What I Read in April

The Heavens May Fall

I had missed knowing that Allen Eskens’ third book, The Heavens May Fall, was released in October. When I found out about it, I immediately got on the wait list for it at the public library. Mr. Eskens writes legal thrillers. This one did not disappoint, as it kept me guessing who the killer was.

Last week I learned that Mr. Eskens’ fourth book, The Deep Dark Descending, will be released on October 3, 2017. It continues the story of homicide detective Max Rupert. I look forward to it!

Where I Lost Her

T. Greenwood was a new author for me. I read her 2016 novel, Where I Lost Her. It is about a woman, Tess, and her husband from New York who go to rural Vermont to visit friends. One night, while driving alone, Tess sees a little girl standing in the road. She stops to help, but the girl runs away into the woods.

When a search turned up nothing and there are no reports of a missing child, local officials begin to doubt Tess. Added to the lack of evidence is the fact that Tess and her husband have gone through unsuccessful fertility treatments and Tess is desperate to have a child. Locals label her a trouble maker from outside.

Tess knows what she saw, though, and she continues to search for the little girl even though that search puts her in incredible physical danger. I’ll probably read other books written by Ms. Greenwood.

The Mother’s Promise

Sally Hepworth was another new author for me in April. I read her 2017-released novel, The Mother’s Promise. The book follows a single mother, Alice, and her teenage daughter, Zoe, who has no social graces or self-confidence. Alice has promised to always be there for Zoe, but a diagnosis of ovarian cancer tears their world apart.

As Alice’s illness progresses, Zoe gradually gains confidence and begins to take a more active part in her classes. A cast of minor characters move this story through some surprising twists and turns. I found myself really caring about Alice and Zoe.

In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

In spite of my memory problems, a book that will stay with me for a long time is In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park. Written in 2015, this nonfiction book is a memoir of a young woman who was born in and grew up in North Korea. Reading the harrowing story of Ms. Park’s childhood of hunger, governmental brainwashing, escape to China, and eventual escape to South Korea will have you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

This is a story of personal strength, the love of a family, and the will to live. Ms. Park’s story is one that is so far removed from my own experience, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t fiction. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially during this time of high tension between the United States and North Korea.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Z is for Zilch!

Zilch is what I’ve accomplished toward starting over to write my first historical novel. I have successfully completed the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge by writing a post today that has something to do with the letter “Z.” I enjoyed parts of the challenge, but I’m glad English only has 26 letters! It was interesting and I picked up some new followers, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Beginning on Tuesday, May 2, I plan to return to my former routine of blogging on Tuesdays and Fridays.

2017 A to Z Challenge Badge
Blogging from A to Z Challenge Badge 2017

With this blog challenge finished

I look forward to having more time to delve back into the various resources available to me as I keep researching the facts surrounding the core event in The Spanish Coin manuscript. Several more books are coming from two public library systems, so you know what I’ll be doing next week.

What happened to The Spanish Coin?

I revealed in my “H is for Historical Fiction” blog post on April 10, 2017 (H is for Historical Fiction) that I had discovered some pertinent information about the core of my story that necessitated my starting over. Several years (actually a decade) and 96,000 words later, I’m back to having a blank page.

My options

Since April 10 I have done a lot of thinking and reading. I’ll need to do a little more work on the research end of things and then determine how to rewrite The Spanish Coin. It might not survive with that working title. Or I might be able to salvage that title and change the circumstances of its importance. Or I might just take the spark of the true story as my inspiration and write a totally new story.

When I figure out which option to settle on, I’ll let you know.

With the A to Z Blog Challenge Finished

I look forward to having time to read more books. My current “Books I Want to Read” list is so long I fear I won’t live long enough to read all of them. With new books being released every month, the list just keeps growing.

Until my next blog (which should be on May 2)

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m enjoying Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore, and The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, by James Alexander Thom. I have to take note and reread parts of Mr. Thom’s book occasionally. The bibliography in Mr. Moore’s book has already led me to more books I need to read before I figure out the verdict for The Spanish Coin.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I hope you’ve gotten past the blank page stage on your first novel.

