I write southern historical fiction. The novel I'm writing is set in the Carolinas in the 1760s. I blog about my journey as a writer and a reader.
Author of a vintage postcard book titled The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I enjoy doing the research for and writing historical fiction. The historical novel I'm writing is set in the Carolina Backcountry in the 1760s. The working title is The Doubloon.
We’re told from birth that we can’t judge a book by its
cover. If we’re honest, though, we are drawn to interesting book covers. Bright
colors and images catch our eye, whether we pick up the book or not. Everything
I read about self-publishing says not to skimp on the cover. Fair or not, the
cover can make a big difference in how that book sells.
Today’s writing prompt for the #TwoForTuesday blog challenge issued by Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews (https://educatednegra.blog/) is Two Books with Colorful Covers.
One book with a
The Favorite Sister, by Jessica Knoll is a recent release by Simon & Schuster. In fact, I learned about this thriller in an email from the publisher.
I have not read this book, and I don’t know if I’d choose to read it just based on the cover. My parents never played favorites with my brother, sister, and me, as far as I could tell. Of course, that might be because I was the youngest. I wonder if my brother and sister would say I was the favorite sister. I don’t think I’ll ask them.
What triggered last Monday’s rant was an article I read on Janice Wald’s Mostly Blogging blog, https://www.mostlyblogging.com/seo-plan/. The name of the guest blog post by Kas Szatylowicz is “SEO Plan: How to Boost Traffic to Your Website In 2019, 7 Unique Ways.” It sounds like information I need, but it turned out to be light years beyond my grasp. That’s not a criticism of the article. I’m the one who fell off (or missed) the Social Media train.
Here are a few examples from the article that whizzed right
over my head.
“Can chatbots really
improve your SEO efforts?” According to the article, the answer is yes.
It went on to explain chatbots, so I did learn something. “A
chatbot – or digital assistant – is an artificial intelligence powered piece of
software that answers user queries in an instant. It also personalizes the user
experience and nudges the prospect closer to a sale simple by providing
I laugh every time I read or hear that artificial
intelligence personalizes the user experience. It seems like an oxymoron to me.
Artificial personalization? I don’t think I want that on my website. You might
not get an instant response to a comment you leave on my blog, but at least
when you get one you’ll know I wrote it myself.
“Guest blogging. . . drives more traffic in the SERPs simply
because the link juice you gain will improve your rankings.” “Huh?”
“Topic clustering is the new black.” What?
“Lastly, don’t ruin everything by engaging in black hat SEO
practises.” (The writer’s spelling, not mine.) If I asked “What?” on topic
clustering being the new black, then I’ll upgrade that to “WHAT?” for black hat
SEO practices. I. Don’t. Have. A. Clue.
Maybe I’m better off not knowing. I have fewer things to
my last blog post
I’ve had a net gain of 13,700
words to my rewrite of The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my current
word count to 69,100. I get to start on Chapter 17 today!
next blog post
I hope you have a good book to
read. I’m reading The First
Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill
George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Fascinating!
If you’re a writer, I hope you
have quality writing time.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: “Two Books with Colorful Covers.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/.
Thank you for reading my blog.
You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose
to read my blog.
Today’s #TwoForTuesday writing prompt made me look
over the list of books I’ve read since October, 1993 (when I started keeping a
list) and select two books that encourage change.
Life-Changing Magic of Tidying,
by Marie Kondo
I read this book four years ago this month. It
immediately inspired me to reorganize my dresser drawers. I changed the way I
stored many of my garments. It made seeing and finding what I had easier.
Marie Kondo’s mantra is, “Does it spark joy?” If an
item doesn’t bring you joy, she says it needs to go. I went through my clothes
and some kitchen items asking myself that question, and it felt good to donate
some things to Goodwill where they could bring someone else joy.
Reading the book a couple of months before a kitchen
remodel helped me part with some pots, pans, and dishes that held sentimental
value because they had belonged to my mother. One thing I learned was that I
don’t need the chipped or cracked bowl to remember Mama’s potato salad, and I
don’t need her beat up pots and pans to remember the delicious meals she
lovingly prepared for us.
Ms. Kondo says one must tidy by category, not
location. I tend to want to tidy a room and then move on to another room (or
not move on, as the case may be.) She says to start with clothing, then books,
then paper. I think that’s where the wheels fell off my wagon. Paper is the
bane of my existence. As much as I recycle and try to depend on technology, I’m
still overwhelmed by paper.
Four years later, I need to read the book again. I
think it will encourage me to donate or discard some things that have accumulated
since April of 2015. Why should I keep it if it can bring joy to someone else?
I plan to read this book again. After four years and
the gaining of a few pounds, it’s time to sort through my clothes again, donate
more books to a charity used book sale, and take that giant step into all that
paper that seems to multiply while I’m asleep.
