Calling all historical fiction fans: I need your help with something!
I mentioned in May 1, 2023 blog post, Some of the Books I Read in April 2023 that I was toying with the idea of writing some historical short stories related to the historical novel I’m working on. I’d read that suggestion in Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, by Rayne Hall as a way to create interest in the characters in one’s novel before that book’s publication.
Since I need to grow my mailing list greatly before I publish the novel, it appears I’ll have plenty of time to write a few short stories. The process should produce various benefits to me and my potential readers.
In addition to my novel readers getting a head start in learning about some of the book’s characters and the 18th century world in which they live, such writing will help me flesh out the characters and get better acquainted with them. You and I can both get a good grasp on what makes them tick.
I’ve been brainstorming ideas for the stories. If it all works out like I envision, I will self-publish the stories in an ebook collection. My timeline is written in pencil with a big eraser nearby. If nothing else in the last year of self-publishing two local history books and trying to self-publish a family cookbook, I’ve learned that flexibility is a necessity.
Readers, what do you think? If you’re a fan of historical fiction, let me know what you think of this project. Would you enjoy getting acquainted with some of the characters in my novel(s) and the world in which they live in the 1760s and 1770s before getting to read the novel(s)?
Characters such as Elizabeth Steele who had tavern in Salisbury, North Carolina? George, who was a slave in The Waxhaws in South Carolina? Oliver McNair, who was educated at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and ended up in The Waxhaws? Betty Jackson’s story of family obligations in The Waxhaws?
Would you be interested in reading such short stories while I continue to work on my novels?
In the meantime… if you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, please visit my website at https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com and click on the “subscribe” button. In return, you’ll receive a free downloadable copy of my first historical short story, “Slip Sliding Away” and you’ll receive my e-newsletter every other month. Do it right now!
Since my last blog post
My research last week for my historical fiction writing focused on how food was cooked in the southern colonies in the 1760s and 1770s. I have a growing appreciation for how time consuming it was to prepare a meal then.
A funny thing happened to me at the public library the other day. I had been given some soft mountain mint and was eager to find a book with good information about how to root it. I typed, “how to grow mint” in the library system’s search engine. The response I received was, “Nothing found for how to grow mint. Did you mean ‘how to grow marijuana’? View 13 results.” It’s sort of a sad commentary that the system has no books about how to grow mint, but 13 books on how to grow marijuana. a sign of the times, I suppose. (Before you try to enlighten me, yes, the library had plenty of books about growing herbs. I just started by looking for one specifically about mint.)
Until my next blog post
Take time on this Memorial Day in the United States to remember and give thanks for those who gave their lives in the military service of our country.
I hope you have a great book to read.
Take time to enjoy friends and family.
Remember the people of Ukraine.
Don’t forget to give me some feedback about my short story plan!
Promising to tell my blog readers about my journey as a writer, I have the privilege today of telling you about last week’s arrival of my new book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.
My first copies of the local history book arrived on Sunday. That evening, I also finished drawing in black ink two maps of 1900s Harrisburg, NC on 11×17-inch paper. I’d drawn the maps in pencil years ago based on my memory and the recollections of Mr. Ira Lee Taylor. Mr. Taylor was born in the early 1920s and lived to be in his mid-nineties. He was a great resource for me when I was writing the local history column from 2006 through 2012.
Mr. Taylor’s memory of stores and other businesses such as the livery stable made it possible for me to include many buildings that were long gone by the time I was born in the 1950s.
Since the town experienced several road closures and the addition of a four-lane bridge over the railroad tracks due to the high-speed rail improvements about a decade ago, it’s important to have a record in the form of a map so the town’s earlier layout won’t be forgotten.
Monday morning, I took the two maps to have photocopies made. Since the owner of the local bookstore had told me that several people who purchased my first local history book had said they wished they had a map of the way the town used to look, I thought she’d be happy to have my two 11×17-inch maps to sell for maybe $2.50. That didn’t work out, which was disappointing.
On Monday and Tuesday, I got to give copies of my new book to several people who have been instrumental in helping me with details of local history. I mailed several of those to people who live out-of-town, but I got to deliver others in person.
I designed and had bookmarks printed to give away with each book. One side of the bookmark has pictures of both of the Harrisburg local history books and the other side has a photo of my “Slip Sliding Away” short story along with my website and QR code so people will know how to get a downloadable copy of my short story by subscribing to my newsletter.
I also delivered copies of my first and second local history books to a local bookstore which already had two people on the waitlist for Book 2. After taking the books to the store, I posted announcements on three Facebook pages so people would know that my new book was available locally and on Amazon. I’ve enjoyed getting comments and replying to comments – some from people I know and some from people I’ve never met. It’s gratifying to know that people are enjoying both my books.
Wednesday gave me a break from all the book activity, as a cousin visited from New York with her two-year-old son. It was great to sit and visit and watch a very active toddler investigate parts of our house and yard.
