I’ve enjoyed participating in the #TwoForTuesday blog
prompts in February and can’t wait to see what Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews
has in store for us in March. Today’s prompt was “Two books that Help you sleep
If you’ve followed by blog for a few months, you know that I suffer with insomnia. My sleep is way out of whack. I have trouble staying awake during the day and trouble going to sleep at night. My doctor has referred me to a sleep coach. Yes, it’s gotten that bad.
When challenged to write about two books that help me sleep
at night, I was hard-pressed to come up with a response. The “two” I settled on
are The Bible and just about any audio book. I know – that’s more than two
actual books and not very specific, but they’re what I came up with.
1. The Bible
This isn’t just the correct “Sunday School” or children’s sermon answer. This is my real answer. My nighttime insomnia aside, the book that allows me to give my troubles and worries to God so I’m not tossing and turning and wringing my hands is The Bible. I still do more than my share of tossing and turning, but it’s not because I despair.
I find The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language the easiest to understand and, therefore, the most comforting. The Message is a paraphrase of The Bible and was written by Presbyterian minister Eugene H. Peterson.
2. Just about any audio book
Until recently, I swore off
listening to any books. I found it stressful. I felt like someone was talking
“at” me and wouldn’t shut up. Got on my last nerve kind of stress.
Then, I got vertigo. In fact, I had two kinds of vertigo. One has cleared up, but the other still has me in physical therapy. Using the computer and reading tend to trigger an episode. Therefore, I’ve listened to two audio books so far this month plus part of a third. Even the ones I enjoy, eventually put me to sleep.
If you’ve followed my blog for a few
months, you know that I’m fascinated by the opening lines of novels. Although
the “hook” can be more than just the opening line or paragraph, I can usually
tell by the first sentence if I’m starting to read a book that I’ll finish.
Sometimes I’m fooled. Most of the time, I find that the opening sentence or paragraph is an invitation to a place or time I’ve never been – like a murder scene, the life of a person making a gut-wrenching decision, the colonial days in America, or perhaps the home front or battlefields of a great war.
As an aspiring novelist, I want to
learn what makes a great hook and what doesn’t.
Today I’m highlighting the opening sentence
in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan
“His skin told his history in tattoos
and knife scars.” ~ first sentence in She
Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper
That hook describes Crazy Craig Hollington,
president of the Aryan Steel prison gang. No surprise there. Chances are, this
is not going to be a Sunday afternoon picnic kind of a story.
“After reading the opening description of a white supremacist gang in a prison in Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0), I wasn’t sure I could hang in there to keep reading. I continued to read, and I was soon invested in 11-year-old Polly.
“Polly is kidnapped at school by the
father she barely knows and is suddenly thrown into a life of crime. The book
takes the reader along for a rollercoaster ride as Polly quickly becomes
streetwise in order to survive.”
I think, “His skin told his history in
tattoos and knife scars” was a good indication for what was to come in She Rides Shotgun.
my last blog post
I’ve been racing against the clock to try to read or listen to umpteen books before they have to return to the library or disappear from my Kindle. Too many books, too little time. Look for my blog posts on March 4 and 11, 2019 to see what I read this month.
In case anyone out there is interested, I’m continuing to do
battle with clutter. I’ve been inspired this year by Mliae’s blog: https://lifexperimentblog.com/2019/02/22/february-declutter-update/.
She was kind enough to list my blog in her February 22, 2019 blog post, which
prompted me to offer an update on my decluttering progress today.
Sometimes mail piles up. Opened, unopened, it doesn’t make a difference. I know the rule of thumb is to only touch a piece of paper once. Some days go well. I open the mail and immediately put it in the paper shredder, a file folder, or the recycle bin. Other days… not so much.
This month I’ve put 22 catalogs in the recycling bin. My goal is to get off as many catalog mailing lists as possible.
