Top Books of 2016

There have been a lot of books over the past year, but I finally gathered my thoughts together and pulled together my favorite list from the year.  

Favorite Books of 2016:

1. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) - Sarah J. Maas

This is one of those rare occasions where I think the sequel is even better than the first in the series.  Sara J. Maas out does herself keeping you guessing as to how things are going to resolve themselves and just who you can trust.  I love the realistic twists in the relationships and the vivid imagery in the night court.  When thinking over the past year of reading, this is the book I kept coming back to, so it gets top honors from me!

2. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) - Sarah J. Maas

This book was a kick off to a series I read compulsively until I was up to date.  Once again Sarah J. Maas manages to keep you guessing throughout the book and nothing is quite what it seems.  Although this was close with "A Court of Mist and Fury" this one is a bit more emotionally exhausting due to the violence and complexities of the politics.  I certainly don't mean that in a bad way, but it is a book you have to know what you're signing up for!

3. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

This was another book that I kept thinking about long after I had returned to to the library.  This one had fantastic world-building that reminded me of many classic science fiction books, while still being unique in its own right.  I adored the pop culture references and how the knowledge of different aspects builds into the challenges.  This was a fun book to read for my book group and highly recommend to any sort of 80's / science fiction nerd.

4. Wild Magic (The Immortals #1) - Tamora Pierce

What a classic.  I reread almost all of Tamora Pierce's books this year and I am so glad that I did.  They're books that have stood the test of time for me and I believe they would do so for others as well.  One thing that I love about these books is that they're in digestible chunks so you can commit to a series without having to reserve a few months to catch up.  The Immortals series is the series that I have a definite soft spot for and this was the book that kicked it off.  Daine is so adorably clueless and I love how she comes into her own as her powers develop.

5. All the Feels - Danika Stone

This is a book that makes my inner fangirl squeal with delight.  Despite the book being based on a fictional things, everything about the geek culture, comic conventions and humor is absolutely spot on.  This book was a breath of fresh air and something a little less intense to mix things up with.  I'd highly recommend this one for any fangirl at heart, even if they're the most secret about it.


6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - Greg McKeown

This book makes the list simply because it's incredibly practical.  I have been in the process of minimizing my things and this was a book that takes the same principles and applies them to business.  These are great guidelines to keep in mind no matter your level so that you can try to keep things in perspective.  Stop spending time on things that don't matter and spend your time doing the things that will make you the most productive!  As a bonus, this was an easy book to listen to so you can even learn to be more productive while multi-tasking on your commute.

7. The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu

This is one of those books that's hard to explain, but is absolutely fascinating.  Before giving this one a read, I was completely unfamiliar with the "The Great Leap Forward" and everything going on in China at the time.  This book was an interesting way to get a fantastic story set against dramatic historical events.  I loved the blending of real science with science fiction in a practical way that makes it easy to imagine these things happening!

8. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler

Flappers, a historical backdrop and some spunky characters that keep you guessing - what more could you want in a book? Before reading the story, I was not familiar with the story of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.  They're a dramatic couple with a complex and troubled relationship, but that makes them the perfect focus for a story in the 20's.  There was so much change and so many characters on the world stage that it's fascinating who makes a cameo in the story.  As a bonus, there is a TV show coming out soon based the same thing!

9. The Everything Store - Brad Stone

This book was just plain interesting all around.  Amazon is a story that dominates so many markets, I really wanted to know some of the background about it and Jeff Bezos.  While it is not always flattering to Jeff, it made it more interesting as a book since it doesn't worship the ground he walks.  Understanding what it took to get the company off the ground and what is still happening know is a fascinating insight to a behemoth company that doesn't seem to be leaving the shopping stage any time soon.

Six of Crows.jpg

10. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) - Leigh Bardugo

This book has so many of the elements that I loved from Sarah J. Maas' books that I almost thought they were by the same author for a period of time.  This book is a little lighter than "Throne of Glass" and with non-stop action throughout.  A better way to describe it would be "Oceans 11" meets the fantasy world.  A group is set against impossible circumstances and it's up to them to see it through.  I would highly highly recommend this to any fantasy fans out there.

That's it for my favorite books of the year! I hope you had some great reading as well - what were your favorites?

How to Read a Boring Book for College: Get Pleasure from This

Good Morning, today's guest post is brought to you by Monica Morgan! Happy Reading!