On Thursday, I got to have lunch with three local people to talk about local history. It was interesting, and I learned some things I hadn’t known before. Don’t jump to any conclusions, though; I don’t have a third local history book in me!
Early in the week, I made the decision to give myself Thursday and Friday off from hawking my book. Being a native and lifelong North Carolinian, the “March Madness” of the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball is something I’ve always blocked out time for on my calendar. Both of my NC State University teams got knocked out in the first round, but I’ll continue to watch the games the next three weekends.
On Saturday, I delivered more copies of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2 to the bookstore in Harrisburg, so the shop is well-stocked for this week.
When not hawking books or watching basketball, I spent a good bit of time pouring over old deeds, plats, and maps as I tried to figure out exactly where I live in relation to the land purchased by my ancestors in the 1760s. I enjoy activities like that.
Until my next blog post
I’ll continue to publicize my books, and I’ll keep spreading the word that I now publish an electronic newsletter every other month for people who subscribe to it on my website: https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com. I also give away a downloadable short story to subscribers. I appreciate those of you who have taken advantage of this opportunity.
I hope you have a good book to read. The right of people to read is under attack in some states within the United States, and that’s a frightening situation. It’s more important than ever for freedom-loving people everywhere to read, read, read. Support your local public library and your local bookstore! Don’t let anyone dictate what you can and cannot read!
I plan to get back to work on the book of family recipes I started compiling a few months ago before the history books demanded my time. That’s my next project, but I’m eager to also get back to writing my first historical novel.
Take care of each other.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine. In particular, remember the 16,000 children who have been forced by the Russians to go to Russia in the last 14 months. Only 300 of the 16,000 have been able to get back to their homeland of Ukraine.
After a couple of months of not getting to read much for pleasure, February turned out to be just what I needed to get back in the habit of reading. My favorite genre, historical fiction, really came through for me last month.
The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn
I listened to this historical novel on CD. I was spellbound from disc one until the very end of disc 11. I yearn to write historical fiction so vividly. I long to captivate readers with fiction based in an era not their own. Kate Quinn has established herself as a master of the art and craft of writing historical fiction.
The Diamond Eye is based on a true story. Mila Pavlichenko lives in the part of the Soviet Union that is now Ukraine. She works at a library and adores her young son. When World War II transitions to the invasion of Russia by Nazi Germany, Mila does the unthinkable. She becomes a sniper for the Russian Army. And she excelled at it.
After her official kill count reaches 300, Mila becomes a national heroine and is sent on a tour of the United States to drum up support for the fight against Hitler. There, she meets President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt, seeing a bit of her own independent nature in the sniper, befriends Mila.
The book follows Mila through the war and how she constantly has to prove herself because she’s a woman and not automatically taken seriously. She’s called the usual names that men who are threatened by strong women call them.
It is a stunning novel and reminded me why I enjoy reading historical fiction. Yes, it’s fiction because conversations are imagined, but reading well-written historical novels is an enjoyable way to learn a lot of history.
The Home for Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman
This is another gripping historical novel. I was so impressed by Saskia Maarleveld’s reading of The Diamond Eye, that I looked for other books she had recorded. That’s how I found The Home for Unwanted Girls. I thought that was an interesting way to find another good book!
The Home for Unwanted Girls is about an unwed mother in Quebec in the 1950s who is forced by her parents to give up her baby girl. The book shines a light on the ugly history of the orphanage system in Quebec at that time. When the orphanage is turned into an insane asylum and the orphans are forced to take care of the patients, the outcome for the girls seems hopeless.
This novel follows the life of one of those orphans and the 15-year-old mother who wanted desperately to keep her. The mother never gives up on finding her child, even though she is told the girl died.
The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World, by Jonathan Freedland
This book was spellbinding! It tells the stories of 19-year-old Rudolf Vrba and Fred Wetzler who did the impossible in April 1944. They escaped from Auschwitz! The book tells how Vrba studied the precision with which the Nazis conducted searches and exactly how long the guards searched when a prisoner was unaccounted for. He and Fred worked with two accomplices to plan the escape of Vrba ad Wetzler. Their two accomplices were to stay behind while Vrba and Wetzler escaped to take the truth of what was happening at Auschwitz out into the world.
It’s a fascinating read. It follows Vrba and Wetzler after their escape. The eye-opening part of the book was the aftermath of their escape. They testified and provided written descriptions of the horrors of Auschwitz. Their testimonies matched to the nth detail; however, their words and their physical conditions of malnutrition fell on deaf ears.
Winston Churchill didn’t want to bomb the rail lines going into Auschwitz because England bombed in the daytime. President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t want to bomb because it would be a diversion from plans. Jewish organizations in Europe refused to believe what was happening at Auschwitz because it was just too extreme. How can people do such things to their fellow human beings?
Along with the tragic murdering of Jews at Auschwitz, the fact that world leaders who had the power and where withal to do something about it in fact chose not to act is a gut punch.
