Wrap-up of Best Books of 2016 Lists

This collection won’t be anything close to complete, but I hope it will at least offer up a few selections that pique your interest. So, peruse and enjoy. And, if you find other lists that should be added to the wrap-up, please feel free to leave links in the comments. (My list is skewed to my own preference for speculative fiction, so I have definitely overlooked other popular genres like thriller, mystery, and romance; so – please! – let me know your favorite picks!)

Here’s to making your To-read List even longer!!

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Tor.com Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR's Book Concierge - Best Books of 2016

NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2016


New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Happy reading!!

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.

Locally Sourced Books

We always celebrate Tim's birthday with books.

We always celebrate Tim’s birthday with books.

Just as I try to eat locally sourced food, I also like to give locally sourced books as gifts, especially in December, which begins with my husband’s birthday.

Archer Mayor. (www.archermayor.com)

Archer Mayor. (www.archermayor.com)

For the past twenty-six years, my friend and neighbor Archer Mayor has provided me with a Joe Gunther detective novel in time for Tim’s birthday. Not only are these books written a few miles down the road, but most of them take place in Vermont. Archer has a keen knowledge of local customs and politics with which he grounds these stories. By now, Joe Gunther is like an old friend, which only makes the suspense more thrilling when he’s on the trail of an elusive and dangerous criminal.

The Company She Kept is title #26 in the Joe Gunther series.

The Company She Kept is title #26 in the Joe Gunther series.

These novels combine deep knowledge of Vermont, savvy insight into human behavior, and inventive ways humans misbehave. I’ve learned to set aside a solid block of time so I can read these well-written stories in a single sitting, during which my heart races as I turn pages. It’s not just that I can’t put them down until I get to the end; I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t finish the book, I won’t sleep or get anything else done until I know how it ends.

castle small photo

The Devil in the Valley is Castle Freeman, Jr.'s newest novel, just out. (www.castlefreemanjr.com)

The Devil in the Valley is Castle Freeman, Jr.’s newest novel, just out. (www.castlefreemanjr.com)



Castle Freeman, Jr. lives up the hill from me, and he has a new novel just out, The Devil in the Valley. As Castle says, “Practically all the writing I have done – fiction, essays, history, journalism, and more – has been in one way or another about rural northern New England, in particular the State of Vermont, and the lies of its inhabitants, a source of unique and undiminishing interest, at least to me.”

Castle has a fine ear for the local vernacular, a clear eye for the local landscape, and a remarkable ability to tell a tale whose minute particulars reverberate with the human condition anywhere. After reading Castle’s splendid recent novels, Go With Me and All That I Have, I’m eager to read The Devil In the Valley – which is another reason for giving my husband a copy.

Peter Gould holding a copy of Marley, his new book.

Peter Gould holding a copy of Marley, his new book.

Our friend Peter Gould has a new young adult book out, which I’ve added to the pile. Marley, a Novella in One Voice is not just an unusual book – all one voice (and it’s not Marley’s) dialogue, no description – it’s been published locally, by Green Writers Press, a mission-driven publishing house that uses environmentally sustainable printing and distribution methods, publishes books that “incorporate and facilitate the gift of words to help foster a sustainable environment,” and donates a percentage of its profits to environmental causes. I can barely wait for Tim to unwrap this gift – so I can read it!

Veranda Porche, photograph by Harry Saxman via wikimedia.

Veranda Porche, photograph by Harry Saxman via wikimedia.

No birthday would be complete without a couple of volumes of poetry, and this year’s pick includes two. Sudden Eden by Verandah Porche came out in 2012 and sold out before I could buy a copy, so this is a long overdue purchase. Verandah is so remarkable: she breathes poetry so deeply she speaks it instead of prose. Both she and Peter were members of the famous Packers Corner commune in Guilford, where Verandah still resides. Her poems are filled with the nature that abounds here, including the poetry of ordinary lives, which of course are not ordinary at all. A tremendous example of her work can be found in Shedding Light on the Working Forest, in collaboration with the visual artist, Kathleen Kolb. This traveling exhibit of painting and poetry can be seen at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center through January 3, 2015 before moving on to other venues in Vermont and Connecticut.

