What the Judge Had To Say…

I received the judge’s feedback from my first place win in mainstream fiction in The 2017 Writer’s Digest E-book Awards. There is a rating system 0-5 with 5 being outstanding and 1 meaning it needs work. Three Empty Frames scored 4 in five of the categories and 3 in the remaining category. And I think this commentary from the judge is really positive!

THREE EMPTY FRAMES by Meg Sorick presented a great plot, dialogue, and tone. A young lady, Jennifer, tries to find out the mystery of her mother’s past by only the events to go on from mom’s journal. I was highly interested in this story and loved the twists and turns. The plot points were in the right place to keep me turning the page. I loved the romantic aspect to the novel between Jenny and Tommy—a nice contrast to Jenny’s mom’s background. Although the plot and characterization were nicely done, I wanted to see more: setting and emotion that would connect me even closer to the main characters. There were a lot of characters, but good attention was focused on the main characters enough to create nice character arcs by the end of the novel. Small mention about the formatting of texting back and forth: it could have been formatted a little differently because it was a little confusing who was talking (after the first person’s text came through). Spacing between story and the texts were done well. I just wasn’t sure who was talking some of the time and had to re-read parts. Overall, the author incorporated the mystery, romance, and energy of the story very well, and I enjoyed reading this book. –Judge, 5th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards.

A clean slate for the new year.

I did it! I managed to finish the revisions of Breaking Bread before the end of the year. I’ve passed it off to a few readers for last minute feedback on the change in the story. I’m sending to my editor today with his promise to have it back to me by the end of February. In the meantime, I will work on the book cover and writing the dreaded blurb. Watch for publication in early March!

Today, I opened the file for “Here Lies a Soldier” and began rereading the story so far. I’ve dusted off my notebook for the novel and begun jotting down ideas for some changes and for what happens next. I can feel the neurons beginning to fire and I’m looking forward to picking up the threads of this story set between modern day and the time of The Great War. Watch for interesting bits of research I find as I read to write.

I also received some very exciting news at the end of the year, but I will save that for tomorrow as it deserves a post of its own!

giphy

Reading Challenge 2017 – What books did you read this year?

It is the love of books that made me want to write one of my own. While it’s true that I don’t have the time to read as much as I used to –and mostly because of writing and its associated tasks– I still enjoy spending my free time with a good book. Each year for the past several, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge in which I set a goal of reading from a list of books within the year. My goal was to read 20 books in 2017 –a modest amount for a woman who used to read a book a week before becoming an author herself!

I am happy to say that I surpassed my goal and read 25 books! Here is my list:

  1. W.B. Yeats and the Muses – Joseph M. Hassett
  2. A Farewell To Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  3. Too Loud a Solitude – Bohumil Hrabal
  4. Loving – Henry Green
  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  6. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  7. Heartbreak Hotel – Jonathan Kellerman
  8. Princess Margaret, A Biography – Theo Aronson
  9. The Complete Works of William Blake
  10. Pills – Jack Binding
  11. Camino Island – John Grisham
  12. Storm Of Steel – Ernst Junger
  13. X – Sue Grafton
  14. The Whistler – John Grisham
  15. Regeneration – Pat Barker
  16. Crowned and Dangerous – Rhys Bowen
  17. Speaking In Bones – Kathy Reichs
  18. The Obsession – Nora Roberts
  19. Time To Lie – Phil Taylor
  20. The Human Factor – Graham Greene
  21. Batman and Psychology – A Dark and Stormy Knight
  22. Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates
  23. Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes
  24. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  25. Bistro – Roger Moore

As you can see from the list, I don’t only read novels. The list includes two collections of short stories, two biographies, two non fiction books and a collection of poetry. Choosing a favorite from this group is difficult. Comparing books of different genres is like comparing apples to oranges, but I’ll share some of the standouts in the list, for better or worse.

I was fascinated to read the perspective of a German officer during World War One in Storm of Steel. My research on the Great War had been, with the exception of All Quiet On the Western Front, written from the standpoints of Belgium, France, Britain and the rest of their allies. Ernst Junger presents an enthusiastic (without being unrealistic) narration of his experiences as a soldier in the German Army. This is a marked contrast to the reluctant soldier (a character with whom we highly sympathize) in Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front.

Watching season one of The Crown on Netflix made me curious about the romance between Group Captain Townsend and the Princess Margaret. Her biography was intriguing and sad. The book paints a story of a woman who embraced her royal status as much as she rebelled against conformity –quite the tale of two women. The thwarted love affair with Townsend is especially interesting and ironic considering the latest “Meg” to join the royal family is divorced, American and of mixed race. My, how times have changed! (For the better, at least in these kinds of situations.)

Black Chalk was the standout favorite of all the novels on the list. It is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator telling the story of a group of friends who begin a game in college which has consequences that grow ever more serious as time goes by –even to the extent of ruining lives. It was awesomely chilling!

And the biggest disappointment of the group was The Bell Jar. This is one of those books that I was ashamed to admit I had never read. Well, I finally crossed it off my to-do list but I can’t say I’m any more enriched for the experience. And I know many of you will say ‘what is wrong with you?’ when I tell you this but I was bored with the story. Bored and worn out with all the similes. The curtains didn’t just flutter in the breeze, they fluttered like the wings of half dead moths (or some such thing). Descriptions like that were stacked one top of another and it got tiresome. I also kept wondering what I was missing. This is supposed to be a life-changing book. I didn’t get it.

The previous year (2016), I failed my reading challenge thanks to an overly aggressive writing and blogging schedule and I realized I didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t taking in as many stories as I was putting out. I strongly believe that a good writer must be an avid reader. That means something different to everyone, as we all have busy lives. Most of us are carving out time from our ‘day’ jobs and our family and friends to make time for writing. How does one find the time to read as well?

My reading time is divided two ways: I read a little before bed every night and I listen to an audiobook while I exercise (nearly) every day. I may read research material for a project I’m working on as well. In 2018, I’m setting my goal at 25 books and we shall see if I can manage it with my writing goals for this year. Here’s what I have on my list, what’s on yours?

  1. Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
  2. The Catcher In the Rye – JD Salinger
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  4. The Man In the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
  5. The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way – Bill Bryson
  6. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance Of Horror
  7. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
  8. The Quiet American – Graham Greene
  9. Siegfried Sassoon: Soldier, Poet, Lover, Friend – Jean Moorecroft Wilson
  10. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  11. The Obituary Writer – Ann Hood
  12. Madame Bovary – Gustav Flaubert
  13. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
  14. Y – Sue Grafton
  15. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  16. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – Nadia Hashimi
  17. The Art Forger – B.A. Shapiro
  18. Testimony – Scott Turow
  19. The Complete Works Of Percy Bysshe Shelly
  20. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  21. The Breakdown – B.A. Paris
  22. Ghostwriter – Alessandra Torre
  23. Moonglow – Michael Chabon
  24. Party Going – Henry Green
  25. Artemis – Andy Weir

And if you want to read any of my books, The Bucks County Novels, you can find all four (soon to be five) on Amazon. For a preview, visit The Bucks County Novels page on my blog.