Words That Give Me Trouble

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Writing keeps me humble. There are words I worry about now in my writing that I used to not be concerned about. Since I’ve claimed aloud to be a writer, I feel the spotlight on all my written words. Sometimes I come up short.

Memory and Age

Memory and age begin to take a toll. Words that I used to spell or remember the definition of without a second thought now fall into the “need to look it up” category. Some words I’ve thought to be synonymous aren’t quite equal when examined. I continually learn of words I have used incorrectly all my life. It happens often enough that I’m losing my confidence.

Mark Nichol’s list

After creating an account on StumbleUpon last week, I stumbled upon Mark Nichol’s article, “50 Problem Words and Phrases” https://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-problem-words-and-phrases/. In today’s blog post, I’ll share a few examples of words that give me trouble.

  1. Compare to / compare with – Compare to implies only similarity; whereas, compare with   implies similarity and contrast.
  2. Each other / one another – Use one another when more than two are involved. (Who knew?)
  3. Jealousy / envy – If I am jealous of you, I resent your having something. If I envy you, I   covet something you have. (I’ve didn’t realize there was a difference until reading Mr. Nichol’s article cited above.)
  4. Since / because – As stated by Mr. Nichol in his article, “Informally, these terms are  interchangeable, but in formal writing, since should be used only to refer to time.” (This one from Mr. Nichol’s article was new to me, too.)
  5. Transcript / transcription – Mr. Nichol stated, “A transcript is a thing; a transcription is the process of creating it.” (I know I’ve been guilty of using “transcription” when I  should have written “transcript.”

I need to keep Mark Nichol’s list of “50 Problem Words and Phrases” handy as I’m writing. The more I read about the sometimes subtle nuances of words, the less confident I am in my writing.

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Self-Editing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

I’m having flashbacks of the days when I had to follow the 1,000+-page gold standard of American English, The Chicago Manual of Style, as I self-edited the manuscript for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.* That’s when I began to realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

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Writing keeps me humble.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (Among other things, I’m reading Camino Island, by John Grisham.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and a better memory than I have for spelling and proper word usage.

Janet

*Shameless Plug:  In case you haven’t purchased a copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, please look for it at any independent bookstore. If it’s not on the shelf, please request it. If that doesn’t work, you can order it from Amazon.com.

 

What’s the Verdict on BookShots?

James Patterson launched a new idea in publishing a year ago. Anthony Mason interviewed Patterson on “CBS Sunday Morning” on June 5, 2016, and I just happened to watch. That was the first I’d heard of Patterson’s BookShots. The first BookShots book was released on June 7, 2016.

The idea of BookShots caught my interest enough that I made a note of it, but it was a year before I checked one out at the public library and read it. I read Detective Cross this week. I read it for a couple of reasons:  (1) I was curious to read a BookShot and (2) I’m probably the last person in the world to read a James Patterson book. It was about time.

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Detective Cross, a BookShot by James Patterson

What BookShots isn’t

I thought a BookShot book might be comparable to a Kindle Singles short story, but Kindle Singles are much shorter than a BookShot. For instance, Witness to a Trial:  A Short Story Prequel to The Whistler, by John Grisham is 36 pages and No Time Left, by David Baldacci is 15 pages.

What’s a BookShot?

Dianna Dilworth described BookShots this way in her article, “James Patterson’s New Imprint Has Sold 1 Million Titles” on [http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/james-pattersons-new-imprint-has-sold-1-million-titles/123220]on August 2, 2016:

BookShots, is a line of novella-length titles designed to get people that don’t read to pick up a book. The imprint, which is under the Little, Brown and Company, features titles that have less than 150 pages and the books cost less than $5.”

Has Bookshots been successful?

Daisy Maryles reported the following in “The Year in Bestsellers 2016” on https://www.PublishersWeekly.com on January 13, 2017:

“Innovative bestselling author James Patterson came up with a new idea to promote reading: a series of thrillers that are short (150 pages or less), cheap (around $5), and fast paced. Called BookShots, the idea looks like a quick success: 16 titles held 53 spots on the bestseller lists in 2016. Patterson is hoping to soon have them at grocery store checkout lines.”

Patterson’s first BookShots release, Cross Kill, sold 18,000 copies the first week! BookShots sales have been good, but are BookShots getting in the hands of people who never or rarely read a book? Are they being read by people who don’t desire to or have time to read a novel of several hundred pages? That was Patterson’s objective in launching the idea.

I suppose it’s too early to get a reading on that. I couldn’t find any progress reports or even any speculation about that. Patterson has long been a childhood literacy advocate, and this is apparently a tangible attempt by him to encourage adults to read.