My general takeaway from the book is that one’s life and future can be determined by someone else’s snap decision. Decisions were made on a whim by guards at Auschwitz every day that determined who lived, who died, and who escaped.
It’s a book that will haunt me.
Since my last blog post
I continue to try to get the word out about my second local history book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.
I also continue to ask people to go to my website, https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com and subscribe to my newsletter. Subscribers receive a free downloadable copy of my first historical short story, “Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story.”
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I know where you can get a good historical short story to read!
This should have been a very short blog post. Two or three paragraphs should have covered the story. Actually, if that had been the case, I would have chosen a different topic for the post. I hadn’t planned to blog about this today.
When I started writing my blog more than 10 years ago, I set out to chronicle my journey as a reader and a writer. It’s been a bumpy ride and there have been detours, successes, and obstacles. I’ve tried to share my ups and downs.
Today’s post is about last week’s stress. Last week’s stress has lapped right over into this week. I’d like to think there’s light at the end of this tunnel, but after what I’ve been through, it’s hard to be optimistic.
Today’s post falls in the category of “you can’t make this stuff up.”
Here’s the timeline as tracked on Amazon.com:
Having submitted the formatted copy of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2 to Amazon for publication, I ordered a proof copy. After having some technical difficulties with several photographs in the book, I especially wanted to be sure they were going to be oriented correctly in the printed book.
I also ordered two paperback copies of Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story, but those two books had to be purchased as a separate order.
Amazon chose to combine the orders and deliver (or attempt to deliver) the three books to me via the United States Postal System, otherwise known as “carrier facility.”
9:11 pm Order left carrier facility, Concord, NC.
This is when I had a feeling that things had gone awry. Since Amazon does not print books at its facility in Concord, NC, which is about 12 miles from my house, I wondered why Concord was the first point of transit. The first point of transit should have been Amazon – not the US Postal Service. My books are usually printed either of Columbia, South Carolina or Indianapolis, Indiana.
Unspecified time Carrier picked up package in Columbia, SC (about 90 miles south of me.)
8:18 a.m. Package arrived at Amazon facility, Concord, NC (about 15 miles north of me.) [This is great! Maybe my proof copy and the short stories will arrive today or tomorrow at the latest! Life is good!]
6:18 a.m. Package arrived at carrier facility, Walkertown, NC (about 80 miles north of me.) [What?]
6:32 p.m. Package arrived at carrier facility, Harrisburg, NC (Post office is five miles from me. I live on a Harrisburg mail route.) [I’m not sure how it traveled 75 miles in 14 minutes, but okay. Whatever.]
7:47 p.m. Package arrived at carrier facility, Greensboro, NC (about 85 miles northeast of me.) [Wait a minute! Something’s not right.]
But I don’t want a refund. I want my books!
You know you’re in trouble when Amazon tells you on Thursday that you can request a refund if your package doesn’t arrive by Tuesday.
A refund won’t do me any good. I need to receive the proof copy before I can give Amazon the go ahead to start selling it. More importantly, I can’t order author copies to supply Second Look Books in Harrisburg until the book “goes live” on Amazon. Then, it takes about four weeks for me to receive the author copies, and my “Meet & Greet” at Second Look Books is scheduled for April 15.
5:19 a.m. Package left Amazon facility, Concord, NC (about 15 miles northeast of me.)
9:21 a.m. Package arrived at USPS distribution center, Charlotte, NC (about 18 miles west of me.)
3:15 a.m. After spending 18 hours at the USPS distribution center in Charlotte, the package left.
3:20 a.m. Five minutes later, it left again. (I’m not making any of this up!)
7:07 a.m. After traveling about 15 miles, package arrived nearly four hours later at the USPS in Harrisburg, NC.
7:18 a.m. Package is out for delivery “by 8 p.m. tonight.”
3:20 p.m. Package arrives at my house! According to the back page, the books were printed in Columbia, SC on February 20, 2023. There was only one 2×4-inch gaping hole in the package right over the cover of the Harrisburg book. These books have seen parts of North Carolina I’ve never seen. As far as I know, I’ve never been to Walkertown. I looked it up. It’s between Winston-Salem and Virginia.
Alas, I had the books in my hands.
I quickly turned to page 465 in the Harrisburg book to make sure Carl Higgins’ B-26 bomber was shown correctly; but, no! In the image, the plane is heading straight up instead of to the left.
Various subheadings in the book appear at the bottom of one page instead of at the top of the next page, although I painstakingly made sure that none of the subheadings were at the bottom of a page when I submitted the formatted manuscript to Amazon. Likewise, all images were oriented in the correct manner when they left my computer.
And did I mention that the cover is dark brown instead of red?
I discovered, though, that the errors (except for the color of the cover) were my fault due to my lack of technical knowledge. If I’d been more in tune with general computer technology, I would have realized that I had created a problem… all the problems in the way the book was printed… except for the brown cover on the red book.
