4 or 5 Books I Read in May 2019

My reading was haphazard in May, to say the least. I read snippets of several books here and there. I read three books, listened to one book, and read 35% of another one before it had to go back to the public library. I’m having some issues with my computer, but here goes.

The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

I love learning things, and it’s amazing how much I don’t know at my age. One thing I learned from this book seems so basic I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know it. In my history studies I didn’t learn that the Continental Congress created the Continental Army in 1775. In my mind, I assumed the Continental Army was formed after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch is almost a day-by-day telling of American Revolutionary history with focus on the little known facts of the things that happened in the shadows – behind the scenes. I minored in history in college, but I didn’t know about the conspiracy to kill George Washington as Commander of the Continental Army.

Most of what I knew about William Tryon was how he robbed the citizens of North Carolina blind to build “Tryon Palace” in New Bern, North Carolina while he served as the colony’s governor. I knew he left that position to take the more lucrative office of governor of the New York colony.

One thing I learned from The First Conspiracy was how Tryon was ruthless in his dealings with the rebels in New York and how he continued on that mission even after taking refuge in a British ship in New York Harbor.

An amusing part of the book was the description of the arrest and questioning of the four men who had decided to print paper currency in secret for the colonies. They hadn’t agreed on an alibi, so each one had a different explanation than the others and, of course, one denied having any knowledge of the printing press in the attic.

I’d read about 70% of the book before it had to be returned to the public library because another patron was waiting for it. I’ll check in out again later in order to read the rest of the story.

The Waxhaws, by Louise Pettus, assisted by Nancy Crockett

The Waxhaws, by Louise Pettus with Nancy Crockett

I wish I’d known in 1983 to purchase a copy of this book when it was published. Now, if you can find a copy to buy, it will likely cost you more than $150. I was delighted to find a circulating library copy in May, and I devoured the content.

This book, more than anything else I’ve read, helped me get a feel for life in The Waxhaws just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border in colonial times. I hope I’m able to communicate that sense of place and time in my historical novel, The Doubloon, which primarily takes place in that Carolina backcountry settlement in 1769-70.

Anyone interested in day-to-day life in colonial America owes Louise Pettus and Nancy Crockett a debt of gratitude for all the South Carolina history they preserved and shared with each other and their readers.

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth  

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth

I’ve become a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels, so I got on the wait list for her latest book as soon as it showed up on the “on order” list on the public library’s online catalog. I’ve read all her novels except The Secrets of Midwives.

This novel will keep you guessing “who dunnit.” Everyone seems to have issues with the mother-in-law. Her daughter-in-law tells this story. She has issues with her mother-in-law. So does her husband, his sister, his sister’s husband. It seems like most people who come in contact with the mother-in-law have a hard time dealing with her quirks and aloofness.

There is a totally different side the mother-in-law shows the people she helps through her volunteerism, though. It’s difficult for her family members to understand this part of her life because it seems out-of-character.

As the reader begins to learn the mother-in-law’s backstory, he or she will understand what made her the way she is or was. She’s found dead in her home. Who killed her? You might be surprised.

The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman in association with NPR (National Public Radio)

I listened to this book. It contains “This I Believe” essays written by people from all walks of life. Some are or were famous, others I had not heard of. Among those whose essays are in this current audio collection are Helen Keller, John McCain, Oscar Hammerstein II, William O. Douglas, Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, John Updike, Carl Sandburg, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Colin Powell, Helen Hays, and Bill Gates.

The Afterword by Dan Gediman gives the history of This I Believe. The original book contained 100 essays and was done by legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. The first of the essays was broadcast on radio on Easter Sunday in 1949.

In a nutshell, the This I Believe essays are supposed to be about “the guiding beliefs by which they live their lives.” They are short, being about five minutes long.

One of the goals of the This I Believe organization is “to facilitate a higher standard of public discourse.”

If you wish to know more about this international organization, visit

https://thisibelieve.org/.

Stony the Road:   Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I learned a lot from this book. I knew I would. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an icon when it comes to history. I only had time to read the first two chapters of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, before it disappeared from my Kindle and went back to the public library. (Don’t worry. I immediately got back on the wait list for it so I can continue reading it.)

Look for my blog post next Monday about the important lesson I learned as a writer while reading Stony the Road. It wasn’t a lack of interest that caused me to read only two chapters. It was a case of “too many books, so little time” and the fact that I dedicated most of my time to writing instead of reading in May.

