To Nitpick or Not to Nitpick? That is the Question.

Are you as surprised as I am to learn that the word “nitpicking” first came into use in 1956? That means I’m older than the word nitpicking!

          It also means I can’t use “nitpick” or any form of the word in my historical fiction writing.

Nitwit

          One of my characters wanted to call another character a nitwit. That’s what led me to my discovery about nitpicking. It turned out that I can’t use nitpick, nitpicking, or nitwit in my historical fiction writing, unless I move my stories from the 1760s to the 1960s. That’s just not possible, unless I plunge my characters into a time warp.

          In case you care, “nitwit” wasn’t in common usage until around 1922. I don’t propose that you or I call people hurtful names, but I can’t help what my fictional characters do or say.

Guidelines for historical fiction

          There are words we use in everyday life without giving (or needing to give) any thought to their origins. That would make life beyond tedious. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

          As a writer of historical fiction, I must be careful not to include a word not in common usage at the time of my short story or novel. If one of my 18th century characters used the word “nitwit,” you might not notice; however, if one of my 18th century characters said “telephone” it would yank you right out of the story and it would ruin my credibility. It is through that process of checking on certain words that I’ve happened upon many surprises.

          My surprises fall all along a spectrum. There are words such as nitpick that I would’ve guessed had been in use for centuries. On the other hand, I didn’t expect that the term “fast lane” was in common use before the year 1050. (That’s not a typo. The year 1050.) After seeing that while I was looking up a different word, I began to doubt myself and wondered if I needed to look up every word I wrote.

          Of course, that’s not practical. By writing about this today I’ve probably opened myself up to a great deal of scrutiny when my historical short stories and my first historical novel are eventually published. Knock yourself out! I’m doing the best I can.

Concerted effort

          Today’s blog post falls into the same quirky category as an earlier one. In the title of one of my 2018 blog posts I asked if an individual can make a concerted effort. The point of that post was that by its very definition it takes two or more people working together to make a concerted effort.

          One of my blog readers took me to task on that one. She insisted that she always made a concerted effort in everything she did. She seemed insulted by my blog post and missed my point.

          It wasn’t my intent to insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. I was merely pointing out a nuance in the English language. I’m attempting to be a writer. It comes with the territory.

          Words are fascinating!

Until my next blog post

Keep reading books.

When you read a good book, be sure to tell the author by writing a review or even writing a letter to the author. You should be able to reach them through their website.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine. It saddens me that only 49% of registered voters in North Carolina voted in the mid-term election last Tuesday. Democracy is a fragile thing. We don’t have to share a border with Russia to know that.

Thank you for reading my blog today! I hope to see you here again next Monday.

Janet

Murder Mystery, Marketing, Second Marriages, Frozen Embryos, & Short Stories Galore Read Last Month!

As usual, I enjoyed reading a variety of books in October. By reading my blog post today, I hope you’ll discover a new book or new author to add to your TBR (To Be Read list.) There’s something here for almost everyone.


Under the Southern Sky, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Under the Southern Sky, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Right off the bat, this novel got into the hot button topic of frozen embryos. Parker’s wife, Greer, with whom he’d frozen those embryos has died of cancer.

Their marriage appeared to be a match made in heaven. Amelia, the proverbial girl next door during their childhoods, is a reporter researching frozen embryos for a story.

Will Amelia and Parker get together? Can Amelia overcome the idea in her head that Greer was perfect? Surely, she can’t compete with Parker’s memory of his perfect deceased wife. Or can she?

When Amelia approaches Parker with her idea of being the surrogate to give birth to one or more of those frozen embryos how will he respond? How will their families react? How will Greer’s father react?

I enjoyed the frozen embryos aspect of the novel. The on again, off again friendship and romance of Amelia and Parker was sappier than what I like to read, but that’s just me. The dynamics of their relationship are complex and they have to grapple with a lot of emotional baggage.

If you’re looking for a southern beachy story with a hefty dose of what happens to forgotten or abandoned frozen embryos, I think you’ll love this novel by Salisbury, North Carolina native Kristy Woodson Harvey.

I read this novel for the October 24th meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. We had a good discussion. Everyone read the entire book, which is a good sign. We were in agreement that the ending was predictable, but it was a good book club selection.


The Second Husband, by Kate White

The Second Husband, by Kate White

This is a murder mystery with a chilling twist. Did Emma’s second husband kill her first husband?

Emma’s 37-year-old husband is killed in an alley in the Soho section of New York City. The crime is not solved.

A few months later, Emma meets Tom through a work connection. They marry. Life is good. In fact, it’s perfect until the day a police detective shows up to ask some leading questions.

Suddenly, Emma feels like she’s Suspect #1 in Derrick’s murder. But she knows she’s innocent. She didn’t kill him and she didn’t hire a hitman.

Then, her suspicions turn to Tom.

I learned of this book by reading a review of it on the Linda’s Book Obsession blog on June 28 of this year. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention, Linda! Here’s the link to her review: Linda’s Book Obsession Reviews “The Second Husband” by Kate White, Harper, June 28, 2022 – Linda’s Book Obsession: (lindasbookobsession.blog)

I think this novel would be a good choice for a book club.


Your First 1,000 Copies, by Tim Grahl

Your First 1000 Copies, by Tim Grahl

I give this nonfiction book about marketing for writers 10 stars on a scale of 1 to 5. I took copious notes. There are so many pointers in this book for someone in my position as I’m anticipating releasing several books in the coming 12 months.

Mr. Grahl has helped many authors launch their books. He’s been through the process enough times and recently enough that he knows what works and what doesn’t work. If you’re a writer hoping to publish a book – whether via the traditional publisher route or by self-publishing – you can benefit from reading this book.


Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss

Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss

Eight writers contributed short stories for this special anthology about identity and loss.

