Love is a very complex human emotion. It comes in many forms.  Here are some examples from my novels:


From Fishing in Foreign Seas:  (Jamie and Caterina are on a sightseeing excursion to Erice, Sicily.  This is the kind of love that young people dream of; where two people fit together perfectly.)

He looked into a narrow gorge which was covered on the near side with vines and seemed to stretch down into infinity. “Yes, I see what you mean.  I can’t even make out what’s at the bottom.”

she pleaded.  She took a step backward and held out her hands to him.

He crossed over to her.  “The railing is quite strong.  You wouldn’t fall over,” he assured her.

She looked at him, her lips compressed: “I am afraid of heights.  When I get near a place like this, I am afraid I throw myself over.”

“But you’re not going to do that!”

“I know, but I still get the feeling. . . .  As if some demon inside of me will take control . . . and throw me over.”
“But you don’t have any demons inside,” he protested.

“I know of one,” she confessed.  Her eyes were misty: “. . . it is called ‘self-doubt’.”

He stared at her in utter amazement, then he felt her vulnerability, and he drew her close to him.  “Let’s get a bite to eat,” he suggested.

They sat at a table in an almost-deserted patisserie.  She would look at him for a moment and then she would look around her.  The corners of her mouth were turned down and her head was inclined to one side.

“Caterina . . .”  She looked at him, her face full of disappointment in herself.  He took her hands: “I love you!”

She took a deep breath, not believing what she heard.  Then the dam burst inside her.  “Oh, Jamie, I love you so much!  I never believed I could love anyone like this!”  Her face was streaming with tears.

“You beautiful, wild, wonderful girl!”  He got up and hugged her.  “. . . Do you suppose they have any champagne here?”

She wiped her eyes with a napkin.  “I doubt it, but they probably have some prosecco – which might be good.”

Jamie got up, ordered a bottle of prosecco and pointed out some assorted sweets to the waitress.  She came to their table carrying an unopened bottle and the tray of sweets; then she showed them the bottle.

Caterina frowned.  “Haven’t you got anything better than that?”

Yes, Miss, we have champagne.”

“What champagne is it?”

“We have one bottle of Moet in the refrigerator.”

“Excellent!  We’d like that, please!

They sat gazing at each other while the waitress went for the champagne.  “Jamie, are you sure you love me?”

“Yes, I love you because you’re clever, you have a sense of humor, you’re a little wild, because you’re the part of me that’s missing, you’re beautiful, and because you’re a bit lonely!”

Wordlessly, she got up from the table, knelt down and hugged him.


From Sin & Contrition: (Where Josie is swept off here feet by Dr. Bill Thompson, and while they love each other, there’s a major obstacle.)

Josie and Dr. Thompson were lying naked in her bed that Sunday evening.  He was nuzzling her breasts.

“Bill, have you ever been married?”

He looked up at her suddenly: “Why do you ask, my love?”

“Because I want to know.”

Dr. Thompson rolled over onto his back.  “I was married once – it didn’t work out too well.”

“When was that?”

“About eight years ago.”

“Did you get a divorce?”

“She doesn’t want to give me one.”

“It’s possible to get one in Pennsylvania, even if one person objects.”

“I know, but I haven’t had any reason to – until now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I love you, Josie.”

It was the first time he had said it, and she felt elation.  “I love you, Bill. . . . Would you get a divorce for me?”

“It’s complicated, Josie.  There are kids involved.”

“There are kids?”

“Yeah, four kids.”

Josie began to feel a knot in her stomach.  “How old are they?”

“Seven, five, four and two.”

“And you’re still living with your wife and the children?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s not what you’re thinking.  I’m just staying for the children.”

“Do you and your wife still have sex?”

“No. . . . Now, Josie, you’ve just got to be patient with me.  We’ll work something out.”


Josie slept very little that night.  She kept turning over in her mind her questions: could they work something out?  That would be absolutely heaven!  Could she convince him to spend more time with her?  If he got a divorce, could she handle four kids – even part time?  She thought so.

Finally, and reluctantly, she decided to do a little investigating.


From Efraim’s Eye: (Paul confesses his affection for Naomi, knowing perhaps that their relationship is not meant to be.)

The wind rattled the green canvas awning that covered the roof restaurant.  They were sitting side-by-side so that they could look out to sea.  A waiter had cleared away their breakfast plates of fruit and pastries.  Naomi was sipping her coffee pensively.  She turned slightly to face him.  “Do you love me, Paul?”

Unprepared as he was for that question, Paul knew that there could be only one answer.  “Yes, yes, of course I love you.”