Since my last blog post

Since last Monday’s blog post, we jumped right over spring and went into summer. Last week it was 95 degrees on five days and 94 on the other two. According to the calendar, summer begins in three weeks. We have gone from too much rain to no rain in about three weeks. I’d rather have heat and drought than flooding or tornadoes like they’re having in the central part of the US, so I’m not complaining.

I got some good feedback about last Monday’s blog post. Thank you, Jules Horne and all the others who took the time to comment on here and on my Facebook pages.

Until my next blog post

A couple of weeks ago I read that a blogger should use second person point-of-view instead of first person. There are too many rules. I’ll try to do better in the future.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read any of these books? If so, please share your thoughts below. What are you reading?

Janet

The Only Book I Read in April 2019

I really fell off the reading wagon in April! I finished reading just one book because I was more or less obsessed with rewriting my novel manuscript. Therefore, I don’t apologize for reading only one book. I read parts of others that I hope to finish in May… or sometime.

A River in Darkness:  One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa

This is the book I listened to in April.

Masaji Ishikawa’s mother was Japanese. His father was Korean. He didn’t fit in anywhere.

After World War II, there was an organized push to convince such mixed families to move to North Korea. On the promise of a better life – a paradise. Masaji Ishikawa moved there with his parents. It soon became obvious that North Korea was no paradise. Life there would be fraught with hard work, propaganda, and mass starvation.

When Masaji Ishikawa could take it no more, he made a snap decision to attempt to escape. If he could make it back to Japan, he could work and make enough money to somehow get his wife and children out of North Korea.

A River in Darkness is the true story of Masaji Ishikawa’s life in Japan, the shattered dreams he and his parents endured in North Korea, the many ways he tried to make a living as a young adult, and the desperation for survival that forced him to escape North Korea against all odds.

Oh how I wish leaders in Washington, DC who praise Kim Jong-un would read this book! There is so much they don’t know – or don’t care to know.

Since my last blog post

I hit a milestone in my writing since last Monday’s blog post. On Wednesday, May 1, 2019 I completed the first rough draft of my historical novel with the working title The Doubloon. The word count was 85,275. It felt so good to come to “The End.”

I’ve left the manuscript on the back burner since Wednesday night, so I can come at it with fresh eyes this week. The hard work lies ahead.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I finally found a copy of The Waxhaws, by Louise Pettus, assisted by Nancy Crockett, that I could borrow from a library. The book is out-of-print, and the only used copy I’ve found online is available for more than $150.00; hence, my relief when I found one library copy that I could borrow.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and will soon get to type, “The End.”

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

If you’re a writer, what is your favorite or least favorite part of the process?

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books with Colorful Covers

We’re told from birth that we can’t judge a book by its cover. If we’re honest, though, we are drawn to interesting book covers. Bright colors and images catch our eye, whether we pick up the book or not. Everything I read about self-publishing says not to skimp on the cover. Fair or not, the cover can make a big difference in how that book sells.

Today’s writing prompt

Today’s writing prompt for the #TwoForTuesday blog challenge issued by Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews (https://educatednegra.blog/) is Two Books with Colorful Covers.

One book with a colorful cover

The Favorite Sister, by Jessica Knoll

The Favorite Sister, by Jessica Knoll is a recent release by Simon & Schuster. In fact, I learned about this thriller in an email from the publisher.

I have not read this book, and I don’t know if I’d choose to read it just based on the cover. My parents never played favorites with my brother, sister, and me, as far as I could tell. Of course, that might be because I was the youngest. I wonder if my brother and sister would say I was the favorite sister. I don’t think I’ll ask them.

Another book with a colorful cover

The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve

The other book I’m highlighting today due to its colorful cover is The Stars are Fire, by Anita Shreve. You may recall that I wrote about it in my July 3, 2017 blog, https://janetswritingblog.com/2017/07/03/you-must-read-some-of-these-books/.

The Stars Are Fire is a novel based on a massive wildfire in Maine in 1947. In addition to being historical fiction, it’s a thriller.

Until my next blog post

Happy reading!

My blog on Monday, May 6, 2019 will be about the books I read in April. I hope you’ll visit my blog again then.

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about two books you can think of that have colorful covers. How much are you influenced by a book’s cover?

Janet

What triggered last Monday’s rant?

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Last Monday I blogged about what I like and don’t like about social media (https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/04/22/left-in-the-dust-by-social-media/.) My rant appeared to come out of the blue, but today I will explain what triggered my outburst.

Too Many Abbreviations!

