Z is for Zilch!

Zilch is what I’ve accomplished toward starting over to write my first historical novel. I have successfully completed the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge by writing a post today that has something to do with the letter “Z.” I enjoyed parts of the challenge, but I’m glad English only has 26 letters! It was interesting and I picked up some new followers, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Beginning on Tuesday, May 2, I plan to return to my former routine of blogging on Tuesdays and Fridays.

2017 A to Z Challenge Badge
Blogging from A to Z Challenge Badge 2017

With this blog challenge finished

I look forward to having more time to delve back into the various resources available to me as I keep researching the facts surrounding the core event in The Spanish Coin manuscript. Several more books are coming from two public library systems, so you know what I’ll be doing next week.

What happened to The Spanish Coin?

I revealed in my “H is for Historical Fiction” blog post on April 10, 2017 (H is for Historical Fiction) that I had discovered some pertinent information about the core of my story that necessitated my starting over. Several years (actually a decade) and 96,000 words later, I’m back to having a blank page.

My options

Since April 10 I have done a lot of thinking and reading. I’ll need to do a little more work on the research end of things and then determine how to rewrite The Spanish Coin. It might not survive with that working title. Or I might be able to salvage that title and change the circumstances of its importance. Or I might just take the spark of the true story as my inspiration and write a totally new story.

When I figure out which option to settle on, I’ll let you know.

With the A to Z Blog Challenge Finished

I look forward to having time to read more books. My current “Books I Want to Read” list is so long I fear I won’t live long enough to read all of them. With new books being released every month, the list just keeps growing.

Until my next blog (which should be on May 2)

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m enjoying Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore, and The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, by James Alexander Thom. I have to take note and reread parts of Mr. Thom’s book occasionally. The bibliography in Mr. Moore’s book has already led me to more books I need to read before I figure out the verdict for The Spanish Coin.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I hope you’ve gotten past the blank page stage on your first novel.


What is an Author’s Brand… and How Do I Get One?

Today’s blog post is for writers who are in the same boat with me. I’ve been working on a novel for years. I hope to get it published in the next several years. I am trying to learn all I can about the craft of writing as well as the craft of being an author. In the 21st century It’s not enough to write a 100,000-word piece of earth-shaking fiction. An author has to have a brand and build a platform.

To tell you how far I’ve come in the last week, a few days ago I didn’t know the difference between brand and platform. I have a hunch I’m not alone in my confusion. I do not claim to be an authority on this subject. In fact, I’m far from it. Today’s post grew out of my need to try to figure out author brand and author platform.


What is an author’s brand?

After searching online for explanations of an author’s brand, I have concluded that my brand as an author is who I am, what I choose to share about myself, and what I want readers to think when they see or hear my name.


What is an author’s platform?

The best I can tell, an author’s platform is his or her visibility and ability to sell books.


How do brand and platform mesh?

An author’s brand underpins his or her platform. It’s part of the foundation. Brand, therefore, must precede the building of a platform.


When should I design my brand as an author?

Today, or perhaps yesterday.


How do I establish my brand as an author?

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Identify what readers of your genre are looking for
  • Determine how you are different from other writers in your genre
  • Feel comfortable in your own skin as a writer
  • Don’t be shy about telling your own story
  • Find your niche and focus on it
  • Take care to manage how you are perceived
  • Explore ways you can turn readers of your genre into fans of your work


How am I perceived?

How potential readers perceive you is created by a variety of ways. Everything from website, logo, social media presence, business cards, any printed materials, to your photo affect how you are perceived. In other words, be consistent in how you project yourself.


How can you learn from my mistakes?

Unfortunately, when I had my website set up, it was primarily to showcase the three family genealogies compiled in the 1990s by my sister and me. I knew I wanted to be a novelist, but at that time I really knew next to nothing about writing fiction.

I set up a Facebook account on June 14, 2011 in order to keep up with community events and news. Much later (August 12, 2014) I added a Janet Morrison, Writer Facebook page as a way to publicize my public appearances to promote my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

In 2010, I started half-heartedly writing a blog. I struggled with content and how often to post. It wasn’t until 2014 and the publishing of my vintage postcard book that I got serious about blogging.

Kicking and screaming, I created a Twitter account on April 11, 2016.

I did all these things in piecemeal fashion as I struggled to learn what an aspiring novelist should do in order to get noticed. The operative word is “piecemeal.” There’s nothing wrong with taking a gradual approach, but my mistake was that I did not have an overall plan and, therefore, I was not systematic. I was focusing on the individual trees instead of the entire forest. I did not understand author brand as it relates to author platform. In conclusion, I tried to build my platform without supporting it with a brand. I got the cart before the horse.