The book includes two short stories by Elizabeth Gauffreau, whose website and blog I wrote about in my September 26, 2022 blog post, Do you know about these 5 book bloggers?

Other authors featured in Distant Flickers are Donna Koros-Stramella, Keith Madsen, Carol LaHines, Jim Metzner, Joyce Yarrow, Rita Baker, and Amy E. Wallen.

Distant Flickers grew out of a spark of inspiration provided by a group of writers known as Telltale Authors. Each story ties into the subtitle. The topics are varied. There are secrets, loss, and identity issues. Each author writes in a way to pull you into the story. Soon you find yourself empathizing with the main character.

The name of that group gives me a perfect segway into the name of the other book of short stories I read in October….


Tell Tale, by Jeffrey Archer

Tell Tale: Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Since I’m putting together a book of historical short stories, I’ve wanted to get back to reading more short stories. I need to get a handle on just what makes a good short story, right?

Although Jeffrey Archer is better known for his novels, I wanted to read some of his short stories. I found his stories in Tell Tale to be very entertaining.

My favorite stories in the collection were “The Road to Damascus,” “Who Killed the Mayor?” and “The Holiday of a Lifetime.”

Mr. Archer used a clever literary device in “The Holiday of a Lifetime.” He wrote three different endings for the story and encouraged the readers to select the one they preferred. What fun!


Until my next blog post

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post today!

I hope you have a good book to read and will find time to read it. If you have nieces, nephews, children, or grandchildren, it’s important for them to know you enjoy reading. They want to be like you.

If you live in the USA, vote tomorrow, unless you voted early. Our very democracy is on the ballot.

Don’t forget the people of Ukraine.

Janet

Did You Know Cabarrus County, NC Survived a Meteorite on Halloween 1849?

Can you imagine hearing and then seeing meteor blazing across the sky and then crashing through a tree before plunging several feet into the dirt? That’s what happened on Hiram Bost’s farm on October 31, 1849.

Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

I grew up in Cabarrus County, but I’d not heard of the meteorite until I happened upon a newspaper article about it while doing research on another topic for a local history column I was writing in 2009 for Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. Last week while I was formatting those newspaper articles for two planned books in 2023, I thought the highlights of the seven-part series I wrote about Mr. Bost’s meteorite would make an interesting blog post on this Halloween.

Although the meteorite landed near Midland in Cabarrus County, it was mistakenly named “Monroe.” Meteorites are usually named for where they land. The town of Monroe is actually in the adjoining county and not where the 1849 meteorite crashed to the Earth.

I’ve never heard a meteor or seen one up close. The closest I’ve come is seeing an occasional “shooting star.” The witnesses of the 1849 meteorite described explosions and rumblings They saw a white-hot object in the sky even though it was broad daylight.

Word of the meteorite spread by the proverbial grapevine and in newspapers in Charlotte and Concord. When word reached the Charlotte Branch of the United States Mint, a Mint employee and a Charlotte doctor headed some 20 to 25 miles to the site by horse-drawn wagon.

Knowing he had an item of interest and unknown value on his hands, Mr. Bost displayed the meteorite on top of a pole for all to come and see. It was accompanied by a sign warning people not to touch or break the rock.

I was naïve enough to think that perhaps the Monroe meteorite had ended up intact at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, but I soon found out that the meteorite has been chopped and sliced into countless pieces and the museum in Raleigh doesn’t even have a piece of it.

One thing led to another, as is always the case when I do historical research, and I went down the rabbit hole of searching for the locations that own part of the meteorite. What I discovered is that pieces and slivers of the meteorite are owned by universities, museums, The Vatican, and private companies and individuals around the world.

I learned that bits and pieces of the Monroe meteorite are for sale by rock and mineral dealers and are sometimes available through rock and mineral auctions. Those pieces and slivers are priced by the gram and aren’t cheap.

To learn more, be on the lookout for my book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2 on Amazon in 2023.

I expect to publish Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 on Amazon in January 2023. I’ll give progress reports in future blog posts. Even if you don’t live in the Harrisburg, North Carolina area, I think you’ll find something of interest in both my local history books.

Since my last blog

I continue to write my first historical novel, The Heirloom.

I hired a company to completely redesign my outdated website, JanetMorrisonBooks.com. My writing is taking a new path and I need a new website to reflect that. With numerous decisions to be made and the holiday season approaching, it might be January before I can unveil the new site.

My sister and I continue to proofread Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1. When I blogged last week, I thought the books would only be available for Kindle, but I now hope to also have them published in paperback.

A word about my blog

Last week’s blog post included a note about a change in my follower count on my blog and the reason I was given for the widget policy change. Apparently, I wasn’t the only blogger to complain, for this week the count once again includes the 1,000+ followers that were dropped last week. I’m happy again!

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine who face freezing to death this winter.

Janet

One Historical Fiction Misconception that Keeps You from Reading It

Not everyone wants to read historical fiction. I understand that. There are several fiction genres that I don’t enjoy, so I avoid them. There are too many books I want to read to take time to read genres that don’t appeal to me. For instance, horror.

I happen to like historical fiction, but there is one big misconception that might be keeping you from reading novels that fall in that category.

Okay, what is that misconception?

Since the word “fiction” is part of the name of the historical fiction genre, there is a misconception that novels in the genre are not historically accurate. If you read reputable historical fiction writers, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley: A Ballad Novel, by Sharyn McCrumb

I had the privilege of hearing Sharyn McCrumb speak in conjunction with the publication of the ninth novel in her ballad series, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Ms. McCrumb is a meticulous historical researcher. In her speech that day, she adamantly pointed out that some historical fiction books are better researched than history books.

That has really stayed with me more than a decade after hearing Ms. McCrumb speak.