Without any exaggeration, college gives young people a chance to get in touch with the worldwide literature and become well-educated thanks to it. Sure, some of these novels have changed your personality greatly. However, sometimes students receive an extremely boring book and are afraid that they cannot read it without falling asleep. As a result, a teenager gets a bad grade at the college or simply spends hours on reading this boring thing and cannot memorize anything from it. Of course, it is a pity anyway. Are there any ways of dealing with this problem? The majority of students will answer that the only solution is ignoring such assignments and saving their time from boring reading. Do not forget that such a behavior leads only to negative grades, a bad reputation or even dropping out. Hence, it is much more important to be able to cope with boring books quickly and effectively.

Know Your Goals

As a rule, young people read boring books because they must do it for classes or some other purposes. Anyway, they simply have no choice as this task is obligatory for them. Hence, you should know the main reason why you have to read this. Maybe, it is a good mark or teacher’s appreciation. Sometimes young people read these boring papers because they set a goal to improve themselves and get some essential knowledge. It is a perfect target, and you have to keep this in mind while reading. In this way, you will not give up too quickly and complete your task even if it is truly boring.

Set Small Targets

It is important to have not only a great target which makes you read boring materials but also set some small aims every day. It will help you not to forget about the main reason why you have to work on this assignment. For example, you can establish a minimal number of words you have to read per day. It will help you to avoid too long gaps in the process of reading which usually cause forgetting of the main points of the texts. Moreover, you will be able to prevent the time pressure and deal with a task effectively. It usually happens that students postpone their reading or do this irregularly. As a result, they have to cope with this assignment during a few last days before a class. Having a plan makes you free from suffering from approaching deadlines because you know how much time you need for finishing this book.

Get Rid of Distractions

The best way of coping with boring reading is getting rid of distractions. It often happens that students work near a turned on TV or laptop. They can even listen to music or talk on their phone while reading. Sure, you may deal with an assignment quickly, but the results of your work will have a poor quality. You will probably forget everything you have read. It leads to an impossibility to take part in class discussions and talk about the main points of this book. Hence, your task is to find a quiet and comfortable place for reading with all items you need for it. Do not forget to ask your family and friends not to disturb you. It will help you to concentrate; and do not lose your focus during the reading.

Develop a True Interest

Sure, the main problem can be in your attitude to a certain subject. It often happens that students hate some classes because of some personal reasons. As a result, they have no desire to read books on this subject and learn anything. The best solution to this problem is developing a true interest in this field. You should just open up new facts and statements about it. Even the most boring things may be amusing in case you have a correct approach to them. It is a good idea to watch some films about this subject or discover several fantastic facts which prove its usefulness. You should keep in mind that the problem sometimes exists only in your mind and it can be easy to get rid of it in real life.

Clear Your Mind

It is vital to clear up your mind from all the unnecessary thoughts and get rid of stressfulness and disturbance. If you are busy with something else except reading a book, you will probably not be able to focus your attention on the text, especially if it is not interesting for you. Moreover, you will simply read it without memorizing anything at all. As a result, it will be a completely useless process. How can you clear your mind? It is a pretty good idea to try yoga or meditation. The effectiveness of these methods is proven by thousands of students. In addition, it is important to have enough rest and never sacrifice your sleep in order to finish a book. It will simply make your productivity lower and you will forget everything in the morning. 

Highlight Important Points

The best thing you can do while reading boring books, especially if you have to memorize this material, is highlighting some significant points in the text. As a result, you will be able to use them later in the class and answer teacher’s questions quickly. You can also encounter some tasks related to this book at your exam. Hence, it will be easier to cope with them in case you have notes and can revise the material in several minutes. It is a pretty good idea to have a notebook with a list of books and their main ideas written down as well.

Retell Things You Read

Remember that it is important to be able to retell things which you have just read. It shows if you work was performed effectively and helps to accumulate information in your head. Moreover, you will not forget important points thanks to such simple option and will be prepared for class discussions of this book as well. Just ask your friend to listen to your retelling and try to do your best. In addition, it is possible to use notes you have made while reading. Keep in mind that it does not mean you should learn all paragraphs by heart. The main target is retelling information in your own words. Thus, you have to think it over and make some conclusions.

Reward Yourself

Do not forget about rewarding yourself after you reach some small goals. For example, you can eat a piece of chocolate when you finish your task. It will be a kind of motivation and encouragement for you. However, it is important to plan it as well. Do not turn these small rewards to the only purpose for reading. It will make you want to finish reading faster and you memorize nothing as a result. Hence, it is significant to see your goals clearly and understand that these rewards are not the major reason why you must complete some assignments.

