Reading and Writing in January 2018

January is over, so it’s time for me to “fess up” about how I spent the month. Perhaps a better way to say that is “what I accomplished.” In my January 8, 2018 blog post (2018 Reading, Writing, & Living Plans) I felt I needed to be accountable to my blog readers. In order to do that, I said I’d set monthly writing goals. For January, I set a modest goal of adding 2,000 to the scenic plot outline for my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.

My writing

For starters, I failed miserably on reaching my 2,000-word goal. What I did, though, was brainstorm about story location. I continue to wrestle with what direction to take in re-writing my historical novel manuscript. The working title remains The Spanish Coin.

Historical novel progress

In January I settled on a location for the story. At least, I hope I will not change from this latest locale. I did some 1700s research on the place and worked on the story’s timeline. Location plays an important role in historical fiction. The era for the novel is the 1760’s, which is a decade earlier than my original plan.

Spanish Coin location reveal

Curious about the story’s setting?  The Camden District of South Carolina. Choosing a location for the story has freed me to proceed with the outline.

Goal for February

I tend to write detailed outlines, so I’ll go out on a limb and set a goal of 6,000 words for February.

My reading

I got my concentration back and had fun reading in January. I read what I wanted to read instead of tying myself down to any particular reading challenge.

That said, I picked up the rules for the 2018 reading challenges for the public libraries in Harrisburg and Mint Hill (I couldn’t help myself!), but I don’t plan to let them dictate what I read. With 500+ books on my “want to read” list, though, I might meet those two challenges without really trying. Incidentally, even though I read seven books in January, my “want to read” list had a net gain of 39. I realize this is not sustainable. I would have to be a speed reader and live to be a centenarian to finish my ever-growing list.

52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, by Brett Blumenthal

The book title says it all. I took note of the suggested change for each week. This week seems like a good week to start, since I didn’t begin in January. This week’s small change:  Drink enough water to stay hydrated. I’m told I should drink approximately 80 ounces of water every day. Since I normally drink less than half that amount, this constitutes more than a “small” change for me.

The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham

This latest John Grisham novel took a little different tack from his earlier books in that The Rooster Bar is about a group of law school dropouts practicing law without licenses. I found it to be more humorous than other Grisham novels I’ve read, but it was still full of suspense.

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, by Ryan Holiday

I blogged about this book on January 22, 2018, so I direct you to that blog post if you missed it: (Works That Last.)

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kiernan

The Last Castle, by Denise Kiernan

I’ve been reading so many novels the last couple of years that I’d forgotten how long nonfiction book titles tend to be. Or maybe it’s just the three I read in January.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate. Living in North Carolina, I have toured the Biltmore House four times. The first time was on a sixth grade field trip. Motion sickness on the bus as it wound around the endless curves on old US-74 east of Asheville is my main memory from that day, but I digress.

My other visits to the Biltmore Estate have been very enjoyable. Reading this book made me want to plan another trip to Asheville and tour the mansion again. It is a delightful book.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

This novel was inspired by the shocking history of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society during the first half of the 20th century. It is a gripping story and is expertly written. It is not a happy read, but I highly recommend this book.

The King of Lies, by John Hart

This was the January book choice of the Rocky River Readers Book Club. The novel is set in Salisbury, North Carolina, so I was familiar with some of the streets and buildings referenced in the book. It’s fun sometimes to read a book set in a location you have visited.

I though Mr. Hart could have omitted some of the “woe is me” theme in the first third of the book. The narrator’s whining about the wealthy people in this small town got old after a while. If you’ll hang in there, though, you’ll probably get so involved in trying to identify the killer that you’ll get to the point you can’t put the book down. You’ll think several times that you’ve figured out the villain’s identity but, chances are, you haven’t.

Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier

This novel has been on my “to read” list for several years, so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finally read it. It is set in the mountains in western North Carolina.

Nightwoods is a tale about a woman who unexpectedly “inherits” her deceased sister’s twin boy and girl. The children give their aunt/new mother a challenge every day – and then her late sister’s widowed husband/killer comes to try to get the large sum of money he thinks the children took with them. The children are wild and uncommunicative. Add to that the fact that the aunt has no idea why her ne’er do well ex-brother-in-law has suddenly shown an interest in his children and has come to hunt them down.

What about December?