Janet

Y is for Yarn, as in Spinning One

Today’s blog is a bit of a stretch but probably not as strange as tomorrow’s. I say that because I don’t have a clue yet what to write about that has something to do with “Z” and the craft of writing. Today we have the letter “Y.” The only good thing about that is knowing that there’s only one more letter after it in the English alphabet.

I wondered about the origins of the saying, “spinning a yarn.” It is a saying in the United States that means telling a tale, usually a tall tale. There I go again, using a term that readers in other countries might not be familiar with or have in their languages. A tall tale is a story that obviously stretches the truth, so “spinning a yarn” essentially means the same thing.

There are differences of opinion about the origin of “spinning a yarn.” Some sources say it dates back to the days when women would sit together and spin wool into yarn or flax into linen thread on a spinning wheel. To help pass the time, they would tell stories.

The online dictionary on http://www.dictionary.com states that “spinning a yarn” was originally a nautical term dating back to the turn of the 19th century; however, Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey wrote in “Salty Dog Talk,” (published by Sheridan House in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1995) and quoted online at http://www.phrases.org.uk, that yarn and ropes were spun on land before they was spun at sea. They concluded that “this is probably one of the few shore expressions adopted by seaman.”

Messrs. Beavis and McCloskey offer as further explanation that a spinner must continually stretch the fiber he or she is spinning to maintain a consistent thread. They wrote,

“Thus when the old-timers wanted to suggest that someone was stretching the truth they likened it to ‘spinning a yarn.’”

Those last two sentences make the most sense to me, but I guess I’ll never know for sure when or where “spinning a yarn” came into use.

Until my next blog post (which might be very short)

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

X is for Xenophobia

I’ve had five or six weeks to come up with a word beginning with the letter “X” that has something to do with writing. This is Day 24 in the 26-Day 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge. Hence, the letter “X.”

Xenophobia

Not finding an X-word that has anything to do with the craft of writing, I decided to write about xenophobia. It has been a topic of conversation in the United States during and since the 2016 presidential election season.

Xenophobia is not a pleasant topic to write about and, in choosing it as today’s topic, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say.

The Tenth Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines xenophobia as follows:

“fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

The word’s origins

The word first came into usage in 1903, according to Merriam-Webster’s. I couldn’t help but wonder about the word’s etymology. It comes from xen or xeno. It has its origins in the Greek, xenos, which means stranger. A second meaning the dictionary gives for xen or xeno is “strange” or “foreign” with the example being “xenolith.”

That led me to look up the word “xenolith.” Xenolith came into usage in 1894 and is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as

“a fragment of rock included in another rock.”

I probably should have remembered that from the year of geology classes I took as a college freshman 46 years ago, but geology is like a foreign language. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

As far as I could find, xenolith was the first word used in the United States that had “xen” or “xeno” as its root. A decade later, xenophobia was first in common usage.

Getting back to the 2016 US Election

Xenophobia reared its ugly head during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. The nominee of the Republican Party was outspoken about foreigners. His rhetoric brought out the worst in a lot of people. When someone in that position freely spews hatred and fear of another group of people, it emboldens other citizens to express their fears, distrust, and hatred of groups of people different from themselves either in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin.

Is the USA still a melting pot?

I naively thought Americans were a tolerant people, so I was blindsided by the xenophobia that last year’s election exposed. We are taught in school at an early age that the United States of America is a “melting pot.” People have come here from all over the world and have been accepted and assimilated into American society.

Give me your tired, your poor”

The words on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York famously say,

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I type those words from memory. I learned them in elementary school. We even learned a song composed by Irving Berlin that included those last words of a sonnet, New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus.

Many times when there is an influx of people from another country, they are looked down upon and are slow to be accepted. I have never understood this. People generally come to America seeking a better life. I’m sure that’s why my ancestors came here from Scotland in the mid-1700s.

