Books I Enjoyed in December 2018

The Dream Daughter, by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain broke away from her usual form of writing novels and did a great job with time travel in The Dream Daughterr. The book begins in 1970 with a pregnant woman, Caroline Sears, finding out that her unborn baby has a heart defect.

The Dream Daughter, by Diane Chamberlain

It turns out that Caroline’s brother-in-law has come to 1970 from the future. He knows that if Caroline can find her way to the future, her unborn daughter can have fetal surgery – the unthinkable in 1970.

I won’t give away any details of Caroline’s journey. I’ll just say things don’t go smoothly. This trip across decades will keep you turning pages.

There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron

The title of this book caught by attention and immediately took me back 60 years to nursery rhymes about the old woman who lived in a shoe and the old woman who swallowed a fly. I’d never read anything by Hallie Ephron, so I decided to give There Was an Old Woman a try.

The story involves multiple generations, with an emphasis on several independent-living octogenarians. Things in the neighborhood keep disappearing. What’s happening? Who is doing this? Is it the strange man across the street?

There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron

Thrown into the mix is a subplot about the B-25 Mitchell bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building on July 28, 1945. Ms. Ephron sheds a light on that much-forgotten event by making one of the main characters in the book be a survivor of that plane crash. I must admit, I did not know about that tragedy in which 14 people were killed.

There Was an Old Woman is categorized as a thriller, but it did not come across to me as such. It’s more like a neighborhood mystery in which the daughter of one of the 80+-year-olds is forced to come home and deal with her mother’s illness and neglected house. The book has received an interesting mix of 1-star and 5-star reviews, with most reviews falling into the 3- or 4-star categories.

Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back, by Jackie Speier

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir by United States Representative Jackie Speier of California’s 14th congressional district. I was not aware that Ms. Speier survived the Jonestown Massacre, so that fact alone drew me to this memoir.

Undaunted, by Jackie Speier

What a life Ms. Speier has had! When she was 28 years old, she worked for California Congressman Leo Ryan. She and others accompanied Ryan to Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana on November 14, 1978 to rescue individuals being held there against their will.

Those who are old enough to remember that fateful event know that things rapidly soured upon the delegation’s arrival. Congressman Ryan was murdered and Jackie Speier was shot five times and nearly died.

For someone like me who is a history and political “junkie,” this memoir was compelling and inspiring. Ms. Speier writes about her widowhood, motherhood, her lifelong work in politics, and her 40-year determination to overcome the scars she has from her Jonestown experience.

Since my last blog post

I continue to receive encouraging comments in response to my December 17, 2018 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/12/17/to-write-or-not-to-write/. I appreciate each and every one of them and each and every one of my blog readers. I have a more positive attitude about my novel in progress since being bolstered up by so many of you over the last three weeks.

The holidays turned out not to be conducive to my getting back to putting words on paper (or the computer screen, as the case may be.) I’ve mulled the story over and over in my mind, though, and I intend to get back to writing that book this week. I need my blog readers to hold me accountable!

I’ve read many helpful blog posts and articles this week about the various facets of writing. One in particular hit a chord with me, but I’ve misplaced the link to it. The piece recommends that an aspiring novelist publish one or more short story collections in order to build readership. I’m kicking around that idea. It makes sense. The theory is that more people will want to buy my novel if they have read and liked my short stories. I needed one more project!

Call me a klutz if you want to, because I think I qualify. In the last four or five days I’ve broken a toe on both feet, but not at the same time. Don’t laugh; broken toes are painful.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Reckoning, by John Grisham.

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

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Have you read any books recently that you’d recommend to me and my blog readers?

Have any of you writers had experience – good or bad – in publishing short stories to build readership prior to publishing your first novel?

Janet

To write or not to write

With just two weeks remaining in 2018, I’m taking stock of my life. I’m at a crossroads of sorts. I feel like I’ve floundered much of this year. I’ve lost sight of my purpose. I haven’t worked on my historical novel manuscript since June.

I’ve been a bit of a caregiver for my sister for the last six weeks since she had surgery. As she daily regains energy and feels more like herself, it becomes acutely clear to me the difference between a typical illness or surgery and a chronic illness.

I heard someone 20 years my senior recently lament her lack of energy after having surgery. Such comments as, “I just want my energy back” stuck in me like a dagger. A chronic illness robbed me of my energy in 1987. It never came back. Chances are it never will.

I’m taking stock this month. Do I have what it takes to write a novel? The desire is there, but it takes hundreds of hours of mental work to write a novel. I have worked on it off and on for more than a decade.

The pressure I’m putting on myself about writing that novel is just that – pressure that I’m putting on myself. I want something to show for my life. I want to see that book on the shelf, my name on the spine. But that’s not enough. That’s not the reason one should try to write a novel.

 In order to write a novel, a person has to have a fire in his or her soul, a passion for the story, the realization that they can’t not write the book. Pardon the double negative, but I’ve heard it expressed in those terms so many times. “I have to write because I can’t not write.”

There is a story in me that’s been trying to see the light of day for more than 10 years. Only time will tell if I have what it takes to put the words on paper and push it out the door.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.I just finished reading The Dream Daughter, by Diane Chamberlain. Unlike any of Ms. Chamberlain’s earlier novels, this one has to do with time travel. That came as a surprise to me. I like the idea of time travel, and Ms. Chamberlain did a great job with this story.

I was eager to start reading Jodi Picoult’s latest novel, A Spark of Light. The premise held promise and I thought if any writer could write a soul-searching novel about abortion, it would be Ms. Picoult. I was disappointed in the book. I think I would have liked it if it had been written in chronological order; however, it covers 11 hours, begins with hour number 10, and works its way backwards to hour number one, which is followed by hour number 11. The way the material was presented did not appeal to me. I was tempted to read the chapters in reverse order, but I wasn’t in the mood to do that after having started with the first chapter.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and the physical energy to reach your goals.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

I’ll try to write a more upbeat blog next week. When I started blogging more than seven years ago, the purpose of my blog was to share my journey as a writer. The journey has stalled recently, but maybe I’ll get my second wind in 2019.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Have you read A Spark of Light, by Jodi Picoult? What did you think of it? Did you find its being written “backwards” appealing or confusing? I have enjoyed every other Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, so I was surprised when I had no desire to read beyond the second chapter of this one. The book has gotten mixed reviews online.

If you’re a writer, what pulls you out of the pit of self-doubt when discouragement tries to overwhelm you?

Janet