her. The emotional impact is felt strongest when Shori is reintroduced to her family, particularly her reintroduction to her mothers’ fathers. When Shori explains to them what happened to her, but it’s the reaction that Butler writes that holds the key to emotion:

Konstantin gazed down at me with almost too much sympathy. A human who looked that way would surely cry. After a moment, he said, “Shori, we’re your mothers’ fathers. You’ve known us all your life. (207-208)

Butler pulls off the gut punch and then follows the segment up with Shori’s remark:

“I’m sorry,” I told them. “I’ll have to get to know you all over again. And you’ll have to get to know me. I can’t even pretend to be the person I was before the injury. (208).

Butler achieves a blow to the gut with the elders’ reaction, and then hits the reader with an uppercut that knocks her out and makes her cry.

When someone tells her that her mother gave her a pendant found in the fire that destroyed her family, Shori tries to remember her mother: “But there was nothing. All of my life had been erased, and I could not bring it back” (132). Throughout this book, Butler shows how to weave memory loss into a novel and make it appear realistic. Shori’s memory loss is a touchstone of the novel. She cannot remember a lot of things—at first it is basic information, and then later she cannot remember who anyone is—not even her mother’s father, who she knew all her life. But those aren’t the details that get her into trouble—the memory loss is so effective because what she doesn’t know can hurt her. She can only survive by following her instincts and trusting her family and creating a new branch of her own. This book was published in 2005, and has good company with other novels which show the impact of memory loss including The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany.


Works Cited

Butler, Octavia E. Fledgling. New York: Grand Central Publishing. 2005. Print.

McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Simple Psychology. 2007. Web.





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Reincarnation: Darlene’s Book World and Writer Utopia


Hey. Darlene here. I’m a huge book geek and an avid reader and writer who loves the written word. When I started this blog way back in 2009-2010, I intended it to be a place to explore the writing process. The first go-round went well, and I learned a staggering amount about writing, the writing life, and what works and doesn’t work.

Now, I am reincarnating DarWrites into a hybrid writer utopia and destination for book lovers! I’m establishing Darlene’s Book World…a place to celebrate all things book-related including reviews, discussions, bookshelf tours, and how writers learn from novels!

I am also going to be focusing on the creation of the first step of my writer destination including tools, how-to posts, and roundups of things I’ve researched that could be helpful to other writers. I plan on branching out, connecting with other writers and readers!

If you have a great idea for a post, please let me know! Stick around and feel free to share this blog with anyone touched by the written word – let’s celebrate reading together!

Write On,



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The Post-MFA Rambling

This writer has grown since the last post here. I created another website, self-published a romance novel under a pseudonym, took a Masterclass with James Patterson, read a few hundred books, and traveled the US via train. I’m going to take a moment here and share one of the most special moments of my life with you. Are you ready?

I finished my thesis. It’s a science fiction novel about an amnesiac half-goddess, half-alien who grew up on Earth.

Looking back, I can see the difference in my writing and where the shifts occurred, and the difference between 2009 and 2017 Darlene is as vast an expanse as an ocean. I’d like to share a few highlights with you.

My Goddard Top 10

10. Salons

9. Reading Time

8. The Call from Paul

7. Packet Pressure

6. Residencies

5. Friends and Colleagues

4. Writing Time

3. Completion of the First Draft

2. Finished Thesis

and 1. is going to happen in February…I’m walking at my graduation.

That feels strange…when I set my plan in 2010, I didn’t look past this moment-it was an end-game for me. As time passed, I looked to the future and it’s a future filled with words. I didn’t know when I set out that this endeavor would change my life and my outlook. But little by little the water came in and my boat lifted. It feels like I’m on a river, following the current.

More to come on reading, writing, and the life. I found out what I want to say. Stick around and enjoy the journey with me. I’d love to hear how you’ve grown as a writer.




Darlene Reilley, writer

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The Reading List

Update:This was posted when I thought I was going to have tons of extra time to write. Suffice it to say, that doesn’t always happen, but I’m rolling many of these books forward onto my upcoming writer list. I’ll post that when I can.


I am a writer and a bookworm! If you’re like me, you practically grew up in the library. If you love books, check out my reading list here: Darlene’s Reading List.


