I absorbed history, poetry, tidying, and craft of writing books last month

“They” say a writer must read a lot if they aspire to be good at their craft. I can’t argue with that, but the last couple of months have not been conducive for me t,o get a lot of reading done. I’m learning that some months a writer has to concentrate on their writing and the business or being a writer. Otherwise, no one will know I’ve written anything.

I hope you’re not on book marketing overload from my recent blog posts and Facebook postings. There’s more to come for I have more projects in the works. You’ve been warned!

Since it’s the first Monday in the month, I’ll tell you about the books I read in December. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a novel in the bunch.


Threshold: Poems, by Ray Griffin

Threshold: Poems, by Ray Griffin

I received this book of poetry early in December. In such a busy month, I was grateful to have an excuse to steal away every night for some quiet moments to read poetry.

In this collection of poetry, Mr. Griffin touches on many facets of life. Some poems embrace the beauty of the natural world as it is observed and enjoyed today, and some stem from the writer’s reflections on a life well lived.

Many of those memories are also rooted in special times in the Appalachian Mountains and the beaches on the east coast of America, but there are also pieces that bring to life memories of trips in the western states and the unique wonders that part of the that area hold. There are sweet poems of the love of a life partner as well as verses that pay tribute to and bring to mind memories of departed parents. One poem reveals the poet’s feelings of guilt for not being with his parents when they died.

There are poems that express one’s feelings after a cancer diagnosis. There are poems about the current war in Ukraine and wars in the past.

This collection of heart-felt poems will pull at your heartstrings. Some bring a smile, while others bring a tear to your eye. However, the poet almost always brings you to a positive state of mind in the final lines of each. I regretted coming to the end of the book. I wanted more poems, but at least for the time being I’ll have to be satisfied with re-reading a few of the poems each day until Mr. Griffin graces us with additional verses from his heart.

Threshold is Ray Griffin’s third book of poetry. His second book, Winsome Morning Breeze, was published in 2020. Both books are available on Amazon or look for them or request them at your favorite bookstore. Here’s the Amazon link to Threshold: Poems by Ray Griffin: https://www.amazon.com/THRESHOLD-RAY-GRIFFIN/dp/B0BLQYMR11/ .


Writing Vivid Dialogue: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors, by Rayne Hall

Writing Vivid Dialogue, by Rayne Hall

I tend to have more trouble writing narrative than writing dialogue. At least that’s what I think. I found this book helpful, though.

One issue briefly addressed in this book was that of authenticity versus political correctness. When writing dialogue for someone in the 18th or 19th and even in the 20th century, some characters, to be authentic to their time and place, would use words that are offensive to our 21st century ears. This most often comes into play in racist remarks, but it is also an issue when writing the words of a character who is misogynistic. Should the writer shy away from such words because they are not politically correct today? That is something each writer has to decide for herself or himself.


The Battle of Cowan’s Ford: General Davidson’s Stand on the Catawba River and its place in North Carolina History, by O.C. Stonestreet IV

The Battle of Cowan’s Ford, by O.C. Stonestreet IV

This little book about our regional history in the southern piedmont of North Carolina made me aware of some details about the Battle of Cowan’s Ford in the American Revolutionary War. I recommend it to anyone interested in the American Revolution or North Carolina history.

In case you didn’t know, General William Davidson was killed in the battle. The nearby town of Davidson and Davidson College are named for him.

When Duke Power Company created Lake Norman in 196_, the site of the battle was covered by the lake. As a tip of the hat to history, I suppose, Duke’s hydroelectric dam near the site of the ford and the battle was named Cowan’s Ford Dam. That’s little consolation to history buffs.


How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career, by James Scott Bell

How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career, by James Scott Bell

This book was a tremendous help to me in my writing career status. Until reading it, I planned to publish a book of four or five short stories in 2023. It was going to be my way of introducing you to my fiction writing.

A few months ago, I started reading advice for novice fiction writers that/which said I needed to give away my writing in order to attract readers. No one wants to be told to give away things they’ve worked hard to create. I’m no exception. However, in reading James Scott Bell’s book, I finally had an epiphany!

I started thinking in terms of making my historical short stories available free of charge as e-books. The more I researched my options and the length of the stories I’ve written, a new plan materialized. My current plan is to self-publish Slip Sliding Away as an historical novelette in February.

Mr. Bell’s book prompted me to look into Kindle Direct Publishing’s “Select” program. That program will give me the opportunity to publish Slip Sliding Away on Amazon for 90 days. The novelette will be free for five of those days and probably for 99 cents the other 85 days.

I will alert you to that publication and it’s five free days in a blog post in February, so stay turned!


Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

Joy at Work, by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

You’re probably familiar with Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, is the third book in her “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” series.

Much of this book didn’t apply to my situation since I work at home and I’m basically my own boss. The main thing I took away from the book was how to go about tidying up my emails and my electronic and paper documents.

It remains to be seen if I’ll follow through and put those recommendations into practice. I need to give it a try.


#OnThisDay: As a result of the oil crisis that started in 1973, the US Congress enacted the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. The act imposed a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit nationwide in an effort to decrease gasoline usage. It was not well received.


Since my last blog post

I’ve formatted more than 62,000 words for Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 2. It’s on schedule for self-publication on Amazon later this month. Watch for an announcement.

Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1 can be purchased in Harrisburg at Gift Innovations (4555 NC Hwy. 49) or Second Look Books (4519 School House Commons.) If those locations aren’t convenient for you, look for the paperback and the e-book on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Harrisburg-Did-You-Know-Cabarrus/dp/1888858044/

While you’re at Gift Innovations, look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. (It’s also available in paperback and e-book from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Ridge-Mountains-Carolina-Postcard-History-ebook/dp/B00NB5FJIO/.)

My website is being redesigned. Watch for an announcement about it soon.

I’ve designed the cover for my historical e-novelette, Slip Sliding Away, and will decide soon if I should also publish it in paperback.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I hope to read at least one novel this month.

Make time for family, friends, and a hobby.

Remember the freezing but very brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

Some books I read in February

On February 21 I posted a blog about some of the books I read in January. I think in the future I will blog about the books I’ve read in a given month at the end of that month or first couple of days in the following month. I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those!

“Exploring North Carolina” is one of my favorite shows on UNC-TV. The host, Tom Earnhardt, never fails to educate and entertain as he explores the varied and rich geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the state. Although the vast majority of my books come from the public library, Mr. Earnhardt’s book, Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt was a book I knew I wanted to own. It’s the kind of book from which one can learn something new every time it is read. As if I needed any encouragement to visit every nook and cranny of North Carolina, this book makes me wish I could spend all my time doing just that.

Now that Sue Grafton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I decided to start reading her books. I read A is for Alibi in January and plan to continue reading my way through her popular alpha series. I couldn’t help but notice how telephone communications have changed since A is for Alibi was published in 1982. It almost places the book in the historical fiction genre.

Another case that falls into the “so many books, so little time” category is John Grisham and his books. I finally got around to reading Gray Mountain. (Yes, Sycamore Row is still on my “want to read” list — which is growing far faster than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gray Mountain. I love the way Mr. Grisham gets his points across regarding social justice issues without beating us over the head. In Gray Mountain, he puts a human face on how surface mining has scarred so much of our nation’s coal-producing region.

I was delighted to win a copy of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Johnathan Wilson Hartgrove. I participated in the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in the summer of 2014, so I was eager to read Dr. Barber’s book. Even though I pride myself for staying informed about local, state, and national politics, Dr. Barber’s book opened my eyes to some historical connections that I had not made. This book shines a light on dirty politics in North Carolina but gives strong hope that this current grassroots movement will persist.

The Dark Road to Mercy, a novel by my fellow North Carolinian Wiley Cash, is primarily set in Gastonia, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is the sad tale of two young sisters abandoned by their father and then left in a children’s home when their mother died. Long lost Dad shows up and wants his daughters. Thus begins a tale that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and what the final outcome will be. If you want to read what inspired Mr. Cash’s book, read his author page on Amazon.com. I’ll be on the lookout for his next book.

David Baldacci’s The Guilty was the next book I read in February. Mr. Baldacci did not fail to give the numerous twists and turns for which he is known. This whodunit is a true page turner. As a Southerner, I think the accents were at times overdone, and I was surprised he made the mistake of having a character ask another character, “What do y’all want” when obviously speaking to one lone individual. Also, I’ve never heard a Southerner use the term, “Yous.” On a positive note, he did spell “y’all” correctly, which is something some Southerners don’t do. The deeper I got into the fascinating story, the less I noticed the vernacular. Not sure how I’d feel, though, if I were from Mississippi.

Perhaps I am just sensitive about the accents because use of accents and brogues in dialogue is something I’m struggling with in my fiction writing. I’m dealing with Carolina backcountry settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and France and slaves from Africa in my historical novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. Since I’m a novice writer, who am I to criticize someone like David Baldacci? I’m striving to strike a balance between giving characters authentic voices and overdoing vernacular to the point that it distracts the reader from the story. It is a writing skill I must master.

Now I’m afraid this post is too long. Do I need to blog about what I’m reading more often than monthly?