All in all, it is a pity that many students have to cope with their reading assignments even if they are not interested in this material. Sure, they suffer from boredom and sometimes miss important things while completing these tasks. There is a great solution for this issue. Just follow these tips and hints and you will never find your home reading a kind of punishment again. Remember that you can get pleasure and benefits from it if you have such a desire.

Author Bio

Monica Morgan is a free-spirited woman having vast experience in article writing. She loves to travel Asian countries, writing reviews on each of them on her write my essay. She prefers using diverse writing styles to properly engage with a wide array of readers.

What Makes a Good Travel Writer?

Today's guest post was brought to you by Dave Tomlinson! 

For me, the most obvious requirement of a good travel writer is that they write about real-life, true experiences.  If people are reading fictional accounts of something that never happened written by someone who’s never been there it suddenly all becomes rather meaningless. My travel stories are completely true and related exactly as they happened; nothing has been contrived or exaggerated.

As the reader of a travel book, you want to feel that you’re taking the journey with the writer.  In your mind’s eye, you want to see the sights and people being described, hear the sounds and even sense the smells.  Words need to bring scenes and experiences vibrantly to life to leave the reader amused and amazed.  Dull travel writing does nothing to inspire anyone!   

Writing about travel destinations or experiences is different to a fictional novel.  A good travel writer will keep the story moving instead of losing the reader in superfluous detail.  All the tales in my recent book have been related and edited to 500 words.  This decision was made to keep readers engaged and captivated through each adventure and hopefully from cover to cover!

Good travel writing should be informative.  Aside from being entertaining, I want my readers to learn something about places they’ve never been.  So aside from relating my exploits, I also include many relevant or quirky facts and historical information in my writing.  This creates a more interesting and fulfilling reading experience while also leaving the reader more knowledgeable and enlightened.

Travel, in the true sense is not simply seeing things.  It is a unique cultural experience that includes people, places, food and so much more.  The best travel writing captures this diversity and offers it to the reader with energy and passion.  It’s entertaining and stirs wanderlust.  After reading a good travel story, you’ll probably sit back and think “wow, I’d love to go there and do that!” 

Check out Dave's new book recently released!

Dave Tomlinson


80 Stories, 25 Countries, 5 Continents, One Heck of a Ride!

Travel is an amazing experience and I’ve spent years of my life living out of my backpack. I’ve explored well-beaten tourist trails and to far corners beyond them. Each journey is an adventure and each adventure gives with a story to tell. So one day I decided that yes, I would write 80 of my best Travel Stories.

After leaving me speechless, travel then turned me into a storyteller!

Navigating the Sea of Self-Publishing

Good Morning! Today's guest post is brought to you by Janice Wood Wetzel

Janice Wetzel

Whether or not you initially went the route of searching for an agent or publisher, your decision to self-publish is not a second rate choice. Neither is it less time consuming, less expensive or less demanding. It may in fact turn out to be just the opposite. The tasks that publishers generally assume are now yours. It does, however, provide a freedom not common in the publishing world, and there is no longer a stigma associated with it. You will need to decide if you have the financial wherewithal and the time to devote to your project.

Of course, you could just type your manuscript, give it a once over, then go to your nearest photocopy store and put a spiral binder on it. Voila, a do-it-yourself inexpensive product. My advice though, if at all financially feasible, is to go the professional quality route. You will be glad you made the investment. This article is designed to provide a blueprint for your journey.

No manuscript should be published in any form without a professional editor. There are four different skills to be considered. Developmental consulting provides assistance in organizing and presenting your work cohesively; line editing is at the sentence and paragraph level; and copyediting corrects spelling, punctuation and grammar. Fact checking is equally essential. If you don’t know someone to refer you to a reputable person, find two or three possibilities online. Read reviews about their work, and plan to call and interview them. Aside from inquiring about some of the tasks summarized here, you’ll want to assess how compatible you are with their communication style.

Once you contract with an editor, be open to their suggestions. After all, you’re paying them to improve your book. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make your own decisions when you don’t agree with their recommendations.  It’s your voice and your book after all.