I’ve set aside 28 books to donate to the April 6 used book
sale at my church. Granted, those 28 books are still piled on the hearth, but
at least I know they’re getting new homes in April.
my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to
read. I just finished listening to George
Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring
That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. I’m
trying to finish reading In the Woods,
by Tana French before it disappears from my Kindle on Thursday.
If you’re a writer, I hope you
have quality writing time and that you’re good at writing hooks.
Thank you for reading my blog.
You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose
to read my blog.
In case you’re having a problem with “Like” button: After two days (or more) of not being able to leave a “Like” on other people’s blogs, I finally asked the kind support staff at WordPress what I was doing wrong.
Someone answered me right away on Chat and said they’re making some changes to the code that governs the “Like” button, so that service has been and will be erratic for a while.
Have you ever read a book and thought one of the characters
was a dead ringer for someone you knew?
Today’s #TwoForTuesday writing prompt “two books that remind
you of someone,” turned out to be more difficult for me than I had anticipated,
but I chose A Man Called Ove, by
Fredrik Backman and The Importance of Pot
Liquor, by Jackie Seals Torrence. One is a well-known book and the other
one not so much.
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
The main character in this book, Ove, reminds me of a
relative of mine who I will not identify for obvious reasons.
Ove is a 59-year-old man at odds with the world. From the opening scene of computer-illiterate Ove attempting to buy a computer from a much younger computer geek store assistant to the scenes in which Ove pays his respects to foreign cars, much of his personality and outlook on life resonated with me and brought to mind my relative. That’s what made much of A Man Called Ove so funny to me.
The Importance of Pot Liquor, by Jackie Seals Torrence
Chances are, you’ve never heard of this book. Chances are,
you have no idea what pot liquor is unless you’re of a certain age and a native
of North Carolina or another state in the American South. I’ll start by giving
an explanation of “pot liquor.” It has nothing to do with the alcoholic kind of
liquor. It is sometimes spelled “pot likker.”
What in the world is
Pot liquor is the liquid left in the pot after beans or other vegetables have been cooked and removed from the pot. I learned the term from my mother who was born more than 100 years ago on a farm and was one of 10 children. In other words, she grew up in a household where no food was wasted.
Therefore, I also grew up in a household where no food was
wasted. We would never (and still wouldn’t dream of) pouring pot liquor down
the drain. (Well, actually, I don’t drink or save broccoli pot liquor. I have
to draw the line somewhere.)
When a pot of beans or other vegetables had been eaten and only the juice remained, my mother would usually offer the “pot liquor” to me. I rarely turned it down. What my mother knew that I didn’t know is that pot liquor is nutritious. It contains the vitamins and minerals that the cooking water leached out of the vegetables. I just thought it tasted good. My favorite has always been black eyed peas.
To this day, I like pot liquor, but now I usually freeze it.
I keep a quart container in the freezer in which I add pot liquor from the
cooking of various vegetables. This combination of various pot liquors is
eventually used when I make homemade vegetable soup or have a recipe that calls
for vegetable broth.
A note about the author
The author of The Importance of Pot Liquor, Jackie Torrence, lived in Salisbury, North Carolina, not far from where her slave ancestors lived on Second Creek. Though born with a speech impediment, Ms. Torrence became a master storyteller and traveled the United States performing her stories and teaching others the craft of storytelling. She died in 2004, confined to a wheelchair due to arthritis.
Back to the book title…
With my explanation of pot liquor (which probably made some of you gag) out of the way, let’s get back to the book that reminds me of someone. I read the book in 2011, so I don’t remember the details of the book. That’s all right, because it is the title itself of Jackie Seals Torrence’s 1994 book, The Importance of Pot Liquor, which reminds me of my mother and also of an elderly family friend and distant relative, Miss Eugenia Lore.
Miss Eugenia and “The
Miss Eugenia was quite a character and very much a product
of her generation and family history. She was born in 1888 in Concord, North
Carolina. Her father served in the Army of the Confederate States of America
during the Civil War. She showed us the canteen he carried in the War which, in
her Southern accent, she always referred to it as “The Wah.”
