6 Books Read in April 2022

In case you checked out my blog post last week expecting it to be about the books I read in March, I’m sorry you were disappointed. I hope you found last Monday’s topic of interest, though. It dealt with my favorite local history story.

Today I’m writing about some of the books I read last month. There was quite a variety, as this is all part of my journey as a writer.

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read a Ken Follett book until last month. I don’t really know why. What prompted me to read this particular novel by him was another book I was reading, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman. The Zuckerman book was recommended by author A.J. Mayhew of The Dry Grass of August and Tomorrow’s Bread fame.

The Man from St. Petersburg was filled with political intrigue during the early years of the 20th century. A Russian anarchist comes to London to assassinate a Russian prince who is in England trying to work out an alliance between Great Britain and Russia against Germany. It is assumed that war is coming, so it’s time for countries to choose sides.

Personal secrets are revealed along the way in this novel that will keep you turning pages. It was written in 1982, but I hope your public library still has a copy in case you haven’t read it.

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

This book, referenced above, has been very helpful to me. It takes The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett; The Godfather, by Mario Puzo; The Witness, by Nora Roberts; and Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and examines how they were outlined and written. The main focus is on Ken Follett’s book. It was interesting to see four different outlines of The Man from St. Petersburg to see how even a good writer like Follett went through the process of outlining, making changes, and making more changes before he produced the final product.

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

I became a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels when I read her third novel in 2017, The Mother’s Promise. Shortly thereafter, I read her second novel, The Things We Keep. Since then, I’ve read The Family Next Door, The Mother-in-Law, The Good Sister, and last month I read The Younger Wife.

The Younger Wife is Hepworth’s seventh novel. I just realized I’ve never read her first one, The Secrets of Midwives. It’s been on my to-be-read list for years.

The Younger Wife deals with several difficult issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects the entire family and not just the person who has the illness. It also deals with physical and psychological abuse. I can see how, if a person is living with those traumas or has lived with them, this might not be a book for them to read.

A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia

I was delighted to find an online copy of this book online because it supplied me with little tidbits of information that I found interesting as I continue to research life along the Great Wagon Road in Virginia for the historical novel I’m writing.

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

If there ever was a bargain “how-to” book for fiction writers, this book is it. I paid $2.99 plus tax for it for Kindle. In it, Ms. Nash spells out how to “outline” a novel. I never have followed the old outline model we had to use in elementary school (and probably high school, too) because it was too confining. I could never write an outline that way for a book.

I usually write my outlines in paragraph form if I’m writing a novel or short story. I’ve taken a number of writing classes and I’ve read more how-to-write-a-novel books than I care to admit. For some reason, some things fell into place as I read Ms. Nash’s book.

The idea that if something happens there has to be a reaction finally fell into place for me. I already knew it, but Ms. Nash’s book drilled it into me that as I’m planning/outlining a novel I have to make a conscious effort to make sure everything happens for a reason and everything that happens has consequences.

I know, you’re probably saying, “Well, duh!” Perhaps it was Ms. Nash’s explanation, but I finally got it! In the past, I concentrated on the actions in my outlines and didn’t always give equal consideration to planning every reaction.

One of the points Ms. Nash makes in the book is that if you’ll use her way of outlining – which she calls “the inside-outline,” your novel won’t fall apart in the middle. If you follow her advice, there will be tension throughout your novel and your reader won’t lose interest.

Power Penmanship: An Illustrated Guide to Enhancing Your Image Through the Art of Handwriting Style, by Janet Ernst

I mentioned this book in passing in an earlier blog post. I checked it out of the public library out of curiosity. I soon found myself doing the writing exercises and enjoying it. My handwriting isn’t terrible, although taking shorthand in high school nearly ruined it. I thought I could probably improve on my penmanship, so it was worth reading the book. It has made me aware of several letters I’ve become sloppy with, so I’m trying to do better.

Since my last blog post

In last Monday’s blog post, I promised to write a little more today about my trip to a bookstore in Concord, North Carolina. Since the big-box bookstore at the shopping mall closed years ago, Concord had been in need of a bookstore. A husband-and-wife team opened Goldberry Books at 12 Union Street, South in downtown Concord in November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the store until recently.

It is a beautiful, store that offers both new and top-quality used books. My sister and I browsed for probably an hour. It was very quiet when we arrived, but by mid-afternoon customers were flooding in. The best I could tell, although I couldn’t see all of the children’s section in the back, there were at least 25 people there when we left. The best part was the excitement exhibited by the numerous children. It made my heart sing.

If you’re traveling on Interstate-85 through North Carolina, take a break and drive into Concord. It has a quaint downtown with various restaurants and shops and many Victorian homes on both ends of Union Street have been lovingly restored.