I still hold Amazon and the USPS responsible for shipping my book all over North and South Carolina for nearly a week. The best I can figure, the USPS transported it around 425 miles to get it 90 miles from Columbia, SC to Harrisburg, NC. If I could have received it five days ago, I’d probably have all the problems worked out in the formatting by now and would still be on schedule for publication.
Instead of giving Amazon the go ahead on March 1 to publish my book, I’m now working to correct errors. Then, I’ll submit the revised version. Then, with a great sense of foreboding, I’ll pay to get ANOTHER proof copy of the Harrisburg book. And I’ll wait who know how long for it to arrive. Then, if it is in good order, I’ll order author copies. Then, I’ll wait four weeks for them to arrive. Will they arrive in time for the “Meet & Greet” at Second Look Books on April 15th?
If I were a betting person, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Since my last blog post
Besides following the day-to-day saga of the trip the proof copy of my book has been on, I did some yard work. It’s been unseasonably warm here in North Carolina. I was surprised to see two black snakes on Wednesday. I’ve never seen a snake in February (or March!) before. It’s unusual to see one in April.
My email provider is a company called Windstream. There are many things I’d like to say about Windstream, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that on Saturday night, just five hours after I received the awful proof copy of my Harrisburg Book 2, Windstream downloaded into my inbox the last 4,449 emails I had already received. As we say in the South, “Bless their hearts!” Again, you can’t make this stuff up.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I plan to write about the books I read in February.
If you’re looking for a good historical short story, just visit https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com and subscribe to my newsletter. You’ll be rewarded with a free e-copy of a short story I had fun writing, “Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story.”
Also, hurry and subscribe before March 1, in order to receive my first newsletter!
I hope to have a corrected copy of Harrisburg, Book 2 completed, submitted to Amazon, and have a new proof copy of it in my hands by the time I blog again on March 6. I can only hope.
Thank you for reading my blog!
Don’t forget the brave people of Ukraine who have been under unwarranted attack by Putin for a year.
In celebration of the unveiling of my newly-redesigned website, I’m announcing a giveaway! Who can pass up free stuff?
Today’s blog post will be short because I want you to spend some time exploring my website.
Just for visiting my website and clicking on the “Subscribe” button, I’ll send you a FREE E-Copy of one of my short stories: “Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story.” It’s set in the southern Appalachian Mountains in 1875. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Please rate or review the short story
If you like the story, please consider going on Amazon.com and rating it or even leaving a brief review. That would be great and I would truly appreciate it!
History in Photographs
One particular page on my website that I want to draw your attention to is “History in Photographs.” On that page you’ll find pictures of various historical sites and items that are representative of the 1700-1900 era of American history I’m most drawn to and prompted to write about.
Since my last blog post
In addition to my newly-designed website going “live,” I finally received a refund for the damaged copies of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 that I received in December. I emailed the company again and my request finally landed with the right person!
It was a great week!
Until my next blog post
Please visit https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com and subscribe to my newsletter! I anticipate sending out the first newsletter in March and follow a schedule of every other month.
I hope you have a good book (or short story!) to read.
Thank you for reading my blog and for visiting my website. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter to get my free short story!
And as always, remember the suffering people in Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria.
Ms. Story hit on some important points and helped me not to feel quite so intimidated by the whole author platform thing. Her article touched on the “whys” and the “wherefores” of an author platform. It boils down to anything and everything you do to attract readers.
She talked about five ways an author’s platform can help your career. They all made sense. Then she listed 14 examples of things a writer can do to attract readers. I was happy to see “Blog” on the list, but the wheels fell off my wagon when I got to “YouTube site.” Yikes! Moving on down the list (because, after all, I can’t do all 14 of them) I came to “Newsletter.” I’ve toyed with that idea, but I haven’t attempted that avenue yet.
When my redesigned website gets up and running (soon!), I will start asking people to sign up for my email list/newsletter. More to come on that in the coming weeks.
Ms. Story also had “E-books” and “Social Media” on her list. I’ve mentioned my lack of comfort with social media in many blog posts. There’s certainly more work for me to do there.
On the E-book front, I’ve written a southern historical short story that I plan to give away as an e-book to everyone who signs up for my mailing list. Stay tuned for my announcement about that when my new website is ready.
Blog and Social Media: Is it Both or Either/Or?
I recently listened to a Penny Sansevieri of https://www.amarketingexpert.com on this topic. It unburdened me! I learned that more and more authors don’t have a desire or the time to be on social media. Whew! What a relief! I’ve read and heard a thousand times that authors have to be active on social media.
I’ve tried to be active on Twitter. It’s just not my thing. It’s a chore. It’s something I have to put on my to-do list, but usually it gets pushed to another day. And Instagram? I created an account several years ago, but I’ve never used it. By that, I mean I’ve never logged in to my account a single time.
I enjoy putting things on Pinterest, but I’m more likely to pin a recipe than something writing-related. Last week I read a theory that Pinterest might be an author’s best friend when it comes to social media. I like Pinterest, so that was encouraging.
