#BQ The Marque by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I came across a short story that has all the elements I enjoy in a Stephen King novel… I definitely want to read a full length novel by Mr Hicks because 57 pages just was not enough. Aliens, cowboys, bounty hunter, and gore!


Giving Your Story Relevance – Creating Subtext and Themes

Giving Your Story Relevance Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgAs an avid reader you get to experience a plethora of stories – get a feel for what is engaging and memorable, and what isn’t so much. Also having a literary degree under your belt also helps provide the tools to identify concepts to critique and improve your writing.

I’m primarily focusing on long-form fiction writing, novels that I like to read for this discussion, though the concepts can be loosely applied to many other forms of writing.

To help add complexity and depth to your narrative does not always mean throwing in a bunch of action scenes and having break-neck pacing. There are many novels that are quietly resounding – and those types of stories usually depict the use of subtext and theme more clearly.

Giving Your Story Relevance Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Is the girl in this photo comforting a friend, about to break up with them or wondering what groceries to buy on the way home… but what she says is “I know.”

Subtext is the goings-on between characters that is not said aloud in dialogue. Emotional energy. Motivations. This can be illustrated in symbolism, description of facial expressions and actions contra to the meaning of the dialogue, narrative tone, inner dialogue, things that are hinted at but not totally explained. It’s up to the reader to draw a line between all the dots to bring about a twist on the meaning. We usually see this in conflicted characters and/or motivations. The best way to convey this type of writing tool is by creating complex characters from the outset and planning out when to reveal certain aspects through interaction throughout the story or scene. Slowly revealing underlying motives of the character. It shows growth and development, hidden depth and complexity, and can lead to a transformative plot point later in the story.

On a lighter side it can add that little something extra to your narrative that is superfluous to the plot by adding some levity, interest, or tension.

Further to this concept, symbolism can be even more powerful. An object, thing, idea, quote, that captures the hero’s quest, transformation or state of being, can help the reader identify a deeper meaning hidden in your narrative. You can also use this kind of tool to substitute for controversial or difficult topics you many not wish to spell out directly in your narrative; or work around to keep your novel in a certain genre and demographic. For instance, dealing with death or child abuse in a middle grade novel: using symbolism to convey meaning without actually writing disturbing scenes is a great tool.

Symbolism is usually strongly connected to the core theme of your story.

Giving Your Story Relevance Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Having a theme for your novel is important to keep your narrative focused and on track. No meandering plots. A reader will lose interest if you are continually shooting off in tangents. Most of the time readers are in for a hero’s journey, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, an inner spiritual journey, or finding strength… there has to be an end goal. And the theme will reflect the tone of the novel, the path from the start to the end. For instance, revenge, growth, love. You will need to tie into this theme at the beginning, at a turning point in your story and again at the conclusion for it to work.

And there’s no rule to say you can’t have more than one theme – but don’t over complicate you novel.

I also find it handy to apply these concepts and tools to each character. Not only does this help to create a fully realised cast, but it also allows you to identify superfluous characters. That way you can cut them from the story to keep up the tension and pace.

The best idea is to start using these tools and concepts at the planning stage, but there is no reason why you can’t introduce them after a first draft to elevate the professional edge of your writing. We all have a different creative process, so it all depends on how you like to write.

But these are just some points to initiate a discussion, or things to think about when you cast a critical eye over your own writing. The more we can help each other produce amazing novels, the more enriched our literary landscape with be.

Happy writing.


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



The cover grabbed me, and then after reading the bulb to discover that one of the protagonists identifies as genderqueer, I was immediately interested in finding out what this is all about. Plus ‘What We Left Behind’ deals with a couple heading off to separate colleges after high school and tackling a long-distance relationship and redefining their identities… Looks like a fun lazy weekend read someday soon 🙂

Book Review – ‘Demon in Sight’ (#6 Translucent) by Dan Rix

 The saga of Leona and her discovery of dark matter and alien beings draws to an epic climax.

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 337

From Goodreads:

It’s like somebody hit the pause button for the entire planet.

Earth’s streets are jammed with motionless cars, their still-warm occupants slumped over the steering wheels, bodies paused mid-breath. They have no pulse.