A naysayer might say that Patterson came up with the BookShots idea to increase his bank account, but I can’t imagine that is the case. According to Natalie Robehmed, writing “The World’s Highest-Paid Authors 2016:  James Patterson, Jeff Kinney and J.K. Rowling Top Ranking” on the Forbes website on August 3, 2016 [https://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2016/08/03/the-worlds-highest-paid-authors-2016-james-patterson-jeff-kinney-and-j-k-rowling-top-ranking/#450fb5cd711c] “Patterson topped our list for the third straight year, earning $95 million pretax,” so it’s not that he needed the money.

Call to action

Have you read a BookShot? What’s your opinion of BookShots? Leave a comment below. Share this blog post on social media by using the icons below. Thank you for sharing.

In closing

I hope BookShots will be successful. If they are sold in drug stores and other retail outlets that traditionally have not gone for the hardback several-hundred-page novel, I believe it will fill a niche and reach people who aren’t avid book readers. I’m in favor of almost anything that gets people to read!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Camino Island, by John Grisham.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

“Not a rope . . . if drowning”

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Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

My blog post today takes a look at a line I like from a novel, Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Ms. McCrumb has mastered the art of capturing the independent spirit of the people of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the following sentence:

“Not a one of the folks from up there would ask for anything – not food if they were hungry, not a rope if they were drowning.”  From Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb.

How succinctly Ms. McCrumb gets to the core character of the people who live in those mountains and whose ancestors have lived there for up to 250 years! As a writer, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to state it any better.

What do you think?

Have a go at it. Try to write one sentence that sums up that southern Appalachian independent spirit.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth and Fredrik Backman’s novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

6 Things Learned about Google+

In my January 20, 2017 blog post My 2017 Writing Plan of Action, I said that I needed to give Google+ a fair chance. I thought it was one more platform I could use to establish my brand as a writer.

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Photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

When I did the research for my April 22, 2017 blog post S is for Social Media, I learned that being active on Google+ will help people find me on the Google search engine. Actually, I did not learn that. I stated it in my blog post but promptly forgot it. When I remember to, I put my blog posts on Google+.

With today’s blog post in mind, on May 18, 2017 and several times since then, I took another look at my account on Google+ and learned some things:

(1)  Lo and behold, I hadn’t put links to my blog, my website, or my Twitter name in my profile. Duh! That was an easy fix.

(2)  I learned that when my novel gets published, I can only give it one plug on Google+.

(3)  I explored the “communities” on Google+ and joined several: Writers’ Blogs, Read Banned Books,  Writers’ Coffeehouse, and Self-Publishing Your Book. In addition, I’m following WordPress.

  • Writers’ Blogs should be a place where I can post my blogs about writing or reading, and I can find and connect with other writers with blogs. So far, I haven’t made any connections with other writing bloggers through this Google+ community. I’ve seen pictures of cats and a number of blogs about the TV sitcom “Big Bang Theory.” I’m having to look too hard and long to find posts about writing blogs.
  • The WordPress community should be a place where I can learn how to better use my blog and the features of WordPress.com. So far, I haven’t found what I need.
  • Banned Books is where I should be able to discuss banned books with other readers; however, from what I’ve seen so far, most posts are about anything but books – banned or otherwise.
  • Writers’ Coffeehouse is where I should be able to ask questions about the writing process or specific problems I’m having as I rewrite my novel, and join in conversations started by other writers. There seem to be more poetry posts on there than fiction writing, so I’m still not sure this is the place for me.

(4)  There are communities for just about any interest you can think of. If you don’t find one you’re looking for, create it!

(5)  I hate to be negative, but I think Google+ communities are going to be more work for me than they’re worth. It’s just not my cup of tea. (Maybe I shouldn’t post that on Google+.)

(6)  On the positive side, I am following “Writing Tips” by Rob Bignell, Editor on Google+. He seems to put a lot of helpful articles on there to help writers.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

“Like a Throwback to Dracula”

I’ve been reading about describing characters. There are two schools of thought regarding that. Since writers write for readers, some readers were asked what they thought about character descriptions in novels.

Some readers want every last detail about the physical appearance of a character to be spelled out, but it seems that most readers don’t want a lot of physical details. They prefer to take what the author gives them and take it from there. They like to imagine in their minds what each character looks like.

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Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline

In Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline, protagonist Mary DiNunzio managed in the following quote to give just enough description of fellow lawyer Nick Machiavelli:

“He wore his hair slicked back, like a throwback to Dracula, and his eyes were narrow slits, with dark brown irises that were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” – from Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline.

Ms. Scottoline could have written, “Nick Machiavelli was greasy” or “Nick Machiavelli was a greaser” and I would have conjured a picture in my mind; however, the phrase “like a throwback to Dracula” and his eyes that were narrow slits paints a more vivid picture of him in my mind.