The portrait of Robert E. Lee that hung on her parlor wall
had been purchased by her father as part of a fundraiser to secure the money
needed to erect a statue of Lee in Richmond, Virginia. If anyone in her
presence dared to call it the “Civil War,” she was quick to correct them with
the words, “There was nothin’ civil about it!”
Unlike my mother, Miss Eugenia was raised in town. Her
mother had “help” as in The Help, by
Kathryn Stockett. One time Miss Eugenia made a disparaging remark about pot
liquor because no one of her social status would have drunk it, and my mother responded
with something like, “Oh, I love pot liquor. You don’t know what you’re
missing.” Miss Eugenia was visibly appalled. In her mind, only an
African-American household servant would “have” to drink pot liquor.
I agree with my mother. Miss Eugenia didn’t know what she
If my blog doesn’t fill a need of yours, then reading it is a waste of your time. The pressure is on me every week to inspired you, make you laugh, give you something to think about, or at least put a smile on your face.
I’ve been blogging for almost nine years, I’m still learning. If there is
something on my blog page that isn’t of benefit to my readers, I need to delete
Deleted national flags widget
In an effort
to declutter my blog on February 4, I deleted the widget that showed the flags
of all the countries in which my blog readers reside. I realized that showing
those 93 flags was for my own edification, not yours. That widget was providing
information that you probably didn’t care about. I’m a geography nerd, so I
found it very interesting.
found it shocking and a bit frightening to know that people in that many
countries had looked at my blog at least once. The biggest surprise was when
the flag of the People’s Republic of China first appeared.
My most popular posts
In place of
the national flags widget, I added a widget that lists my 10 most popular blog
posts. This should help my new reader find some of my best posts, and it will help
me see at a glance the topics that garner the most interest.
An unexpected source
I knew my
blog was for my readers, but it wasn’t until I started reading Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen,
by Donald Miller that I was prompted to try to view my website and my blog
through the eyes of a first-time visitor.
Everywhere Building a StoryBrand says, “customer,” I mentally substitute “reader.” Sometimes it works better than others. Although Mr. Miller’s book targets business owners, it made me ask myself how my website and blog portray me as a writer. I’ll continue to make changes that help first-time visitors become loyal readers.
Mr. Miller says a person should be able to look at my blog or my website and know within five seconds what I’m about.
That book prompted me to ask myself, “What does my reader need?” and “What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?” Mr. Miller’s book dovetails into Mr. Alda’s book and reinforces what Mr. Alda said about communication.
The purpose of my website and blog
book prompted me to state the purpose of my website and blog in one sentence.
When I got to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish, this is what I
of my website and blog is to show you that I write with authority and skill
and, therefore, you can trust that my writing is worthy of your time.
If it sounds
like I’m boasting, that’s not my intent. I’m setting the bar high for myself,
and will read that purpose every day when I sit down at the keyboard.
Until my next blog post
I hope you
have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain. (Audio books come
in handy when a reader has vertigo.)
If you’re a
writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Thank you for reading my blog.
You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose
to read my blog.
My third grade teacher, Miss Ruth Jarrell, was a soft-spoken woman with beautiful handwriting. When a student asked Miss Jarrell how long she’d been teaching, she said that was her 13th year. We thought she was ancient if she’d been a teacher that long. It was only when I was in my mid-30s that I realized I was as old as Miss Jarrell had been when she taught me. Thirty-five no longer seemed old.
Another thing I remember Miss Jarrell for was her reading to us. If we behaved in the school cafeteria, she would read to us when we returned to our classroom after lunch.
White Squaw: The True Story of
Jennie Wiley, by Arville Wheeler
The book Miss Jarrell read to us that is still vivid in my
memory was White Squaw: The True Story of Jennie Wiley, by
Arville Wheeler. Jennie was abducted by Native Americans in 1789 in Bland
County, Virginia and taken to Kentucky. After almost a year in captivity,
Jennie escaped and was helped back to her husband in Virginia.
