How to Visit Scotland, Aspen, Atlanta, Kentucky, Virginia, Syria, Turkey, and England in a Month by Never Leaving Home!

The books I read in October took me on a virtual world tour!

I’m a newsaholic, and October was packed with “breaking news” here in the United States every day. It was a juggling act for me to keep up with the news, write my blog posts, and read as many books as I could. I hope my remarks about the books I read last month will pique your interest in one or more of the books or authors.

I had such a pleasant time reading books in October that I had to break my blog post into two posts. In case you missed it, here’s a link to last Monday’s post: https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/11/04/a-new-favorite-novel/.


One Mile Under, by Andrew Gross

One Mile Under, by Andrew Gross

This 2015 environmental thriller by Andrew Gross started with a mysterious death in Aspen, Colorado and morphed into the story of a rural/farm area where a fracking operation had moved in, promised the residents more money than they could make farming under the current drought conditions. Andrew Gross’ serial protagonist Ty Hauck is drawn into the murder mystery by his niece, Danielle.

I’ve given away enough of the story to maybe interest you in reading the book. Is there a connection between a rafter’s death on the river and the growing conflict between the residents and the fracking company? Water – clean water – becomes a valuable commodity pitting residents against the fracking company, citizens against citizens, and citizens against the local government.

Other books I’ve read by Andrew Gross include The One Man, see https://janetswritingblog.com/2016/12/06/what-i-read-in-november/; The Sabateur, see https://janetswritingblog.com/2017/10/09/more-great-september-reads/; and The Fifth Column, see https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/10/07/thrillers-and-a-dark-novel-i-read-last-month/.


Layover, by David Bell

Layover, by David Bell

Layover, by David Bell, is based on the premise that a businessman who travels by air a lot in his work strikes up a conversation with a woman who is also traveling through the Atlanta airport. In a couple of hours they become romantically involved – or, at least the man does.

That’s when things start deteriorating. He changes his flight and follows the woman to her destination. Of course, this has trouble written all over it. He can tell the woman is running away from something, but she won’t tell him what it is. Then, she disappears.

If I tell you the rest of the story, it will spoil the book for you. Suffice it to say a dead body is involved, and everyone isn’t who you think they are.


The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware                

The Turn of the Key is the third thriller I’ve read by Ruth Ware. The others were The Woman in Cabin 10, see https://janetswritingblog.com/2016/10/04/what-i-read-in-september/ , and The Death of Mrs. Westaway, https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/10/01/fiction-nonfiction-read-in-september-2018/ see.) She has written five novels.

The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware

In The Turn of the Key, a young woman in England quits her nursery school job in order to accept a position as a nanny to three children in a remote, isolated area in the Scottish Highlands. The description had me at “isolated area in the Scottish Highlands.” That’s all I needed to know.

Little does Rowan Caine know when she accepts the nanny job, she is entering a nightmare.

The book is written in the form of a letter that Rowan writes from prison to the lawyer she desperately wants to defend her in court. A child is dead, and Rowan is charged with murder.

This novel is unputdownable. It’s a tragic story on many levels and speaks to the dysfunction so prevalent in our society. There is nothing uplifting about this novel, so just know that ahead of time if you think you might want to read it. I’m not necessarily drawn to such novels, but I don’t avoid them either. I had to keep reading this one in order to find out which little girl was murdered and who murdered her. There was an additional twist to Rowan’s background that isn’t revealed until near the end. Maybe I’d slow, but I didn’t see it coming!


Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short, by Tonya Rice

I “met” Tonya Rice online recently. We follow each other on Twitter and we follow one another’s blogs. Her blog about books, reading, and writing is “Front Porch, Sweet Tea, and a Pile of Books.” You might want to check in out. Here’s the link: https://tonyarice.wordpress.com/.

You might want to look for her short, Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short on Amazon.com. It retails for $2.99 but, the last time I looked, it was available for free on Kindle. She also has a paperback book that includes this Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short and other stories.

Ms. Rice’s other novels in the Boutique Series are Without Your Goodbye: A Novelette and Grand Opening: A Boutique Series #1 – A Novella, which I look forward to reading.

Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short, by Tonya Rice

Ms. Rice’s Boutique Series stories and novels are set in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Burying the Bitter introduces us to Eveline, who grew up in Richmond and now lives in Atlanta. She is called home for Uncle Neville’s funeral. She and her female cousins are not enamored with this highly-thought of uncle because he molested them when they were young. Eden’s Jolie Boutique comes into play as that is where last minute clothing for the funeral must be purchased. An old love interest from high school days, Dodge Mallory, just happens to attend the funeral, and he and Eveline become reacquainted. I’m sure Dodge will show up again in Ms. Rice’s books and stories that follow this one.

After the funeral, Eveline confronts her mother about the sexual abuse she and her cousins suffered at the hands of Uncle Neville 20 years ago. How will her mother react?


