Thursday, February 27, 2014

Avoiding the One Star

Over the years I have come across many things that can turn a good novel bad. I am not a full -time professional writer or editor although I dabble in both. But I do consider myself a professional reader. With that said, her are, The Waring Rule’s for staying away for the dreaded- One Star Rating.

1.    Do not name every character in the novel, the bartender does not need a name if he is only the bartender. Neither does the guy sitting across from the protagonist at a poker game- if he is never again in the story.

2.   Some words are spelled differently in England than in the United States.  A Defense Attorney in America is different from a Defence Attorney in England.

3.   I hate a page with three sentences on a page and a next page with fifteen. A few long sentences are fine, but too many and it gets difficult to read.

4.    Comments from a few westerns I have recently read. Please be aware I am a professional historian-these may not bug everyone.


·        Fry Bread became popular in the 1860s with the Navajo who were given so little provisions it was one of the few foods they could make. It was never common in caf├ęs or in non-Indian homes. And it was Fry Bread, not, Fried Bread. It tastes great, if you want to try it I posted a recipe on my cooking site some time ago.


·        Early playing cards were not marked in the corners like todays.

·        Cowboys would never have ordered a steak rare

·        There were no blue jeans in the old west

·        The cowboy did not pull his fixin’s from his shirt pocket


As far as one star ratings, I don’t give them. If I can’t give it a three or better I don’t rate it. I also don’t give ratings to books that already have several dozen ratings. If you are anything like me, I only look at a few of the ratings, that’s enough.





Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why I Love Charles Dickens

When I was in high school our librarian liked to suggest books or authors to students she believed might like them. That is how my live long love of the works of Charles Dickens started. She suggested I try, Oliver Twist and I couldn’t put it down. My second Dickens' book was, A Tale of Two Cities. Who doesn’t love the greatest opening lines in all of fiction?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Dickens led an incredible story book life. He father was imprisoned for debt and he was forced to work in a factory for pennies a day. Many would have accepted their lot and told all who would listen their tales of woe. But not Dickens, he read. He has often been described as an autodidact, and I suppose he was. He read, he learned and he remembered, forever.

Dickens intellect not only got him out of the blacking factory it made him famous. By age 24, only 12 years after being forced into the boot black factory, he was one of the most famous people in England. He reached the fame through the publication of his, Pickwick Papers. The papers were printed in installments and became the most widely read articles in all of Europe.

Dickens never returned to school, nor did he need to. His formal education ended after elementary school and after Shakespeare he may be the most famous of all English writers. His works are still selling today, his Tale of Two Cites, I referenced above has sold over 200 million copies. Because of his tough upbringing Dickens remained a champion of the poor and down trodden throughout his life giving both time and money to many helpful causes.

Born a pauper to a dead beat father Dickens story is remarkable. He could have been forgotten by the age of 12, instead he spent the next 46 years becoming one of the most beloved authors in all of the English language. Charles Dickens life ended too soon at 58, he was buried with kings and queens in Westminster Abby. Quite a finish for someone who started the race in last.











Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Grandma's Diary Part Two

Three weeks ago I posted one weeks’ worth of entries from my Grandmothers diaries seventy-five years ago.  I promised to pass along what I thought I could learn from her daily life.

From these few entries I found of her love for, Lux Radio Theatre and playing cards. Her daily life was full of work and hobbies but for this blog I will consider only her radio listening and card playing.

What was Lux Radio Theatre?

By going to this site - - I was able to find and listen to the same programs my grandma listened to when she was younger than my oldest child—pretty cool!

Card Playing

In the day and age my grandma was out and about and active, mostly in groups they simply referred to as club. The game of choice was often Pitch.

Why Pitch? It is fast paced, often with winners moving from table to table. Score could be kept by who wins at the last table or an overall accumulation of points throughout the night. Six point or seven point pitch was popular but later gave way to ten point. Both of these games were played with partners. If the game was individual it was four point.

For being high point for the night a small prize was always awarded. In my grandmas diaries she often went to club even when it was snowing and below zero. It was a good chance to catch up on the local news and gossip, get together with other women and best of all, win a prize.