Disclaimer: I wrote this about Goldberry Books and the city of Concord on my own free will just because I thought they both needed an endorsement. Here’s the link to Goldberry Books: https://www.goldberrybooks.com/.

I love public libraries, but I also love independent bookstores! Goldberry Books is an excellent one.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. As usual, I’m reading several at the same time.

Make time for a hobby, friends, and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: San Francisco Earthquake, 1906

Before daylight on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, the northern coast of California, including the city of San Francisco, was rocked by an earthquake of historic proportions. In retrospect, it was estimated to have been on the magnitude of 7.9.

The earthquake and its resulting fires destroyed 500 city blocks – approximately 28,000 buildings. The fires burned for three days and intensified the citizens’ fears and anxiety.

Photo credit: Christopher Burns on unsplash.com

Some 200,000 people – half of the city’s population at the time – were left homeless. Although usually referred to as “the Great San Francisco Earthquake,” it also resulted in widespread damage in northern California, including San Jose and Oakland.

Cooking food inside standing houses was outlawed immediately after the earthquake in the government’s efforts to minimize additional fires. “Bread lines” were established to distribute food to the homeless and whatever food preparation that was possible was done in the streets.

According to the United States Geological Survey website, (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1906calif/18april/) 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault ruptured. The quake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. Much was learned from this earthquake, but it would be a half-century later before plate tectonics as a field of study would shed more light on exactly what processes were at play to produce the event.

The USGS website contains a drop-down menu through which you can access many more details about this earthquake, including comparisons with the October 17, 1989 quake that struck the San Francisco area just 26 minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was set to begin at Candlestick Park. It was measured at 6.9 on the Richter Scale.

Earth tremors and earthquakes of low magnitude are a daily occurrence in San Francisco. That is something I can’t imagine, since I’ve only felt two earthquakes in my life.

While doing the research for today’s blog post, I remembered reading The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner in April 2021. It’s a novel based on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. You might like to read what I had to say about that book in my May 3, 2021 blog post, 5 Historical Novels I Read in April 2021.

Since my last blog post

Jennie Nash’s book, Blueprint for a Book: Build You Novel from the Inside Out, is helping me outline The Heirloom. Ms. Nash’s “inside outline” helps me remember there must be a reaction to every event and internal reactions are what pull readers into a story.

I continue not to be at my best physically, but I’m constantly thinking about the plotline for The Heirloom and how I can make it better.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Three Mile Island, 1979

I’ve had two relatively close encounters with Three Mile Island. Both were unexpected.

While on vacation in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the early 1980s, my sister and I sought out a unique restaurant, Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant, for dinner one night in Middletown. It was only upon arriving that we realized that Middletown was actually the location of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. We joked about glowing in the dark later that evening, but I know it’s really not a laughing matter.

On a later trip to work on our family’s genealogy, my sister and I flew into the airport in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On our approach, the plane banked so close to the cooling towers of the power plant, I swear I could have reached out and touched them if the windows had been open!

In retrospect, it’s astounding that a commercial jet was allowed to fly so close to a nuclear power plant, but that was well before 9/11. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to do that.


What happened at Three Mile Island?

Can it be 43 years since this happened? I’m feeling older by the day!

A pressure valve in the Unit-2 nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Middletown, Pennsylvania failed to close at 4:00 a.m., March 28, 1979. The result was the worst nuclear power generating facility disaster up until that time.

This cooling malfunction caused part of the core of Unit-2 to melt. The reactor was destroyed, but there were no injuries. A small amount of radioactive gas was released two days after the accident, but it wasn’t enough to cause any adverse health problems.

Personnel operating the facility were unable to tell where the malfunction was in the beginning, which contributed to the emergency. As a result of what happened at Three Mile Island, a raft of changes were made in operating procedures, training, emergency response planning, and other aspects of nuclear power production required by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to the NRC, “A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to the TMI-2’s partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.”

If you’re too young to remember this accident or desire to know more about it, here’s the link to an NRC report: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0402/ML040280573.pdf?msclkid=551c40f7a7cd11ec8bde7e38f7758305.


What’s the status of Three Mile Island?

The other nuclear reactor, Unit 1, was shut down on September 20, 2019. The dismantling of the facility and clean-up is estimated to take 60 years and cost more than $1 billion.


The good news?

Many problems were identified due to the accident at Three Mile Island. The resulting regulatory changes have made nuclear power production in the United States and other countries much safer.


Since my last blog post

I continued to work on that old cemetery project I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent blog posts. It’s troubling how much damage the elements have done to some of the grave stones since I took photographs of them in 2006. I continue to try to decipher some of the inscriptions.

I’ve started working my way through Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash as I continue to work out the plot for The Heirloom.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading parts of several.

Watch and listen to the news and read news articles from reputable sources. Stay informed about current events.

Thank you for spending some time reading my blog.

Janet