In case you checked out my blog post last week expecting it to be about the books I read in March, I’m sorry you were disappointed. I hope you found last Monday’s topic of interest, though. It dealt with my favorite local history story.
Today I’m writing about some of the books I read last month. There was quite a variety, as this is all part of my journey as a writer.
The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read a Ken Follett book until last month. I don’t really know why. What prompted me to read this particular novel by him was another book I was reading, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman. The Zuckerman book was recommended by author A.J. Mayhew of The Dry Grass of August and Tomorrow’s Bread fame.
The Man from St. Petersburg was filled with political intrigue during the early years of the 20th century. A Russian anarchist comes to London to assassinate a Russian prince who is in England trying to work out an alliance between Great Britain and Russia against Germany. It is assumed that war is coming, so it’s time for countries to choose sides.
Personal secrets are revealed along the way in this novel that will keep you turning pages. It was written in 1982, but I hope your public library still has a copy in case you haven’t read it.
Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman
This book, referenced above, has been very helpful to me. It takes The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett; The Godfather, by Mario Puzo; The Witness, by Nora Roberts; and Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and examines how they were outlined and written. The main focus is on Ken Follett’s book. It was interesting to see four different outlines of The Man from St. Petersburg to see how even a good writer like Follett went through the process of outlining, making changes, and making more changes before he produced the final product.
The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth
I became a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels when I read her third novel in 2017, The Mother’s Promise. Shortly thereafter, I read her second novel, The Things We Keep. Since then, I’ve read The Family Next Door, The Mother-in-Law, The Good Sister, and last month I read The Younger Wife.
The Younger Wife is Hepworth’s seventh novel. I just realized I’ve never read her first one, The Secrets of Midwives. It’s been on my to-be-read list for years.
The Younger Wife deals with several difficult issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects the entire family and not just the person who has the illness. It also deals with physical and psychological abuse. I can see how, if a person is living with those traumas or has lived with them, this might not be a book for them to read.
A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia
I was delighted to find an online copy of this book online because it supplied me with little tidbits of information that I found interesting as I continue to research life along the Great Wagon Road in Virginia for the historical novel I’m writing.
Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash
If there ever was a bargain “how-to” book for fiction writers, this book is it. I paid $2.99 plus tax for it for Kindle. In it, Ms. Nash spells out how to “outline” a novel. I never have followed the old outline model we had to use in elementary school (and probably high school, too) because it was too confining. I could never write an outline that way for a book.
I usually write my outlines in paragraph form if I’m writing a novel or short story. I’ve taken a number of writing classes and I’ve read more how-to-write-a-novel books than I care to admit. For some reason, some things fell into place as I read Ms. Nash’s book.
The idea that if something happens there has to be a reaction finally fell into place for me. I already knew it, but Ms. Nash’s book drilled it into me that as I’m planning/outlining a novel I have to make a conscious effort to make sure everything happens for a reason and everything that happens has consequences.
I know, you’re probably saying, “Well, duh!” Perhaps it was Ms. Nash’s explanation, but I finally got it! In the past, I concentrated on the actions in my outlines and didn’t always give equal consideration to planning every reaction.
One of the points Ms. Nash makes in the book is that if you’ll use her way of outlining – which she calls “the inside-outline,” your novel won’t fall apart in the middle. If you follow her advice, there will be tension throughout your novel and your reader won’t lose interest.
Power Penmanship: An Illustrated Guide to Enhancing Your Image Through the Art of Handwriting Style, by Janet Ernst
I mentioned this book in passing in an earlier blog post. I checked it out of the public library out of curiosity. I soon found myself doing the writing exercises and enjoying it. My handwriting isn’t terrible, although taking shorthand in high school nearly ruined it. I thought I could probably improve on my penmanship, so it was worth reading the book. It has made me aware of several letters I’ve become sloppy with, so I’m trying to do better.
Since my last blog post
In last Monday’s blog post, I promised to write a little more today about my trip to a bookstore in Concord, North Carolina. Since the big-box bookstore at the shopping mall closed years ago, Concord had been in need of a bookstore. A husband-and-wife team opened Goldberry Books at 12 Union Street, South in downtown Concord in November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the store until recently.
It is a beautiful, store that offers both new and top-quality used books. My sister and I browsed for probably an hour. It was very quiet when we arrived, but by mid-afternoon customers were flooding in. The best I could tell, although I couldn’t see all of the children’s section in the back, there were at least 25 people there when we left. The best part was the excitement exhibited by the numerous children. It made my heart sing.
If you’re traveling on Interstate-85 through North Carolina, take a break and drive into Concord. It has a quaint downtown with various restaurants and shops and many Victorian homes on both ends of Union Street have been lovingly restored.
Disclaimer: I wrote this about Goldberry Books and the city of Concord on my own free will just because I thought they both needed an endorsement. Here’s the link to Goldberry Books: https://www.goldberrybooks.com/.
I love public libraries, but I also love independent bookstores! Goldberry Books is an excellent one.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. As usual, I’m reading several at the same time.
Make time for a hobby, friends, and family.
Remember the people of Ukraine.