The sun has winked out, plunging the globe into permanent darkness. Fire no longer burns. Electronics sputter and die, inexplicably drained of charge. The whole world, and all seven billion inhabitants, are in suspended animation.

But three people are awake. 


Demon in Sight’ was a well anticipated read. Having to wait over a year for it to be released in paperback after the e-book publication date, and having enjoyed the previous five novels in the series, there were a lot of expectations wrapped up in this finale. It stayed true to the tone and writing style we’ve come to expect from Dan Rix and the protagonist, Leona.

I had been hoping for a little more seriousness and maturity from Leona herself. But she still had her moments of idiocy and stubbornness. Personally it was a little infuriating, but she has been this way all along, so why did I expect some miraculous transformation I don’t know. Characters aside, the plot itself is pretty amazing Rix has a way of letting things go wrong for his protagonists and there is a very organic feel to how they react and find solutions to overcome roadblocks.

Demon in Sight’ is another quick engaging read. There is plenty of mind-bending action and science fiction theory to warp your mind. I love his concepts. I will say there was a something about the writing style of this finale that felt a little flat: maybe it was my feelings at Leona slipping back into her behavioural patterns from earlier in the series, that immaturity; or the sudden soppiness between her and love interest Emory. The angst was gone. Something just wasn’t grabbing me as much as before. It feels all very ‘teen drama.’

That aside, the action and adventure aspect to this series, and indeed this finale is cool beyond measure. I was enthralled by those climactic scenes and this is definitely the novels stand out feature. The tension and challenges Rix weaves into the narrative is what I will keep coming back for.


Leona definitely has a unique style of facing challenges – which I found to be an admirable trait, but that remaining thread of jealousy and reactionary impulses held me back from truly loving her. Emory morphed in this final book to become a true, if not, somewhat overly sappy romantic lead. I felt like he needed to be in more of the action, show more physical prowess, and challenge Leona for control a bit more. The best friend, Megan, took a back seat for most of this novel. I could usually count on her for some hilarious one liners, or leading Leona astray, but there was very little Megan for those moments to break the tension. Fellow cast mates, Sarah and Natasha instead have their time to shine. Providing maturity and level-headedness for the team they helped form in saving the world. I really appreciated having them so prominent in ‘Demon in Sight’ and found a small amount of disappointment at the series ending and not having to get to spend more time with them.

The Translucent series is definitely bang on the money for a YA science fiction read – skewed more for a younger market in tone, but definitely interspersed with some adult content. I’d either like to have seen more mature protagonists, or have the adult content removed to give this series a better chance at being marketed to the best demographic. Rix is certainly a fantastic writer, and I enjoy his novels, but there needs to be just one level up on the editing/publishing end of his process. I’ve found an occasional spelling or grammatical error and some issue with the formatting or presentation of the physical book. ‘Demon in Sight’ was superior in this aspect of the series. But I feel with this small attention to detail, it will give him an even more professional edge.

I’m certainly eyeing off another series to jump into next, and with Rix being such a prolific author there is definitely plenty to choose from.

Overall feeling: Bittersweet goodbye

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



These have been around forever and I keep hearing how great they are from book-friends… even though I’ve owned this trilogy for a number of years, I think the thickness of the novels is daunting. Looking forward to finally cracking the spine when I’m in a high fantasy mood.

Book Review – ‘Jealousy’ (#3 Strange Angels) by Lili St. Crow

It’s getting better! Dru really sink her teeth into the story in Jealousy.

Jealousy (#3 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 316

From Goodreads:

Dru Anderson might finally be safe. She’s at the largest Schola on the continent, and beginning to learn what it means to be svetocha—half vampire, half human, and all deadly. If she survives her training, she will be able to take her place in the Order, holding back the vampires and protecting the oblivious normal people.

But a web of lies and betrayals is still closing around her, just when she thinks she can relax a little. Her mentor Christophe is missing, her almost-boyfriend is acting weird, and the bodyguards she’s been assigned seem to know much more than they should. And then there’s the vampire attacks, the strange nightly visits, and the looks everyone keeps giving her. As if she should know something.

Or as if she’s in danger.