What triggered last Monday’s rant was an article I read on Janice Wald’s Mostly Blogging blog, https://www.mostlyblogging.com/seo-plan/. The name of the guest blog post by Kas Szatylowicz is “SEO Plan:  How to Boost Traffic to Your Website In 2019, 7 Unique Ways.” It sounds like information I need, but it turned out to be light years beyond my grasp. That’s not a criticism of the article. I’m the one who fell off (or missed) the Social Media train.

Here are a few examples from the article that whizzed right over my head.

“Can chatbots really improve your SEO efforts?” According to the article, the answer is yes.

It went on to explain chatbots, so I did learn something. “A chatbot – or digital assistant – is an artificial intelligence powered piece of software that answers user queries in an instant. It also personalizes the user experience and nudges the prospect closer to a sale simple by providing answers.”

I laugh every time I read or hear that artificial intelligence personalizes the user experience. It seems like an oxymoron to me. Artificial personalization? I don’t think I want that on my website. You might not get an instant response to a comment you leave on my blog, but at least when you get one you’ll know I wrote it myself.

“Guest blogging. . . drives more traffic in the SERPs simply because the link juice you gain will improve your rankings.” “Huh?”

“Topic clustering is the new black.” What?

“Lastly, don’t ruin everything by engaging in black hat SEO practises.” (The writer’s spelling, not mine.) If I asked “What?” on topic clustering being the new black, then I’ll upgrade that to “WHAT?” for black hat SEO practices. I. Don’t. Have. A. Clue.

Maybe I’m better off not knowing. I have fewer things to worry about.

Since my last blog post

I’ve had a net gain of 13,700 words to my rewrite of The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my current word count to 69,100. I get to start on Chapter 17 today!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Fascinating!

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

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Two Books with Colorful Covers.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Are you frustrated with social media?

Janet

Left in the Dust by Social Media

Photo by Wynand Uys on Unsplash

I’ve blogged before about my love/hate relationship with social media. Most of the forms of social media take me out of my comfort zone. Actually, that is an understatement.

Blogging

I enjoy blogging and interacting with people who read my posts. I follow a lot of blogs and have benefited from them. I learn from them, I’m inspired by them, and I’m entertained by them. 

Facebook

Facebook comes in a distant second place. I really don’t need to see a picture of what you ate for breakfast. The most redeeming qualities of Facebook are that it gives me an easy way to stay in touch with friends in Europe and family around the United States, and it gives me a way to know the political leanings of some of my Facebook friends so I’ll know what I can or cannot say to them in order to keep them as friends.

The down side is that I’ve learned things I wish I hadn’t about some of my friends. Suffice it to say, if the topic of politics is going to come up at my next high school reunion or family gathering, I don’t want to be there.

Pinterest

I like Pinterest, but I haven’t put enough time into it to make it a productive platform for my writing. I spend more time on Pinterest than I should, but not necessarily to promote my writing. I pin many articles to my “The Writing Life” board, but I use it more for the hobbies I enjoy.

Twitter

I’m sure this sounds blasphemous to the young adults who might read this post, but I’m not much of a cell phone person. I could really do without it. I refuse to be ruled by a phone. I don’t want to be tied to a phone. I don’t want a phone to monopolize my time, energy, or attention. I want a phone available for emergencies – and I mean the old-timey understanding of what an emergency is.

Instagram

I set up an account a couple of years ago and never took the next step. Again, it’s related to my cell phone and its built-in camera. I’m sure it’s convenient for many people. I just don’t get it.

All the Social Media I’ve not heard of

I guess that’s self-explanatory.

Since my last blog post

I’ve had a net gain of 4,550 words to my The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my current word count to 55,400. I get to start on Chapter 14 today. I can’t wait!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. Nothing grabbed my attention last week. I had to return The Irishman’s Daughter, by V.S. Alexander to the public library without finishing it. I’m on the waitlist for it again so I can finish reading it on my Kindle. Part of the problem is how tired my eyes get reading regular size print. On my Kindle I can adjust the font size. This historical novel is set in Ireland during the potato famine.

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

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Two Books that Encourage Change.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/. 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 my blog on Monday, April 29, 2019 I’ll explain what triggered today’s rant.

Let’s continue the conversation

What’s your favorite of all the social media? What’s your least favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books that Make Me Smile

For today’s blog post, I’m going back 20 years to remember a delightful children’s book my sister and I enjoyed reading to one of our great-nieces when she was a little girl. That book is still being published, and I’m thrilled because it is a hilarious children’s book.

The reader and the child being read to get to make all sorts of pirate sounds. The book is How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. In addition to a very entertaining narrative, the book has wonderful illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator David Shannon.