When considering to read a historical novel, I suggest you turn to the back of the book and read the Author Notes. Very often there are several pages after the last chapter in the book in which the author explains her inspiration for the book and a bit of the research involved in writing the book.

The topic of literary license is often addressed in the Author Notes. Good historical fiction writers are transparent and quick to point out any instances in which they adjusted the time or place of an event to make the story flow more smoothly.

You might not be convinced yet to read historical fiction. You might think that just because historical novels contain conversations that cannot be documented, the book cannot be trusted as being true. If written by a conscientious writer, conversations and narrative in the novel will be true to the time and place to the best of the author’s ability. Keep in mind that it’s a work of fiction, and don’t get bent out of shape if some of the dialogue doesn’t ring true to you.

I write history and I write historical fiction. The research I do for the writing of historical fiction is just as detailed and important as the research I do for the writing of history.

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh

You might be surprised to know that in the 1760s historical fiction I’m writing, I’m careful not to use words that were not in general use during that time. I keep English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh within arm’s reach while I’m writing. Sometimes there is a perfect word I want a character to say but then I discover it wasn’t in general usage until later. I have to find another word.

And you thought I spent all my time just gazing out the window and eating bonbons!

Next week’s blog post topic

Next week I plan to blog about something that happened on October 31, 1849 in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I wrote about it for a newspaper article a few years ago. I look forward to sharing a bit of that well-researched article with you on my blog.

Since my last blog

I’ve worked on my novel, The Heirloom, every day except yesterday. (I really try to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.) I feel great about how the manuscript is coming along. I’m really having fun with it, imagining myself on The Great Wagon Road in 1766.

I’ve made progress toward getting my website redesigned. I’m excited about that and will keep you posted.

I finished formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1 on Saturday. The proofreading will take another couple of weeks. By then, I hope to have a photograph to use for the cover. Everything seems to be falling in place within the publication schedule I set for myself. By this time next month, I hope to be close to it being available as an e-book.

A word about my blog

You might have noticed on my blog where it says “Join ___ other followers,” the number plummeted this week. I spent the better part of an hour in chat with WordPress tech support before they identified the cause.

The verdict was that the widget that enables me to show the number of followers on my blog changed last week without bloggers (or apparently tech support) being told.

On Wednesday it said, “Join 2,104 other followers,” but on Thursday night it said, “Join 988 other followers.” My heart sank! Tech support stayed on the case until it was determined that now the widget only displays the number of email and WordPress bloggers who follow me. It no longer includes the 1,000+ people who follow my blog on social media.

If you have a WordPress blog, did you notice this change?

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

4 Popular Book Bloggers Who Will Give You Book Suggestions

In case you want to know about more book bloggers than I’ve written about in the last weeks, I’m suggesting a few more for you to check out. These are listed in random order.


Photo credit: Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash

The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog

I must admit, I was attracted to this blog by the word “chocolate” being in the title. What can I say?

Davida Chazan is originally from Illinois but moved to Israel at the age of 21. She writes this blog from her home in Jerusalem. She covers a variety of books, and you can always count on an honest review from her.

Here’s the link to Davida’s website: https://tcl-bookreviews.com/. By clicking on “A-Z Index of Book Reviews By Title” at the top of her website, you can bring up an extensive alphabetical list of the books she has reviewed. By “extensive,” I mean extensive!

Also, she has a fun drop-down list of authors you can access by clicking on “Countdown Questions Author Index.” You can really have some fun with this. Click on a book listed under the author’s name and it brings her Davida’s review of that book. Click on the author’s name, though, and it brings up a delightful list of questions Davida asked the author along with the author’s answers. The last time I checked, there are more than 40 authors on that particular list.

The website also has a clickable “Women in Translation” button at the top. Click on it to see the authors who write in a language other than English. They are celebrated in the month of August.


Photo by James Barker on Unsplash

The Reading Ladies Book Club

Carol, a retired fifth-grade teacher is the brains behind this book blog. Her favorite genres are historical fiction, literary fiction, and contemporary fiction. She is an ardent reader and enjoys sharing her thoughts about the books she reads.

Here’s the link to The Reading Ladies Book Club website: http://Reading Ladies – Book Club. On the home page, you can easily peruse and click on the titles and covers of the books Carol has recently reviewed.

Click on “Blogging Resources for Bloggers” at the top of her website for blog posts in which Carol has shared advice for bloggers.

If you’re in a book club (or if you aren’t in a book club), I highly recommend you click on “Book Club Recommendations” at the top of her website. As you might guess, it brings up a list of books by genre and how many stars Carol gave each one.

To see a list of the books Carol has reviewed, click on “Book Reviews A-Z & Book Lists.” After the alphabetical list of books is a list of her blog posts that were about more than one book.

There is a section to click on if you’re just interested in nonfiction books, and she has a special section that harkens back to her days as a teacher: “My Newberry Award Project.” Click on that button to bring up a list of the annual winner of The John Newberry Medal every year4 since 1922! That award is given by the American Library Association to the author deemed to have made the best contribution to American books for children.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone in The Reading Ladies Book Club Blog.


Photo credit: Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Steph’s Book Blog

I love the subtitle of Steph’s Book Blog:  “Read a Book – Be Amazed – Tell the World.” How great is that?

Steph says she is a lifelong reader who also dabbles in genealogy, local history, and photography. (Sounds a lot like me!)

By clicking on “Blog Posts” at the top of her website, https://stephsbookblog.com, you can scroll through her recent book reviews. Or, if you’re looking for her review of a book by a particular author, you can click on “Authors” for a drop-down menu of authors by alphabet.

There’s also a search box in which you can type a book title or author’s name.

Some authors participate in a “Blog Tour” in which various book bloggers read and review a specific book of theirs (usually a new release) on an organized schedule. Steph has a clickable “Blog Tours” button through which you can find a list of the books she has reviewed as part of a blog tour.