Interstate, a new collection of poems by Chard diNiord, newly named Poet Laureate of Vermont

Interstate, poems by Chard diNiord

I also picked up a copy of Interstate, the latest collection by local poet

Chard diNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont

Chard diNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont

Chard diNiord, who just recently became Vermont’s Poet Laureate. Tim’s a great fan of Chard’s work, and this volume brings his collection up to date. Tim will read it through, and then he’ll read the poems aloud to me.

The Bonnie Road by Suzanne d'Corsey

The Bonnie Road by Suzanne d’Corsey

I have two other books for Tim I’ve already purchased and read – on my Kindle. The Bonnie Road is by my friend and neighbor Suzanne d’Corsey. (Look here for a guest post by her soon.) The Bonnie Road is set in St. Andrews, Scotland, and draws on a dark, pagan undercurrent, spinning together mythology, archaeology, magic and love, all unleashed when American Rosalind Ehrhart arrives on the scene. In addition to a good story, the novel is filled with eccentric characters and lots of information, from how to brew a pot of tea to the mysterious interconnectedness of pagan rites, nature, history and culture. Reading The Bonnie Road completely drew me in to this credible, imaginary world.

J.A. Hennrikus, aka Julianne Holmes, author of the Clock Shop Mysteries.

J.A. Hennrikus, aka Julianne Holmes, author of the Clock Shop Mysteries.

And finally, our own J.A. Hennrikus, writing as Julianne

Just Killing Time - by our own Hennrikus/Holmes.

Just Killing Time – by our own Hennrikus/Holmes.

Holmes, has just come out with the first in a series of cozy mysteries, Just Killing Time. I don’t particularly care to travel, especially by air, so it’s a testament to how wonderfully entertaining this novel is that it helped me forget I was at 30,000 feet en route to spend ten days in California. Instead, I was in Orchard, Massachusetts, rooting for Ruth Clagan to solve the murder of her grandfather and fall in love with a new life: a perfect set up for the stories to come. I can hardly wait until next October, when the second in this series is due out.

Except for the two books I purchased for my Kindle, which is convenient for travel, I purchased all the other books at Everyone’s Books, my local, independent bookstore in Brattleboro, Vermont. Of course, I could have bought all these books on-line (and possibly even qualified for free shipping), but just as I like to read locally, I also like to shop locally.

Giving locally sourced books is my win-win-win formula for the holidays: it supports my writer friends, it supports my local economy, it pleases my loved ones, all of whom not only love to read, but who also generously share their books with me.

Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont in 1964, by Deborah Lee Luskin.

Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont in 1964, by Deborah Lee Luskin.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin‘s locally-sourced story is Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont in 1964. Into the Wilderness was awarded the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Regional Fiction and commended by the Vermont Library Association for its “Sense of Place.”


Friday Fun – Books We’ve Read More Than Once

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Name up to three books that you’ve read more than three times each. (Bonus Points: Reveal why you keep coming back to that particular book.)

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Other than a couple of writing-related books for grammar, writing prompts, and inspiration, I haven’t re-read any books. There are so many books out there in the world to read, that I just haven’t gone back to re-read one I’ve already tackled. That being said, if I find an author I like, I will generally seek out and read every book I can by that author before moving on to any other books.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: There was a time in my life when I performed bibliomancy on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I kept a copy by my bedside and opened it at random before I fell asleep at night. I’ve read all six of Austen’s novels more times than I can count – and not just because I wrote my dissertation about them. Other favorites include Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, Dicken’s David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