Your editor will help you to decide on the interior design of your book, including choice of font, typesetting and photographs, if any. You may want to go to a book store to observe how others have designed their books. When your editor provides about three versions, if you don’t have a laser printer, take them to a copy shop that does. It’s the only way you will be able to see exactly what the finished pages will look like. Online or at the bookstore, check out the pricing on comparable books, keeping in mind that famous authors may charge more.

Engage a professional proofreader. You and your editor are much too close to the work to catch errors. A new set of eyes will be invaluable.

You also should use a specialist to design your front and back book covers. Again, check out published books for ideas. I found a reasonable specialist online. They were located in the UK, but communicating on the computer wasn’t a problem.

Your editor can purchase your ISBN numbers. The acronym stands for the 10 -13 digit International Standard Book Number that identifies each edition of your book. A hard cover, soft cover trade version, and e-book format have different ISBN numbers. The ten numbers assigned to you make it possible to issue subsequent editions, so keep them in a safe place.

Be sure to vet web designers.  Fees and skills vary. Websites include your book cover, a précis, an excerpt, and testimonials and/or reviews, along with how to buy the book, with links to appropriate sites. I use Paypal and credit card options for my soft cover, with links to e-book versions. A distributer called Bookbaby arranges all e-book sales. (If I sell a large quantity of softcover books, I will give Amazon the business.)

It is customary to create a publisher name that is different than your own or your book’s title. Also, a domain name is essential to locating your website. In my case, I use with GoDaddy (a large domain name registrar). It’s important to have a different host for your website than your registrar in the event that one of them crashes at some point. I use Squarespace.

You may want to submit your book for review, but assess what it will be worth to you. Reviews are good for PR, but seldom influence sales. Kirkus is the most distinguished reviewer, but also the most expensive. San Francisco Book Review has a west coast and Manhattan branch. They will consider reviewing without charge if the book is new, but have a hefty fee otherwise. Booksellers World is reasonable and has a suitable turnaround. You can survey many choices online with helpful user reviews about their services.

If your book is a memoir, as is mine, or if it mentions living people by name or excerpts from other works, you may want to consider employing an attorney knowledgeable about libel laws. Did you know that you can be sued even if you say something positive about a person who doesn’t want to be mentioned?  I didn’t. Interestingly, if people are no longer living, their decedents can’t sue. Be careful not to plagiarize and to gain written permission for quotations and artistic work such as songs and poetry that are not in the public domain. Professional copyright owners generally have their own forms and require a reasonable fee and copy of your book.

Finally, you will want to consider marketing. I’ve sold through listservs to whom I’ve sent announcements. Arrange speaking engagements at local libraries, bookstores and book clubs. You can contract with social media marketing experts. They will reach out to sites like NetGalley, Goodreads, Shelf Media, and Reading to Distraction. Some sites have fees; others are gratis.  Professional marketing tells the IRS that your book is a business, not a hobby, an important distinction for writing off expenses. 

Is this information helpful, or a bit much? I want to demystify your self-publishing voyage, not drown you. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday allegedly said. 

About the Author

Janice Wood Wetzel is a professor emerita and former dean of social work who has served as a United Nations nongovernmental representative in New York since 1988. She is a well-published international educator and researcher who specializes in the human rights, mental health, and advancement of women from a global perspective. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Janicehas lived all over the United States. For the past 27 years, her home has been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Her book, "Songs & Sorrows: One Lifetime—Many Lives" is available now.  Get in touch with the author at:

About the Book

Sorrows & Songs

In words as clear and sharp as cut crystal glass, the memoir "Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives" unflinchingly tells the story of a bright, beautiful, and promising young child who forged towards a fully realized life in spite of years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her parents and pervasive society-wide gender discrimination.  Through her account, Janice Wood Wetzel shares a range of experiences in the context of her life and times – a Depression-era childhood, World War II, a teen pregnancy and miscarriage, a 20-year marriage that produced three much loved children but ultimately ended in divorce in her late 30s, the numbing social conformity that informed the ‘50s and early ‘60s, a mental health crisis in the form of depression, a stint in a psychiatric hospital, the suicide of her father, and soon thereafter, the tragic death of her mother, and a bout with alcoholism. Finally, the mid-1960s brought hope in the form of second-wave feminism, which enlightened the world and consequently changed the author’s life.  One by one, through quiet acts of bravery, Janice Wood Wetzel broke through sexist obstacles and emerged as a civil rights pioneer, a recognized feminist and human rights researcher, strategist, and advocate, as well as a United Nations nongovernmental representative, and a highly regarded professor and Dean of Social Work. A successful life, yes. But at a price. From a painful crucible of dreams deferred and loves lost emerged both a life of many victories and a rewarding memoir.