Photo by Eliabe Costa on Unsplash

Bonnie Reads and Writes

I just recently found this book blog via Twitter. Bonnie says she’s “lucky enough to live in the Smoky Mountains.” I’d say she is, therefore, “lucky enough.” I love the Great Smoky Mountains! But I digress.

Here’s the link to her blog: https://bonniereadsandwrites.com/. Bonnie blogs throughout the week. One thing I really appreciate is that she sometimes has “Indie Weekend” blog posts in which she reviews indie-published books. For instance, on October 8, 2022, her “Indie Weekend” blog post highlighted Distant Flickers, a new collection of short stories by eight authors, including Elizabeth Gauffreau. That link is http://Indie Weekend: Distant Flickers #shortstorycollections #choices #crossroads – Bonnie Reads and Writes.

In addition to reviewing books on her blog, Bonnie reviews books for Historical Novels Review Magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society.

On Tuesdays, Bonnie blogs a ‘Top 10” list. A recent one was about her 10 favorite bookstores or bookstores she’d like to visit.


In case you missed my earlier posts about book bloggers

Two of my last four blog posts were about book bloggers I enjoy following. In case you missed those posts, here are the links: Do you know about these 5 book bloggers? and This Week: An Additional 5 Book Bloggers.


Since my last blog post

The ”Launch a Bestseller” course by Tim Grahl is going great! I have learned so much already and have gotten back on track with my writing.

I continue to format my “Did You Know?” local history newspaper articles for publication as a couple of Kindle books.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine, the grieving people of Uvalde, the Floridians who lost so much to Hurricane Ian, and the people grieving last week’s mass murder in Raleigh.

Janet

Spy Thriller, WWI Novel, Nonfiction, and Historical Mystery Read Last Month

In addition to the three novels I blogged about last week, in September I read three other novels and one nonfiction book. It’s my pleasure today to blog about those four books. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll decide to read it. Support your local public library and your local independent bookstore!


The New Neighbor, by Karen Cleveland

The New Neighbor, by Karen Cleveland

I read Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland in March 2018 and blogged about it in my April 2, 2018 blog post, More March 2018 Reading. I really enjoyed that novel, so I don’t know what it took me more than four years (has it really been four years since 2018?) to read another of her books.

The New Neighbor is a spy thriller. The main character and most of her neighbors on a quiet cul-de-sac work for the CIA. She’s been trying to identify and take down a spy who is working against the United States for 18 years of her career. The code name for this person is “The New Neighbor,” so it’s a constant play on words throughout the book – Is the new neighbor the actual new neighbor on the cul-de-sac, or is it one of her long-time neighbors and friends on the cul-de-sac, or is it someone who lives who knows where, or is it …?

I look forward to reading another of Karen Cleveland’s novels as soon as I pare down my current reading list. She is a former CIA Analyst.


Switchboard Soldiers: A Novel of the Heroic Women Who Served in the US Signal Corps in World War I, by Jennifer Chiaverini

Switchboard Soldiers, by Jennifer Chiaverini

This historical novel made me aware of the first women to serve in the United States Army. It was World War I and General John Pershing needed efficient telephone operators who were fluent in both English and French to serve throughout France – including the front lines.

It was taking male soldiers one minute to connect a call. That was unacceptable, so General Pershing did a radical thing. He put out a call for qualified female telephone operators. More than 7,600 women responded. The women could connect a phone call in ten seconds.

They proved themselves just as qualified and dedicated as any male American soldiers and were credited in helping the Allies win World War I. It’s a shame their story hasn’t been told for more than a century, but author Jennifer Chiaverini has down a wonderful job telling us their story now.

I learned in the Author Notes at the end of the book that, although they were considered soldiers in the US Army during World War I, took the oath of office, were issued uniforms, had to go through the rigorous gas mask training, had to obey all rules and regulations of the US Army, etc. – after the war they were not considered military veterans and were not eligible for any veterans’ benefits until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed them to be veterans. Of course, by then fewer than 60 of the 7,600 women were still alive to enjoy any of the benefits.

The other novels by Ms. Chiaverini that I’ve enjoyed are Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (which I read in April 2013 before I started regularly blogging about the books I read); Resistance Women (see my September 2, 2019 blog post, 3.5 of the 5.5 Books I Read in August 2019; and Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters (see my August 10, 2020 blog post, Two Other Books I Read in July 2020.)


Listening Well: Bringing Stories of Hope to Life, by Heather Morris

Listening Well, by Heather Morris

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’ve read three excellent novels by Heather Morris.

To refresh your memory, I blogged about her first novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz in my November 15, 2018 blog post, Many Good Books Read in October!; I blogged about her second novel, Cilka’s Journey, in my December 2, 2019 blog post, I stretched my reading horizons in November; and I blogged about her third novel, Three Sisters, in my January 3, 2022 blog post, Books Read in December 2021.

In Listening Well, Ms. Morris writes a lot about her life. She grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She writes about her growing up years as a way to tell us about the elders in her family and how they – especially her great-grandfather – taught her to listen.     

She recommends that we all practice listening actively and then she sets about to give practical tips of how to listen to elders and how to listen to children. She also encourages us to listen to ourselves and trust ourselves because if we can trust ourselves and be a friend to ourselves, we can be a good friend to someone else.

She writes about listening to Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz, and what an honor it was to listen to him.

Ms. Morris says that all too often we listen to someone only to think of what we can say and how we can turn the conversation about us and not the other person.

This is a good read. I imagine most of us can learn something from it.


Second Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery, by Lawrence H. Levy

Second Street Station, by Lawrence H. Levy

I wanted to read this book because it is a categorized as historical mystery. I read about 60% of it. It was a bit of stretch for there to be a female detective in the 1890s, but I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along with it.