When Penny Sansevieri said I don’t have to do social media, I wanted to jump up and down. If I blog on a regular basis (check!), update my website (check! Being done!) and stay active on Pinterest (fairly easy!), all I need to add is a newsletter.
With that in mind, I looked back at the “Next Steps” section in my January 30, 2023 blog post. I was tempted to strike through numbers 5 and 6 (find out where my target reader hangs out and hang out there), but I’m pretty sure historical fiction fans hang out on Goodreads. I like Goodreads. I just need to get more serious about it.
My takeaways from the podcast were (1) Since I blog every week, I don’t have to have a presence on social media; (2) I need to upgrade my author website; (3) I must have a newsletter with updates on what I’m doing and teasers about what’s coming; (4) I need a magnet to attract people to my newsletter; (5) I must have information in the back of my books with links to my website, blog, and any social media I want to participate in; (6) I mustn’t overlook local events and local media; and (7) I need to engage with influencers.
Where do I go from here?
With the new advice from Penny Sansevieri’s podcast that I just need to choose those activities I’m comfortable with and focus on them, I don’t feel overwhelmed now. (Well, not completely overwhelmed.) I will stop feeling guilty for not Tweeting every day.
You wouldn’t believe how much weight just got taken off my shoulders!
I’ve Been Part Way Down That Road Before
I could be the poster child for how not to build an author’s platform. I’ve given half-hearted effort in the past to everything on Kimberly Grabas’ list I shared in m January 30, 2023 blog post. I’ve let excuses like lack of technical expertise derail my good intentions.
Reading the articles I referenced today and two weeks ago and listening to the podcast I mentioned were extremely helpful. Those actions, plus taking Tim Grahl’s “Launch a Bestseller” course, prompted me to make a plan and set goals and deadlines for myself.
It’s all paid off. I put my nose to the grindstone last fall and self-published a 500-page local history book in November. I’ll have a revamped website later this month. Then I’ll be able to start compiling a mailing list. I’ll give away an e-short story. I expect to have my second local history book available by the first of April.
Since my last blog post
I’m still dealing with the problems I blogged about last week, but I’m trying not to be as upset about them. Several of you have reached out to me about the issues with suggestions and empathy. Thanks to each of you!
My sister and I continue to proofread the manuscript for Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 continues to sell well at Second Look Books in Harrisburg and on Amazon.
The daffodils are blooming, so spring must be on the way!
Until my next log post
Thank you for dropping by my blog. I truly appreciate the time you took to read my post today. If you have friends who might enjoy it, please tell them about it.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to The Home for Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman. I recommend it. It’s historical fiction based on a real life experience and is set in 1950s Quebec. Saskia Maarleveld is the reader on the book on CD. She does wonderful work! I’m beginning to seek out books she’s recorded.
Remember the suffering people in Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria.
January was a month filled with distractions and frustrations. The redesigning of my website has gone more slowly than I had hoped, mainly because I’m not very computer savvy. There were answers to technical questions I couldn’t readily figure out.
Plus, I had to learn a lot of technology in January so I can enable readers to subscribe to my email list and receive a free ebook, That’s still a work in progress because the good people at the very well-known email marketing service I’m using required me to fill out a long survey before they can answer two of my three basic questions. At least, they seemed basic to me.
I’m still not sure I’ve figured out how to give away the ebook. Maybe I’ll have to just reward my subscribers with a link to it so they can purchase it on Amazon for 99 cents. At least that remains an option.
Bless their hearts, the folks at the very well-known email marketing service I’m using are more interested in such things as my top three goals, how many subscribers I’ll be downloading (right now, it looks like zero), and what software I anticipate “integrating” with them. I’ve already asked them about Zapier, but they can’t answer me until I fill out the survey and tell them the best time to call me. I thought my question about Zapier was a yes or no question. Apparently, I was wrong.
Due to my moderate hearing loss and the fact that I just prefer having answers in writing, I much prefer answers in writing. I wish I’d gone with ConvertKit. Perhaps there’s still that option – which I told the good people at the very well-known email marketing service in my last email to them on Friday.
On an equally frustrating note, the very well-known print-on-demand company that prints my books has also forced me to learn more technology than I ever wanted to know. However, even with my best efforts in responding to each of their emails and supplying them with 20+ digital photographs, all the order numbers, etc. more times than I can remember since January 5, I have now given up on ever being reimbursed for the 14 damaged books I received on December 21, 2022 because there was no packing material in the boxes.
I worked my way up to a supervisor, but she has chosen not to respond to my latest plea for a refund. I paid the cost of printing, tax, and shipping for those books but I can’t sell them. And who wants to give away a damaged book that has your name on it as the author?
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 is selling very well at Second Look Books in Harrisburg, but I dread all future shipments of it and of Book 2, which I hope to have published by April. It sort of takes the fun out of being an author.