Small Changes: One Year to a Happier,
by Brett Blumenthal
I read this book 15 months ago. The idea is that you
make a small change in your life every week for 52 weeks. At the end of that
year, you’ve theoretically incorporated all those changes into your daily life
The author says it’s easier to make small changes than
major changes. Also, it take time to make a permanent change in your life. A
study done by University College London psychologist Phillippa Lally found that
it take an average of 9½ weeks to make a lasting change.
I might give this book another chance, even though the
first change is a major one for me:
“Drink an adequate amount of water each day to maintain a healthy level
of hydration.” Water is not my favorite beverage but, starting today, I’ll make
an effort to drink more of it. The rule of thumb is: “Drink the amount of water in ounces that
equals your weight in pounds divided by two.”
Maybe that Week One change will inspire me to lose
some weight. The less I weigh, the less water I need to drink! Week Two isn’t
any easier: “Get seven to eight hours of
restful sleep every night.” I’m afraid to look at the third week.
I’ve blogged before about my love/hate relationship with social media. Most of the forms of social media take me out of my comfort zone. Actually, that is an understatement.
I enjoy blogging and interacting with people who read
my posts. I follow a lot of blogs and have benefited from them. I learn from
them, I’m inspired by them, and I’m entertained by them.
Facebook comes in a distant second place. I really
don’t need to see a picture of what you ate for breakfast. The most redeeming
qualities of Facebook are that it gives me an easy way to stay in touch with
friends in Europe and family around the United States, and it gives me a way to
know the political leanings of some of my Facebook friends so I’ll know what I
can or cannot say to them in order to keep them as friends.
The down side is that I’ve learned things I wish I
hadn’t about some of my friends. Suffice it to say, if the topic of politics is
going to come up at my next high school reunion or family gathering, I don’t
want to be there.
I like Pinterest, but I haven’t put enough time into
it to make it a productive platform for my writing. I spend more time on
Pinterest than I should, but not necessarily to promote my writing. I pin many
articles to my “The Writing Life” board, but I use it more for the hobbies I
I’m sure this sounds blasphemous to the young adults
who might read this post, but I’m not much of a cell phone person. I could
really do without it. I refuse to be ruled by a phone. I don’t want to be tied
to a phone. I don’t want a phone to monopolize my time, energy, or attention. I
want a phone available for emergencies – and I mean the old-timey understanding
of what an emergency is.
I set up an account a couple of years ago and never
took the next step. Again, it’s related to my cell phone and its built-in
camera. I’m sure it’s convenient for many people. I just don’t get it.
the Social Media I’ve not heard of
I guess that’s self-explanatory.
Since my last blog post
I’ve had a net gain of 4,550 words to my The Doubloon manuscript,
bringing my current word count to 55,400. I get to start on Chapter 14 today. I
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. Nothing grabbed my attention last week.
I had to return The Irishman’s Daughter, by V.S. Alexander to the
public library without finishing it. I’m on the waitlist for it again so I can
finish reading it on my Kindle. Part of the problem is how tired my eyes get
reading regular size print. On my Kindle I can adjust the font size. This
historical novel is set in Ireland during the potato famine.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: “Two Books that Encourage Change.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/. Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
In my blog on Monday, April 29, 2019 I’ll explain what triggered today’s rant.
Let’s continue the conversation
What’s your favorite of all the social media? What’s your least favorite?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
For today’s blog post, I’m going back 20 years to remember a delightful children’s book my sister and I enjoyed reading to one of our great-nieces when she was a little girl. That book is still being published, and I’m thrilled because it is a hilarious children’s book.
The reader and the child being read to get to make all sorts of pirate sounds. The book is How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. In addition to a very entertaining narrative, the book has wonderful illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator David Shannon.
I was in Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina
last week and was thrilled to see this book on the shelf. It immediately
brought a smile to my face and then the memories flooded in.
Shiver me timbers! Aargh! The illustrations will entertain a child (and an adult!) for hours. I have been unable to import a photo of the cover of How I Became a Pirate into today’s blog post. Technical difficulties. That’s too bad because seeing the cover would give you an idea of the illustrations within the book.
Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider
Another book that makes me smile is The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of
Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. The copyright date on it is 1961, and
that’s probably about when I received it as a gift. I just realized that was 58
years ago! I was eight years old and had apparently just discovered the humor
of Mark Twain. I became a lifelong fan. From my lopsided signature on the
flylead, I can tell I received it as I was learning to write cursive. Second
Flipping through this collection of Mark Twain
writings makes me smile because I was no innocent in 1961 and got to read the
book for sheer enjoyment. I read this a mere 90 years or so after Mr. Twain
wrote the pieces. That seemed like a million years to an eight-year-old, but
not so long to me now.