There are others as well: No matter how well I know a book, I almost always reread it before I teach it, so that it’s fresh in my mind. And while part of me thinks this leads to being over prepared and that I should really be reading only books I haven’t read before, I’ve learned that each time I reread a book, I read it anew – because I’ve changed and the world changed, and I always find new meaning in a good story well told.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: There are so many books I’ve read more than three times, it’s hard to limit myself here. One that I’ve mentioned many times on this blog is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which I always learn something from, no matter how many times I’ve read it before. I’ve also read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein at least three times. I hope to read them again–to my son, whenever he is ready for them. And one more book that I’ve read many times is, (like Deborah,) Jane Eyre. I first read the book in 5th grade and I was captivated by Jane, maybe because she’s a child in the beginning of the book, as I was at the time I first read it. Every rereading teaches me something new.

I reread a lot of nonfiction but I also enjoy rereading fiction. There’s something about returning to an old favorite that I love. I think it has to do with the certainty that the book I’m diving into is going to deliver, even though it now lacks the suspense of the first reading. New books, known books, they’re all good friends, aren’t they?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: There are not many books that I’ve read more than once. A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin is one (it’s also one of my picks for best winter reads), and like Diane, I have also read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy multiple times. I also find that I sometimes return to childhood favorites (The House at Pooh Corner, Wind in the Willows, Julie of the Wolves). And lately, I’ve been re-listening to certain audio books (though my return listens have been less about reliving the story in question and more about having a pleasantly familiar accompaniment to some manual labor). Lillian Jackson Braun’s “cat who” mysteries are perfect for this purpose. I am sure there are other books I’ve reread, but their titles escape me at the moment.

As for why I reread certain books, I think it’s mostly to recapture a particular feeling. Most of the books I return to are ones that represent a sense of comfort and well being to me. They create a space in which I feel safe and “cocooned” from whatever trials I’m facing in the real world.

Interestingly, this question has made me ask myself why I keep so many books when there is such a slim chance that I’ll reread them. I have several bookcases filled to overflowing with novels and nonfiction books that I will likely never reread, and yet I cannot bear to part with them. Is it because I just like to have them around me? Do they serve as some sort of physical tally of my reading conquests? Are they still here “just in case” I should one day like to reread a passage or two? I don’t really know. I only know that I’m happier with my shelves full than empty.

Friday Fun – Book to Screen Adaptations

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: The Oscars are Sunday. Do you have a favorite book to screen (small or large) adaptation? Was there one you hated?

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: There are several Jane Austen adaptations that are really lovely. And the Harry Potters are good. Not as good as the books, but complete in their own right. One adaptation that I loathed was the David Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express. I was so looking forward to it, but they “added” to the front part of the story, and changed the ending around a bit. Some of the characters’ motivations changed. I fear I am a bit of a Christie purist, and I hated it. Don’t even get me started on the most recent Miss Marples. Ironically, I adore both Sherlock and Elementary, which I guess makes me a complicated woman. Who knew?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I read The Other Bolyn Girl with a bookclub not long before the movie came out and we were all looking forward to seeing the movie because we thought the clothes everyone wore would be spectacular. I know I was disappointed when the main character basically wore the same dress and headgear the whole time. The clothes described in the book were amazing, but the movie showed only drab, dark costumes. The story itself lost much of its complexity, as movies made from books often do. I thought the Happy Potter movies suffered from the same problem–the books were so complex and had so many story lines that I didn’t think the books translated well to the movie screen.

I did think the Lord of the Rings movies were very well done. I’d read the books many times when I was younger, so I was very familiar with the story and seeing the world of the Shire and places like Mordor come alive on the big screen was a wonderful experience.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: I agree with Julie and Diane that the Lord of the Rings (and now The Hobbit) movie adaptations directed by Peter Jackson are beautifully done and very true to the books. There are, of course, scenes and even whole characters (Tom Bombadil comes to mind) who are completely left out, but that’s part of the usual sacrifice when translating a novel for film. It can’t be helped.