Where do I go from here?

With my website, blog, and Twitter account already in place, I have no choice but to keep forging ahead. Otherwise, I will lose my momentum and many of the followers I have. (I experienced that this summer while I had shingles in my eye.)

While I forge ahead, though, I know now that I need to design my brand. I have written the manuscript of a historical mystery. Although Arcadia Publishing reminded me during the editing process that my postcard book was not intended to be a history book, I believe it did help people to perceive me as a writer and historian.

My plan for the coming weeks is to hire a professional editor to evaluate my historical mystery manuscript (working title is The Spanish Coin) and to take the steps necessary to design my brand.

I don’t expect this to be easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Researching and stating facts and theories about author branding is one thing. Putting that knowledge into practice is altogether something else.


Some of the resources I used in writing this post are:

I would be remiss if I did not disclose and provide links to the online sources I used this week in writing this blog post.


A call to action

If you find this blog post helpful or if you wish to contradict or correct any of my statements, please leave a comment and give JanetsWritingBlog.com exposure by clicking on the social media icons below.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read and, If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.


10 Things I Learned about Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Although the name of my vintage postcard book is The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, one of the chapters is about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Qualla Boundary. One of my blog posts in August was about the Eastern Band Cherokee Indians. Their land is the Qualla Boundary.

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison on a shelf at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC in August, 2016.


In today’s post I want to share 10 things I learned about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as I did the research to write my vintage postcard book.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Swain and Haywood Counties in North Carolina and Blount, Sevier, and Cocks Counties in Tennessee.

2. A gap is a low point in an Appalachian Mountain ridge. Gaps are called notches or passes in other parts of the United States.

3. A new gap in the Smoky Mountains was discovered in 1872 more than a mile from Indian Gap. The newfound gap was aptly named Newfound Gap.

4. Although Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at an elevation of 6,643 feet, Mount LeConte is the tallest mountain from base to summit in the Great Smoky Mountains. Mount LeConte’s elevation is 6,593 feet, and it rises 5,301 feet from its base to its peak.

5. When a grassroots effort to raise $10 million to save the Great Smokies from logging came up short, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the $5 million needed.

6. President Franklin D. Roosevelt allocated $1.5 million in federal funds to purchase the last of the land wanted for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

7. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.

8. It is illegal to willfully get within 150 feet of a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

9. Newfound Gap Road (US-441) tunnels under itself at one place, forming a helix.

10. Much of the forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been ravaged by the balsam woolly adelgid, an insect imported from Europe.

Want to know more about the Great Smoky Mountains? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It can be purchased online from Amazon or at some wonderful independent bookstores. If your favorite bookstore does not have the book, please ask them to order it from Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. It is also available for e-readers.

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison, (center of photo) as displayed at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC.

I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to find my book still prominently displayed at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, North Carolina. This fabulous bookstore is located in the Grove Arcade Building, an iconic 269,000-square-foot downtown Asheville destination built in 1929. An image of a matte-finish postcard of the building is included in my book.

I hope you’re always reading a good book.

Until my next blog in a few days,



The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Writing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina was educational for me and I hope it is for its readers. Today my blog post is a list of 10 things I learned about The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as I did the research for that vintage postcard book.

Mt. trip Dec.11-14,2014 037
My book on the shelf at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC.
  1. The legal name for the Cherokee people in North Carolina is The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
  2. Because “Native American” can refer to anyone born in America, The North American Indian Women’s Association recommends using the term American Indians.
  3. The Great Smoky Mountains lay in the middle of the Cherokee Indians’ territory in the mid-1600s when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto arrived.
  4. In the 1820s, a Cherokee by the name of Sequoyah invented the Cherokee syllabary, making the Cherokee one of the first American Indian tribes to have a written language.
  5. Cherokee women have always had much power within the tribe, owning property, and administering justice.
  6. Descendants of the Cherokee Indians who hid out in the mountains to avoid the 1838 forced march to Oklahoma known as the Trail of Tears lived on a land trust called the Qualla Boundary.
  7. The land the US government gives to an American Indian tribe is a reservation. The Cherokee do not live on a reservation. The Qualla Boundary is 57,000 acres of land purchased by the Cherokee Indians in the 1800s and held in trust by the US government.
  8. A papoose is a type of bag or apparatus for carrying a child. It is offensive to the Cherokee for others to call one of their infants a papoose.
  9. The Cherokee Indians never lived in tipis. They have always lived in houses.
  10. Cherokee Indians have played a ball game called ani-tsagi or anetso for hundreds of years.

Want to know more? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in your local bookstore or online. It was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2014.