It was a bit of a stretch to think of Thomas A. Edison being a criminal, but I kept reading. Where the wheels fell off the wagon for me, though, was when Mary Handley was able to watch the trajectory of ricocheting bullets and roll out of their way.

Since there had been no reference to Mary Handley having such superpowers, I felt completely pulled out of the story at that point. I read a few more pages and decided to move on to other library books that were needing my attention. It suddenly felt like historical fiction meets sci-fi.

If the book had been publicized as such, that would have been fine – and probably would make an interesting genre; however, that wasn’t a direction I expected “historical mystery” to take. I’ve since read several reviews online that were also thrown off by this part of the novel.

All that being said, though, I hesitate to be critical of a novel since I’ve yet to publish one of my own. I have much to learn about writing historical fiction. If you enjoy historical mysteries, give Second Street Station a try and let me know what you think of it. I’d like to be proven wrong in my assessment.


Since my last blog post

I took a free 3-Day online “How to Write a Series” course offered by Carissa Andrews of The Author Revolution. It was very helpful. And did you hear me say it was free? It will probably be offered again next year, so if you aspire to write a book series, I recommend you check out The Author Revolution online.

The historical fiction series I’m working on just might be five books instead of four. Book 2, The Doubloon is written and put away. Book 1, The Heirloom is my work in progress. Books 3-5, The Betrayal, The Revolution, and The Banjo are in various states of being outlined. My body is telling me I should have started this project decades ago.

I continued to format the local history newspaper articles I wrote from 2006 through 2012 for publication as two Kindle books. Look for future announcements about Harrisburg, Did You Know?- Book 1 and Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2.

I started working through the video modules in Tim Grahl’s “Launch a Bestseller” course last week. The modules have already helped me understand the marketing tasks I need to do beginning seven to nine months before I publish my first novel.

In terms of marketing, I’ll have to condense some of those early tasks into just a couple of months or so for Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 and The Aunts in the Kitchen.

Me thinks I have too many irons in the fire!


Until my next blog post

Today I start taking the five-week online “Sticky Blogging – Master Class: “Attract Your True Fans” Course. Who knows? Perhaps in the coming weeks and months I’ll write better blog posts. Maybe I’ll come up with more interesting and eye-catching post titles.

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine, the grieving people of Uvalde, and the devastated people of Florida.

Janet

Three Novels I Can’t Wait to Tell You About!

I read some interesting and thought-provoking books in September. In today’s blog post, I’ll share my reactions to three of the novels I read. I hope you’ll be inspired to add one or more of them to your reading list.


Dragonfly Escaping, Noor’s Story: Book One, by Raya Khedker

Dragonfly Escaping: Noor’s Story: Book One, by Raya Khedker

I learned about this novel through the Jennifer Tar Heel Reader book blog. After reading Jennifer’s review of the book, I went on Twitter to find out a little more about the author.

On Twitter I found a discussion about the book’s cover. I chimed in that I liked the cover, and the author and I enjoyed several days of messaging to one another about the struggles of writing and publishing.

The story immediately grabbed my attention and I knew I was hooked and would have to keep reading to find out what happened to Noor Zulfiker. Noor is bound in an arranged marriage to Rajat, an older man who is a physician and her parents think will be quite a catch for their daughter. But Noor is in love with a young man named Chirag Jagdev. Chirag isn’t rich and his financial future isn’t potentially as bright as the doctor’s.

There is physical abuse, so very soon the reader really starts pulling for the teenage Noor and hoping Rajat gets his comeuppance.

This book shines a light on the emotional and physical abuse the women in India are subjected to by men. Noor is abused from all directions and desperately wants to leave India. It is raw and unrelenting in this first novel of a planned series about Noor.

If you like exotic locations, Dragonfly Escaping takes place in New Dehli and Lima over a span of 1979 to 1992, with connections and references to Spain and Canada thrown in for interest.

If you aren’t put off by reading about an abusive relationship, I recommend this novel by Raya Khedker. It’s her debut novel and it was released in January 2022. Lo and behold, Dragonfly Hunting: Noor’s Story: Book Two, was released last week – on September 27 – so I’m already playing catch-up!

I look forward to whatever Raya Khedker and Noor have in store for us in Book Two.

Raya Khedker was born in India and currently lives in the United States.


In an Instant, by Suzanne Redfearn

In an Instant: A Novel, by Suzanne Redfearn

This novel is written through the eyes of Finn, a 16-year-old girl. Spoiler alert: She’s alive in the beginning of the book but is soon dead. Probably 95% of the book is told through Finn’s eyes and ears as she moves about at will and reports how everyone reacts to her death and the other related events. It is a clever format.

The story is compelling. It delves into each person’s reaction to the incident that takes Finn’s life. It’s about family dynamics, friendships, and how individuals react to a traumatic situation. Each of us knows how we think or hope we’d react in a given circumstance, but do we truly know how we’d react when push comes to shove?

On the negative side, I had to suspend disbelief throughout a sizeable segment of the book as, although all the characters were in a situation of total darkness, they were able to move about and see everything clearly.

Also, I think the author gave Fen a vocabulary and level of understanding that a typical 16-year-old doesn’t have. And, speaking of vocabulary, I find the overuse of expletives offensive and it cheapens the writing. This becomes especially noticeable when one is listening to a book. It was excessive and pulled me out of the story. John Grisham is a reasonably successful novelist even though it is his policy and practice to not use curse words or raunchy language in his books. If John Grisham can have a lucrative writing career without using foul language, perhaps others should follow his example.

I thought the Easter dinner scene was forced. Why would a family that showed absolutely no religious inclinations suddenly put a tremendous emphasis on a traditional Easter ham dinner?