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The First Semester of Grad School, or Winter 2014 Update

I finished my first semester of grad school at Goddard College earlier this month. It was like climbing a switchback up a mountain–full of light and darkness and air and rain. While I can’t include everything I have done this semester, I would like to share a few of the tips and readings. For this semester, I finished the following:

  • Fifteen annotations (read a book, write a few pages about the craft or art the author worked in the book)
  • Two short papers
  • One hundred pages of creative work
  • Attended the Write on the Sound Conference*
  • Finished a NaNoWriMo novel*
  • Attended four writing intensive weekends*

* the last there were my own inclusions–I wanted to do a few fun things to make my writing adventure amazing. One of my favorite moments was meeting Robert Sawyer at the Write on the Sound Conference in October.

Now, in the process of reading and writing, I have learned more by absorbing the works and ideas of the writers who have come before me. I have found a few helpful tips on the way.

  • 2,000 words per day, every day, so help you Muse (Stephen King recommends this and his muse is a basement-dweller. I think my muse is a mountain-top castle dweller).
  • Write in the active voice.
  • Keep your tenses straight—don’t slip into past when writing in the present, etc. (We all do it, so make sure you’re scheduling editing time to fix it).
  • Write for clarity of message. I struggled with this one. It means when you have a picture in your head, you need to be as specific in detail and as comprehensive as the picture in order to translate it from your brain through your fingers and into the minds of others. Really, it’s a form of telepathy (credit, Stephen King). So get to transcribing what you see and don’t hold back in first drafts—edit later.

Below, you’ll see some of the books I read over the last year. You can’t really compare books because it’s like comparing people–each have their own special attributes and faults. But I can say that my favorite book of the year was Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar in a Sieve. Check it out.

Write on.



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Recommended Reading Part 1

Happy Holidays! It’s been quiet on here recently and for good reason. I’ve been writing and reading, which, according to Stephen King and my advisors, are the keys necessary to good writing. I believe all writers have a love of reading deep in the heart. With that in mind, I’m sharing my favorite books I read in 2014. If you’re looking for a good book to read or give as a gift, these are great ones. Just a note: they link to Goodreads descriptions; if you don’t have an account already, I highly you recommend it! I love being able to store my books there and talk with other readers and writers!

The best books I read in 2014:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a rollicking sci-fi ride that will take you back to the future…and into the heart of the 1970s. Check it out.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem is both shocking and delicious! Check out this detective story with a twist.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Why I haven’t read this book before is the question, but it’s awesome! Go check it out and then find a pattern for the socks and knit them; I did.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. She is one of my heroes, and not just because her father was one of the Fathers of Anthropology. This is an amazing read with foreign cultures and treks across snow-clad crevices.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. No, I didn’t watch the movie before I saw the book. I recorded the movie and then read the book and watched the book the same day. And yes, it is amazing. But the book is better than the movie, so do yourself a favor and read it.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I see a theme here, but it and Cloud Atlas were not connected in my mind as movies. I read this because it was mentioned at the Goddard Residency I went to this fall; the lady who recommended it was right, the book was fabulous and very in-your-face. It made me want to hike more.

On Writing by Stephen King. Just read it. And when you come to the booklist, go ahead and compare yours to his. I did.

The Legend of Banzai Maguire by Susan Grant. Susan Grant is a delicious treat and one of my favorite science fiction romance writers. I want more. Lots more.

Bomb: The race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon Steve Sheinkin is a thrill ride and then some! There are many dimensions to the story and before I read it, I only had a quarter of the story. This was wonderful.

Chains Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing. It’s a totally different take on a historical setting that is underrepresented right now. Plus it was from a unique point of view.

The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy. Just read it.

The Morcai Batallion by Diana Palmer/Susan Kyle. This one confused me at first, because the first book is under Diana Palmer’s name, then she switched to Susan Kyle. But go ahead and read all of them, you can thank me later.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Confession: I love this writer and met her while studying at Pacific Lutheran University; she is wonderful and fun and so are her books. Go read them!

Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box by Jon Arno Lawson was a treat. This is poetry, but not just for children–it’s for anyone with a really good imagination.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Yes, there’s a movie. No, it’s nowhere near the book. Go read it and then decide if you want to read the next two; I think the first one is the best one.

The best book I read this year was Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. I wrote a whole paper about why it’s the best book ever, so I won’t go into the fifteen-page details, but I will tell you this is one of the best books I’ve ever read with the most unique main character ever. And I’ve never said that about a book or character before, so that’s saying something.

I’ll be adding an update later in the month with how my first semester at Grad school went, NaNoWriMo, and update on the Divantinum Series, and more tools to help writers. This blog will be updated at the start of the new year, but I want to make sure you know my focus is and always will be writing and fiction.

Happy reading and happy writing!






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