The word “squaw” is offensive to us today, but since the
word is part of the book’s title, I decided to write about it anyway. Any book
that one has fond memories of more than 50 years after hearing it read deserves
Teachers never know which seeds they plant in their
students’ minds will take root and flourish. It was only when I was thinking
about today’s topic that I realized White
Squaw was my introduction to historical fiction. Miss Jarrell didn’t live
to see me pursue a career as a writer of history and historical fiction.
Follow the River: A Novel Based on the True Ordeal of Mary Ingles, by James Alexander Thom
Twenty or more years ago, Janie Snell, a friend of mine who
lives in Ohio, recommended that I read Follow
the River, by James Alexander Thom. It is a novel based on the experiences
of Mary Ingles – not to be confused with Mary Ingles Wilder of Little House on
the Prairie fame.
This Mary Ingles lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of
Virginia. She was kidnapped by Shawnee Native Americans in 1755. After being
held captive for months, she escaped her captors and by herself followed the
Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers back to her home.
It is merely coincidental that White Squaw and Follow the
River are about white women who were abducted by Native Americans in the
1700s. They are the two books that instilled in me a love of books – a love of
If allowed to name
If today’s blog topic prompt had been “Four Books That
Helped Me Fall in Love with Reading,” the other two I would have written about
would have been Roots, by Alex Haley
and Centennial, by James A. Michener.
Three of the four books I’ve mentioned today were read when
I was an adult. It was as an adult that I started reading fiction. As a young
adult, I was a snob – a nonfiction snob. I thought reading fiction was a waste
of time. When I had time to read for pleasure, I wanted to read something true,
I have to laugh at my old self. I still enjoy an occasional
history or political science book, but now I prefer fiction. My sister thinks
it’s hilarious that I’m now trying to write fiction after all those years of
turning my nose up at fiction and the people who read it.
Since my last blog
I’m relieved that the glitch I was dealing with when I prepared yesterday’s blog post has been resolved, so I was able to include images in today’s post.
Let’s continue the
Which two books helped you fall in love with reading?
One thing all bloggers are told they must do, if they hope to attract readers, is to include images in every post. I’ve worked hard to do this for the last several years. I did it last week when I included images of the books I wrote about; however, as I put the finishing touches on this post last night, I repeatedly got messages from WordPress.com saying “Given your current role, you can only link an image, you cannot upload.” Therefore, in today’s post I’ve included links to images of the books I’m writing about. I’m unsure how this will appear until the post goes online. I have no idea why this has happened.
Since I read 6.25 books in January, I decided to split my
comments about them between my blog post on February 4, 2019 and today. I hope
you’ll find what I have to say about three of the books I read last month
worthwhile. These are discussed in no particular order.
The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger
The Banker’s Wife was a change of pace for me halfway through January after reading The Library Book. The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger, is a financial thriller. In this novel, Ms. Alger takes us to Paris, Geneva, New York, the Dominican Republic, and the Cayman Islands. Primarily through the eyes of two strong female characters, we get a glimpse of the vicious and deadly world most of us never experience – Swiss bank accounts, the people who have them, the people who assist them, and those who are unfortunate to love someone in either of the other two categories.
If I had done more research about Cristina Alger’s books
before reading this 2018 novel, I would have known that it is a sequel to her
2012 debut novel, The Darlings. Now,
I want to read that book, although being a North Carolinian, “the Darlings”
conjures up visuals in my mind’s eye of that ne’er-do-well Darlin’ family on
The Andy Griffith Show of the 1960s. It’s difficult to associate wealth with
that name. I’m sorry, it just is. I offer my apologies to all the people with
the Darling surname.
