More Summer Reading: Review of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where is the ten-star rating option? This is an excellent book. True to historical context (as far as I can tell) and presents a beautiful family story that could have been set elsewhere but fits very dramatically in WW II France. I recommend this to lovers of historical fiction and also to thriller readers.

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Review of The Summer Before The War

I’ve been vacationing a bit this summer and doing more reading than writing. So, here’s another book review:

The Summer Before the War: A NovelThe Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t read Helen Simonson’s first novel, “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” but will add it to my list after having read “The Summer Before the War.” The book begins with a quotation from Henry James, which seems so fitting because all the action involves careful strolling about drawing rooms and gardens, at least in the beginning. The setting is incredibly important to the book: The stifling world of the early 20th Century, most fittingly represented by women bound in corsets. But these women, at least the main characters, are fighting to get out. By the end of the Great War, they have at least been relieved of the corsets. The war shatters the setting of the Summer Before the War forever. Beautifully written with characters you’ll love – I did anyway.

This book is classified as historical fiction.  For those not familiar with the period, there is much to learn about women’s history and the status of gay lives. (I won’t mention lesbians, bisexuals, or transgendered lives because they were beyond imagination.)

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Review of Warner’s Green-Light

Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of PublishingGreen-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing by Brooke Warner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another very useful book from Brooke Warner. When I read her “What’s Your Book,” I entered a new world. Since then, I’ve done a lot of reading about publishing, yet I learned a few new things in “Green-Light.”

“Green-Light” would be a great book for someone who knew nothing about the business of publishing. For someone looking for “how to do it,” this is not the book; this book tells you what you need to know about publishing without filling in all the nitty-gritty details of what those things actually are.

Well worth reading for anyone who is hesitating to publish, for people looking to understand the current state of the publishing industry, and for those who may need a little push to get their manuscripts into print.

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Update on the Work: Back from the Beta-Readers

I’m working on revisions to my novel (again). Several non-writer friends have asked me, “Isn’t it frustrating to do all those revisions?” No, really, I like it. I truly believe revisions, or self-editing if you prefer that term, are part of the creative process. To quote C.J. Cherryh (as I have elsewhere in this blog): “It is perfectly ok to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.” I’m not claiming brilliance; I’m just saying the writing and the revisions are parts of a whole.

In my past life (as a lawyer), much of my writing was done as what most people would call editing. I’d take a draft from another lawyer and rework it. And, send that out for comment and then rework based on the comments. This part of the novel writing is much like that.

At Master Classthe same time, I’m reading Adam Sexton’s Master Class in Fiction Writing. Parts of that are brilliant and most of the rest of it is useful. Incidentally, many of the books that Sexton uses to illustrate his teachings are well-worth reading.

The comments that I got from my Beta-Readers did not conform to my suggested notations. See Beta-Readers and Publishing Options, published a few weeks ago. But my readers are the epitome of non-conformists, so what should I have expected?  Instead, my readers made their own lists, and they did indeed see things that I hadn’t seen. All of it was very useful. One comment reinforced a concern that I had about a character, so I am working hard on that character’s development. Another comment spoke to language choices I’d made that were simply too modern for the time period that I’m writing about (I had gotten more careful about that later in the manuscript, but committed error in the early chapters.)

One comment that I’ll take to heart: “Pay attention to only about 10% of what people tell you about your work.” I don’t think the comment is correct, but I appreciate the spirit in which it was made. I am “paying attention” to all of what I’ve so generously been told. After due consideration, I may choose to go with my original writing or I may find adjustments that aren’t quite what the commentators may have been implying. Nonetheless, I think each of the comments is worth cherishing.

Thank you, Beta-Readers. You know who you are!

Review of Diamant’s The Boston Girl

The Boston GirlThe Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Truly excellent novel reflecting the period and the struggles of people in immigrant societies of Boston in the early 20th Century.

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What is the origin of the word ‘OK’?

ok.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpgWhat is the origin of the word “OK”?

I was less concerned with the origin of the word than with determining when it came into common usage in the United States.  I certainly grew up using the word (though my recollection is that it was considered slang and that one should use something more formal, like “I agree” or “Alright”). But my novel is set in the generation before I was born. Were they going around saying “ok?”

Turns out, they were. The word originated before 1850, probably in the U.S. So,  my characters acting from 1914-1950 were free to say “ok” as much as they wanted.

A nice thing about having to do research like this is that one learns things one doesn’t really need to know. I didn’t need to know the source of the word, just the time it originated. But, it’s interesting to know that the word probably came from “Oll Korrect,” a humorous spelling of “all correct.” Or, maybe it came from Martin Van Buren’s failed campaign for a second presidential term. You see, Van Buren was known as “Old Kinderhook” and his slogan was “Vote for OK.” No wonder he lost.

There’s more. If you want to pursue it, here are the sources which the Google Machine gave me:

What is the origin of the word ‘OK’? – Oxford Dictionaries (US).

How the Word “OK” Was Invented 175 Years Ago