I’m a little nervous about the movie adaptation of Mark Helprin’s sweeping urban fantasy, A Winter’s Tale. The book has long been a favorite of mine, and I just don’t think it will translate well. The reviews I’ve read are not good, so I think I’ll just skip the film entirely. I’d rather not risk marring my enjoyment of the book.

Although it deviates quite a bit from the book, I do love the movie version of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. Gaiman was involved in the movie and loved the changes that were made. The fact that the film version includes a wholly new character (or, at least greatly expanded role) for Robert DeNiro – a cross-dressing sky pirate – is worth the price of admission alone!

Friday Fun – Best Books for Winter Reading

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We’ve been having some stormy and wintry weather around these parts, and that got us to wondering – are there certain books that you especially enjoy when you’re snowbound or all cozied up against the Arctic temperatures?

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin: I have enough of a bead on my novel – voice, characters and action – that I’m able to read fiction again without what I’m reading unconsciously spilling over into my book. A friend just sent me Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I’m loving, especially as I lost my old dog in August. And I’m (still) listening to an audio edition of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter while I knit. I try to keep up with my New Yorkers as well as all the other magazines and newsletters that come in to the house. And of course, I’d rather read than file 2013 or start on my taxes . . .

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: There are absolutely certain books that are more alluring to me during the long, winter months. The one I’ve reread most is Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It has been several years since I’ve stepped into the Helprin’s beautiful yet dangerous world, but I still carry with me the sense of wonder and magic that I felt when I first read the story of Peter Lake – orphan, burglar, and master mechanic – and Beverly Penn – a young New York heiress who is dying. This novel is nothing if not sweeping. Helprin’s language is poetic and his deft world creation skills blend the details of his magical surrealist New York with the historical one. The story spans the entire 20th century and a diverse cast of characters, but my favorite element of the story is the white horse, Athansor. The details of the narrative elude me, but I’m glad of that. It means that when I sit down to reread this tale, pieces of it may still come to me as a surprise. For the moment, while I wait to open its cover, I will just enjoy the lingering images of racing across the frozen landscape of upstate New York in a sleigh drawn by a horse that seems to fly, a mysterious cloud bank that hovers on the edges of New York harbor, and the manic passion of a man trying to build a bridge to another world.

P.S. – There is a movie version of this book coming out in February. I do not have high hopes that this book will translate to film well, so if you plan on seeing the movie, I’d recommend you read the book first! 😉

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Wow, Jamie, funny you mention Winter’s Tale, that’s been in my TBR pile for a while now and it’s coming up in the queue – the title makes it seem like a great winter book. I’ve only heard great things about it, so look forward to delving in. Short story compilations are great in the winter (or any time), as they offer different length stories. 1997 Best American Mystery Short StoriesI’m currently reading The Best American Mystery Stories 1997, edited by Robert B. Parker. Some authors I already know, others I’m getting to know. And I also find large serial novels fun to read in the winter. Such as any Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series (Scottish men in kilts and time travel), or (my newest) The Game of Thrones series.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I agree with Deborah, I love reading in the winter. Right now I am in the #JanNoWriStart mode, so I am spending nights writing. But I have three books on the TBR pile. One is Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. His Crush It helped me figure out how best to use social media. This book promises (and so far delivers) how to land the right hook. I also downloaded the Man Booker prize winner The Luminaries. I listen to the podcast BBC Front Row Daily, which is all about arts and culture. Heard an interview with the author, Eleanor Catton, and it sounds great. The third TBR book is The Artists Way at Work. A friend recommended it, and I am hoping for some illuminating moments. Once the Agatha nominations are out I will add mysteries to my piles.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I don’t have any books that I read specifically in winter, but I definitely have books that I’ve read more than once, and that I plan to re-read again. Many of those are books from my childhood–The Good Master and Harriet the Spy come to mind. Also, I’m looking forward to reading the Harry Potter series to my son when he gets old enough (I hope he’s as into it as I am!) I re-read Bird by Bird at least once a year, and I have done The Artist’s Way three times and I hope to do it again. (I hadn’t seen The Artist’s Way at Work, Julie, but I’ll definitely check it out!) These days I listen to books more than I sit and read–I just finished listening to Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which we share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: There is a buzz in the air today. Not only is this one of the last two shopping weekends before Christmas, but there is also a snowstorm on the way. If the weathermen (and women) are to be believed, the event will begin late this morning with some picturesque snow flurries that will lend a Currier & Ives feel to holiday errands. Later on this evening, however, things will get more serious when the snow starts coming down at the more aggressive clip of an inch per hour.