November Monthly Update: Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Visiting the most magical place! Other than Hogwarts of course...

Visiting the most magical place! Other than Hogwarts of course...

It's finally getting a little colder at home and I can't be more thrilled to finally see some snow!  We're going to need a lot more in the mountains if we're going to actually have a ski season (big deal in Colorado).  

What have I been up to?

  • Squeeeing visiting Disney World with my family.  I did a 5k walk with my mom and ran a few races on my own!  It's pretty awesome to experience the parks with a munchkin in tow (I borrowed my nephew).
  • This month I finally go around to trying some Patricia Briggs and it was a challenge to then not scrap all my reading plans and dive into the series.  I've had these recommended for ages, but never got around to them!
  • Making some progress on the 2016 Reading Challenge - it has definitely intorduced me to some awesome female authors.  A few posted recently and a couple more upcoming!
  • I went to see "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", did you?  I think they did an extremely good job with it.  It's kind of nice to see a movie that didn't feel the need to match a book so there was a little more creative license for new things.  Have you seen it yet?
  • Reading some graphic novels! I took a break for a while, but find them a wonderful resource to mix things up.  I read both "Boxers" and "Saints" and find myself continuously thinking about them... they address an area of history I was mostly ignorant on and has some very though-provoking concepts.

Book Haul: I've been resisting with Christmas coming up, but I did pick up a few from the library that I'm going to stay mum on until I've gotten a chance to take a look.  There are a lot of new releases coming out this month!

Literary Thoughts:  Here were some of my favorite literary articles I dug up this month!

What are the books you've been digging into?

Happy Reading!

Writing With Humor

Good Morning! Today's guest post is brought to you by Carl Schmidt

Carl Schmidt

I’ve been sitting at my word processor for nearly an hour, alternately squirming in my chair, rubbing the back of my neck and watching the clock, hoping that somehow, some way, the Great God of Mirth will sidle up and whisper to me the secret of writing with humor—so that I can reveal it to you. After all, that’s my topic.

I’m not really sure how to proceed, but I’m not flustered; I’m pacing myself. And what’s more, I lied about it being an hour; it’s only been ten minutes…so far.

The problem with writing about humor is that the reader is geared up to be amused. This, more or less, puts the writer on the spot. It won’t be good enough to Google the topic and paste up the seven secrets of comedy writing. I read them already, and they didn’t make me laugh. People don’t laugh while they're analyzing. To paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, “People just want to have fun.” And besides, if I cut and paste all seven, I’ll get nailed for plagiarism. So I won’t go there. My mission is to make you laugh.

Now… Fear of failure has always been a great motivator for me. So I’ll get myself going with a pep talk. Picture a manic, red-faced football coach at halftime with his team down by twenty-one points, and I’m the quarterback:

“OK, wise guy,” coach Ditka yells, looking me right in the eye. “You want to sell your book, right? Then you’d better get off your duff and find a way to be funny. Fake it if you have to, but I want to hear a chuckle in the third quarter. Otherwise, the reader will figure out that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, and what’s more, she’ll be pissed.”

Jesse Thorpe is the narrator/private detective of my mystery novel, "Dead Down East". Jesse has a cheeky sense of humor, which he allows to leak out now and again, not just because he likes to have fun, but also to maintain calm when things get perilous. The first really dicey moment for him occurs in the middle of chapter four, as he is trying to worm his way through an FBI roadblock. In the first draft, I had chosen that moment to insert a rather lengthy internal monologue, to expose the witty side of Jesse’s nature. I was having so much fun with it that by the time I was done, it was almost fifteen hundred words long. And while I liked the tension it created by suspending the dramatic moment in mid-air—for several pages—eventually I decided that it would be more effective as a prologue for the book. This way, on the very first page, the reader gets a preview of the inner workings of Jesse’s mind, a snapshot of his modus operandi and a quick peak at his girlfriend.

What follows are the first two paragraphs of that prologue. I hope it serves to demonstrate the use of humor in writing, and, most of all, I hope it tickles your funny bone.

Apologies and compliments are two remarkably effective devices for disarming adversaries in life and hecklers in bars. If you consider the socially adept people you know, you’ll see that they use these two conversational tools frequently and with ease. I remember the first time it fully dawned on me how valuable they could be.

