Read 2019: A Year in Books

For 2019 I set my Goodreads goal at 30 books and just barely hit it. Whew, it’s been a year. A high-risk pregnancy, car accident, new baby, and series of bad luck at work have me looking forward to 2020. I need a new start of sorts, a fresh take, and a new year is prime for that kind of perspective. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions but I will take the opportunity to turn the page and start fresh.

Here are the books I read for 2019 and some thoughts on my favorites, least favorites, and trends.

1. The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler (4/5 Stars)

2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (3/5 Stars)

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (4/5 Stars)

4. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (2/5 Stars)

5. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory (3/5 Stars)

6. The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell (5/5 Stars)

7. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4/5 Stars)

8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (5/5 Stars) (Reread)

9. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (3/5 Stars)

10. Hunter by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

11. Elite by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

12. The Mueller Report by Robert S. Mueller III (5/5 Stars)

13. Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (3/5 Stars)

14. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (3/5 Stars)

15. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (4/5 Stars)

16. Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede (4/5 Stars)

17. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (4/5 Stars)

18. Apex by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

19. The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (4/5 Stars)

20. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2/5 Stars)

21. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (5/5 Stars)

22. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (4/5 Stars)

23. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (5/5 Stars)

24. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5 Stars)

25. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (3/5 Stars)

26. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (4/5 Stars)

27. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (3/5 Stars)

28. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (5/5 Stars)

29. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (4/5 Stars)

30. Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James (4/5 Stars)

Top Five Favorite Reads

1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

2. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

5. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Least Favorites

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My 2019 Reading Trends

I learned a few things about myself from my reading habits this year.

First, as I get older I find myself increasingly drawn to literary fiction.

Second, I am very disillusioned by self-help books that refuse to acknowledge systemic inequalities and assume all readers have the same privileges. I get that they are (most likely) writing to an audience of upper middle class white women in suburban regions but to not address any unfairness seems completely blind and very not 2019.

Finally, I have not read a YA novel this year that made me feel much of anything. My selection of authors might very well be the cause here. I didn’t try any really exciting authors who offer a new voice. That is something I plan to remedy in 2020. YA is one of my favorite genres and I can’t imagine not reading it. I know it’s a viable genre, I just need to find the good in the tide of mediocre.

Overall, with the year I’ve had, I’m happy with my reading accomplishments. More good reads than bad ones including falling in love with a new author, Min Jin Lee, whose entire body of work will definitely be making its home on my book shelves soon.

Here’s to only 4 star and up books in 2020!

What were your favorite (or least favorite) books you read this year?

NaNoWriMo ’19: Appalachian Dynasty

Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction

Synopsis

William “Bill” Strong is born to a poor family in Dorset during the English Civil Wars. After losing his parents, 11-year-old Bill is sold as an indentured servant to a wealthy tobacco merchant and sent to Virginia to work off his servitude. After working for 8 years, Bill settles in Virginia as a poor tenet to yet another wealthy landlord.

Appalachian Dynasty follows his descendants through their mountains and valleys of poverty and privilege tracking their journey from farmers in southern England to coal miners in Southeastern Kentucky. Epitomizing the stereotype of a poor white family, Bill Strong and his descendants struggle against systematic forces designed to pit poor whites against people of color to ensure their loyalty during the Civil War, suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement, all while being exploited for their labor, land, and integrity. They learn they can never escape the sovereignty of wealthy men.

Loosely based on my own exploration of my family’s genealogy and settlement in southeastern Kentucky.

A novel in four parts-323 years-9 generations

  • Part 1: Divine Right of Kings (~1645-1776)
  • Part 2: For God and Country (~1777-1865)
  • Part 3: Us v. Them (~1866-1920)
  • Part 4: Can You Hear the Canary’s Song? (~1921-1973)

Goal: 90,000 words

Deadline: November 30, 2019

Camp NaNo Update: Day 3

Gospel of Eve (WIP): Quote of the Day

Camp NaNo Update: Day 2

Reading Goals 2019: Microhistories & Writing Reference

2018

My 2018 Goodreads Reading Goal was set at 20 books. I have to this point read 23 books and I am *hoping* to read another 2 before the ball drops on January 1st.

