“On a third-floor ledge, threatening”

“On a third-floor ledge, threatening”

Do I have your attention? Good! That’s the purpose of a hook in a novel. I made a note of this one when I read Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich in 2015:

“Ginny Scoot was standing on a third-floor ledge, threatening to jump, and it was more or less my fault.” – Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich

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Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich

After reading that opening sentence, you have to keep reading. The next sentence clarifies things a tad for any reader who has not read any of Ms. Evanovich’s previous 21 Stephanie Plum novels:  “My name is Stephanie Plum and I work as a bounty hunter for my bail bondsman cousin Vinnie.”

I read Janet Evanovich when I want something light and amusing to read. She did a good day’s (years’?) work when she came up with the characters in her Stephanie Plum series. Great character development!

Fans of the Stephanie Plum series know there is a story to follow that hook, no doubt filled with numerous missteps by Stephanie and probably at least one blown-up car. The opening sentence introduces Ginny Scoot to you and tells you she is in dire straits. You wonder what has happened to push her to the edge. What in the world did Stephanie Plum do to cause this crisis?

A good hook grabs you. It gives you just enough information that your curiosity is piqued and you are compelled to keep reading. The first sentence doesn’t have to carry the whole load; however, if the reader isn’t hooked by the bottom of the first page, chances are he or she won’t read the second page. That’s a lot of pressure for a writer!

Since my last blog post

I was fortunate to find one copy of The Carolina Backcountry On The Eve Of The Revolution:  The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant, edited by Richard J. Hooker in circulation in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library System. It has been useful in my research for the historical novel I’m writing.

More letters have been sent to independent bookstore owners to encourage them to place orders for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as spring is finally approaching in western North Carolina.

I’ve continued to hone my new skill of creating graphics for Pinterest using www.Canva.com. In fact, someone at www.Canva.com saw my last blog post and contacted me. She was complimentary of my blog but requested that I give the whole URL (www.Canva.com) instead of “Canva.com” as I had in my blog. I corrected that in last week’s blog post.

Last week’s blog post, How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?, has only been liked by four other WordPress.com (or WordPress.org) bloggers, so Pinterest doesn’t appear to be a popular blog topic for me. I have gained several new followers via email, though, so perhaps it was of interest of a few people. I’ll be watching my Pinterest analytics to see if my original graphics get any attention.

I read on www.Goodreads.com that Jennifer Ryan is considering writing a sequel to The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I commented on how much I liked it in my April 1, 2017 blog post, The Authors I Read in March. I look forward to reading the sequel, if it comes to fruition.

Going off topic

The highlights of my week were seeing several birds that make rare appearances in my yard. First came a male scarlet tanager to get a drink of water on Sunday. Two days later, two male indigo buntings, and a rose-breasted grosbeak came to eat. The grosbeak usually stops by our bird feeder every spring, but he’s just passing through. The indigo buntings graze on the ground under the feeder.

Sometimes the rose-breasted grosbeak stays for two or three days, but this year I only saw him once. He feasted for a good 15 minutes before flying away. Other birds came and went, but he was not deterred. This is much different behavior than is displayed by the northern cardinal. The northern cardinal is the most skittish bird I’ve seen. We have them in abundance.

I’ve only seen indigo buntings a few times in my life, but this was only the second time I’d seen a scarlet tanager. I didn’t get any photographs this time, but I found it interesting when I looked back in my photo files that the indigo bunting and rose-breasted grosbeak showed up on the same day in 2007. I photographed them on May 9 that year. It was the first time I’d ever seen either species.

This year they showed up on April 24. Concluding that the two species apparently migrate together, I did a little research. I learned on https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/indigo_bunting (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) that indigo buntings “migrate at night, using the stars for guidance.” Perhaps it is coincidental that they and the rose-breasted grosbeak both show up in my yard on the same day.

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Male Indigo Bunting, photographed March 9, 2007.
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Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, photographed March 9, 2007.

When I chose the topic for today’s post, I had no idea I would include a segment about birds. I selected the above photo of the grosbeak because it was the best picture I took of him. It just occurred to me that he sort of illustrates the title of this blog post. Okay, use a little imagination. Work with me here!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good place to watch a variety of birds.

I also hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. I’m usually years behind in reading award winners, so I decided to jump right on this one.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Feel free to share my blog posts on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or via email.

Thank you for reading my blog! What birds have you seen recently, and what are you reading?

Janet

How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?