“the exact color of baking chocolate”

Ms. Scottoline also cleverly threw in that Machiavelli’s irises “were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” That is more accurate than her just saying that he had brown eyes, and I love the phrase “and Mary would know.”

If that’s all we knew about Mary, we’d know that she either likes to bake with chocolate or she likes to eat things made with baking chocolate. Maybe both. Any chocolate-loving reader will immediately identify with Mary!

As I start to rewrite my novel, The Spanish Coin, and flesh out all the characters, I’m learning from writers and from readers what readers prefer. Therefore, I will minimize physical details and concentrate on describing them through their words and actions.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

You Need to Read These Books!

I had another good month of reading in May. I’m on a roll for 2017! If I were a faster reader, I could devour more books. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy as many as I can.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

I’m running out of superlatives for the books I’ve read this year. I kept hearing about A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, so I got on the waitlist for it at the public library. It’s a popular book, so it took a while for my name to gravitate to the top of the list.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At times outrageously funny and at times heartwarming and touching, it held my interest from start to finish. Ove is a 59-year-old man. I could see my father, my brother, and even myself in him. I could see myself in his late wife when he recalled how it drove him up the wall because she delighted in planning the details of a trip to the extreme. That’s me! Thank goodness I have a sense of humor! Poor Ove is at odds with the world and having trouble keeping up with the modern world. For the most part, he’s not even trying to keep up.

The author, Fredrik Backman, is from Sweden, where his books have gained much acclaim. I am amazed at how well the humor in this book translated so well from Swedish into English. Although I don’t speak or read Swedish, I don’t believe the book lost anything in the translation. I look forward to reading Mr. Backman’s other books.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day was approaching when I was reading this book, or maybe the sentence would have struck me like a ton of bricks any time of the year. Ms. Picoult has an uncommon gift when it comes to writing. Her books tackle some of the most heart-wrenching issues of our day, and she has a wonderful way with words.

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I featured the following sentence in my Being the Balloon blog post on May 5, 2017:

“What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”   – from Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

The context of that sentence is that Ruth, the protagonist who is a seasoned labor and delivery nurse, a mother, and the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan, reacts to the death of her mother with, “What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”

I highly recommend Small Great Things. In it, Ms. Picoult takes on the issue of race in America, and she has an uncanny talent for getting inside the skin of individuals from one end of that spectrum to the other in Small Great Things. The line that I focused on from the book in my blog on May 5 speaks to the humanity of us all.

In a nutshell, Small Great Things is about an African-American nurse in Connecticut who is barred from caring for the newborn infant of a white supremacist couple. Author Jodi Picoult masterfully writes from the point-of-view of the nurse, the white-supremacist father, and the white lawyer who defends the nurse. There is an explosive trial during which all kinds of raw emotions erupt. I think we all can learn some life lessons by reading and pondering Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult!

The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

I kept hearing good things about this book, which had been translated into English from its original German. I finally got it from the public library, but with too many other books to read and a lot I was trying to learn about the craft or writing. Therefore, I only got 40% of the book read before I had to return it to the library for the next person on the wait list. I will definitely check it out again so I can finish it.

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The Hidden Life of Trees:  How They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World might not appeal to everyone, but I thought it was very interesting. That might be because I grew up and again live out in the country. My parents instilled an appreciation and respect for trees in us. We have a variety of trees in our yard – dogwood, pine, ash, poplar, cedar, several varieties of oak, mulberry, sycamore, black walnut, sweet gum, holly, persimmon, and maple.

I thought I knew a lot about trees until I started reading Peter Wohlleben’s book. I now know that there’s a whole world out there I can’t see or hear. The book explains how certain tree species work together and how other tree species work against one another. It talks about how trees pump water out of the ground. It talks a lot about fungi and how fungal networks underground help trees in numerous ways. It really is quite fascinating!

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

I highly recommend The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. It is a historical novel about two sisters in France during the German occupation in World War II. The sisters cope with the occupation and resulting cruelties of war very differently.

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One sister joins the French Resistance and risks her life helping shot down Allied airmen across the Pyrennes and into Spain. The other sister’s nerves and wits are pushed to the limits as two German officers are billeted in her home. The book was inspired by a 19-year-old Belgian woman, Andrée De Jongh, who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France.

This book will pull on all your emotions. When the characters are cold and hungry – which was most of the time – you will feel cold and hungry, although I’m certain that I truly can’t imagine the level of hunger or fear the people who lived through the ordeal actually endured.