Someone high up in the Order is a traitor. They want Dru dead—but first, they want to know what she remembers of the night her mother died. Dru doesn’t want to remember, but it looks like she might have to—especially since once Christophe returns, he’ll be on trial for his life, and the only person who can save him is Dru.

The problem is, once she remembers everything, she may not want to…


Things are starting to get interesting again – we’re back on the path to finding answers, fighting the big bad, and making serious head-roads into a serious relationship.

There were some parts of ‘Jealousy’ where the pacing went flat: getting bogged down in a lot of mundane detail. And then there was the repeated reference to many things like the necklace, the owl, the touch…. we get it, they’re important to the plot, but the continual referencing was starting to get tedious.

The love triangle thing came out in full effect in ‘Jealously’ and, to be frank, I don’t like it.

Just. Stop.

But besides that, I lurved ‘Jealousy.’ The formation of strong friendships, the battles, the espionage and back-stabbing. It made for some delicious reading. The 14 year old girl in me was all-a-squee.

Jealousy (#3 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist Dru felt like she was finally starting to take her future into her own hands, challenging the direction those around her of whom were pushing her in earnest. She made up her own mind with the facts that were presented. I loved how Dru showed compassion with Ash the tortured and broken werewolf; I really started getting wrapped up in her story and could feel the character development ooze from the page.

Christophe was absent for most of the story, but when he appeared, he landed with a clap of thunder and shook everything up… I’m still of two minds about him though. As lovely as he is written, there is something altogether creepy about him.

My heart belongs to Goth Boy. Graves in all his laoup garou glory. I adore his sarcastic sense of humour and how he supports Dru as a partner and not a dominator.

Again, I got a number of delightful little surprises from the plot, many of which I didn’t see coming. Anna plays a wonderful role in the unveiling of the past, and mythology. Though this does end on a cliff-hanger; it has a sense of hope and strength and I’m keen as mustard to get my hands on ‘Defiance.’ A great addition to my YA collection. Recommended.

Overall feeling: Falling in love with this series.

Jealousy (#3 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Jealousy (#3 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Trilogy by Jenny Han

Fun realistic contemporaries about family and facing the loss of security of childhood.

  To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

It took me a while to pick up ‘To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before’ – there was something about the blurb that failed to hook me, but thanks to continuous rave reviews from friends, I eventually picked it up and gave it a go. I was blown away by the family dynamics and the relationship between the sisters at the forefront. I must admit though, I found myself rolling my eyes many times. But the stand out character was Kitty, Lara Jean’s annoying little sister. Their dynamic felt very real and created expert tension for the story.

You get a strong sense of how these girls grow up throughout the trilogy, still in that cute, light and fluffy narrative tone of Han’s writing. It really captures the worries we experience when facing the world after school, losing family (either to death, divorce or moving away,) school grades and, of course, boyfriends. I was transported back to the nostalgia and angst-ridden years of my own high school experience. Though I wasn’t as goody-two-shoes as Lara Jean.

Even though the finale ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ deals with some great issues, it fell a bit flat for the conclusion of this trilogy… but in saying that, ringing true to the realism that embodies this collection, Lara Jean’s story has not ended. It is only just beginning as she take her first steps into adulthood and academia. Maybe we’ll get more of Lara Jean’s story in many years from now?

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleDefinitely one I’d recommend if you’re into romantic contemporaries with a strong familial presence and a fairly passive main character. Though there is some light wit that keeps the tone delightful. This series certainly gets better the further you get into the series, with the last book switching up the tone a bit as Lara Jean faces an uncertain future and has some hard decisions to make.

And with the film adaptation due for release in 2018 (at this stage,) starring Lana Condor; I’m excited to see how this series will fare – and if all three novels with get a treatment… of course depending of the performance of the debut at the box office. In a world where the majority of film successes are white-washed (with a male lead,) it is going to be an interesting social experiment seeing how this movie is launched and received by audiences.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

For individual reviews click on the links below:

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/book-review-to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-by-jenny-han/

P.S. I Still Love You’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/book-review-p-s-i-still-love-you-by-jenny-han/

Always and Forever, Lara Jeanhttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/11/21/book-review-always-and-forever-lara-jean-3-to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-by-jenny-han/


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.