Rebecca West, Churchill, an artistic challenge, and harvesting honey: newsletter, June 22, 2018

June 24, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,263) on June 8, 2018

Our lives these days seem to go in lots of different directions at once. Some folks are bothered by that, saying it doesn’t allow them to focus and concentrate. In my life, however, I find it interesting and exciting. Last week we pulled honey off of our beehives, I participated in an artistic challenge, I started two or three new books and continued on a couple I have been reading already — and there is always the writing, particularly for this newsletter.

I hope you enjoy some of the things I’ve been into.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful, idea-filled weekend for all of us.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

Harvesting honey

I mentioned in last week’s newsletter that we were set to harvest our honey from our beehives last weekend. We do that once a year, and the day we do it is the most physically demanding day of the year. All of that happened for this year last Friday. The result was 11 gallons of honey or about 140 pounds. We have four hives and took some honey off of three of them.

Generally, the harvest was a satisfying one — but, as I said, physically demanding.

The harvest consists of three events: taking the honey off the hives, extracting the honey from the combs, and cleaning up. Each has its own challenges, but taking the honey off the hives is the hardest part. That was done during near 90-degree heat and wearing the protective clothing necessary to keep from getting stung.

I’ve included lots of details about each of these parts of the process in this post on, in case you’re interested in finding out more. The post also contains a two-and-a-half minute video that I made some years ago about how bees make honey; the video has information about the harvesting process.


Going for the audio – first

Let’s see: It’s hardback, paperback, ebook, then audiobook. That’s the natural sequence of things, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

A growing number of authors are rejecting this sequence and going straight to the . . . audiobook.

That’s what this recent article in the New York Times says. It uses non-fiction author Michael Lewis (Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt; The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine) as an example. Lewis just sold his latest work, a contemporary political narrative, to Audible, the audiobook publisher and retailer.

And Lewis has a deal for more works in audio.

Mr. Lewis is part of a growing group of A-list authors bypassing print and releasing audiobook originals, hoping to take advantage of the exploding audiobook market. It’s the latest sign that audiobooks are no longer an appendage of print, but a creative medium in their own right. But the rise of stand-alone audio has also made some traditional publishers nervous, as Audible strikes deals directly with writers, including best-selling authors like the historian Robert Caro and the novelist Jeffery Deaver. Source: Want to Read Michael Lewis’s Next Work? You’ll Be Able to Listen to It First – The New York Times

And because it’s audio and not print, some new possibilities open up. Instead of narration, there can be drama. Audible is actively look for original works to buy or commission.

As part of its push for original stories, Audible is commissioning one- and two-person plays, and recently awarded grants to 15 emerging playwrights. In May, it announced a deal with the actress and producer Reese Witherspoon to develop audio originals.

If you are an audiophile, this is all good news.


Rebecca West’s debut novel is The Guardian’s reading group selection for June

The Guardian’s online reading group is exploring Rebecca West’s first novel, The Return of the Soldier, published in 1918.

The Return of the Soldier: an incendiary, formidable debut | Books | The Guardian

The book was a ground-breaking work, according to Sam Jordison, the group’s director:

On the way to (an) unsettling conclusion, West packs in all manner of subversion. There are hints of lesbianism and adultery, as well as the eternal taboo of incest. She undermines the idea that women should exist merely to promote men’s happiness, and she pours gelignite into the foundations of the class system by making her narrator, Jenny, a terrible snob.

But while this was West’s first novel, she was already a well-established author and essayist in Britain’s early 20th-century literary constellation. West of born in 1892 and came of age as women suffragists — and suffragettes, the more active and sometimes violent wing of the suffrage movement — were attacking the male-dominated institutions that controlled much of daily life.

West wrote for the feminist week Freewoman and the Clairon, and she joined in many of the activities of the suffragists. Her writing went beyond those publications in both Great Britain and America, so that by 1916, George Bernard Shaw wrote of her, “Rebecca West could handle a pen as brilliantly as ever I could and much more savagely.”

In 1912, she reviewed H.G. Wells‘ novel Marriage and called him “the Old Maid among novelists.” That review provoked an invitation to lunch from Wells, and the two became lovers the next year. They had a son, Anthony West, during their 10-year affair, and after their affair, they remained friends until Wells’ death in 1946.

West’s life had many twists and turns, which we’ll explore later, but she always continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. President Harry Truman once called her “the world’s best reporter.”

Meanwhile, check out the novel and the reading group. The novel is a short one (about 200 pages), and The Guardian’s commentary and discussions are enlightening and intelligent. You can get a free copy of The Return of the Soldier here at Project Gutenberg.