When we study World War II or hear stories about it, the emphasis is almost always on the battles. The Nightingale gives a paints a picture of life on the home front in France. It was this month’s book for discussion by Rocky River Readers Book Club. Everyone at our meeting had only praise for the book – how much it taught us and how well-written it was.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

This historical novel is Yaa Gyasi’s debut as a fiction writer. It is different from any novel I’ve ever read. It is set in Africa. As part of my 2017 Reading Challenge I wanted to read a book set on each of the continents this year, so I was drawn to this novel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish reading it before it was due at the public library.

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Each chapter is about a different member of this family. It is about family ties and the horrible conditions in the slave trade. It puts a human face on slavery – a subject we tend to think of in terms of numbers and not the families that were torn apart in Africa. If I get a chance, I’d like to check this book out again.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See

Like Homegoing and The Hidden Life of Trees, I didn’t get to finish reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane before it had to be returned to the library. I couldn’t renew any of the three books because there were people on the wait list. The part of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane that I got read was fascinating in how it shed light on some of the superstitions held by the Chinese. I had no idea!

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The novel follows a young Chinese girl who is painfully aware from birth that she is not valued because she is female. Her family has to walk for hours to pick tea leaves for a meager amount of income. It is a difficult life. Her mother is the local midwife and she tells her daughter that she must follow in her footsteps in that occupation.

There is a ray of hope, though, because the girl’s teacher tells her that she can leave the harsh mountain environment and make something of herself. I look forward to checking the book out again in order to see how her life turns out!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I have come to the conclusion this week that I am trying to read too many books and not spending enough time on my writing. My goal in June is to strike a happy medium.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I’m writing bios of my characters in the “new and improved” The Spanish Coin.

Janet

The Spanish Coin, Rescued?

In my H is for Historical Fiction blog post on April 10, 2017, I announced that I needed to make some major plot changes and rewrite my novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do that. All is not lost, though!

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I’ve brainstormed and come up with an idea for rescuing the book! I hope to start the actual rewrite by the end of the summer. I plan to retain the working title – The Spanish Coin. It won’t be the same story as the original idea, but it will still take place in the Carolinas in the years just prior to the American Revolution. This weekend I started doing deep character work on my protagonist.

I’m getting help!

Barbara Kyle’s “Your Path to a Page-Turner” program [https://www.barbarakyle.com] has been a tremendous help to me as I start creating the people who live in my novel. Andrea Lundgren, my writing coach, [https://andrealundgren.com] cheers me on and gives constructive feedback. I am also encouraged by the comments my blog posts receive on the blog itself and on my Facebook pages.

You have all been very patient with me on my journey as a writer. I hope we will all be rewarded someday with The Spanish Coin held together by a spine and two book covers!

Liebster and Versatile Blogger Awards

A few weeks ago, Andrea Lundgren nominated me for the Liebster Award and blogger YellowFuzzyDuck nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. While I was honored by both nominations, I had to decline due to my health.

I thought it only fair that I acknowledge the nominations in this blog post and explain why I couldn’t fulfill the requirements. I thought that telling this personal story might also serve as an explanation for anyone thinking that I’m taking too long to write a book.

CFS/ME

One requirement of both those blogging awards is that the nominee must tell some things about themselves that their readers probably do not know. Something that most of my readers don’t know is that I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That’s its lame name in the United States. In most of the rest of the world it is called Myalgic Encephalopathy or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I was diagnosed in 1987. My energy level remained essentially the same throughout the first 29 years except for a very gradual decline.

Shingles

Having shingles (May 2016 until recently) has taken an additional toll on me, and I have been unable to regain the energy level I had prior to that illness. My right cornea is still not happy!

Energy slumps

I’ve had slumps before. I choose to believe that this is just a longer-than-usual slump. I choose to expect to improve any day now. That positive attitude has gotten me through the last 30 years. I am, by no means, an invalid. I don’t want to leave that impression!

My life at the present time

I am pretty much at home, though, because getting out and about is draining. For instance, a trip to the grocery store can land me in bed or on the couch for a day or two. I’m fortunate that writing is, for the most part, a sedentary occupation.

Having to rewrite The Spanish Coin is daunting. I love to write and I enjoy doing the research required in order to write historical fiction; however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. I refuse to give up, though!

Call to Action!

Please visit Andrea Lundgren’s blog, https://andrealundgren.com. Andrea writes insightful and informative blog posts about various aspects of writing. As my writing coach, she has her work cut out for her!

Also, please visit YellowFuzzyDuck’s Turtledesk blog, https://turtledesk.wordpress.com. This blog takes on a variety of topics and contains beautiful photographs.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. My blog post on Friday will be about the books I read during the month of May. I read some good ones!

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. If you are still learning the craft of writing, you might want to visit https://www.barbarakyle.com and check out Barbara’s “Your Path to a Page-Turner” program.

Janet