I just remembered that I never did blog about the books I read in December. They were a mixed bag of novels:  The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius; Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich; and The Secret, Book and Scone Society, by Ellery Adams.

David Ignatius’s political thrillers never disappoint me. The Quantum Spy was no exception.

The last two Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich disappointed me. I used to eagerly await her annual next installment of these funny novels, but “Twenty-Three” and “Twenty-Four” were too predictable.

The Ellery Adams novel is an entertaining read about four women who want to form a friendship, but each one is required to reveal a secret about herself before they can truly trust one another.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, by my fellow-blogger David J. Rogers; The Salt House, by Lisa Duffy, which was recommended by my friend Karen; Beartown, by Frekrik Backman, which is the February pick for The Apostrophe S Coffee Chat online book community; and The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. That’s about one book too many for me to read at the same time, but they are different enough that I’m not getting the story lines confused.

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

If you subscribed to my mailing list last week, you renewed my faith in mankind. Thank you, Vicki, Colby, Katrina, and Glen!

In case you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, you have another opportunity to do so using the fill-in form below. I appreciate it!


8 thoughts on “Reading and Writing in January 2018

  1. I remember that 6th grade trip so well! I loved all those wonderful teachers we had at Harrisburg School. Going to the Biltmore was an eye opener for this little country girl. Like you, reading the book made me want to do a return visit.


  2. Ann, I am thrilled to hear from you again! I lost your email last year before I got around to answering it, and I didn’t know how to get in touch with you. I’ve thought about you so many times through the years and wondered what you were doing, etc. I think of you every time I drive past the house where you lived when we were in school. I’m thrilled that you found my postcard book! I wish the publisher would let me do a Piedmont NC and a Coastal NC postcard book, but they decided after the mountain book that they aren’t really set up to market a regional book. Again, I’m so glad to hear from you!


  3. Hello Janet,
    I can’t tell if you and your writing style are just excitable or manic, but you do seem mightily busy for a writer, many of whom just sit down and write every day or so with much less preparation and forethought. I tend to spend lots of time planning too, My wife is an accomplished writing teacher; she chides me for doing too much of it, but a habit’s a habit. In my heyday of writing I wrote sixteen or eighteen hours a day for years straight using a long outline, But as I’ve gotten considerably older the urgency and detailed preparation has disappeared . I’m relaxed, still plan carefully but within more reasonable limits, and still pump out the work, one piece after another more quickly than I expect. At times, as now when I’m spending every day all day rereading Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past, I do very little actual writing.. I’m never in a hurry now, but now I don’t have six dependents to support. I think one thing that happens to experienced writers like you and me is that we are almost automatically better writers now and waste far less time going down blind alleys, and focus much, much better once we sit down to work than we did..

    I wish you the best on your many projects, bearing in mind that the creator’s main goal is to produce good work, I’m happy to see you’re reading my book. ., .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Roger, your comment about my writing style made me laugh. I don’t know what it is either. I must be having some kind of midlife crisis. I tend to feel overwhelmed because there are so many things I want to do and so many books I want to read (and write!), but I am ever-conscious of the clock ticking. Your book has already helped me sort out some of those projects and list the steps needed to accomplish them. It is satisfying to check some things off my list! Fighting to Win has helped me focus on my historical novel again. That focus has been elusive for almost two years, since I realized I was going to have to start over after writing 95,000 words. I was flattered that you referred to me as “an experienced writer.” Until I get that first novel published, I won’t think of myself in those terms. I appreciate your comments.


  5. David, I just realized I called you Roger in my reply to you a half hour ago. I apologize. If I live long enough, perhaps I’ll learn not to write messages at 1 a.m.


  6. That’s of course okay, I hadn’t even noticed because I read it at 12:40 a.m after a couple hours resltlesss sleep. Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I too have a very short attention span–my mind flits every minute or two and I have to reign it in or get nothing done. I was just thinking as i lay in bed of two stories that started out really well and sort of petered out–that I have to get back to them and decide what to do, and thought too of all I want to read and write and started and stopped, and so on over the years. But then I thought, “Well, that’s me. That’s how I create. That’s the process I follow, good or bad. That’s the real me.” Maybe yours is really you..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You have a good point. Maybe it’s just the way I am and I need to just go with the flow. I discovered this afternoon that it was just last spring that I concluded I needed to start over writing my novel. It just seems like two years ago. I made some progress on it this afternoon. Little by little …


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