Few people come here wanting to do us harm, but the rhetoric of the Presidential campaign last year made many people think that everyone coming from certain Middle Eastern countries were terrorists. I’m afraid we will reap the results of that rhetoric and the fear it incited for many years to come.

Call me naïve, but, as a Christian, I just don’t understand other Christians who are xenophobic.

Until my next blog post

I need to find “Y” and “Z” words to write about for my blog on Saturday and Sunday, and I don’t apologize for “stepping on the toes” of any of my readers in today’s post.

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

W is for Wufoo.com

I’m feeling my age today, after going up into the attic on Tuesday. Not a good idea for someone of my age with CFS/ME and fibromyalgia. That said, Wednesday wasn’t a good day for me to try to figure out something new on the computer. There’s really not a good day for me to do that. I should only attempt such tasks when I’m at the top of my game. With no such days on the horizon and needing to blog about something starting with the letter “W,” I forged ahead.

What starts with W?

On the 23rd day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “W.” I’ve struggled over what to write about today. There are so many possibilities, including Why I Write, Writing, Webinars I’ve Attended, Wufoo.com, or the Where Writers Win website.

W is for Wufoo.com

Wednesday was the day I could finally sit down at the computer and try to figure out how Wufoo.com could integrate with MailChimp on WordPress.com so I could have a mailing list. In the event I ever want to announce something to my readers before or without making a public announcement, I need an e-mail mailing list.

Other bloggers have such lists, so how difficult can it be, right?

I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon working my way through the simple instructions on Wufoo.com trying to set up a way for me to add a sign-up form on my blog for a mailing list. As often happens, the list of “do this and you will see that” suckered me into thinking I could do. I improvised when I “did this and I didn’t see that.” I set up an account. I created a form. I filled in blanks. I wrote little notes to my readers telling them I would never share their information with anyone. I marked the parts of the form that are not optional. I went to WordPress.com and cut and pasted the Wufoo code so it would show up as the third widget down in my blog’s sidebar. I thought I had everything accomplished, but on Wednesday night as I schedule this blog post for 6:50 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, April 27, no such sign-up form has appeared on my blog.

It’s my fault

I in no way blame Wufoo.com for this. It is obviously an error on my part. It has been another frustrating day in the life of someone who is technologically-challenged and just wants to be a writer.

“I’d rather do it myself!”

One day I will have to give up on setting this mailing list up myself, but I will not give up on the mailing list. I’m trying not to bother my niece’s husband with this request. He set up my website, and I’m sure he can do this for me, too. I am reminded that as a very small child, one of my favorite things to say was, “I’d rather do it myself!” Apparently, that’s still true.

A to Z Blog Challenge

I’m delighted to note that there are only three days remaining in the A to Z Blog Challenge. Topics for “Y” and “Z” are still up for grabs, in case anyone has any suggestions for me. I’m looking for words starting with “Y” and “Z” that have something to do with writing for my blog on April 29 and 30, 2017.

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.

Janet

V is for Vocabulary and Voice

On this 22nd day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “V.” Two options came to mind as I considered “V” words that have something to do with writing. Not able to decide which one to go with, I am writing about both:  Vocabulary and Voice.

V is for Vocabulary

As I do on a fairly regular basis, I’m going to show my ignorance. One of the things I like about reading books on my Kindle Fire is that I can simply rest my finger on a word I’m not familiar with and its definition pops up on the screen. I even find myself doing that while reading a traditional book! I laugh at myself and reach for a dictionary.

When contemplating today’s post early in April, my first thought was to blog about “V is for Vocabulary.” I started jotting down new words that I was learning.

Bildungsroman

Since Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville, North Carolina agreed to sell my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 2014, I’ve been on the independent bookstore’s mailing list. I receive e-mail invitations to author events hosted by the shop. On April 6, the e-mail announced that Jackson County author David Joy would discuss his new novel, The Weight of This World, on April 22 at 3:00 p.m.