Even though it’s messy and inconvenient (not to mention dangerous), I love snow. There is a quieting magic in the way it hushes all the hard edges, slowing us down whether we’re outdoors or in. I will be out and about scurrying along with other shoppers today, but tomorrow, as the storm winds itself down, I’ll be happily hunkered down in my living room with a huge mug of tea, a towering pile of catalogs, and the trusty internet. I’m hoping to wrap up what little shopping I have to do and then, perhaps, do a little writing or (gasp!) maybe even take a nap.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy preparing for your holiday.

What I’m Writing:


One of my personal mind maps

So, this week on my marketing blog I posted a link to a podcast that was recorded in January and originally broadcast over the summer. Mind mapping aficionado Michael Tipper invited me to be a guest on The Mind Mapping Show after reading a post that I wrote here on Live to Write – Write to Live, Mind Mapping Your Way Out of Writer’s Block.  This week, I shared Tipper’s podcast in my post, The Secret Planning and Brainstorming Weapon You Don’t Know You Need. I get to be a total geek on the show, and I kind of had fun with that.

Ipswich River

The beautiful Ipswich River

I also shared a piece from my local column. A River Runs Through It  is a sort of ode to the beautiful Ipswich River that is such an integral part of our town’s landscape, history, and charm. As I continue my search for a house to call our own, I find that I am drawn more and more towards the small neighborhoods that are clustered along the banks of this watery way. I don’t know if I’ll be lucky enough to find a home there, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

What I’m Reading:

Affiliate Link

Affiliate Link

This week, I’m reading Love, Stargirl (affiliate link) by Jerry Spinelli, the sequel to Stargirl (affiliate link) (which I read over the summer and absolutely adored).

Though both of these YA novels center around the same character, Stargirl, they are like two the two sides of one coin. Stargirl is narrated by Leo Borlock and watches Stargirl from a distance which eventually closes and then widens again. Love Stargirl is told by Stargirl herself in the form of an unsent letter that is broken down into daily installments, like a diary. Both books are about the challenge of being yourself, being unique, swimming against the tide, and seeing the world with new eyes. There are many lyrical passages that make me want to stop what I”m doing and run outside to wiggle my toes in the dirt or hug a neighbor.

Though these are categorized as YA, I recommend them for any age. It doesn’t matter how “grown up” we are, we always struggle with how to be our most authentic selves. Artists and writers especially need to find the courage and enthusiasm to stand up and be different, let their voices freely into the world. These stories inspire me and, quite frankly, make me want to be a better person and a more passionate artist.

Affiliate Link

As a side note, Jerry Spinelli is married to Eileen Spinelli who is the illustrator of one of my favorite picture books ever, When You Are Happy (affiliate link). Written by Geraldo Valerio, this sweet and comforting book is a poem of love and reassurance that acknowledges sorrow and fear, but never lets them overcome happiness and love. Spinelli’s illustrations are vibrant, charming, and full of gorgeous details that create pictures within the pictures. I just can’t say enough good things about it. It says all the things that I want to say to my daughter, and accompanies the words with illustrations that make me want to jump right into the world of the book and stay there.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

… well, not exactly a quote, per se, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this.

Thanks for being here. Happy writing, reading, and holiday prepping. See you on the other side! 