Giveaways and offers

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Independence Day Celebration — Books about Freedom. This Instafreebie group giveaway has some fantastic books by an excellent group of independent authors (including . . . ahem . . . me). You will find something to add to your summer reading stack.

Author exchange. Author Sandi Scott and I are doing an email exchange, offering each other’s books to our newsletter readers. Here’s her offer, and it’s a good one:

Help Us Help Pets!
Have a howlingly good read during the dog days of summer with a dozen cozy mysteries from Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Amazon
best-selling authors. Murder lurks in every corner during the dog days of summer. Solve the mystery as our snoops leash the criminals – at
the beach, at the farm, on the mountain – everywhere! All profits from this pack go to support NO KILL animal charities! Fetch it now! And help us help pets!

‘Summer Snoops and Cozy Crimes’ includes never before published books from:
** WSJ Bestselling Author Judith Lucci – Gawd Almighty & the Corn
** WSJ Bestselling Author Cindy Bell – Murder at Pawprint Creek
** WSJ Bestselling Author Colleen Mooney – Dog Gone and Dead
** USA Today and WSJ Bestselling Author Amy Vansant – Summer Teeth
** WSJ Bestselling Author Colleen Helme – A Midsummer Night’s Murder
** WSJ Bestselling Author Kim Hunt Harris – The Murder of Bandera Bandito
** USA Today Bestselling Author Anna Celeste Burke – A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff
** Ava Mallory – A Dream Stray-Cation
** Sandi Scott – Croquembouche Murder
** Susan Boles – Death on the Beach
** USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever – Toxic Tech
** Anne R. Tan – Just Lost and Found
Bonus recipes from the authors are included!


Churchill: The man loved to write

We know him as a great statesman, the man who led the fight against Nazi Germany, the one who provided the lion of Great Britain its roar (as he once put it). He gave voice to the grit and determination of the British Empire when it went through its darkest hour.

But Winston Churchill, being all these things and more, was a writer.

That’s how he made his living, even during those days of the 1930s when, virtually alone, he proclaimed the evils of the Nazis and inevitability of war. He wrote newspaper and magazine articles while working on sweeping volumes of history.

And Churchill loved being a writer.

“Writing a long and substantial book is like having a friend and companion at your side, to whom you can always turn for comfort and amusement,” he said, “and whose society become more attractive as a new and widening field of interest is lighted in your mind.”

Much of what Churchill wrote at that time, he dictated to secretaries. They typed up his prose and sent it to typesetters, who returned it in galley proofs. Churchill often edited those proofs vigorously, and occasionally demanded a second or third set of proofs. He also had a team of loyal but underpaid scholars, historians, and fact-checkers who worked to make sure that he stayed within the lines of accuracy.

Churchill’s writing style is uniquely his own. If you read his histories, you can almost hear the words coming from his lips.

Note: I’ll have more on Churchill’s writing in a subsequent post.


Source: William Manchester’s magisterial three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (The Last Lion) particularly volume 2, Alone.


30 paintings in 30 days

Mark Tao Holmes of has created a Facebook challenge for those of us who are interested in watercolor. Mark is the author of Direct Watercolor (among other books), which is a particular method of creating a painting with just watercolor and no preliminary drawing. These kinds of paintings are usually done quickly and loosely.

The challenge is to create a painting a day for the 30 days of June, and a lot of people (including me) have taken up the challenge. The Facebook link above will show you some of the results — and they are fascinating.

The painting here — a portrait of author Charlotte Bronte — is one I did as part of the challenge. I have fallen behind in my one-painting-a-day pace, so I’ll have to work hard this weekend and next week to catch up.


The New York Times get buzzed by the bee fad

The New York Times is often cited by me as a balanced, thoroughly researched, and well-written source of information. But in a recent article about the supposed health benefits of bee products  (The Wellness World’s Buzzy New Best Friend – The New York Times), such as honey and pollen, the Times reporter, who shall go nameless in this post, got buzzed.

Honey does, in fact, have some moisturizing effect on the skin. Beeswax soothes chapped lips and has some other benefits.

But bee pollen? royal jelly? propolis? Well, not so much.

In fact, not at all.

Charlatans have been making outrageous claims about bee pollen for years, and there is nothing to support those claims. The writer of the article says, “Some studies back up various promises” about bee products, but she never comes closes to disclosing what studies and what promises she’s talking about.

The single note of skepticism in this article comes from a dermatologist, who is quoted at the end of the story.

Otherwise, the article is a piece of false advertising for “products” that don’t do what some people claim they do. The Times’ editors should have demanded more from their reporter.


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Rebecca West


Best quote of the week:

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. William Styron, novelist (1925-2006) 

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: J.R.R. Tolkien, Seymour Hersh, courtroom sketch artists, a D-Day remembrance, and more: newsletter June 15, 2018





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