Janet's Bk Trip to Mts. 12.14 003

You can help me get the word out about Janet’s Writing Blog by telling your friends about it and by sharing it on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. According to WordPress, my blog has been seen by people in 10 countries!

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have productive and rewarding writing time.


10 Things I Learned about the Blue Ridge Mountains

In the course of researching and writing my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the following are 10 key things I learned:

1. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935.

2. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps did much of the landscaping and construction cleanup along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

3. The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina are divided into a number of sub-ranges including the Black Mountains, the Great Balsams, and the Plott Balsams.

4. The area in the southwestern corner of North Carolina is known as the Snowbird Mountains.

5. The Nantahala National Forest covers 500,000 acres.

6. The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness contains 13,000 acres in the Snowbirds area.

7. More than 100 species of trees are found in the old-growth forest in Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.

8. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed in 1967 except for the “missing link” on Grandfather Mountain.

9. The Linn Cove Viaduct — a quarter-mile long engineering marvel that hugs Grandfather Mountain — completed the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1987.

10. Linville Gorge Wilderness covers nearly 12,000 acres in Burke County, North Carolina.

Want to learn more? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It can be purchased from Amazon.com or perhaps at your local bookstore.

Should I Self-Publish My Novel?

I have always wanted my historical novel, The Spanish Coin, to be published by a publishing house. That desire was based on my thinking that would be a stamp of approval for my writing skills. Being published by a publishing house would validate me as an author.

My thoughts have changed recently. The publishing business is changing so fast that self-publishing is becoming more acceptable. I’m not getting any younger, the road to securing the services of a literary agent and eventually (maybe) getting my manuscript picked up by a publisher, and something like 18 months later seeing the book in print make me rethink things.

My main reason for writing is not to make money; however, reaching the point where my income from writing escalates from the Internal Revenue Service categorizing it as a “hobby” to recognizing it as my profession would be rewarding. The royalties earned by self-publishing appear to far exceed those paid by publishing houses.

I write because I’m compelled to do so. As a child, I kept diaries. Diaries in the early 1960s only provided a space approximately one inch by three inches for each day’s comments. I quickly outgrew that format and took to using notebook paper. That way I could write as much as I wanted to each day. I kept such a journal during middle and high school, some during college, and sporadically throughout my adult life. It always surprises me when I hear someone say they don’t like to write. I can’t imagine!

The fact that the self-published author has to do his own marketing is often labeled a detriment when writers list the pros and cons of that route, but the other side of the coin is that the author has full control over getting the word out about his book. Although my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was published by a history book publisher, most of the marketing of the book fell on my shoulders.

The more I read about self-publishing, the more I think it just might be the way for me to go. Before I make that decision, though, I must do some research to determine how readers of historical fiction prefer their books. Do they prefer e-books or traditional books? If they prefer e-books, I must research all my self-publishing options — which already seems like comparing apples to oranges — so I can make an educated decision.

Like so many facets of the business of writing, sorting through all the options of publishing can feel overwhelming. For now, I need to concentrate on finishing The Spanish Coin and getting it professionally edited.

I plan to blog about my progress on my novel the end of every month.



Accents in fiction writing

One of the multitude of issues I’ve faced while writing the manuscript for my historical novel tentatively titled The Spanish Coin, is how to use accents. When I started writing fiction, I tended to go overboard with accents. It has been a long process of learning just how much to incorporate accents into my writing, and I’m not confident that I have it right yet.

Scottish & Scots-Irish

Most of my characters either hail from the lowlands of Scotland or present-day Northern Ireland or are first generation Americans whose parents came from those places. In writing for such characters, one needs to strike a balance between using accents too much or too little.

In The Spanish Coin, I want the reader to know the accents of my characters without those accents being a distraction. If an accent or dialect pulls the reader out of the story, it works as a detriment instead of adding flavor to the reading.


George is an African-American slave in The Spanish Coin. The year is 1771 in the Carolina backcountry. When answering a question, I have George say, “Yessum” or “Yessuh” instead of “Yes, mam” or “Yes, sir.”

Clarissa is a free woman of color in my novel’s manuscript, so she speaks with less of an accent than George or the slave, Caesar, from a nearby farm. Subtle distinctions make each character’s personality shine through.


One of the characters I enjoyed creating for The Spanish Coin is Monsieur Jean LeBlanc of France. He passes through on his way to and from Salisbury, North Carolina and Charles Town, South Carolina. His accent was fun to write. When writing or reading his dialogue, I invariably hear the voice of French chef Jacques Pepin in my head.


Part of the joy of writing historical fiction is selecting words and accents from a particular time and place. The challenge is to use those words and accents enough — but just enough.