Friday Fun – Do you give books as gifts?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: On this, the busiest shopping day of the year, we thought it appropriate to talk about whether (and how) we give books as gifts. 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Absolutely YES. I love to give books almost as much as I love to get them. I don’t give novels as often as I give nonfiction and coffee table-type books because I think choosing a novel is somehow more personal. I often give picture books to grown ups. I happen to love beautifully illustrated picture books myself and have often thought it’s a shame that we outgrow that particular indulgence so quickly. I have an entire bookcase that is filled with my favorite picture books and I don’t find it in the least bit odd. Books of poetry also make lovely gifts, especially ones that include beautiful art along with the poems. In my opinion, a book is a gift that never stops giving. Perhaps I’ll try to do all my holiday shopping at the bookstore this year.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Yes. Especially to the young readers in my life–I always get them a book. But I also find that anthologies (like Level Best Books) are a great gift for readers, particularly since it is a collection of short stories. Or going to a reading of an author and getting a book signed for a friend is a nice gesture. I have a number of friends with paperbacks out–a perfect sized hostess gift. And for the ebook readers, a gift card always works. The nice thing about books is that they can be “regifted” and make a lot of people happy.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: I seldom give books as gifts. Amazingly my family members aren’t readers, except Mom, and the house is overrunning with her to-be-read pile already. For friends, I just don’t know if they’ve already read a book or not, and preference for paper versus e-reader is something else to consider, too.

I do buy books for Little Sis throughout the year, and when she was younger it was easy to give her anything (as I was the one who interested her in reading and encouraged her to read various genres), but now she reads quickly and is introduced to new series all the time through her friends, so I prefer to buy books when she’s with me, so I know she’s getting something she wants to read – and hasn’t read already!

What’s extra special for me this season is that she’s now interested in creative writing and has quite a talent for making up paranormal worlds. Maybe we’ll start giving stories to each other as gifts!

Author event in Bedford, NH, Oct 30th

There’s an event coming up in a couple of weeks that is mixing two of my passions — (dark and mysterious) fiction and New Hampshire.

Dick Hatin

Dick Hatin

An author friend of mine, Richard Hatin is celebrating the launch of his second novel by speaking and doing a book signing.

Dick is a fellow Granite State Ambassador (GSA) who volunteers his time to share his passion of NH with visitors to our wonderful state.

At this event, on October 30, from 6:30-8PM, Dick will be talking about his writing and his volunteerism.

About his novels:

Evil Agreement begins in Sutton, Vermont, in 1843, when a coven was formed comprising devil worshipers recruited by Satan s servant, the purely evil Moloch. When one coven member breaks rank, she and her family are slaughtered by coven members out of revenge. One infant child survives the massacre, however, and is hunted relentlessly by the coven, but without success. Now the descendants of that first coven are closing in on Aaron Bailey, the last descendant of that surviving infant. The Evil Agreement, the Malum Pactum, may at last be fulfilled!

The hunt is on as the coven seeks to capture Aaron to complete the coven and fulfill their ancestors hideous bargain with the devil. Meanwhile, Aaron must learn about his hidden past, forge new alliances, and, with aid from an unlikely source, perhaps have a chance to destroy the coven – and even live to tell about it!

“A dark and evil legend was born in the northeastern corner of Vermont hundred of years ago. An unspeakable act was perpetrated by a hunting party of Indians.  Later, their Chief and the tribe’s Medicine Man placed an eternal curse upon them for their crime.  Now doomed, to live only in the darkness beneath the earth, their anger and hatred of all humans, grows with each passing year. Then, in 1962, a group of young boys exploring a small cave, come face to face with this devolved and hideously evil creature, and a battle for their very lives begins.  Together, they may stand a chance, but divided, they will all surely all die.  If only…….”

The event is open to the public and is at Carlyle Place – Courville Communities, 40 Route 101, Bedford, NH.

I’ll be there, as will other local writers. It can be a great time to connect in person.