(By the way, don’t bother to send the very well-known print-on-demand company that prints my books photos of the condition the box is in when you receive damaged author copies or a photo of the inside of the box showing the four inches of empty space in which your $25 books were allowed to bounce around in while they were in transit for 600 miles from Indianapolis because the company doesn’t want to know such things. You have the benefit of learning from my silly assumptions that someone in the company would want to know why so many of the books they print arrive at the author’s home in unsellable condition. But if they don’t have to issue a refund to the author, I guess they really don’t need to know what the books arrived damaged.)
I spent the entire month of January formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2, trying my best to learn how to giveaway an ebook via a very well-known email marketing service, and attempting to get a refund from the company that prints my books for 14 unsellable copies of Book 1. That left very little time for reading for pleasure, but numerous opportunities for screaming.
What I read in January 2023
However, when I wasn’t screaming, I read part of The Shadow Box, by Louanne Rice. It was the January book for the Rocky River Readers book club. Time ran out and I didn’t get to finish it.
I tried to read one chapter in Black Raven, by Ann Cleeves every night. Unfortunately, I only got to do that for three nights before the ebook went back to the public library.
I read Chasing the Ripper: A Kindle Single, by Patricia Cornwell. She wrote it in 2014 about her research about Jack the Ripper after her book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed was published. This 57-page Kindle Single was interesting even though I haven’t read her Portrait… book. Her Kindle Single is sort of a prelude to her 2017 book, Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert. The Kindle Single made me curious about the details Ms. Cornwell has pieced together lending credence to the theory that British artist Walter Sickert was indeed Jack the Ripper.
The other book I actually read in its very short entirety was The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy. I can’t describe it better than the blurb on Amazon, so I’ll just quote it, in case you aren’t familiar with the wee book: “From the revered British illustrator, a modern fable for all ages that explores life’s universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings.”
What I’d thought about blogging about today
An alternative subject for today was the 89th anniversary of the ratification of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution. I hesitated to write about that, since just two weeks ago I blogged about the ratification of the 24th Amendment in #OnThisDay: The US Constitutional Amendment that Put an End to Poll Taxes. Plus, I couldn’t seem to set aside enough quiet time to refresh my memory about the 20th Amendment enough to blog about it. Please take time to Google it and refresh your memory. That’s all I had time to do.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I hope to have time to finish listening to it.
Take time to relax. If you figure out how to do that while dealing with this technologically-mishandled world, please let me know your secret.
And in all seriousness, I remind you and myself not to forget the freezing, suffering, weary, much-abused-by-Putin-and-his-henchmen, and terrorized people of Ukraine.
My problems don’t hold a candle to what the Ukrainians are dealing with 24/7. Remembering that helps put my concerns in perspective. Come to think of it, I have nothing to scream about.
What comes to mind when you hear author’s platform? Two-by-fours and a hammer? Actually, it’s how an author connects with his or her audience.
I’ve been trying to build my author’s platform for years, but building a name for myself as a novelist before any of my novels are published has been a challenge. I could probably write a book about how not to build a author’s platform.
Six months or so ago I made the decision to publish my local history books before concentrating on my historical fiction writing. I reasoned that proving to readers that I’m somewhat knowledgeable about history would lend credence to my historical short stories and historical novels later. That remains to be seen, but I hope I made the right choice.
I’m not tech savvy. I tend to procrastinate, especially when it comes to doing things out of my comfort zone.
Where is my comfort zone? It’s sitting in the chair at my computer desk doing research, reading about how I can improve my writing skills, and writing.
My comfort zone is not talking on the phone, trying to figure out something clever and helpful to Tweet, Instagramming (I have an account, but I’ve never used it), Tweeting, or Facebooking. I tend to go down rabbit holes when I get on Twitter or Facebook, so I’ve been using them less and less recently. I like Goodreads.com, but I don’t interact much with other readers there.
I started writing this blog post months ago. I’ve scheduled it and rescheduled it more times than I want to admit. Today is the day for it to see the light of day. It’s all part of my journey as a writer.
In a nutshell, Ms. Norman’s blog post opened my eyes to the fact that as a writer I don’t want to attract every reader and, specifically, I don’t want to attract everyone to my website. She presented four reasons, but the thing that really grabbed my interest was in the introduction. Ms. Norman said about many writers, “They have a unique take on life and story. But they also want everyone to like them.”
She then makes her point by quoting from the book of Revelation in the Bible, chapter 3, verses 14-16: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that!
Instead of being neither cold nor hot – by not stating clearly on my website what I write and why I write it – no one knows enough about me and my writing to know if they like me and my writing. In that situation, they’re likely to move on to another website – one they can identify with.
Joel Friedlander’s Perspective
On WriteToDone.com, Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com wrote in the Creating Author Websites: The Definitive Guide | WTD (writetodone.com) post, “The key things to consider when building an author platform are the persona you plan to inhabit; consistency of message, branding, and tone; and focusing your efforts on the places and methods of communication your specific readers prefer.”