All that said, I reiterate that In an Instant is a gripping story and the premise of a person’s spirit being able to continue to roam the earth and see and hear intimate conversations and activities of family and friends is a bit unsettling and gives much food for thought.


The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

When Nora Seed “decides to die,” she finds herself in The Midnight Library. Her school librarian from long ago is there to explain to Nora that The Midnight Library isn’t exactly the afterlife. It’s an endless library of books – each one giving you the chance to undo your regrets and do something different. It’s between life and death. Disgusted at first to be there, Nora eventually appreciates the opportunities it provides.

The novel involves the theory or idea of parallel universes and allows Nora to move from one life to another and experience or re-experience an occupation or family situation.

The lesson this novel teaches is that every decision we make has an outcome. A different decision at any given time could have changed the course of our lives.

I didn’t know what to expect when I checked out the book on CD. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it to see what Nora’s next experience would be and how it was all going to turn out for her.

The only irritation I felt in listening to the book was the fact that the British reader pronounced “library” the way the English do, turning this three-syllable word into a two-syllable word.” It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. If you’re too young to understood the analogy, I’m afraid I can’t help you.


Since my last blog post

Here in the southern piedmont of North Carolina, it rained sideways all day on Friday and felt more like winter than autumn as what was left of Hurricane Ian passed through after making its third landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina. We came through it unscathed, though, and for that I’m relieved and thankful.

I’ve been working on my genealogy. I knew that three of my 16 g-g-g-grandmothers were Neelys. Last week I found their father’s will and discovered they were sisters. I guess that means I’m my own cousin. Small gene pool here in the 1700s!


Until my next blog post

My heart goes out to all the people severely affected by Hurricane Ian in Cuba, all over Florida, and the east coast of the US.

Today I’m excited to begin taking a three-day online workshop about writing a book series. It’s sure to help me as I continue to work on The Heirloom and its sequel, The Doubloon.

I hope you have a good book to read this week.

Don’t forget the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

This Week: An Additional 5 Book Bloggers

Last week my blog was about five book bloggers I follow. I promised to highlight more such book reviewers in the coming weeks. Today’s blog post is about five other online book reviewers.

As with last week’s list, I selected these five in random order. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll start following it.


Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

LizGauffreau.com

At https://lizgauffreau.com/, you will find book reviews as well as a variety of other blog posts and information. Liz is a writer and blogger who lives in New Hampshire. As you can tell from her blog topics, she’s not a full-time book review blogger. I’ve included her on this list, though, because she sometimes reviews fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Her website is well-organized. You can click on her blog posts by month, or you can click on her Fiction Book Reviews, her Nonfiction Book Reviews, or her Poetry Reviews.

Here’s the link to one of her recent book reviews: #bookreview: Village Teacher – Elizabeth Gauffreau (lizgauffreau.com), in which she reviewed Village Teacher, by neihtn (Nguyen Trong Hien).

If you’re a fan of short stories, here’s a head’s up. Two of Liz’s short stories will be in the new anthology, Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss. It’s set for release on October 1. Look for it wherever you buy your books. If your local independent bookstore and public library haven’t ordered copies, ask them to consider doing so.


Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

As you can guess from the name, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is an online magazine that covers just about everything. It also covers just about everything very well.

Sally Cronin is the powerhouse behind this online magazine. I marvel at the variety of topics Sally tackles. She not only reviews books. She also reviews music and does excellent posts about popular music from different decades. She also has a post once a week that offers four or five cartoons. As you can see, there’s something for everyone in Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

You’re reading this, though, because my post today is supposed to be about book bloggers. Here’s the link to one of Sally’s recent book reviews: Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Historical #1920s Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks , in which she reviewed Jazz Baby, by Beem Weeks.

Sally blogs from Ireland. Her almost daily blog posts are always entertaining.


Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

Amorina Rose’s Blog

Barbara Strickland is the voice behind Amorina Rose’s Blog. Barbara’s website address is https://brstrickland.com/. She is an author as well as a blogger. Through her website you can access her blog archives.

May, June, and July Chilling with Books Corner 2022, being real and finding inspiration – Barbara Strickland – Author & Blogger (brstrickland.com) is a good example of one of her blogs about books and other things, such as movies she’d been watching. In it, she also reviews the historical novel, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, by Jennifer Ryan.

Barbara is of Italian and Australian ancestry. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree with TESOL (English as a Second Language) qualifications. She’s had a varied career and enjoys music, dance, art, and literature. She’s in the editing stages of her second novel.


Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Linda’s Book Obsession

Linda Zagon is the book reviewer behind Linda’s Book Obcession. She is a retired teacher with a massive book collection, including signed first editions.

Reviewing books is Linda’s hobby. She is a Top Reviewer on NetGalley and has also reviewed books on Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter (as @peachyteach), Amazon (as teachlz) and BookBrowse.

You can find her current and past book reviews on her website, https://lindasbookobsession.blog/. She has been known to blog twice in one day about two different books.

Go to her website and click on her September 22, 2022 blog post in which she gives a rave review of The Child Between Us, by Alison Ragsdale.


Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Portobello Book Blog

Joanne is passionate about books, and it shows in her book reviews on https://portobellobookblog.com/. She especially likes contemporary fiction and historical fiction but also enjoys a good love story, according to the bio on her website.

There, you can easily scroll down through a list of her recent blog posts. Each one includes an opening paragraph or two from the post. Just click on “more” if you want to continue reading one of them. You can also click on any of give option at the top of her landing page. One of them is “Book Reviews, A to Z.” That will give you a drop-down menu where you can click on her book reviews from any year back to 2015 and get a list of the books she reviewed that year in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. You can tell by the lengthy lists that Joanne is a voracious reader.

Her site also includes author interviews.