Agenda for the evening:

6:30 pm – Networking and Welcome

7:00 pm – Presentation

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm – Book signing | Personal Visits | Facility Tour

I know there will be treats, too! Since it’s Halloween, well, who knows how many ghosts might make a brief appearance, but I’m sure they will all be friendly spirits…right?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Anatomy of a non-fiction book proposal

Last week’s post on the structure of a book proposal for a fiction series resulted in a few requests for the structure of a non-fiction book proposal. There are some similarities. The biggest differences are that you need to include a table of contents and your sample pages should *not* be your first chapter.

Here’s the breakdown (skeleton):

  • Overview – Your first challenge is to describe your book in 2-3 paragraphs (500 words or less). Include the title and subtitle; target audience; anticipated length of the manuscript; when you’ll have the manuscript complete; and what makes your book unique and worthwhile. –I’ve seen a suggestion to consider this the copy that appears on the back cover of the book, in a publisher’s catalog, or even as the brief review you’d see in Publishers Weekly or the NY Times Book Review. Think big, but be concise.
  • Target Audience – identify your core readers – those most likely to buy your book. Research the market and try to find some hard numbers to use to identify the market size. Also include tangential readers – those non-fiction readers who may be drawn to the subject matter of your book. (i.e. a lot of your book relates to horseback riding, so a potential market is a horse enthusiast)
  • About the Author – Talk about your credentials and experience. You want the agent/publisher to completely ‘get’ what makes you uniquely qualified to write and promote this book. You can also include social media and other platforms you are already established on in this section, or include it in the Marketing and Promotion section below.
  • Competitive Titles – This is a list summarizing those books and authors you see as major competitive/similar titles. Also include an explanation about why your book is different from each title you list. This section serves two purposes: you’re proving there’s an established audience who will find your book interesting and clearly showing how yours is different enough to compete with them.
  • Marketing and Promotion – Whether you have created/started your author platform already or not, this section needs a lot of content. In this section, explain your comprehensive plan for actively promoting your book and how publicity needs to be focused. List magazines and other media outlets that your target audience pays attention to and identify the outlets you (and your publisher) will focus on to get your book reviewed. Name people who will write blurbs for you (you’ll need them before your manuscript is completed). What are the topics and target outlets, based on the subject matter or your expertise, that will allow you to obtain speaking engagements? List types of groups and organizations that will be interested in having you speak. Identify portions of your book that can be excerpted in magazines and relevant journals; include up to 10 publications you feel will publish the excerpts. And don’t stop there! Include other promotional ideas you can pursue: speakers bureaus, hiring a publicist, getting on relevant mailing lists, leading/speaking at workshops, your book tour ideas, and whatever else you can think of.
  • Detailed Table of Contents – Don’t skimp in this section. Be very specific about summarizing every chapter. This section can range from 3 to 20 pages or more. The agent/publisher is looking for the details of what is inside your book. (I highlighted ‘detailed’ to emphasize that you don’t want to skimp here.)
  • Sample Chapters – Non-fiction agents and publishers generally don’t want your first chapters submitted as samples. They want a couple of chapters from inside the book that will give them a good snapshot of your writing style, the content, and the structure of the book.

Also, if your manuscript lends itself to images or artwork, you’ll want to include details about them – ie. whether you will supply all relevant images/art, whether you’ll need to obtain permission/licensing, whether it’ll be in color or b&w, and so on.

I hope this helps you as you start working on a non-fiction book proposal. If you discover anything else that should be included, please let us know!

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys New England’s crisp fall mornings and warm sunny days. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

Saturday Edition: What we’re writing and reading

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading.

We’re taking a little detour on the weekends now to share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: This week saw an unseasonable return to the hot and sticky weather of deep summer. It also saw me beat a retreat to my air conditioned living room with the cats and my laptop. Happily, the uncomfortable weather was just a minor blip on the radar and now it is safe to venture back out and revel in the almost-autumn air.