The Banker’s Wife
is Ms. Alger’s third novel. The book captured my attention early on and the
fast-paced writing kept me turning pages to see what was going to happen next –
and to find out which characters were dead and which one’s deaths were staged
to cover up the real story.
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan
This book held some nice surprises for me. I’ve been an Alan
Alda fan since the days of the M*A*S*H television series. I became even more
endeared to him when in answer to my request that he donate an autographed copy
of a book he’d written for an autographed book fundraiser held a few years ago
for the Friends of the Harrisburg Library in Harrisburg, North Carolina.
Mr. Alda graciously donated an autographed copy of the
script for an episode of M*A*S*H that he wrote. It turned out to be the hit of
the fundraiser and resulted in a bidding war between two individuals.
That said, I was drawn to the book by the title and the
author’s name. I thought it might be helpful to me as a writer since the book
is about communication. It was, but not in the ways I anticipated.
Here are a few of the impressions I took from the book:
1. Improvisation not only helps actors, it can help anyone get over their fear of talking in front of a large audience.
2. No matter what you’re trying to sell – whether it be a tangible product or an idea – the key is to focus on what the customer is thinking and what he or she needs. As a writer, I need to put myself in the mind of my reader. What does my reader need? What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?
3. Mr. Alda has concluded that the key to the great success of M*A*S*H was the fact that instead of disappearing into their separate trailers on the studio lot, they gathered their chairs in a circle and talked and laughed together as a group between “takes.” He said the connections they made off camera carried over when they were in front of the camera. It made them all better actors and their genuine comradery came through to the audience.
4. Much of Mr. Alda’s book is about empathy and the importance of empathy in communications. The book offers several things a person can do to increase their empathy for others. Mr. Alda says that true communication cannot take place between two people unless each one makes an effort to understand the other person and why they think the way they do. I couldn’t help but think of how polarized Americans are politically today. There really is a lack of understanding – or empathy – between The Right and The Left, between Republicans and Democrats. This doesn’t bode well for the 2020 election.
5. As a writer, start with what your reader knows. Don’t insult the reader by including basic information.
Now You See Me, by Sharon J. Bolton
Published in 2011, Now
You See Me was the first in Sharon J. Bolton’s Lacey Flint series. Flint is
a detective in London. The story opens with her seeing a woman dying while leaning
on Flint’s car. This thriller grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept
me turning pages well into the night. It’s rare that I read a quarter of a
novel in one sitting, but that’s what I did with Now You See Me.
Detective Flint is forced almost immediately to try to
discern who she can trust within the Metropolitan Police Department. Is she
seen as a crime scene witness, or is she viewed as a murder suspect? She’s very
convincing as a witness.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the killer is
patterning his actions after Jack the Ripper. (Spoiler alert: this gets more gruesome than I’m used to
reading, but I had to know what happened next.)
What about Flint’s fellow police officer, Joesbury. There’s
definitely something weird about him. Is he the killer?
No. Someone else is caught… sort of.
I thought the book came to a good stopping point just shy of
halfway through. In fact, I thought I
might not keep reading. This seems like the end of the story. I could move on
to another book.
But I read a few more pages. Wow! What a turn of events! I’m glad I kept
Since my last blog
I continue to do a lot of reading about writing and about
blogging in an effort to get better at writing fiction and blogging. I made
good progress writing a short story I’m calling “From Scotland to America,
1762,” writing 1,400 words Saturday afternoon.
Until my next blog
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky; Button Man, by Andrew Gross; and A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy.
I rarely listen to a book because I find it irritating to listen to someone
talk on and on and on; however, since I’m having a bout with vertigo, I decided
to give the Maeve Binchy audio book a try and I’m really enjoying it. It
probably has something to do with the lovely accent of the reader, Rosalyn
Landor. It’s nice to just shut my eyes and listen.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and plenty of time
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes
doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome
Let’s continue the
If you’ve read any of the books I mentioned today, let me
know what you thought about them.