Something else about the book made me smile today as I
looked through it. We had a rule in our house:
you don’t write in a book and you don’t underline in a book. Books were
sacred and to be damaged under no circumstances. (The same went for Daddy’s National Geographic magazines. No matter
what the school assignment was, I knew not to cut pictures out of National Geographic. I doubt I could
take a scissors to a National Geographic
to this day. Some things are just beyond the pale.)
So what made me smile today as I went through the
book? On page 43, beside the story title, “A Touching Story of George
Washington’s Boyhood,” I had printed in very light lead pencil, “Satire?” I
found the same marginal note on page 49 next to “Answers to Correspondents.”
There it was again, minus the question mark, (I must have been gaining confidence
in identifying satire) on pager 59 next to “A Page from a California Almanac.”
I guess I lost interest in satire on page 59 because I
can find no more marginal notes in the book. Thank goodness I didn’t use it to
practice diagramming sentences! Do student still have to do that?
The following entry in “Answers to Correspondents”
made me laugh today because it brought back memories of those dreaded “word
problems” we had to do in arithmetic. I believe that’s known as math today.
Here’s the entry: “’Arithmeticus.’ Virginia, Nevada. – If it would take a
cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the
next four, and 3 5/8 to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress
continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go
fifteen hundred million miles?” Twain’s answer:
“I don’t know.”
I can identify with that answer.
This is a 716-page book, plus appendix and index. I’m
sure it was the first thick book I owned. I’m glad I still have this treasure
from my childhood.
If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you
know I love nothing better than attending an author’s book reading and signing.
After not getting to one in a long time, on April 4, 2019 I had the pleasure of
attending Anna Jean Mayhew’s at Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I thoroughly enjoyed her reading at Park Road Books.
She read selected excerpts from the book and talked about the three narrators.
She also played a song written specifically in conjunction with Tomorrow’s Bread and had copies of the
words for all in attendance.
If you’d like to listen to the song and see the accompanying artwork, go to http://shari-smith.com/trio-2019/ and scroll down to Tomorrow’s Bread. The song and artwork came together with Ms. Mayhew’s book through the work of Shari Smith and an entity called Trio.
Trio pairs books with songwriters and visual artists to create a total package based on a novel. I hadn’t heard of Trio or Shari Smith before, so I was thrilled to learn about this concept at Ms. Mayhew’s book reading in Charlotte.
Many of her high school classmates and other friends
from when she lived in Charlotte were there, as well as Catherine Frey, who had
assisted Ms. Mayhew with her research.
I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Ms.
Mayhew. When I got the chance to talk to her at the end of the event, she again
offered me encouragement on the writing of my historical novel. She has been an
inspiration to me on my journey as a writer.
my last blog post
I have enjoyed rewriting several more chapters of The Doubloon (former working title, The Spanish Coin) and forgive me if I toot by own horn here. Since last Monday’s blog I’ve had a net gain of 20,525 words. The current word count is 50,850. I’m more than halfway to the completion of this rough, rough, rough draft of my novel.
my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and your
projects are moving right along.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: “Two
Books that Make Me Smile.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt,
Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog
post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April:
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes
doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
Let’s continue the conversation
Have you read Tomorrow’s Bread, by
Anna Jean Mayhew? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section
below or on Facebook.
Have you attended any author book readings or book signings? What do you
like best about such events?
This week’s writing prompt for Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post was a real challenge for me. I don’t tend to read books with flowery language, so I was stumped for a few days. If you’re interested in participating in Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts or want to read what other participants are saying, go to Rae’s blog at https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Many novels of the 1800s would qualify for today’s
#TwoForTuesday prompt, but I decided to go with A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You need go no further than
the preface to know you’re in for some flowery language.
“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise
the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with
themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their
houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and
Servant, C.D., December, 1843.”
The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Dr. Thomas Hugh
The first book that came to mind for today’s topic is an excellent nonfiction book by Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr. You might be familiar with it if you live in the Charlotte area or have ancestors who were or are part of that congregation. It’s a history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church called The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River.
Dr. Spence’s father was the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1910s, and Dr. Spence loved that church. He did a yeoman’s job of researching the first 200 years of the life of the congregation. The flowery language Dr. Spence sprinkled throughout this 1954 book endear it to me all the more because it demonstrates his abiding love for the congregation.
After the preface, is a page about the Rocky River and the first
church that took the river’s name. I think you’ll agree that the language is a
“The waters of more than two centuries have followed the course of Rocky River toward the Eastern Sea since the vanguard of the Scotch-Irish settled along its banks and branches…. The foundations were laid beyond the seas, amid the verdant valleys of Ulster, or, even earlier, upon the heathered hills of Scotland. But there is no uncertainty in regard to that staunch and sturdy race who made their way across the Atlantic, settled for a season in Pennsylvania, and then resumed the march to rest only intermittently until the Yadkin had been forded and the region of Rocky River attained.”
(This book is available from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church office at 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC 28025. You may contact the church office at 704-455-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details. The church’s website is http://rockyriver.org/.)