What about 2019?

I have started to think about what I want to set my reading goal for 2019. As a working mother, reading can be a super difficult thing to carve out time for. I found myself sneaking in pages during bath time, after bedtimes, and during breaks at work. That equaled about 23-25 books for me in 2018.

Granted, I did not prioritize reading over certain other areas of my life, like Netflix binging and social media which can seriously eat up huge amounts of your free time without realizing.

My greatest obstacle ended up not being a mother of a toddler or a full-time academic librarian, but rather a general disregard and disrespect for reading over non-soul fulfilling activities.

With all that in mind, I am hoping to increase my reading goal for 2019 from 20 books to 30 books coupled with a New Year’s Resolution to watch less TV and spend less time on social media and my smartphone.

What’s in my TBR pile?

My specific reading goals include reading more microhistories which are non-fiction books which focus on a very specific historical topic like Salt: A World History.

This is in connection with my writing goals for 2019, which include completing all drafts of my WIP, Changeling, which I have written about and shared pieces of frequently here in the past, get through the second draft of another WIP, Foxface, which was my 2018 National Novel Writing Month project, and write the first draft of at least two more story ideas I have been incubating the past year, an adult literary fiction novel titled The Gospel of Eve and a YA Fantasy tentatively titled Daring based on the myth of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

I also want to read more writing reference type books, obviously to compliment my writing goals. I have many in my TBR pile I have stocked up on over the last year so I really want to get through all of those.

My Owned TBR Writing References:

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going

Paper Hearts by Beth Revis

That list will undoubtedly grow as I buy/check out other writing references through the year. My favorite writing reference author is James Scott Bell and I have read at least two of his other references in the past year, he has many more, which I will probably add to this list soon.

Setting goals and getting ish done!

I think, and this is certainly not an independent thought, that setting goals and intentions is the best way to ensure you achieve those goals. These are concrete titles, numbers, and deadlines. There is accountability in that and that is so important for adult-type learners (Hello, twenty-nine, I see you creeping up on me).

Question-time!

What are your reading/writing goals for 2019?

Do you prefer to set goals/resolutions each year or do you set non-traditional time frames (two years, six months)? Do you set time-frames at all?

Extras

"Why try to cheat the Gods out of a game I am prepared to win?" An excerpt from Foxface on abookishmama.com
The last line of my 2018 NaNoWriMo project!

Your Inspiration for the Day

Your dreams are not someone else's to manage. Quote by Rachel Hollis from Girl, Wash Your Face.

Novel Research: My WIP Research Process

Novel research can be a daunting task if you are not the type who gravitates to research, study or spending hours on minute details. Unfortunately for those types but fortunate for people like myself, research is critical to writing. Whether research for you means learning about specific types of military vehicles or the ranks of nobility in 14th century Europe, you are (probably) going to have to look something up along the way.

When to Conduct Novel Research

As you begin writing the first draft of your novel you may find yourself questioning the minutiae of setting, plot, character, etc. You can start your research here, or may even have already conducted extensive research before writing a single word if you are a good planner. If you’re a pantser, you may find yourself glossing over specific details to avoid the research until the first draft is complete.

While putting off research is okay sometimes, you may want to take the time to ensure the story you’re crafting makes sense. You may create a plot based on an inaccurate detail that completely derails your second draft, basically meaning your novel needs rewriting. Where the particulars contribute substantially to your plot, even if you are not a planner you need to conduct some research to corroborate these details. If you take the time now to insert accurate details, you will save yourself time and frustration later. Researching while writing the first draft can also be an excellent trigger for writer’s block!