Naomi’s head tilted, and her gaze fell to the table cloth.  Uncertainly, she asked, “Why do you love me?”

Instinctively, Paul knew that his answer must not include the word ‘beautiful’ or one of its synonyms.  He said, “You’re a very sweet idealist, Naomi.  You are a woman with great talents as a linguist, as a musician, and in dealing with people.  But for me, best of all, is your joie de vie.  Life is a great, pleasing adventure for you, and it’s delightful to be with you.”

For some moments, Naomi gazed at him, apparently repeating his words in her mind.  She asked, “So you think I’m a sweet, talented, adventurous woman?”  She pronounced the word ‘woman’ awkwardly, as if it were a term unfamiliar to her.

He smiled.  “For a four word summary, that will do.”

Paul knew the answer to the reciprocal question.  She loved him as a daughter loves, and he had awakened her latent brilliance as a lover.  But, for her part, she had wanted to know whether she, herself, was a person who could be loved.

She took his hand in hers, and they sat, quietly gazing out to sea, each lost for some time in his or her own sunny thoughts.


From The Iranian Scorpion: (Robert invites Kate to come to Dubai with him; they are lovers, but actually they are friends.)

“Kate, James has proposed that I come to Dubai for a couple of weeks R & R. Would you like to come along?”

“But what would I do in Dubai?”

“Well, you could lie on the beach, or by the pool, in your bikini.”

“I don’t have a bikini.”

“Well, you can wear your designer one-piece, then.”

“What else is there?”

“Well, we would be staying at the five-star Jumeirah Hotel.”

“I am sick of hotels.”

“We could stay in one of their tropical garden residences.”

“What else?”

“We could go shopping in the Mall of the Emirates.”

“I hate shopping malls.”

“Well, there are some nice little shops in the hotel.”
”What else is there?”

“Well, I see that Beyoncé is playing at one of the clubs.”

“I don’t like Beyoncé.”

“How about Randy Travis?”

“What else?”

“I see that the Amala restaurant has fresh oysters.”

Kate made a face.

“They also have fresh Maine lobster.”

“What else, Rob?”

“Well, there are a couple of new positions we could try.”

She looked away.

“Are you not coming then, Kate?” When he moved to look at her face, he saw that she was giggling.

“Of course I’m coming!”


And this from Sable Shadow and The Presence: (Henry reflects on his relationship with Suzannne.)

After that, we just couldn’t get enough of each other.  We didn’t move in together, but we might as well have.  I kept some of my business clothes at Suzanne’s place, and she kept some of hers at my apartment.  That way, we could always have dinner together, make love, sleep and have breakfast together.  My world revolved around Suzanne, and hers around me.  Anybody else was superfluous.  While we were at work, we spoke to each other two or three times a day.

I was really in love for the first time in my life: I would have done absolutely anything for Suzanne.  The miracle of it was that she felt the same about me.  It didn’t seem possible that anyone could love me so much.  This one, magical woman had wiped away all my self-doubts and my Angst.

More reviews: Sable Shadow and The Presence

Two people from Reader’s Favourite have submitted the following reviews:

Kathryn Bennett:        “Sable Shadow & The Presence by William Peace is the fictional autobiography of bright introvert Henry Lawson. He hears strange voices at a young age, voices that he does not recognize and believes one to be the Sable Shadow, who is a confidant of the devil, and the other is The Presence who may be a worker of God. For him life becomes a struggle in a chess game of sorts and these voices follow him
from childhood through life until he attempts to kill himself, and must then begin to rebuild himself, making a new identity and essentially a new person.

Some books touch you deeply and some make you think, and some manage to do both
within the pages of one book. For me Sable Shadow & The Presence by William
Peace did both. It made me think and it touched me. The thoughts that this book
manages to provoke about good and evil will certainly make you delve into some
interesting discussions with friends and loved ones. Each page for me was like
peeling back another layer of the onion to enjoy and read. I picked it up and
was not able to set it down until I was finished, and even then I felt like I
could read more. What would you do if you had the presence of good and the
presence of evil speaking to you for your entire life? While Henry has his
issues, I personally may not have come out as well as he did and I am not sure
I would be able to rebuild myself even with support after such a hard fall.
William Peace gets a thumbs up from this author on an inventive story line that
evokes thoughts and emotions – a recommended read.    5 stars”

Ray Simmons:       Sable Shadow & The Presence is a thoughtful and illuminating work of fiction by William Peace.  The main character is Henry, an observant man, a natural philosopher who goes through life looking for meaning and trying to figure out what lies behind appearances. He also goes through life listening to two opposing voices that
may represent good and evil. The voices are subtle and indeed, for a period
when he is younger, he’s not sure if they aren’t from inside himself, but over
time he becomes convinced that they are external. We follow Henry as he goes
through the major events of his life. During early childhood he confides in his
sister Jenny about the voices and it is she who names the sinister voice Sable
Shadow. In many ways Henry has a typical American life, if there is such a
thing. He takes us through childhood, the teenage years, first love, first
tragedy, the college years, and a stint in the Navy. We watch him fall in love
and navigate his way through the adult years.

