Writing Advice – Bernard Cornwell

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Bernard Cornwell is one of the foremost writers of historical fiction. His fictional travels have taken me from the Anglo-Saxon period through to the Revolutionary War. He has a brilliant way of describing the battles and creates the vision in your mind so you feel as though you were there.

For a long time, I resisted reading his Winter King trilogy that focused on King Arthur. I have had my own image of Arthur’s world of Camelot and Excalibur since my five page high school paper on Thomas Malory’s L’Morte D’Arthur that went on for over fifteen pages. My teacher was not thrilled. In addition to that being ingrained in my head and heart, I also had the John Boorman Excalibur movie with Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Nicol Williamson that I was attached to. When I eventually gave in to my friend’s persistent recommendation, I could not put The Winter King down and it is now my headcanon. The next two books were equally enthralling and I highly recommend them and every other one of Cornwell’s books.

I’ve read his only historical (non-fiction) book, Waterloo is also brilliant.

Here is some of his writing advice for you to enjoy and incorporate.

World Book Day

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World Book and Copyright Day is a celebration of books and the written word organized and proclaimed by the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On their page can be found information and resources on their programs and the reasoning behind the beginning of this observance and its choice of date.

Books I’ve Read So Far This Year:

January

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling (on the 1st)

Women of the Bible: A One Year Devotional Study – Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda

The President is Missing – A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of the Single Biggest Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast – Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction – Neil Gaiman

February

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero – Timothy Egan

March

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump – Andrew G. McCabe

Believe Me: a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens – Eddie Izzard

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – Barack Obama

April

A Holy Mosaic: Love, Diversity, and the Family: Inspiration from a Pope Francis – Michael O’Neill Mcgrath OSFS

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara

Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus – James Martin, SJ

Not by Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent 2019 – Mary DeTurris Poust

Lenten Reflections – Bishop Robert Barron


I’m currently reading these three books:

Rejoice and Be Glad: Daily Reflections for Easter 2019 by Michelle Francl-Donnay, Jerome Kodell, Rachelle Linner, Ronald Witherup, Catherine Upchurch, Jay Cormier, Genevieve Glen

A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals – Selected and edited by Jonathan Montaldo

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson

I use my library’s ebook library extensively and I take advantage of deep discounts or sales through Book Bub on Facebook and through Email. My Kindle is never without one or two books that I read simultaneously.

Who are your favorite authors?
What are your favorite books?
Answer in comments.

Happy Reading!

Books Recs for Rosh Hashanah

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I’ve mentioned before that I always read on the Rosh Hashanah holiday. I am currently either in the middle of or just about to begin three books. I’ll also include ones that I’ve finished recently.

1776 – by David McCullough

1984 – by George Orwell

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – by Trevor Noah

The Children – by David Halberstam

Cronkite – by Douglas Brinkley

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention – by Manning Marable

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet – by Lyndal Roper

Read my Pins – by Madeline Albright

The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

The Princess Diarist – by Carrie Fisher

The Zookeeper’s Wife – by Diane Ackerman

Emma’s Book Club

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Continuing the Monday book recommendations that I began a few weeks ago with President Obama, I’ve chosen Emma Watson’s book list for this next grouping of weeks. 

Most people probably know Emma from her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series of movies. She can currently be found on big screens as Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.

She speaks out forcefully on feminism and equality, and whatever other issue comes to mind. She doesn’t hold back. She is the Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women as part of HeforShe which advocates for gender equality.

She seems to be a voracious reader, very  much like Hermione, and she shares that with the world through her social media accounts and public activities.

Not only did she have her own book club on Goodreads, she also hid books on the London Underground to encourage reading through an organization called Books on the Underground.

The first of the books on her recommended list is one that I just finished recently and one that fits into the crazy narrative that’s gripped US politics. Paranoia, wiretapping, fake news, and phony polls. When Mr.Trump became President Trump, people said we should re-read 1984. I graduated high school in 1984, and I know I read the book, but I couldn’t really remember it, so I re-read it, finishing it just last week.