Where to Conduct Novel Research

So, you want to start researching a detail in your story. Where do you start? Google is the most obvious place for most people to begin searching. My day job is a Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Instructor at a community college academic library. That means I spend all day telling students not to Google their research. Our students have access to expensive research databases which allows them to prioritize their research origins. If you are not a student, or you struggle with research, you have a few other options that aren’t Google.

Public Libraries

Yes. I am a librarian advocating for you to visit libraries. Conflict of interest? Maybe. Public libraries are excellent research hubs for the beginning writer AND the seasoned writer. Why pay for books, databases, or magazines when you can get them for free? Many public libraries purchase the same database subscriptions that colleges have. They also accept recommendations for resources so if the library doesn’t have something if you ask they may get it. The public library is filled with people who are there to help you.

Wikipedia Resources

Wikipedia is not exactly a reputable site. There is a degree of accountability in the structure of writing and editing. You create a free account and correct inaccuracies. During my Freshman Year Experience class, we experimented by deliberately changing a Wikipedia article to make it inaccurate. We charted how long the false information remained unchanged. My material remained incorrect for weeks. That was a lot of views during this time that fake details were portrayed as trustworthy. However, users cite outside resources at the end of Wikipedia articles. This section is a gold mine of research opportunities. Explore these links and exercise critical thinking in determining if that source is accurate itself.

Check the site type (.com, .gov, .edu., .org, etc.). Look at the date the site was last updated. See if the site has an about page and read about the authors and their intent.

You may think researching to this degree is overkill for fiction but if you encounter a reader who is an actual expert you run the risk of alienating them.

Digital Collections

There are a plethora of digital resources available online. Images, ebooks, videos, and audio (radio broadcasts, etc.). The New York Public Library is one example of a collection of publicly available digital items that can be used for research. The Library of Congress is another primary source. One of the big inspirations for my novel was The Hammer of Witches. The full text is available online and provided me with a lot of information about witch hunting practices and how they were persecuted. Many older books can be accessed for free in full online through various reputable sites like Project Gutenberg. Aside from LOC, NYPL, and Project Gutenberg, there are less scholarly, artistic platforms like DeviantArt and Pinterest. Content on these sites is added by online users. These are more useful for inspiration though Pinterest can be helpful for storing your research in an easy to view and access platform.

Online Forums

In addition to these resources, there are online forums. Online forums should always be approached with caution. The community determines the usefulness of the information you can find in forums. Writing sites with forums like NaNoWriMo and Writer’s Digest are helpful. Subreddits for writers can also be useful. You can post for advice on conducting research, search for beta readers who can help you catch inaccuracies, or search for perspectives that are similar to your characters to garner a more honest representation. Your peers can be a valuable resource if they approach your inquiries with the right intentions.

Fact-Checking the First Draft and Beyond

Once you have completed your first draft, you still have some research to do. If you didn’t check the details central to your plot, mark your first draft up noting where more information is needed. Verify details, even small ones. The tiniest inconsistency can propel the reader out of your story.

  • What are the properties of an herbal remedy?
  • What did armor look like in France in 1365?
  • How did priests determine who was a witch in Germany in 1450?

However, these are my specific research questions. Wherever you explore something you are not sure of, check the detail.

  • Who was President of the U.S. in 1914?
  • What are the symptoms of lupus?

I recommend printing the first draft and either highlighting or using a pen to mark everywhere you need to insert research or check the facts.

With every read through, a second draft, third draft, etc. you will be looking at where you can improve/strengthen your manuscript. You cannot be overconfident. You need to doubt yourself and check, double check, triple check your story.

Check out my other posts on writing!

Writing Inspiration: How to Trigger Your Muse When All She Wants to Do is Take a Nap

A How-To Guide for Writer’s on Pinterest

And When You Finish That First Draft…

Prepping the First Draft: A Second Draft Diagnosis

Camp NaNo Update: Day 24 (Complete)

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Tracker Infographic Goal Complete

Camp NaNo Update: Day 23

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Tracker Infographic Eighty-Seven Percent