Angele and I had been dating for a couple of weeks. Our next planned event was scheduled for Saturday night. So I was a bit surprised when she arrived unexpectedly at my place on Tuesday evening. I guess she decided that there was something that couldn’t wait until the weekend. The moment she walked through the front door, I began to suspect what that “something” was. She had a gleam in her eyes that seared me from the inside of my nimble imagination right down to my insteps. I surmised that she was either ovulating, or she had a sudden urge for a tour of the Thorpe habitat. I began to mentally review the floor plan of the house. “Now, where is my bedroom?” I thought. “I know it was here this morning.”

About the "Dead Down East":

Dead Down East

"Dead Down East", a fictional murder mystery, is both detective noir and smart screwball comedy rolled into one. Jesse Thorpe, a young private investigator operating out of Augusta, Maine, receives a mysterious phone call from a former client, Cynthia Dumais.  She begs to be rescued from an island south of Brunswick, within a mile of where William Lavoilette, the governor of Maine, was assassinated the night before. She insists that her life is in danger, but is unwilling to provide any further information. Reluctantly, Jesse goes to fetch her.

Within a week, Jesse has three separate clients, each with his, or her, own desperate need to have the murder solved. He assembles a motley team of compadres, including rock band members, a tie-dye psychic and his rousing girlfriend, Angele Boucher, to help him with the case. While the FBI and the Maine State Police investigate political motives, Jesse looks for the woman—Cherchez la Femme—as the trail draws him through the lives, and DNA, of the governor’s former mistresses.

Fresh, witty and loaded with eccentric characters, this first novel in the Jesse Thorpe Mystery Series is both clever and stylish. It’s an old-school private eye tale with inventive twists and local charm. If you enjoy a well-crafted and zesty narrative, lively banter, or take pleasure in the company of Mainers, you’ll love "Dead Down East".

Get in touch with the author at:

October Monthly Update: Have a Spooky Halloween!

Things have been a little calmer this October and the weather can't seem to decide if it's still summer or winter.  Today it's in the high 70's but last week it was in the 40's!  We have had some absolutely stunning sunrises and sunset through.  I just with that we weren't already back to the "driving to work in the dark" season.

What have I been up to?

  • Squeeeing over the Six of Crows series sequel "Crooked Kingdom"
  • I finally got a chance to check out the "A Court of Thorns and Roses" series and oh my goodness, it's a challenger to "Throne of Glass".  The second book just blew my mind!
  • Reading "Do Androids Dream of Sheep?" with my book club on Habitica.  The book is apparently the inspiration for "Blade Runner", but I haven't gotten a chance to watch the movie yet.  Based on the previews I've seen I'm somewhat curious to see what the connection is going to be.
  • Getting into the spooky season by reading "The Accident Season" which I absolutely adored.  It's one that will keep you on your toes without giving you nightmares!

Book Haul: I've resisted new books this month since I've been trying to rely more on the library.  I did however get the new "Alien Mine" the latest in the Pruxnae season that just came out!  I love Lucy Varna's stuff, highly recommended!

Literary Thoughts:  Here were some of my favorite literary articles I dug up this month!

What are the books you've been digging into?

Happy Reading!

How to Research Historical Fiction

Good Morning! Today's guest post is brought to you by Andrew Jones: 

Yellow Hair

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. I would like to thank Marisa for allowing me to be here today to promote my latest, Yellow Hair, which documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage I write about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in my fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. "Yellow Hair" is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

Now that the commercial is out of the way, we can get down to what I really came here to talk about: the research that goes into writing an historical novel or an action/adventure novel that uses an historical event as a backdrop.

I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!

Before I get into telling you about the year-long research I did for "Yellow Hair", I’d like to tell you how I researched my second and third books and describe what that research entailed.

My second book was a western and the protagonist was a woman. The research took about three months. I had to know everything from women’s undergarments of the late 19th century to prison conditions for women in those days. (I sent my heroine to jail.) That kind of research was easy. Thank God for the internet. But then I had to do some real research. Molly (my protagonist) built up her cattle ranch to one of the largest in Montana, but she and her neighbors had nowhere to sell their beef. So Molly decided to drive her and her neighbors’ cattle to Abilene where she could get a good price. She put together the second largest herd on record (12,000 head) and took off for Abilene.

That’s when I had to really go to work. I wanted my readers to taste the dust on the trail. I wanted them to feel the cold water at river crossing. I wanted them to know about the dangers of the trail, from rustlers to Indians to cattle stampedes.