William Peace has created an enduring and thought provoking work in Sable
Shadow & The Presence. The novel avoids the exaggerated melodrama found in
so many current novels. The writing is clean, crisp, and directly to the point.
The characters and situations reflect a modern American life and the musings of
Henry mirror questions all educated, thoughtful people have asked at some point
in their lives. I give it five stars. There should be more novels of this
nature out there.   5 stars”


I have noticed that it takes me longer to produce a page of output than it used to.  When I first started writing, I would write about one page per hour.  Now it takes me at least twice as long.  I’d like to think that’s because the quality of my writing has improved.  What I can say is that I take extra time to:

  • Capture the characters’ feelings
  • Avoid common-place language
  • Make the story interesting to the reader
  • Clarify the scene and the context
  • Be concise

I thought it would be interesting to compare an actual passage from my first novel, Fishing in Foreign Seas, with the same passage as I would write it today.  Here, for example is a discussion between Caterina (the heroine) and Jamie (the hero).  They have just come back from a sailing trip with her parents, her brother, Pino, and Pino’s girlfriend, Marina:

They were in her car, driving back from Marsala.

“Caterina, I don’t understand.  Why didn’t your mother object to all the touching and giggling that was going on between Pino and Marina . . . and that swimsuit she was wearing . . . whereas, she would have objected if we had behaved the same, and you had worn a similar suit?”

Caterina smiled: “It is not Mama’s problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mama wants me to be a virgin when I get married, and that includes ‘virginal behavior’ until the big day.  For boys it’s different.  He must not get a girl pregnant before he marries her.  I’m sure Papa has made that very clear to Peppino, and explained, in detail, how not to get a girl pregnant.”

“But Marina was behaving like a bit of a tart.”

“What is a ‘tart’?  ‘A whore’?

“No, just a very sexy girl.”

“That is her mother’s problem.  And when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” she said looking at him with a mischievous grin.  “I bet that Marina spends plenty of ‘after hours’ time at the winery.”

Jamie was puzzled: “Why at the winery?”

“Because Pino has a little apartment there.”

“How convenient! Can I get one there, too?”

“You do not need one. . .   He has an apartment there, because there is a need to keep someone on the premises after hours.”

“Why is that?”

“About two years ago some thieves broke into the storage area and stole over one thousand cases of wine.  Since then, we’ve put in an elaborate alarm system, we fixed up an apartment for Pino, and there are three rather fierce guard dogs which are let out at night.”
“I take it that the guard dogs won’t bite Marina when she comes visiting?”

“The dogs obey Pino, and I guess she calls to tell him she is coming.”

“Was it the Mafia who stole the wine?”

“I doubt it.  When Papa took over the winery from grandfather, the Mafia began asking for protection money.  Papa refused.  They threatened.  For several years, Papa had two carabinieri either parked at the winery or next to his car at home, depending on where he was.”

“Good God!  Why doesn’t he have them now?”

“About three years ago the local Mafia had a shoot out with the police.  One policeman and three Mafioso were killed – two more were captured.  One of those killed was the local Capo Mafia.  He was the one pushing the protection scheme.  Since then three men have been arrested and convicted for attempted extortion.  The public was also getting angry at what amounted to theft from honest people.  Omerta was breaking down, so the Mafia decided to stick to drugs, gambling and prostitution – at least around Marsala.”


And here is the way I would write the same passage today:

Jamie was pensive as she was driving back from Marsala.  “Caternia, did you notice all the touching and giggling that was going on between Pino and Marina?”  His eyes were wide with exaggeration.  “And the bathing suit she was wearing?”

She gave a slight shrug.  “Yes.”

“Your mother doesn’t object to any of that?”
“She may not approve, but it’s not her problem.”  She glanced at Jamie, who wore a perplexed frown.  “Jamie,” she continued, “you have to remember that in Sicily young women are treated very differently from young men.  Mothers expect that their daughters will be virgins when they are married.  Fathers expect their sons to experiment, but not to the point of getting a girl pregnant.”  She tapped the steering wheel for emphasis.  “Those are the rules!”