The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri

I was intrigued by the title of this book when I first heard about it. It was an interesting book, and it held my attention. The Beekeeper of Aleppo follows and man and his wife who have to flee Aleppo, Syria after the man’s livelihood of beekeeping and selling honey is destroyed and his wife is blinded by the bomb blast or the trauma of the bomb blast that kills their son. She is an artist, so losing her eyesight signaled the end of her career.

The novel follows the couple as they struggle to get to Great Britain where they plan to seek asylum. They go through many life-threatening events and stay in countless refugee camps as they cross Turkey and Greece in their effort to get to England.

The author has first-hand experience in the region working with refugees, so she is able to write with authority about the experiences such people endure. The people in this book were just average everyday people whose lives were torn apart by war. What surprised me in the book was the fact that some of the refugees had cell phones and were able to email relatives occasionally.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to Heads You Win, by Jeffrey Archer after having several days that I didn’t get to read anything.

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

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 the books I talked about today? I’d love to know what you liked or didn’t like about them. What are you reading this week?

Janet

#FixYourNovel #3: Reading, Listening, or Watching a Novel?

Personal experience tells me it is a rare novel that will hold my attention well enough to be listened to instead of being read in printed form. I came to that conclusion as I wrote my September 2, 2019 blog post. In case you missed it, I wrote about two books I read in August and the audio book I stopped listening to at the halfway point. Here’s a link to that post:  https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/09/02/3-5-of-the-5-5-books-i-read-in-august-2019/.

Since then, I’ve had several good experiences with audible books. I enjoyed listening to Before I Let You Go, by Kelly Rimmer and The Fifth Column, by Andrew Gross in September (https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/10/07/thrillers-and-a-dark-novel-i-read-last-month/) and The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali this month.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, second to the quality of the writing itself, the verbal delivery of the audio book professional reader is of utmost importance. If I start to listen to a book but find the voice of the reader to be irritating or the volume of the reader’s voice is all over the place, I can’t continue to listen. I’m hearing-impaired, so I appreciate a steady volume on TV, the radio, music, and audio books.

We all learn in different ways, and I think my own non-scientific experiment in reading vs. listening demonstrates that fact. Taking that train of thought another step tells me that the same is surely true for children and how they learn. For children who have trouble reading, what if their textbooks could be available in audio? It seems to me this is worth a try.

Today’s blog post is the third in a series of posts I’ve written or plan to write about specific steps a novelist should take in the process of taking a manuscript on the journey from rough draft to publication.

Here are the links to the earlier blog posts in my #FixYourNovel series:

https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/07/15/fixyournovel-2-scene-outline/

https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/27/fixyournovel-1-read-it-aloud/

What’s the “listenability” of this novel?

In case you’re wondering, yes, “listenability” is a real word. I thought I’d coined a new word, but then I found it in the dictionary. What I mean by “listenability” is this:  Does this book give the same depth of reading experience in audio form as it does in printed format?

With what I recently learned about the difference in reading a book and listening to a book, I need to look at the hook and scene and chapter beginnings in the novel I’m writing to see if they work well for the book listener. This prompted me to do a little research.

Writing advice from Jules Horn

I first brought up this issue in my May 13, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/13/how-listening-to-a-book-and-reading-a-book-differ/. In that blog post I referenced a piece Jules Horn wrote about attunement. Ms. Horn is an expert on method writing. Her website is https://www.method-writing.com/.

She read my May 13 blog post and took time to respond to my invitation for my blog readers to give me feedback on the opening line of my novel manuscript. I was thrilled to hear from her, as she graciously gave me specific advice about the sentence I’d written.

Ms. Horn recommended that, with audio in mind, I consider breaking up the sentence. She pointed out that breaking up the sentence into two or more sentences would help the reader to “see” each part of it. To refresh your memory, here’s the way I had written the opening of my manuscript as referenced in my May 13, 2019 blog post:

“Sarah McCorkle dropped her sewing basket at the sight of her husband lying face down between the stone hearth and his desk, sending thread, needles, and thimbles crashing and scattering on the wide planks of the pine floor.”

Ms. Horn told me that it would be easier for the reader to “see” each part of that sentence if I broke it down as if in camera shots. She also gave me a link to another post on her website to reinforce this recommendation: https://www.method-writing.com/camera-shots-advanced-fiction-technique/. She even suggested I try performing the opening of my manuscript. (Watch out, Hollywood, here I come!)

Research statistics

Sandra Beckwith’s August 21, 2019 blog post, “5 Way to Make Your Book Relevant to the Media” on the Build Book Buzz website (https://buildbookbuzz.com/5-ways-to-make-your-book-relevant-to-the-media/) included a link to an April 24, 2019 press release by Michele Cobb, Executive Director of Audio Publishers Association.

That press release reported that a 2019 survey conducted by Audio Publishers Association and The Infinite Dial Survey by Edison Research and Triton Digital found that 50% of Americans 12 years old or older have listened to an audiobook.

This growing trend is partially due to the advances in technology which have enabled publishers to distribute books in numerous formats. We’ve gone from the founding of the company Books on Tape in 1975 to people in 2019 being able to listen to books wirelessly on various electronic devices. (That probably sounds like a long time to you, but those 44 years have flown by for me. I graduated from college in 1975.)