I love fall. I love the back-to-school vibe that hangs in the air, even though it’s only my daughter who has returned to the classroom. I still get a sense of a new start when September arrives. After the chaos of the summer “schedule” (I use the term loosely), resuming a more regular routine feels like sinking into the comfortable embrace of a favorite chair.

My calendar continues to be full of client projects (thank you, gods of freelance writing), but I’m also looking forward to a possible lightening of the load in the next few weeks and will be plying my craft on myself as I endeavor to reinvent my marketing website. Wish me luck.

While I wait to embark on that “adventure,” I still write and read as much as I can. Here’s what crossed my path this week.

What I’m Writing:

shoulds_smAlthough I almost didn’t have time, I managed to crank out a post for my marketing blog. The deadly “shoulds” of blogging is one of those posts that showed up announced and demanded to be written. I had a list of a half dozen other, more business-y topics queued up in my head, but when it came to it I just didn’t feel like writing any of them. I was sitting at my desk (rather late at night, wishing I could go to bed) and getting into a bit of a funk about feeling obligated to write about a topic that wasn’t really interesting me.

So, instead of hacking my way through a half-hearted post I decided to write about feeling obligated and cranky. I wrote a quick little manifesto about the evils of “shoulds.” It was fun to write and I hope it might help some other bloggers and would-be bloggers feel less intimidated and guilty about their own blogging efforts.

I also recorded myself reading the post which is something I’ve been experimenting with and rather enjoy doing. As a huge fan of audio books, I have a great appreciation for good voiceover artists. I “should” probably be embarrassed about the quality (or lack thereof) of my own performance and recording, but this is one of those cases where I feel it’s better to go out with something imperfect than to wait on the sidelines hoping I’ll get it right someday. Someday has a bad habit of never arriving.

For those of you interested in experimenting with audio, I use a free app called Audacity to record, edit, and export (to MP3 format) my audio and then I upload to SoundCloud – an excellent and oh-so-cool audio hosting platform (also free). I believe you can record directly into SoundCloud, but I haven’t tried that yet. If anyone does some audio experiments, please let me know. I’d love to listen!

What I’m Reading:

I’ve had four books going this week, but I only finished two of them. Unsurprisingly, they were the shorter ones. (That’s what comes of sneaking reading in while I’m making dinner, waiting at the orthodontist’s office, and eating a hurried lunch.)

Affiliate Link

The Van Gogh Cafe (affiliate link) by Cynthia Rylant (one of my favorite children’s authors) is a book from the children’s room at our local library. I have read it a couple of times before – to my daughter at bedtime. The book is comprised of six short, connected stories and a charming introduction on the matter of magic. My past readings were purely for pleasure, but this time – although I still enjoyed the stories thoroughly – I also read with a writer’s eye. I have been thinking about writing a collection of connected short stories, and The Van Gogh Cafe is a wonderful example of a simple yet elegant approach to the exercise.

I loved the voice Rylant uses for the stories and the simple language. The sentences are short and to the point, but still manage to convey a sense of place and emotion. Although each is about how magic manifests at the small cafe in Flowers, Kansas, they also have an aura of plainness that is quite disarming.

Affiliate Link

The second book I read is one that has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. It’s odd that I picked it up this week – the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. Kurt Vonnegut’s collection of essays, A Man Without a Country (affiliate link), is a frank though at times humorous discourse on the state of the world and in particular the country of his fellow Americans. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as “like Garrison Keillor with a savage undercurrent,” the book delivers Vonnegut’s thoughts in short bursts, punctuated by his artwork.

Though I have read many of Vonnegut’s fiction books, I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Man Without a Country. Though much of what he says is depressing – even despairing – he manages to maintain hit wit and humor while providing some much needed perspective and a sound reality check. This is a book I will likely read again.

I also especially enjoyed two more essays from the wonderful new site/online magazine, Full Grown People:

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:


Now … go write and read and then write and read some more. Have a wonderful weekend & we’ll see you on the other side! 🙂