I was in Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina last week and was thrilled to see this book on the shelf. It immediately brought a smile to my face and then the memories flooded in.

Shiver me timbers! Aargh! The illustrations will entertain a child (and an adult!) for hours. I have been unable to import a photo of the cover of How I Became a Pirate into today’s blog post. Technical difficulties. That’s too bad because seeing the cover would give you an idea of the illustrations within the book.

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

Another book that makes me smile is The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. The copyright date on it is 1961, and that’s probably about when I received it as a gift. I just realized that was 58 years ago! I was eight years old and had apparently just discovered the humor of Mark Twain. I became a lifelong fan. From my lopsided signature on the flylead, I can tell I received it as I was learning to write cursive. Second grade.

Flipping through this collection of Mark Twain writings makes me smile because I was no innocent in 1961 and got to read the book for sheer enjoyment. I read this a mere 90 years or so after Mr. Twain wrote the pieces. That seemed like a million years to an eight-year-old, but not so long to me now.

Something else about the book made me smile today as I looked through it. We had a rule in our house:  you don’t write in a book and you don’t underline in a book. Books were sacred and to be damaged under no circumstances. (The same went for Daddy’s National Geographic magazines. No matter what the school assignment was, I knew not to cut pictures out of National Geographic. I doubt I could take a scissors to a National Geographic to this day. Some things are just beyond the pale.)

So what made me smile today as I went through the book? On page 43, beside the story title, “A Touching Story of George Washington’s Boyhood,” I had printed in very light lead pencil, “Satire?” I found the same marginal note on page 49 next to “Answers to Correspondents.” There it was again, minus the question mark, (I must have been gaining confidence in identifying satire) on pager 59 next to “A Page from a California Almanac.”

I guess I lost interest in satire on page 59 because I can find no more marginal notes in the book. Thank goodness I didn’t use it to practice diagramming sentences! Do student still have to do that?

The following entry in “Answers to Correspondents” made me laugh today because it brought back memories of those dreaded “word problems” we had to do in arithmetic. I believe that’s known as math today. Here’s the entry: “’Arithmeticus.’ Virginia, Nevada. – If it would take a cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the next four, and 3 5/8 to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go fifteen hundred million miles?” Twain’s answer:  “I don’t know.”

I can identify with that answer.

This is a 716-page book, plus appendix and index. I’m sure it was the first thick book I owned. I’m glad I still have this treasure from my childhood.

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two books that make you smile.

Janet

Anna Jean Mayhew’s Tomorrow’s Bread Reading and Book Signing

Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August and Tomorrow’s Bread

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you know I love nothing better than attending an author’s book reading and signing. After not getting to one in a long time, on April 4, 2019 I had the pleasure of attending Anna Jean Mayhew’s at Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ms. Mayhew’s second novel, Tomorrow’s Bread, was published on March 26, 2019. I shared my thoughts about the book in my April 1, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/04/01/this-is-not-an-april-fools-day-joke/.

I thoroughly enjoyed her reading at Park Road Books. She read selected excerpts from the book and talked about the three narrators. She also played a song written specifically in conjunction with Tomorrow’s Bread and had copies of the words for all in attendance.

If you’d like to listen to the song and see the accompanying artwork, go to http://shari-smith.com/trio-2019/ and scroll down to Tomorrow’s Bread. The song and artwork came together with Ms. Mayhew’s book through the work of Shari Smith and an entity called Trio.

Trio pairs books with songwriters and visual artists to create a total package based on a novel. I hadn’t heard of Trio or Shari Smith before, so I was thrilled to learn about this concept at Ms. Mayhew’s book reading in Charlotte.

Many of her high school classmates and other friends from when she lived in Charlotte were there, as well as Catherine Frey, who had assisted Ms. Mayhew with her research.

Janet Morrison with Anna Jean Mayhew at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC

I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Ms. Mayhew. When I got the chance to talk to her at the end of the event, she again offered me encouragement on the writing of my historical novel. She has been an inspiration to me on my journey as a writer.

Since my last blog post

I have enjoyed rewriting several more chapters of The Doubloon (former working title, The Spanish Coin) and forgive me if I toot by own horn here. Since last Monday’s blog I’ve had a net gain of 20,525 words. The current word count is 50,850. I’m more than halfway to the completion of this rough, rough, rough draft of my novel.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Two Books that Make Me Smile.”  Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read Tomorrow’s Bread, by Anna Jean Mayhew? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook.

Have you attended any author book readings or book signings? What do you like best about such events?

Janet