Books Galore!

WRITE-CLICK

I’ve decided on a new style, with a new heading, introducing my BOOKS-and-AUTHORS commentary. I’ve ready many books, and more are being offered to me every day. there are various sites offering free or super-cheap e-books on the basis of, “Here’s a low-cost book. The author REALLY wishes you’d read it and leave a review.”

In WRITE-CLICK I’m planning to share something about the books I’ve seen and/or read, and authors I think are really good.

Today one of the free books Reading Deals is offering sounds really interesting:
Jessie’s Song by Jeremy Williamson. I can’t vouch for it yet, but will put it on my Wish list.
“A powerful story of a childhood devastated by secrets and abuse. After years of wrestling with her true identity and running from her past, Jessie Jenkins runs headlong into her answer—a mysterious stranger who knows every detail of her life and offers the only thing she ever wanted—a love that can be trusted to heal and not harm.”
Click here for Amazon link.

Yesterday BookBub listed the freebie book Two Minutes to Noon by former Times correspondent Noel F Bush. (Amazon Link here.) Being interested in history and also natural disasters, this one caught my attention.
The Tokyo earthquake of 1923, with the huge fires and tidal waves that followed it, destroyed two of the largest cities in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama experienced a devastation that almost dwarfs the atomic damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another site I’ve gotten a book from is Books2Read. Here’s my write-up about that book, to which I gave a five-star rating:

Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective
by Catherine Pirkis
© 2018 by Midwest Classics Press

Miss Brooke grew up in an upper class family in London, but hard times left her penniless. To support herself she went to work for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency on Fleet Street. Over time Mr Dyer developed a high regard for Loveday’s crime solving abilities and sends her off on various short assignments. This book is a collection of her adventures.
Her cases are not so much the murder and mayhem kind, rather something or someone has gone missing or was stolen. Ever prim and proper, plainly dressed and nondescript in appearance, she blends in with all classes and ferrets out the details of the crime. The deductive reasoning that brings her to a quick solution is much like that of fellow detective Sherlock Holmes.

British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis, 1841-1910, wrote numerous short stories and fourteen novels during the years 1887 to 1894. She’s best known for her lady detective, Loveday Brooke. Midwest Classics Press has republished Pirkis’ novel. See their website here.

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

Ten Days in the Rear-view

I know I haven’t been posting for awhile, but when ten days have crept by since the date of my last post, it’s high time to cease this indulgence of “just don’t feel like it,” and write something.

It’s not that I haven’t felt like writing. As the various prompts have come in, I’ve mentally written different articles and stories, but so far these have remained cloudy images in my mind. Maybe soon I can get some of them down. Too often I’m fighting with a sense of futility, that nagging doubt of “Who cares?” that besets us all from time to time.

The weather has been very mild lately. The chill of early October has given way to temps of 10 (50F) to 20 (70F) which is what we’ve had today. Nice day for a walk. this afternoon Bob and I got our flu shots, so we should be protected from the flu this winter.

I’ve done some piecing blanket tops for the Sewing Circle this past week, and read some second-hand children’s books that I picked up at Value Village. Proof-reading them with the thought of donating some to our parochial school’s library. For those who are interested in good children’s books, we’ve found a couple by Alexander McCall Smith that are very suitable:
The Mystery of the Missing Lion (2013) and Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)

For those who are interested in adult fiction with a Christian flavour, I can recommend Sweet Tea and Southern Grace by Glenda Manus. In this first book of the series the main character is a 45-year-old bachelor pastor in the South dealing with various issues in his parish. The story has some similarity to Jan Karon’s Mitford series, but a shorter read.

Fandango’s prompt for today is ABSTRACT.  I’m thinking now about Thankfulness, an abstract quality or emotion. We’re happy when good things come our way; we’re relieved when troubles don’t come our way. Then sometimes our thankfulness does a look-in-the-rear-view thing. My arms and hands, especially my thumb joints, have been affected by arthritis these past few days, which makes me thankful for all the times when they do function without pain.

When you stop to think of it, when we have arms and hands that work, fingers that obey the impulses our brain sends along, we have two invaluable pieces of equipment. How much do we think about that fact until this “standard human equipment” suddenly gives us grief?

Here’s another take on ABSTRACT. I came across this quote earlier today, it seemed rather profound, and I thought, “A perfect response to the prompt!”

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Qualifying factor:
The truth of this quote depends on what music you’re listening to.

Of Mice and Man

It’s a windy, winterish day here with a light dusting of fresh snow.
Time for another seasonal haiku:

diligent deer mice
along the train track
harvest the harvest

Nature note:
Jack Miner, Ontario’s famous naturalist during the early 1900s, writes of a find he once made in a northern forest. He and some fellow hunters made camp near a large, dead pine tree. They felled this tree so it wouldn’t fall on the tent if a high wind came up, and they chopped the top branches into firewood.

Eighty feet up the tree they found a little hole less than an inch in diameter with an inner cavity occupied by a family of deer mice. Jack estimated that there was no human habitation for three or four miles and for sure no grain fields within fifty or a hundred miles, yet they found between one and two quarts of clean wheat stored in the mouse family’s pantry.

He explained that these far-sighted deer mice, no bigger than your thumb, would creep down the tree at night and make trip after trip to the railroad tracks thee hundred feet away. All through the fall they’d fill their little cheeks with kernels of grain that had sifted out of the boxcars en route to the terminal, then dash back home and up the tree to squirrel away their winter food supply. They performed this task in spite of the danger from lurking predators and swooping owls.

Jack admired these ambitious, courageous little creatures. In Wild Goose Jack, his autobiography published in 1969, he writes:
“In walking along the railroad tracks with a lantern during October, before the snow has fallen, one will usually see deer mice by the dozens…gathering food for winter.”

The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

Of Fall and Fine Details

This morning from my kitchen window I noticed three birds clinging to a leafless branch on a treetop, the sight of which inspired this haiku:

how brave those three
birds still clinging —
facing autumn’s gale

Much as we might wish to cling to summer, autumn has definitely made its appearance in our land. The crops are coming off and the golden brown straw left to hold the soil in place; the maple trees are golden already. Nights are cool, and during the last few days we’ve gotten the rains we wanted.

Hopefully now the Fire Ban will be lifted in our township. For a few months now we haven’t been allowed to light any fires outdoors, including in BBQ pits and such. This month local volunteer firefighters have been called out to several grass fires started by balers as farmers were harvesting hay. Sunday Sept 2nd some of our firemen left straight from church, responding to a fire east of here. About 150 acres — half of it in standing wheat crop — burned, along with four round hay bales.

The hummers left us a couple of weeks ago. Last week the second batch of barn swallows came out of their nest to enjoy the clear blue skies. For the first few days the three newcomers played in the air above our yard, then ventured farther, touring the woods and coming back to roost at night. I was out just after supper together with the cats, and the swallows came buzzing around us. Obviously they weren’t happy seeing cats so close to their residence.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything significant but I decided that if I didn’t get something written I might develop chronic blog-atrophy.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve spent hours at the computer this week commenting on other writers’ work. Last weekend I was investigating the possibilities for having my own short stories critiqued and came across a site called Critique Circle. It It looked interesting, so I signed up and started writing comments on the stories posted.

Basically, anyone may join, and post a story they’ve written once every two weeks — but first they must critique others’ stories. In fact the system works somewhat like that old song about working in the coal mines: you do one days’ work and the company store charges two days’ pay for your groceries. 🙂 I’ve gotten .5, 1, 1.5, and 2 credits for doing various critiques, but it cost me 3 credits to post my story. So participants need to keep writing critiques (of 300 words or more) if they want to post anything.

Which is quite fair, really. I’m not griping. This approach keeps people from “taking” without putting anything in. (And it suits me because I enjoy doing editing. 😉 I do try to be gentle, though.) The “rules state that “critters” shall be encouraging and helpful to new writers as well as more experienced ones. No “Your story is blah!” comments.

I’ve posted one flash fiction story already. The first critique I received dealt mostly with grammar and punctuation — some of which I would contest. The second was an overall “Liked the story.” The third one was worth its weight in gold! It was written by a fellow who’s had a number of short stories published in literary magazines and such. He really knows his stuff and pointed out half a dozen things I SHOULD HAVE seen myself.

The stories I’m working on now are for my upcoming book of flash fiction. And now that I’ve registered it and gotten the ISBN, I can post the cover I’ve chosen (from unsplash.com.) What do you think?

The next design issues: choosing a font style and “outside border or no?”

Abstract cover.all