I’ve read about David Joy and his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it. It picks up on the widespread drug problem that plagues the mountains in western North Carolina just as it does the rest of the United States. (Bear with me. I promise to get to Bildungsroman soon.)

Here it is two years later, and Mr. Joy’s second novel has been published. I was not able to go to Waynesville on April 22 to hear Mr. Joy speak but I plan to read one of his books the first chance I get.

Getting back to “V is for Vocabulary,” it was when I visited the website for the Cabarrus County Public Library system that I discovered that the genre in which Where All the Light Tends to Go is categorized as Bildungsroman. I didn’t have a clue what that meant.

Since I was at my computer, I took advantage of Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. I learned that Bildungsroman is the combination of two German words: Bildung, meaning “education,” and Roman, meaning “novel.”

Hence, according to www.merriam-webster.com, a Bildungsroman “is a novel that deals with the formative years of the main character – in particular, his or her psychological development and moral education. The bildungsroman usually ends on a positive note with the hero’s foolish mistakes and painful disappointments over and a life of usefulness ahead.”

Anaphora

Ironically, later that same day, I read a post on JstinsonINK.com about the word anaphora. Quoting from Jonathan’s post, “Anaphora – This is a form of repetition where you repeat the beginning of a phrase multiple times in succession. Think the quote from The Help:  ‘You is smart. You is kind. You is important.’”

I talk to my dog, sometimes to the point that he gets up and walks away. He is a rescue dog, so he has self-confidence issues. I often say to him, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Until three weeks ago, I had no idea that what I was doing was an anaphora.

I don’t regret majoring in political science in college but, if I’d known I would someday be a writer, I would have taken more English classes. It seems a shame to be my age and just now learn the meanings of Bildungsroman and Anaphora.

V is for Voice

A writer’s voice is his personality. It’s the way she expresses herself. Every writer has a unique voice.

Liebster Award

Since being nominated by Philip Craddock (philipcraddockwriter.wordpress.com) for the Liebster Award last April, I have found my voice on my blog. A criteria after being nominated for the Liebster Award is that you have to open up about yourself. It was then, in my April 6, 2016 blog post, that I “admitted” I have an illness that has my circadian clock off by about six hours, but I didn’t reveal the name of the illness. (I’ve always been a “night person,” but now I’m a “middle of the night person.”)

In my blog post on April 11, 2016, I listed 10 random facts about myself – which was required as a nominee for the Liebster Award. I explained that I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as it’s known in the United States. In the rest of the world it is called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), so some of my readers in other countries might be familiar with it at ME.

My reticence

I was reticent to reveal this about myself because I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted people to read my blog because they liked what I had to say. I thought being open about my illness would hurt my chances of being represented by a literary agent and getting my work published.

Found:  My Voice!

What I discovered, though, was that sharing those very personal details about myself gave me the freedom to write more from my heart. I had found my voice!

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.

Janet

U is for Unquote

The purpose of my blog is to share my journey as a writer. I share my successes, my discoveries, and my mistakes. I want you to know that I am human. (Those of you who know me personally, stop laughing!) Today I share a discovery about a mistake I have made numerous times.

This is the 21st day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, which bring us to the letter “U.”

I have always thought it was correct, when speaking, to frame a quote with “quote” and “end quote.” I stand corrected. I saw the word “unquote” in print a few days ago and wondered what it meant. I surprised to find out!

It seems that, although “end quote” sounds right and is still used by many of us, “unquote” has been in use for a century and “end quote” is not considered standard English in the United States. Learning the art and craft of writing has brought me many surprises. It’s amazing how many words I thought I used properly that I have discovered not to be the case when I stopped to look them up.

The next time I’m asked to speak about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, or at sometime in the future when I might be asked to speak about my hoped-to-be first novel, I will be well-served to remember to say “unquote” and not “end quote,” when reading a selection from my book.

My computer is making a racket (not a good sign!) so I’ll cut this post short. I hope I’ll be able to blog through the rest of the alphabet this week and successfully complete this A to Z Blog Challenge. It would be a shame if I got this far and had to quit!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet