Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: A Gathering of Days

I haven't posted a book review in a while. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that I haven't actually finished reading a complete book in a while. I am currently reading quite a lot, and this will hopefully be the first of many completed--and subsequently reviewed--books of 2019.

Today I am reviewing a novella called A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos. Quite a mouthful with that subtitle, so we'll just call it A Gathering of Days.

So what is this book about? Ignoring the fact that the title seems pretty self-explanatory, here is what it's all about:

Catherine's mother has died, following the birth of an infant son, and when her father decides to remarry, Catherine faces painful changes, not the least of them in herself.

It is a novella, which only leaves so much room for plot and character development, and it is also in journal form, which leaves even less room. With that being said, what were my first impressions of this book? I enjoyed it. I wasn't enthralled by it, but I certainly wasn't bored either.

It is a historical novel, which is one of my favorite genres to read and write about. The characters are vivid, despite having limited scenes due to the nature of short stories and journal entries. The main character and the person writing the journal entries that are the reader's window into the story is Catherine Hall. She is a fierce, playful, clever, and kind fourteen-year-old girl caught between childhood and adulthood. And while this is true of most teenagers, it is more striking in her case as she has had to step up and fill her mother's shoes. Catherine's voice is quite an entertaining one to hear a story from, and her wit and kindness come through quite clearly. The other characters, Catherine's friends and family, are delightfully portrayed through Catherine's eyes.

Joan Blos also does a remarkable job of slipping in historical facts through Catherine's simple explanation of daily life and of various farm tasks and festivals she attends. The reader is able to learn a lot about the time period by simply living with Catherine and without excessive info-dumps.

The plot, while relatively simplistic, is artfully crafted. Blos also touches on potentially controversial topics as Catherine interacts with a runaway slave and various other aspects of 19th century American politics are introduced throughout the story. And yet, Blos never preaches her own views of the topic in any way. The characters themselves come to their own conclusions, of which none are precisely the same, and the reader is allowed to make their own decisions on the subject.

The writing itself is delightful. Catherine's speech is quaint and simple, and yet Blos manages to be brilliant despite this.

Would I read this book again? Probably. It is perhaps not high on my 'read again' list, but it is well worth a second glance.

Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely. Go and read, my friends. You will not be disappointed.

And in the meantime,

Happy Writing, everybody!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Marketing: 5 Useful Resources for Indie Authors

What's the one thing every author has to do--even if they aren't self-published--if they want to sell books?


Marketing has always been my least favorite part of my job. I don't have a business degree and certainly haven't done enough research of my own. Plus I hate tooting my own horn, which is often what marketing feels like to me. However, in the past few weeks, I have been putting in some research, learning new skills, and getting the hang of this whole marketing thing.

I still have a lot to learn, for sure, but I am actually enjoying the journey now which will help immensely. When something is a chore, it is hard for me to work up the motivation or enthusiasm to do it properly. Now, however, I can say that I am enjoying marketing. What clicked for me to change my perspective, I have no idea. I'm glad it did, though.

I thought I would share a few of the helpful tools I've discovered recently for various aspects of marketing. So, without further ado, here are 5(ish) resources for you to make use of in your quest to market your book.

First, a very useful article detailing how to make your own books ads to put on various social media platforms. This was a lot of fun to do! There's a link within the article to Derek Murphy's (the champion of Indie Authors) free tool for creating 3D covers for these ads, but I'll also link it here:

Lynn Nodima: Creating DIY Book Ads

The 3D Cover Creator

Derek Murphy has instigated an amazing community of Indie Authors sharing their resources, critiquing each other's work, and pushing each other to greatness. You can find that page on Facebook as Guerrilla Publishing, although you'll have to request an invite as it is a closed group.

One amazing source, not just for marketing but for all areas of writing, is Jenna Moreci. I'll link her youtube channel here, as that is where she mainly gives all her marvelous advice. Fair warning, however, Jenna doesn't have the most G-rated language. Jenna's Channel

I also use this blog that has a very long list of useful tools to use to market your book (my list is never going to be this comprehensive). I haven't looked through all 100+ tools and strategies, but it is something that I refer to when I am looking for different/new ways to market: 7 Strategies and 110+ tools to help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers

And another blog post, highlighting mistakes new authors make when they begin marketing. This is a good read: How Not to Market Your Book

Hopefully, you can make good use of these tools and articles. In the meantime...

Happy Writing, everybody!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

4 Things I Do Before I Start Writing Everyday

A short while ago I wrote a post about how to write a novel; not the step-by-step process of outlining, editing, etc., but rather imperative resources or skills that need to be acquired or cultivated before writing a novel. One of the skills I highlighted was developing the habit of writing every day. Well today, I'm going to talk briefly about what I do before I write every day.

The first thing that I do before I begin typing away at my laptop is to ensure that I have all of my supplies for whatever project I am working on. For the novel that I am currently writing, this means making sure that I have my outline, my timeline, my research notes, plenty of blank paper, writing utensils, etc. All the materials that I will need to reference or use when I get into the thick of writing. I don't want to have to go searching for my notes on the University of Paris in the 13th century while I am in the middle of writing an action-packed or conflict-ridden scene. I need that sort of thing right at hand.

The second thing on my list of things to do before writing, and arguably the most important, is prayer. My writing is very much about my God, and for my God. Seeing as my end-game is glory for Him, I start off each writing session with a prayer.

Third, I make myself a cup of tea. This is vital. I have become convinced over the years that tea is the equivalent of gas for my brain which is the engine of my 'car'. I can write without tea, but I don't get as far.

The fourth task I must complete before writing is choosing the music that I will listen to during my writing session. Music helps me to block out the rest of the world and focus on my project and also blocks out any bunny trails my brain might otherwise decide to go on. I usually listen to classical music or movie soundtracks.

When these four things have been done, I get busy at the keyboard and hopefully write a decent amount of words before my tea either runs out or gets cold (the latter happens when I have tons of inspiration and don't have time to take a sip due to the vast amount of words I'm trying to get out of my brain...and is, therefore, rather reassuring. If my tea got cold, I know I was productive. But I digress...).

So, those are the 4 things that I have to do before every writing session to ensure productivity and quality of content. These four things don't apply to my blogging, however. Generally, when I sit down to blog it's because I've had a thought and want to get it down before I forget--because coming up with blog posts is often very difficult for me--or I don't have any thoughts at all and I just stare at a blinking cursor until something happens. It is entirely possible that if I implemented my novel writing essential 4 tasks, then my blogging experience would be that much better. I may, in fact, try this in future.

In the meantime, Happy Writing, everybody!