Kimberly Grabas’ Helpful Articles on the Topic
Kimberly Grabas puts lots of helpful articles about the craft and business of writing online. One of her pieces that appeared to be written just for me was titled, “How to Build a Writer’s Platform with No Time, No Credentials and No Book.” Here’s the link to it on WriteToDone.com: How To Build A Writer Platform | WritetoDone.
Reading that article recently helped me to at least get my writer’s platform back on my radar. Here are my thoughts on the topic.
Reading Ms. Grabas’ article inspired me to do better. At least, I did better for a little while. The first thing she addressed was “No Time.” I thought about skipping that section because time is not my problem. I have plenty of time, but I decided to read that section anyway.
Glad I did. It wasn’t about trying to write a novel while also having a full-time job, which was my assumption. You know what assuming will get you! What Ms. Grabas was talking about was committing time to building your writer’s platform.
The nitty-gritty of what she said is that I need to get out of my comfort zone and put in the work and the time. In other words, it means I need to schedule and commit to time for social media. It also means I need to toot my own horn and make my goals known.
Truth be known, I spent last summer with daily and weekly to-do lists regarding my writing. I tried to Tweet on a schedule. I hated the whole process, so I failed miserably.
On the other hand, it seems like the last couple of months have been consumed with getting my new website up and going. That means learning a lot of new technology so I can answer the website developer’s questions and supply him with what he needs from me.
Before that, I learned how to use Atticus.io to format a book to publish on Amazon. I also learned on BookBrush.com how to create a book cover, a QR code, memes, and bookmarks. I’ve learned more technology in the last six months than in my entire life up to that point. Of course, my technology bar was set very low.
More on social media later in this blog post.
Next, Ms. Grabas addressed “No Credentials.” She said a writer needs to “focus on earning credibility by providing useful content to your audience.”
I think I’ve been going about this all wrong. I’ve been thinking I didn’t have anything to offer another writer. It’s not about me! I need to spend more time writing reviews of the books I like and letting those authors know I enjoy their work.
Writing blog posts about the books I read isn’t enough. I’ll continue to do that, but I need to write more reviews on Goodreads.com, Amazon, and public library websites.
Since I’m writing historical fiction, I need to find my target audience. To do that, I need to figure out where they hang out. I need to learn which keywords they use when they’re looking for 18th century American historical fiction and use those keywords in my blog posts and Tweets. I need to find out what my target audience wants to read and then write it. Since this is the genre I like to read, I should be able to figure it out.
My first thought when I got to that section of Ms. Grabas’s article was, “Yes. The only books I’ve published are Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1; The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (a vintage postcard book); three Morrison genealogy books (along with my sister); and several booklets related to the history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Until I publish my first novel, how can I establish my writer’s platform?
Ms. Grabas explained that it’s not about selling books, it’s about forming relationships, defining my author brand, and locating my potential readers.
These six items were my takeaways from Kimberly Grabas’ article:
4. Start building my author email list for my newsletter;
5. Determine where my target audience hangs out on social media;
6. Hang out where my target audience hangs out.
First things first
#3 – I’m in the process of having my website redesigned. I have a new direction for my writing and it was time for a fresh look. Look for the unveiling of the new website in early February.
#4 – As soon as my new website goes live, I’ll start actively building my email list. Stay tuned. There’ll be a free gift for everyone who signs up, but please wait until I announce the new website is up and running.
#1 – I hope my new website will go a long way in defining my author brand.
#2 – My reader is someone interested in history – primarily in American history. As I turn from creative nonfiction, such as my local history books, to fiction, you’ll find that I’ll concentrate on southern historical fiction. When we peel away all those layers, my reader is someone who loves to read southern historical fiction.
That leaves #5, and #6. I’m learning where that lover of southern historical fiction hangs out and I’m making an effort to hang out at the same places on social media.
In a future blog post I’ll share Colleen M. Story’s perspective on the topic of author platform and Penny Sansevieri’s thoughts on how to balance the venues I should focus my efforts on.
Since my last blog post
I’ve learned more technology as the process of having my website redesigned is progressing. My brain hurts from all this new knowledge. I hope I can remember how to do a fraction of it.
I’m still formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 continues to sell well on Amazon and at Second Look Books in Harrisburg, NC.
Where did January go?
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn.
A couple of months ago I found a free online headline improvement program. Have you noticed? The jury’s still out, though, as to how it’s working.
Funny thing is, “they” used to tell bloggers to never give a blog post a title containing more than five words. I’ve tried to follow that for years. Lo and behold, now we’re supposed to have seven- to 12-word titles. It’s hard to keep up with what’s acceptable. Who knew blogging would be so complicated and have so many rules?
This free program I’ve started using analyzes headlines and gives each one a numeric score. I’ve had some fun playing around with it and taking its “advice.” I don’t know that my higher-scoring blog post titles have attracted attention or not.
In fact, as my posts have turned more toward publicizing my writing and concentrating less on the art and craft of writing, my blog has lost some popularity. I continued to attract new followers at a slow but steady rate, but my posts are getting fewer “likes” from other bloggers.