This is how I learned about all those things and more. First of all, I found old movies that were authentic in nature. I watched them to get a feel for the trail. Then I read books by great authors who had written about cattle drives to soak up even more of the atmosphere of a cattle drive. That was all well and good, but it still did not put me in the long days of breathing dust and being always fearful of a stampede.

That’s when I went looking for diaries written by real cowboys while they were on the trail. After that, I found obscure self-published books written by those cowboys. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time about large cattle drives. That’s how I had Molly herd the second largest cattle drive. I discovered that the largest was 15,000 head, driven from Texas to California in 1882.

My next book took place in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Here new elements were added such as wolves and the extreme weather as adversaries. Dogsledding was also involved. I have seen snow only three times in my life and I have never dogsledded. I knew even less about wolves. I had to learn about those things. I had no idea what it was like to travel across a wilderness on a dogsled at seventy degrees below zero. I also had to acquire knowledge about the dogs themselves, especially the lead dog. I learned about all that by doing the same things I did for my second book. The old diaries were the most helpful. As to the gold rush, there was plenty of material in the form of self-published books by some of the participants. Some were never even published, but I found copies of them in the archives of universities and historical societies. Again, newspaper stories printed at the time were very useful. Concerning wolves . . . I read everything I could get my hands on about wolves—their habits, the pack hierarchy, the alpha male, and the different jobs or tasks the males and females have while hunting.

Now we come to "Yellow Hair". As I mentioned above, the book is about the Sioux Nation from 1805 to 1890. I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. And, again, there were universities and historical societies whose archives were a great help.

As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.

But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

I’m running out of space, so I reckon I’ll wrap it up. I hope I’ve given you a little insight into the research process. It’s time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. But it is also a blast. Every new discovery is like finding the motherlode.

I’d like to sign off with another commercial. The three books I alluded to above are:

I would like to thank Marisa once again for having me over and you good folks for tuning in.

-Andrew Joyce

About the Author

Andrew Joyce

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called "Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups" (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, "Yellow Hair". He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, "Mick Reilly".


September Monthly Updates

Fall Book Corner

Fall has FALLEN!

Too soon?  I don't think so, I am definitely a fan of the cooler temperatures, football being back (although, come on Irish - get your act in gear) and SKI SEASON being around the corner!  In Colorado we've already had a few snow storms up in the mountains and I am so excited to get into it.  In the mean time, I have a busy fall coming up with weddings, family events and the last minute stuff that already comes up.  

What else have I been up to?

  • Finally took that exam I've been studying for all summer!  Huzzah!

  • Re-watching the "Ocean's 11" series.  Having finished the much awaited "Empire of Storms" by Sarah J. Maas had me thinking about how complex plot lines manage to come together.  

  • Reading the archive of webcomic "Scandinavia and the World", which is a funny commentary on the state of the world, history and shenanigans from a Scandinavian viewpoint.  Each character represents a country, but be fore-warned, it can be a little risque at times.

Book Haul:


I haven't done a proper giveaway in a while - what would you most like to get?  Books, bookish swag or a giftcard?

What are the books you've been digging into?

Happy Reading!

August Monthly Updates

Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks

Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks

I'm back!

After my month-long hiatus to focus on life, it's good to get back into my reading schedule.  While I was away I re-listened to the Harry Potter books during my commute to work so be prepared for some official reviews on those coming up!  I was rereading the series in advance of the release of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" - have you read it yet??  What were your thoughts?  See my spoiler-free review here.  Once the play has been out a little longer, I am planning on doing a deep dive on my thoughts.

What else have I been up to?

  • Studying!  I am thinking about going back to school and have been studying like a fiend for the standardized entrance exam.  
  • Watching the Olympics of course!  I haven't been able to watch as  much as I'd like with my study schedule, but I've certainly been hitting up the highlights whenever I can.  I think this year there has been more coverage of some of the smaller sports, but perhaps that's just selective memory.
  • Re-reading the archive slice of life webcomic "The Devil's Panties", which is a great couple minute escape when I can't committ to getting into a book.  It's a comic about everyday life, frustrations of moving and lots of great nerd content.  No, it's not what the title sounds like.

Book Haul:

Of course since I have been too busy to keep up with reading, I've been spending too much time adding books to the "To Be Read" pile.  My most recent additions are:

What are the books you've been digging into?

Happy Reading!