Go to Joanne’s website, https://portobellobookblog.com/, and I suggest you click on her September 20, 2022 blog post in which she reviewed The Dead Romantics, by Ashley Poston. I suggest you click on that one because through it you can read the first chapter of Ashley Poston’s novel. What can beat that in a book review?


Since my last blog post

Last week I mentioned that I’d run into a bit of a roadblock on the cover I wanted for the cover of the e-book I’m working on. I was discouraged, but things opened up this past week. I was contacted by the son of the deceased artist whose painting I wanted for the book cover. He couldn’t have been more accommodating! What a relief! I literally cried tears of joy after talking to him.

I’m still formatting my local history newspaper column articles for that book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1. I’ll keep you posted as I reach publication.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and an enjoyable hobby.

Find the good in the coming week. I’ll look for you back here next Monday. Please tell your friends about my blog.

Don’t forget the courageous people of Ukraine and the grieving people of Uvalde.

Janet

Do you know about these 5 book bloggers?

There are some book bloggers whose posts I read regularly to get ideas for books to read. Sometimes they review books I’ve read and it’s interesting to see if I agree with their reviews or what they picked up on that I missed. Usually, they review books I haven’t read, for many professional book reviewers receive advance copies before a book is released to the public. This isn’t the case for all book bloggers.

Today I’m writing about five of the book bloggers I follow. Perhaps some of them will be new to you. In the coming weeks, I’ll blog about other book bloggers I follow. I’ve chosen these in random order.


Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash.

Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Going to Jennifer’s website, you can peruse her blog topics and get a feel for the type books she reviews. Although I haven’t heard her say, she is obviously a creative and talented person in her own right. The photographs she includes with her book reviews are always elegant and inviting. Take a look for yourself on her website where you can read any of her past blog posts/reviews simply with a click. She’s been blogging book reviews since May 4, 2018. From the title of her blog, I believe she lives in the same state where I’ve lived my entire life – North Carolina.

Here’s a link to one of her recent book reviews: https://jennifertarheelreader.com/2022/06/30/dragonfly-escaping-by-raya-khedker-bookreview-tarheelreader-thrdragonflyescaping-rayakhedker-suzyapbooktours-dragonflyescaping-blogtour/. After reading Jennifer’s review, I added Dragon Fly Escaping to my TBR (To Be Read) list.

Jennifer’s website is https://jennifertarheelreader.com/.


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Sandy’s Book a Day Blog

Sandy is a top reviewer on Goodreads and reviews as Sandyj21 on Amazon. As you can tell from the title of her blog, she’s a voracious reader. To give you an example, she read or listened to 22 books in July! (I do well to read that many books in six months!) Here’s a link to one of her recent blog posts: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman – Sandy’s Book a Day Blog (wordpress.com).

Sandy, like the other book bloggers I follow, offers honest assessments of the books she reviews. In this particular one, she explains why she had trouble getting her head around the abuse at Willowbrook because, thankfully, her own experience working in such a facility was nothing like that portrayed in the book. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is also on my TBR.


Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

What Cathy Read Next

Cathy amazes me with the number of books she reads and reviews. Last time I looked, she’d read 122 books so far in 2022.  She has a great website and book review blog. You can go to her website, What Cathy Read 2022 – What Cathy Read Next… (wordpress.com) and click on a number of choices, such as “What Cathy Read in 2022” or “What Cathy read in 2016” and every year in between.  Then, each book title is clickable and you can read her review of it.

Occasionally, Cathy attacks her TBR (To Be Read List) and blogs about a few books on her list. She goes through a process to decide which ones to leave on her TBR and which ones to delete. I need to do that myself! Here’s an example of one of her “Down the TBR Hole” blog posts: Down the TBR Hole #25 – What Cathy Read Next… (wordpress.com).

Cathy has an MA in English and appreciates good fiction, especially historical fiction and literary fiction.


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Emma B Books

Emma reviews lots of thrillers and mysteries, but she also is known to have reviewed memoirs and other genres. By going to her home page, EmmabBooks.com – Book Reviews by Emma b Books, you can click on the image of any one of 18 books she’s recently reviewed.

Emma’s website is well-organized. You can click on “Home,” “Nonfiction,” “Fiction,” “Audiobooks,” “5*Related Books,” “Blog,” “About,” and “Contact.”

Each of those buttons has a drop-down menu to make any search easy. If you’d like to receive email notices when Emma posts a new review on her blog, there’s a fill-in format form on her website. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you can opt to receive her posts on your feed.

Emma is British by birth and now lives in the beautiful Austrian Alps.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

FictionFan’s Book Reviews

This reviewer reads a wide range of genres and blogs about books she likes and books she didn’t like so much. Her interests run the gamut from politics and history to vintage horror. (Come to think of it, maybe those aren’t actually on two ends of the spectrum!) Here’s the link: http://FictionFan’s Book Reviews – Reviews of books…and occasional other stuff. (wordpress.com).

The website is well-organized, with 15 categories at the top for you to choose from. Each one has a drop-down menu to assist you in your search. There’s even a “Movie of the Book” button. Other buttons have drop-down menus in which you can search by book title or author.

This reviewer is from Scotland and is one of Amazon UK’s Top 500 Reviewers.


Since my last blog post

I’ve been working on genealogy and reading books. I listen to books on CD and read print books as well as e-books.

Speaking of e-books… I’m formatting the local history columns I wrote for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper from 2006 through 2012 in preparation for putting them into two e-books. I’ve run into a bit of a roadblock on the cover I wanted, so it’s time to figure out Plan B.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I hope you’ll check out the book bloggers I blogged about today.

Don’t work all the time. Take time out for family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, and count your blessings.

Janet

The Other Four Books Read in August 2022

There are lots of good books out there. Today’s blog post is about four of the eight books I read last month. In case you missed it, last Monday I blogged about the other four in Four of Eight Books Read in August 2022.