“So Marina’s mother doesn’t know what’s going on?”

“Probably not.  Marina’s a smart girl – maybe a bit oversexed, but she knows what she can get away with.”  Caterina gave Jamie a sly smile.  “And she gets away with plenty!”

“What do you mean by ’plenty’?”  He was intrigued.

“Well, she goes to the winery in the evening to meet Pino.”  Jamie was puzzled.  “Pino has an apartment at the winery,” she added

“And your father knows about that?”

“Yes.  There was a break-in at the winery two years ago.  Thieves made off with about a thousand cases of wine.  After that, Papa wanted the premises to be occupied twenty-four hour a day.  So the apartment, an alarm system and guard dogs were added.”

“And Marina can get past all the security?”  Caterina smiled and shrugged.  “Do you think it was the Mafia who stole the wine?”

She shook her head.  “Burglary isn’t really their thing.  They specialize in protection money, and when Papa took over the winery from my grandfather, they started demanding money to ‘keep things safe’.  Papa refused.  They threatened him.  He reported them to the carabinieri (the Italian civil police), and for a couple years there were two carabinieri parked either at the winery or at home.”

Jamie frowned.  “Why aren’t they there now?”

“About three years ago, there was a shoot-out in which three Mafiosi and a carabiniero were killed.  One of the dead Mafia is believed to be the one who ran the extortion racket.  Since then, Sicilians are less fearful, and key Mafiosi have ended up in prison.”  She smiled.  “Now, their business is mainly drugs, gambling and prostitution.”


This first passage is 462 words in length; the second has 405 words: about 15% shorter.  I will leave it for you to judge which version you like better.  My only comment would be that I believe practice can make one a more skillful writer.


My wife and I went to see the film Noah on Saturday.  I’m sure we were both a bit sceptical about it, having seen some of the reviews beforehand.  Most of the reviews seemed to focus on whether or not the film was faithful to the Bible story, and whether of not this faithfulness (or lack of it) mattered.

Since both of us tend to view the Bible story of Noah as a rather charming fairy tale (which does not add to or subtract from our religious beliefs), we weren’t particularly concerned about the faithfulness issue.

Certainly, the cinematography in the film is spectacular: thousands of animals, thousands of sinful people, an absolutely gigantic ark, a colossal storming of the ark, a horrendous flood, etc.  And the acting seemed credible enough.

Neither of us particularly liked the Watchers: giants assembled from what looked like huge pieces of cold lava, who were apparently sent by the Creator to see what the human race was up to.  For me, the Watchers seemed to clash with the rest of the characters and scenery in the film, all of which seemed quite natural.  In fact, I thought: why include them at all?  The Creator could certainly see for himself what the human race was up to: mostly no good.

The other point that didn’t work for me was that Noah believed his mission from the Creator was to save only the animals: that he and his family would die, too.  I suppose, ingrained in my mind, is the notion that the point of the fairy tale is that God destroyed the wicked people, but He started again with Noah’s family.  In the film, only the oldest of Noah’s sons, Shem, has a wife.  Ham tries to take a wife, but Noah prevents it, and Japheth is too young.  The film character of Noah believes that he must kill the child of Shem’s pregnant wife in order that mankind will eventually die out (as he believes the Creator wishes).  Certainly, this adds some excitement to the plot.  The other bit of excitement is that the king of the evil-doers manages to get onto the ark and avoid the flood. This leads to some arguments, soul-searching and fighting.

I found myself thinking about the evolution of the art of film-making as compared to the art of writing novels.  Noah, it seems to me, is representative of modern films in two respects: the use of technology in cinematography to produce visual effects that were beyond the comprehension of film makers thirty years ago; and, the exposure of raw and profound human emotion.  By way of comparison, I’m watching Sea Devils, a mediocre-at-best, 1953 film starring Rock Hudson and Yvonne De Carlo, set in the Napoleonic era.  There are no special effects and, by today’s standards, the acting is pretty wooden.  Even the feelings of betrayal of a lover are expressed with only a few words and a pout.  In a film today, feelings of betrayal would be compounded with other issues and expressed with violence and shouting.

As to the art of writing (and publishing) novels, the technological changes have been in the evolution of the e-book and in print-on-demand publishing.  Neither of these technologies existed thirty years ago.  And, it seems to me, writers are mining more complex human emotions, and are presenting them more graphically than ever before.