Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

Category: Good and Great Books

How to be a Better Writer

Hemingway’s advice for writing well was simple: Run it through the typewriter one more time. We no longer have typewriters but the advice is still sound.

Ernest Hemingway, as a young man.

Almost without fail a second draft is better than a first. It is shorter, tighter, and less of a strain on your reader’s attention. For this blog post I went through three drafts. 1) I jotted my thoughts down on a legal pad. 2) I typed it up on my iMac. 3) I left it for a moment, came back, made a few last edits, and I was done. The whole process took twenty minutes.

This simple advice will help you write better books as well as better blogs, articles, and school papers. Just send it through the word processor one more time.

FYI. If you’re a young person looking for a good book, try Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. My personal favorites of his, though more for adults, are his novel A Farewell to Arms and A Moveable Feast, his memoir of living in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s.

What do you do when you’re a writer, and you’re rejected?

To be a writer is to be rejected. Many article and book ideas of mine have been rejected. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not trying hard enough.

Irma S. Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking, rejected by publishers.

The question is, How should writers react when they receive those inevitable rejections? Well, don’t give up. That’s the first and most important thing. Know that you are not alone, and that the very best who have ever practiced this craft have all been rejected, often when they were unknown and just starting out.

Back in the days when publishers and editors issued rejection notices on paper, William Saroyan would write “I reject your rejection!” across the face of the rejection letter and send it back to the person who rejected him. Continue reading

Visit Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank was to plants what Steve Jobs was to computers. A creative genius who could take a thing and combine it with another thing, and in so doing make the original thing better and even sometimes new.

Luther Burbank, left, and Henry Ford.

At the time of his death, in 1926, Burbank was one of the most famous men in America, certainly the most famous horticulturalist. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Jack London, John Muir, and other luminaries of the time visited him at his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, to see him and a few of the wonders he had created such as the spineless cactus.

Continue reading

Horse book for the ages

Above is the 1941 cover for The Black Stallion, which I am reading (and quite enjoying!) now. Written by Walter Farley, it is the beautiful story of a great horse, a boy who loved him, and their adventures.

In 1941 The Black Stallion—a clothbound book, printed in the USA—sold for $2. My wife when she was a girl rode horses, loved horse books, and collected a shelf full of Farley’s work.

For middle school girls and boys today, as well as those interested in reading a Young Adult classic of a bygone era, The Black Stallion is top shelf. The handsome cover and inside drawings were done by Keith Ward. The 1979 film directed by Carroll Ballard based on the book is also a treat.

3 Young Adult titles to watch for this fall and winter

Publishers Lunch publishes a free, downloadable ebook series known as Buzz Books. It’s an appetizer plate for readers, a taster’s choice sampling of forthcoming books to be published this fall and winter. The idea is to whet your appetite so you will buy the books in their full form.

The Buzz Books series includes adult fiction and nonfiction titles. Since my interest is in Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, I downloaded the fall/winter 2018 Young Adult publishing preview. Of the 16 quality novels excerpted, three really spoke to me:

          Pay Attention, Carter Jones, by Gary D. Schmidt. A proper English butler arrives to help a discombobulated American family. Told by a middle school boy, it’s funny and surprising. The butler speaks very proper English, which is only fitting considering the author, Gary D. Schmidt, is an English professor.

Sadie, by Canadian author Courtney Summers. A down on her luck teen girl tracks down her sister’s killer by piecing together clues as she goes from town to town. It’s an interesting premise, made more interesting by an NPR-style podcast reporter who tells pieces of the story.

White as Silence, Red as Song, by Alessandro D’Avenia. This is an Italian bestseller, originally published as White as Milk, Red as Blood. It’s told by a boy for whom, as he says, “everything is a color. Every emotion is a color.” Silence, for instance, is white. I found the excerpt I read very enjoyable, although the summary at the front hints at darker things to come. I especially appreciated the fact that the boy’s love interest is named Beatrice who, as every fan of Italian literature knows, was also the woman who inspired Dante. D’Avenia’s classical references make sense because he is a classical lit teacher in Italy.

I look forward to reading these buzz books in their entirety.

Birds, Frog Legs, and the Three Musketeers

An ortolan.

One of the pleasures of reading old books is that you frequently encounter unusual words or words that are no longer in common use. So I found while reading an early passage in The Three Musketeers, in which d’Artagnan threatens an innkeeper and his employees if they cannot find an important letter that has been lost:

“My letter of recommendation,” cried d’Artagnan, “on the holy blood, I will split you all like ortolans.”

What, pray tell, is an ortolan? Continue reading

How to Get Your Children Away from Electronics and Reading Books Again

“Wow! A book. What a neat present!”

When Hank was a boy, he read voraciously, gobbling up Alex Rider, Harry Potter and other books like peanuts at a ballgame.

Then we got him an iPhone and his appetite for books dried up seemingly overnight. I asked him about this change and he said, “I hate to read. Books are boring.”

A similar change occurred with Gabe. When the iPhone—and iPad and gaming systems—entered the picture, his youthful interest in books evaporated.

I know from talking with other parents that our experience is hardly unusual. Boys and girls read fewer books once they fall prey to the siren song of phones and social media. But the prognosis for the written word is hardly dim. In many ways it’s very bright. Continue reading

Today’s Word of the Day, Inspired by Alexandre Dumas, is ‘Wait’

Alexandre Dumas

Today’s Word of the Day, inspired by Alexandre Dumas, is: Wait. For each of the past three days, I have had a word of the day. They were: Listen. Patience. Warmth. On each day I would try to keep that word in mind to be a better listener, be more patient, and be a warmer person.

Today I am going to wait. Continue reading

Grace Brothers Mysteries: Q&A with the Author

Grace Brothers Mysteries: Searching for Sweetness is the debut new novel of award-winning author Kevin L. Nelson. Here is an interview with the author about his new book.

Q: That is certainly an exciting start to chapter one. Tell us more about the book.

Nelson: Well, as you can see, it begins with a robbery in a supermarket in Steelhead City. That’s where the two  teenage brothers at the center of the action,  Nathan and Matt Grace, live. The robbery involves them in the baffling disappearance  of a local girl named Sweetness who has been kidnapped by the notorious T/3 gang. It’s an action adventure mystery novel for ages ten and up. Continue reading

© 2019 Kevin Nelson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