The similarities are mind-boggling and frightening. One of the things that I am reminded of in both re-reading this book and watching current events play out is that history must be studied and learned and remembered or it is destined to repeat itself. In too many cases, we can’t let that happen. We must stand up for what we believe and what we see and hear with our own eyes and ears, respectively. I won’t get into specific politics other than to say it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and pay attention to it; to grasp facts and differentiate them from opinions and hyperbole. We still have time.

But first, read 1984 by George Orwell.

Obama Book Club

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Continuing with our picks to the Obama Book Club, highlighted by this article from Entertainment Weekly, this week’s space goes to Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

I read this book right after reading his biography of Hamilton which was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration for his very popular Broadway msuical, Hamilton: An American Musical.

In both, I really enjoyed Chernow’s style and way of writing. Even as a fan of history, I sometimes find the reading of period writings to be a bit hard on the linguistics inside my head, but I didn’t find that in the Chernow books. In fact, it was strangely easy to imagine Hamilton and his contemporaries speaking and/or writing in hip-hop.

This biography of Founding Father, George Washington showed me a side of President Washington and his family that I hadn’t before seen or heard. It is by no means a simple read, but it is written in a way that is easy to understand. It held my interest throughout and I couldn’t put it down. It was one of those books that when finished, I wanted to read it again.

It has never been more important to recognize and know our history. Starting with the founding of our country as we look at our current global standing and the world around us.

Obama Book Club

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As a writer, I am drawn to other writers and their processes. It is one of the main reasons that I follow pepole like Connie SchultzWil WheatonNeil Gaiman, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Another writer who I follow and get inspiration from was also recently the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

I’ve titled this based on Entertainment Weekly’s  article with a comprehensive list of Mr. Obama’s book recommendations.

Last week, he spoke to the New York Times about how reading and writing was his secret to surviving those White House years.

Beginning today, and for at least the next eight weeks, I will share one his book recommendations. I will also share if I’ve read it or if I plan to read it.

It was recently revealed that President Obama gave his oldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Malia a Kindle filled with books. I actually did this for my mother-in-law a couple of Christmases ago. It’s a wonderful gift for any avid reader. One of the books he put on it for her is The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

That is my first book suggesetion to you.
I have not read this book, but with my introduction about writers, and this book being about a writer and writing, I thought it a perfect initial choice. I have already added it to my reading list for when I get my next Amazon gift card.

On the 5th Day of Christmas, My True Love gave to Me:

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​…gumption.

This is disguised as a book rec. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman. It is funny, historical and biographical, autobiographical, serious and not, and there is quite a bit of language, both of the English and the salty variety.

Comedian and all around great guy, Nick Offerman profiles many gentlemen and gentle-ladies who have that one thing that lets them hit their goals and more importantly to keep getting back up when the lemonade stand knocks them down. Making lemonade is fine, but adding a shot of whiskey is better. I think Mr. Offerman would agree with me.

Oxford Dictionaries defines gumption as:

shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness

A few synonyms are: ingenuity, imagination, acumen, practicality, spirit, pluck, courage, moxie, spunk, and my favorite: wherewithal.

In total, in addition to an epilogue and a bonus chapter, there are twenty-one profiles, some you’d expect: Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Benjamin Franklin as well as founding father, George Washington, and some you might not expect: Conan O’Brien, Carol Burnett, and Willie Nelson.

Those last three speak directly to my prejudices. Despite loving many celebrities, finding inspiration in them, and respecting them, I am still under the impression that they and celebrities of all types are expected to be more because they do more. Or rather, they do more publicly, and often hide their hardships, not always because of shame, but because of being so far ih the past as to not talk about anymore. They appear to just do it, which I suppose defines those with gumption better than the Oxford Dictionary.

Just get it done.

When you’re a kid that phrase usually means clean your room, finish the dishes, put away the groceries, but responsibilities foster more responsibility.

Some shrug off the fall; others cry, but they all get up and make a new plan.

That, my friends, is gumption.

Read the book, learn something new, meet someone new in its pages, and find out where your gumption is and how to find it; to reach it.