My subtle change in direction was a decision I had to make. Was my purpose as a writer to attract the attention of other writers or was it to attract readers?
I hope to continue to attract the attention of other writers but, if I’m going to establish myself as a writer I must find and attract readers.
Headline Studio by Co-Schedule
This isn’t an ad for Headline Studio by Co-Schedule, and I’m getting no compensation for writing about the program in my blog. This is the program I’m using. It’s been a real eye opener.
The program analyzes the headlines or titles you enter and gives you a score from 0 to 100. Today’s blog post title rated a moderately good score of 67, whereas the blog post title I used on January 9, 2023 was my all-time high at 80.
Things taken into consideration in rating title include strength of words, number of characters, number of words, use of emotional words, and readability. The readability aspect is the one that troubles me enough. Some blog post titles I’ve created receive low scores because I used words that someone reading on a fifth-grade level would not understand. How sad is that?
Even sadder is the rating I got when I plugged in today’s blog post title. Read it again. Do you find it difficult to understand? The Headline Studio program gave me the following analysis for this title: “Your headline reads at a 10th grade or higher reading level, which may make it difficult for many readers to comprehend. Switch out the complex words in your headline to improve readability.”
To that, I say, “You must be kidding!” If you can’t understand the title, you probably wouldn’t be able to read my blog. It’s a sad commentary on the state of education.
#OnThisDay: Operation Desert Storm Began in 1991
Since my last blog post
My book sales are going well on Amazon and at Second Look Books in Harrisburg, NC. Here’s a photo I took one day of my book on the shelf with books by other local authors.
I took the picture the only day I visited the store and it wasn’t sold out! Notice that my book was displayed next to Teachers are Amazing: The ABCs of Teachers, by Tierney Fairchild.
If you’re a teacher, know a teacher, or aspire to be a teacher, I recommend Tierney’s book to you. In addition to Second Look Books, her book is also available on Amazon. Tierney is a lifelong educator and is dedicated to the profession.
I’ve been busy this week writing content for the “Home,” “Books,” and “History in Photographs” pages on my website that’s being redesigned. I continue to learn more technology. I created a folder on Google Drive to house the media kit for Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1. I know this sounds easy to many of you, but it was another milestone for me. I can’t wait to unveil the new website… soon!
I want to offer a free e-novelette to people who sign up for my email list when the new website goes live. My next hurdle is learning how to do that!
Until my next blog post
I hope you’re reading a good book. I’m reading The Shadow Box, by Louanne Rice for Rocky River Readers this month. I’ve also started reading Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves.
Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting me and my new local history book!
2022 has been a good year for me. Coming out of the worst days of the Covid 19 Pandemic has given me a chance to try to get back into my normal routine.
Being able to once again go out in public (except to medical facilities) without wearing an N-95 mask is a nice change from 2020 and 2021. It still feels odd to eat inside a restaurant or travel. All the things I used to take for granted are more appreciated now.
2022 was a year of accomplishment for me as I published Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 the last week in November. It’s been exciting to see it well-received and appreciated.
Publishing the book gave me a sense of accomplishment I didn’t expect as I was able to format it and design the cover. I even learned how to make a QR Code that will take people to my website! I still have trouble remembering what the “Q” and the “R” stand for, but I’m making progress. Those are small technological accomplishments in the big scheme of things, but they are huge for me!
The formatting of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2 is coming along nicely, so watch for it perhaps in February. I’m on my own schedule for that, so that lessens the pressure of meeting someone else’s deadline.
I hired a company to redesign my website. I’ve now seen the home page and the “about” page, so it’s coming together. I look forward to unveiling the new website in a few weeks. The URL will still be JanetMorrisonBooks.com.
I’ve made progress working on my family genealogy and putting the information in a software program that will allow me to easily share the information with others in the family. They might not appreciate it now, but I’d like to think they will later.
The decluttering I did early in the year is but a distant memory now. (Why did I keep this stuff?) My writing projects sidetracked me. I must make time for more decluttering in the new year.
I’ve read some good books this year, but my writing has derailed my reading list the last several months. Too many books, not enough time!
The historical short stories I’m writing have taken a back seat to the Harrisburg local history books, but I look forward to turning my attention back to them now that Book 1 is out. In fact, I edited one of my stories on Saturday.
The older I get, the more I realize I’m racing against the clock to get all my projects finished. Too many interests and projects, not enough time!
As you look back over 2022, I hope you remember the good times and all your blessings. I can’t forget the sad times or the difficult times but, when I stop and think, I know I’ve been truly blessed this year. I hope you feel the same way about 2022 as we prepare for a new year.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read! I’m reading a book of poetry by Ray Griffin. The name of it is Threshold. I’ll write more about it in my next blog post.
It’s been an unusually cold past week here in the United States. I hope you’ve stayed safe and warm wherever you are.
Remember the cold and brave people of Ukraine.
I hope you’re having a nice holiday season, no matter your beliefs.