As for men and card games of the day, they like the women, played pitch and playing in groups with husbands and wives was a popular entertainment for many years. But men sitting down to play cards, it often was played with only two men, the game of choice? Cribbage.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Oh - How I Hate Prologues

I hate Prologues, there I got that off my chest or my mind, or as my granddaughter would say, “Whatever.”

I started reading a book this afternoon. I turned to the first page – there centered at the top – Prologue. This page then proceeded to describe the protagonist to me as he looked at himself in a mirror. And it described his thoughts as he looked in the mirror. Not sure if the mirror was bouncing back his thoughts or what.

I skipped the rest of the false beginning, ur, I mean prologue and went to the first chapter. And it started with a description of the beautiful day and how many colors the sky was that morning.

So there I was, I hate prologues and the beginning of the first chapter was a yawner.  I quit. Started a new book.

How did it start? “The old back wound ached and his shoulder still hurt all day long, but two years of healing and pushing papers at a Kansas City desk made the pain bearable. U.S. Marshall Blade Holmes tipped his head back and blew out a long cold breath, He watched the air turn to a misty white steam.  Hooking his thumb inside the collar of his deerskin coat he pulled it up tight under his chin, felt like winter might be in a bit of a rush to get to the Wyoming high country this year.

Yep, I’ll stick with this one. Where is he going? Did he get shot two years ago? Will he get trapped by a storm? I want to know. I need to know. As a reader I must know.

This is how I pick what I read, if it starts too slow, or I just do not like the beginning, I pick another. At my age I don’t want to waste time reading bad books when there are so many good ones out there.

Read on!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Grade Level Are You Writing For?

Have you ever wondered what level of reader you are writing for?  Or for that matter have you ever wondered what level the books you are reading are meant for?  Seems there are a variety of on line tools, free of charge, that an author can use to check the level of your words and sentence structure. I checked some of my blog posts, fifth to seventh grade, and also typed in some of the stuff I was reading, two novels, both seventh grade. And how does that stack up, well average reading material is fifth to seventh grade so I guess what I am writing is at about the correct level. Think I may challenge myself to find some more difficult reading material.

Here are two great online tools to check up on yourself, try them out it is great fun. I tested this blog, complete with links, and here are my results. , my readable Score was, 57/ 100, the higher the number the easier it is to read.  Grade level for this post, came in at a grade six.

The second analyzer is based on tried and true methods used in American schools for many years. This scale is based on the, Flesch Reading Ease Scale, a popular readability algorithm.  You can find this analyzer at,, using this scale the same block post came in at a grade level of 6.3, very similar to the writing tester. Surprisingly when I added in the links the reading level for this analyzer went down to 4.54, interesting, not sure what that means.

This might be a waste of time but it beats the computer card game I was playing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Richard Wheeler - An Accidental Novelist

Richard S. Wheeler’s, An Accidental Novelist –A literary Memoir, is so well done and so mesmerizing that it seems I was with him every step of the way. Wheeler who weaves some of the very best western literature ever written is again at his best with this one.

He tells the story of his life through his journey from a, not sure this job’s for me, newspaper-man to successful author. It is a story with settings from the upper Midwest, to southwestern desert and finally home in the mountains of Montana. Wheeler, like he does in his western tails, reels in the reader from the start using his unique blend of storytelling through truthfulness, humor and historical context.

The story is also an emotional journey, from happily married through heart wrenching divorce to the lonely writer and full circle to happily married and fulfilled in Montana.

For anyone who loves westerns, wants to be a writer, is a writer, or just wants to read a heck-of-a-good book, this one is definitely for you. How good was it? As I finished the last page, I couldn’t stop and immediately downloaded the first of his wonderful Barnaby Skye novels, Skyes West – Rendezvous, and started reading. This was a novel I read and enjoyed thirty years ago, and it is still captivating. Today I believe I will download another of Mr. Wheeler’s works.

Think you have read the best western books ever? Not if you have not read Mr. Wheeler.