Chad R. Allen’s writing advice

In an email named “My Top Piece of Writing Advice” on August 7, 2019, Chad R. Allen stated that his top piece of advice for writing is to “be concrete.” The email focused on a third way to look at a novel’s manuscript:  “Is it filmable? If a piece of writing is filmable, you can be sure it’s concrete.”

Mr. Allen is a writer, editor, speaker, and writing coach. He compared types of writing to a pyramid. Abstract writing (writing that “doesn’t show or engage the imagination”) is at the top. He wrote, “The bottom of the pyramid is concrete writing. It shows or illustrates. It does engage the imagination; it helps me to see (or hear or smell or taste or touch) something.”

My favorite of the points Mr. Allen made in his email are the following:

“The best communicators (I think this is probably true of speakers and writers) push as much of their content to the bottom of the pyramid as possible.”

“But more often than not the way to engage readers and hold their interest is to invite them into a scene.”

“Your job as a writer is to create an experience the reader doesn’t want to quit. Often the best way to do that is with concrete writing.”

Mr. Allen gives the following examples of concrete writing:  stories, metaphors, illustrations, dialogue, images, and sensory writing (writing that engages the five senses.)

That brings us back to Mr. Allen’s statement, “Is it filmable? If a piece of writing is filmable, you can be sure it’s concrete.”

I don’t want to steal all Mr. Allen’s thunder, but he made numerous good points in his email that I want to hold onto.

He related an example from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in which she wrote about enjoying a story someone told her. When she repeated the story to her friends, they found it boring. She later realized that the difference was that she was telling the story from the outside. Her friend had told her the story from the inside out.

Mr. Allen wrote in his email, “In other words, get into the narrative. Write it from the inside so that others can experience it with you. Don’t just convey information. Get into it and invite readers to get into it with you.”

Chad Allen offered incredible advice in his August 7, 2019 email to me, including the following:  “Do a story/image audit of a given chapter. Note the places where you go on for a while without a story or image or sound, and try to find ways to add them in. Even better: replace the non-narrative material with narrative material.

“If you’re writing history, instead of recounting facts, try imagining a scene and bringing us into it. David McCullough and Jeff Shaara have made a career of this.

“Ask yourself, ‘Is there a way to unpack this principle with a story or metaphor or illustration?’ A metaphor or image can do a lot of work for you.

“As you shape your content to be more and more concrete, you’ll be creating an experience that readers relish.”  

As I continue to evaluate every scene in my manuscript for The Doubloon, I think about how each one would come across on the written page and how it would sound if in an audio recording.

Mr. Allen’s website is https://www.chadrallen.com/.

What about a podcast?

Here’s another possibility: podcast your blog or your book. I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasting, but here’s an interesting and encouraging article presented by Nina Amir and written by Jay Artale about using a podcast as a way to market your book or get your blog out to people who prefer audio content to the written word: https://howtoblogabook.com/free-podcast-share-book-blog-content/. There is much to consider, but Ms. Artale makes it sound like it’s not as difficult as I thought. There are free software programs to get you started. It’s something for bloggers to consider.

Since my last blog post

Last week I had the good fortune of listening to a virtual summit for authors. It was hosted by Tara R. Alemany of Emerald Lake Books (https://emeraldlakebooks.com/) and Mark Gerber of Emerald Lake Books. It was free! All I had to do was sign in on my computer, listen, and take notes. Each weekday there were four sessions on a wide range of topics of interest to writers.

In addition, on Tuesday, I listened to a free webinar hosted by Author Accelerator (https://www.authoraccelerator.com/.) It highlighted OneStopForWriters.com’s “Character Development Tool.” (A subscription is required in order to access OneStopForWriters.com’s resources.)

Many of the features of the “Character Development Tool” duplicate some of the processes I’ve already gone through on the historical novel I’m writing, but I can see it could potentially help me make sure my protagonist has an arc. Look for more on that in my blog post about Characterization, tentatively scheduled for November 11, 2019.

After five consecutive days of listening to and watching the virtual summit and Tuesday’s webinar, I thought my brain might explode. That didn’t happen until Saturday, when my computer refused to let me download photographs from my hard drive to my blog.

A blogger should always have a “Plan B,” and that’s where I had to go this weekend. Today’s blog post was partially written and planned for a few weeks from now. I pulled it out and prepared it for today. As I write this, I’m unable to insert photo from my hard drive into my WordPress.com blog post. I’ve read that a blog should have at least one image, but this one will not. It’s not from my lack of trying.

The reason I had to go with “Plan B” is that today’s scheduled blog post was “Great Smoky Mountains, Revisited – Part 1,” and it was going to include numerous photographs. I hope to use it next Monday, if I can get the bugs worked out of my computer.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware.

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

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

Would you rather listen to or read a book? Would you rather listen to a podcast of a blog or read the blog?

Janet