The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin

The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin

This novel follows two women during World War II. One is involved in the French Resistance. The other one is a librarian from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC who has been sent to Lisbon, Portugal to help secure and copy newspapers from the cities under Germany’s control. The copies are sent to the US to help the Allies’ cause in the war.

The chapters alternate between Ava’s story and Elaine’s story. My only complaint is that as soon as I was invested in one’s story, the next chapter would begin and I had to switch mental gears to the other one. I don’t like that in a novel, but it seems to be the trend now in historical fiction. Otherwise, Ava and Elaine each have compelling stories and you’ll want to cheer them on.

I was immediately invested in each of the two main characters as soon as I read their opening chapters. The deeper into their stories you get, the more you are anxious (not eager, but anxious) to see what happens to them next.

This novel made me stop and think about the danger both women were in all the time. They had to guard their words at all times because they never knew when a stranger – or even an acquaintance – nearby might overhear something that could aid the enemy.

I can’t imagine living under that level of stress not just for days or weeks on end but for years on end. Not only that, but they were living the war on a daily basis and had no way of knowing when it would end. That’s a luxury we have when reading historical fiction. We know the exact day and sometimes the very hour at which a war will be declared over.


Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories, by Susan Gabriel

Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories, by Susan Gabriel

I purchased this ebook some months ago and finally got around to reading it. I’m so glad I did. It is a collection of short stories, some of which grew out of Susan Gabriel’s novels.

Hoping to publish short stories myself, I was curious to see the book’s layout. Also, I hadn’t read any of Ms. Gabriel’s novels, so I was eager to find out about her writing style and to discover her writer’s “voice.”

And what a writer’s “voice” she has! If you enjoy southern fiction, you’ll love how Ms. Gabriel writes. Her voice, especially in “The Secret Sense of Wildflower,” comes through so strongly that I can still hear it in my head days after finishing the book. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl who has witnessed too much in her life, but tells the story with a wit, bluntness, and insight that I loved.

She even used the idiom, “as all get out” in that last story in the book, which couldn’t help but make me laugh out loud. You might recall my blog post about that idiom from March 29, 2021: #Idiom: As All Get Out.

The book includes an introduction in which Ms. Gabriel writes about how she was determined to never write southern fiction. I had to smile at that. There are nine stories of varying lengths, so it is an easy book to read if you can only find a few minutes at a time for a book; however, you’ll find yourself turning the page to see what the next story is and, before you know it, you’ve read three more stories.

The short stories in this book were varied in topic. “Reunion at the River” was about seven women who had been abused by the same man several decades ago and how they gather at the secluded mountain home of one of their number every year for a reunion and attempt to heal.

As a southern short story writer wannabe, I gained valuable ideas from this book about how to create an ebook of short stories. I don’t have published novels to draw on like Ms. Gabriel had, but I love the way she pulled the stories together and ended the book with information about her other books, her desire to get feedback from her readers, and her all-important contact links.


Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, by Leidy Klotz

Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, by Leidy Klotz

Jan Edmiston, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Charlotte, recommended this book in her July 8, 2022 blog, https://achurchforstarvingartists.blog/2022/07/08/books-im-loving-this-summer/. Edmiston’s takeaway from reading the books was, “Why this book can change the culture: We in the Church (and world) have been taught that being better means adding things. Sometimes we are better when we subtract things.”

In the book, Mr. Klotz pleads with us to stop thinking of subtraction as a negative thing. Sometimes less is better. When you’re attempting to declutter your life, your home, your email in-box, the landscape, or even the atmosphere – the air we breathe, couch it in words that don’t have negative implications.

He gives examples throughout the book. One of the simple ones that stuck with me was when he and his young son were building a bridge with Legos. One of the bridges pillars was taller than the other. Human nature usually prompts us to add to the shorter pillar to make them even; however, his toddler son removed one of the blocks in the taller pillar.

Mr. Klotz encourages us to adopt that approach in all aspects of our lives. Another example he mentioned several times is the editing that writers must do. Fiction writers are told to make every word count. Make every sentence earn its keep. Edit out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs – even scenes – that don’t move the story forward. That’s a painful thing to do!

He also encourages us to focus on people. Focus on the things that will improve lives. The winner isn’t the person with the most stuff at the end of life.


L.E.A.P.F.R.O.G.: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, Third Edition, by Janet Givens, M.A.

LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

Janet Givens has come out with a third edition of her book, L.E.A.P.F.R.O.G.: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their skills of having a difficult conversation.

Be it a difficult conversation with a friend or a stranger, a relative or an employer or employee this book will help you have a more productive dialog.

The goal of this book is not to tell you how to convert the other person to your way of thinking, but rather to help you go into a conversation with an open mind and genuine curiosity about why the other person sees a particular issue or situation differently than you.

For more details about this new third edition of the book, please read my August 22, 2022 blog post, L.E.A.P.F.R.O.G. by Janet Givens


Since my last blog post

In addition to reading books and writing, I’ve worked on genealogy. I’ve also blown the dust off the local history newspaper columns I wrote from 2006 through 2012. It’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten since 2006. I hope people will enjoy reading my articles as much as I’ve enjoyed rereading some of them this week.

Since 2012 I’ve wanted to put all the articles into a book. I’m typing them in Word and formatting them ready to download the document into Atticus. Atticus is the writing software I’m using that will enable me to export the document ready for electronic publication on Amazon.

The cover is still holding up publication of the cookbook my sister and I are compiled for electronic publication.

I’ll keep you posted on both projects.


Until my next blog post

Don’t forget to read my September 5, 2022, blog post, Four of Eight Books Read in August 2022, in case you missed it.

I hope you have a good book to read.

Spend time with family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, Highland Park….

Janet