I love to make plans. Ask me to plan a trip, and I’ll get into the minutiae of where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

My sister is my traveling buddy, and sometimes my attention to detail drives her crazy! On the other hand, she doesn’t enjoy planning trips so she doesn’t complain too much.

In my Reading Like a Writer blog post (“Reading Like a Writer”) on April 9, 2018, I told you that I had developed a social media plan. Making the plan was easy. The hard part came when I entered the implementation phase. Today’s blog post is about the Pinterest aspect of my plan.

Pinterest Best Practices

In the process of developing the plan, I learned the following from Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter Issue No. 234 (https://madmimi.com/p/9af10c/):

Kate Ahl recently noted an addition to Pinterest’s own best practices for success: ‘The first 5 Pins you save each day will be prioritized for distribution. Save to the most relevant board first…that Pin will get distribution priority.’”

That was a revelation for me. No more willy-nilly saving pins to my Recipes: Cheesecake Board! Since reading Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter, I’ve made myself save five pins to my writing-related Pinterest boards every day before pinning any recipes, quilts, or Maxine-isms.

Old habits are hard to break, so there is definitely a learning curve involved in this.

Advice from Janice Wald

Along the same lines, I learned the following from Janice Wald’s April 7, 2018, Mostly Blogging blog (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/social-media-manager/):

“When I started deleting my boards, Pinterest’s algorithms better learned the content of my niche, and my traffic grew.”

and

“I deleted my boards about food and entertainment, for example. Pinterest will be more likely to show your pins to people if the algorithms know what your site is about.”

and

“I read you’ll get better visibility at Pinterest if it’s clear to the site what your niche is. This makes sense. Search engines show your blog to people when they’re clear what you specialize in.”

That second quote from Janice Wald is a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t want to give up my recipe and quilting boards. I could make them secret board that only I can see, but I had hoped that when someone looked at one of those boards they’d also notice I wrote a vintage postcard book (The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina) and I’m writing a historical novel (The Spanish Coin) set in the Carolinas in the 1760s.

I’ll have to give that some thought. For the time being, I have 80 boards on Pinterest.

What I’ve Accomplished on Pinterest since Last Monday

I’ve learned how to create my own pins for Pinterest on Canva.com. Those of you who know me, know that I am technologically challenged, so this was no minor feat for me. I am not getting compensated for mentioning Canva; however, I’ve been able to create some pretty cool graphics for free using that website, http://www.canva.com.

How to move graphics from Canva.com to Pinterest

I soon discovered that I didn’t know how to move the graphics I created on Canva.com and saved to my hard drive. A search on Google quickly brought up the instructions. You simply go to the Pinterest toolbar, click on the red “+” sign, and then click on “Upload an image.” (This just might be the first time I’ve been able to give any technology advice to anyone!)

Want to see what I’ve done on Pinterest?

Please go to my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049) and look at the graphics I created this past week for the following boards:  The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress; Blue Ridge Mountains; Great Smoky Mountains; Books & Authors; and Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

Here’s a graphic I created about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, for my Great Smoky Mountains board on Pinterest:

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One of the first graphics I made on Canva.com.

My mistakes

There are lots of things to keep in mind when making a graphic for social media. Looking at the one shown above, I realize using a color background would have made it more eye-catchy, although I think it shows up better on Pinterest than on my blog.

Also, at the bottom of the graphic, I should have included my blog’s URL, my website’s URL, and my handle on Twitter. I have edited it in light of that, in case I decide to reuse it at a later date.

My social media plan for Pinterest

  • Mondays: Pin link to my weekly blog post to Janet’s Writing Blog board (set up to post automatically by WordPress.com) and a colonial history factoid or A Spanish Coin teaser to The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress;
  • Tuesdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Great Smoky Mountains;
  • Wednesdays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid from one of my church history booklets to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church;
  • Thursdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Blue Ridge Mountains;
  • Fridays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church women’s history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards; OR Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards with a link to the church’s website where a copy of Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.’s book, The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, can be ordered.
  • Saturdays: Create factoids/infographics for the following week(s).

This is a grand plan for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I know I will not accomplish this every week. I fell short last week even though I was enthusiastic about starting this new plan. I might miss some weeks altogether. The schedule gives me something to aim for, though.

80/20 Rule of Social Media Marketing

I have read in various sources that 80% of your posts on social media should inform, educate, or entertain and only 20% should promote your business. That rule prompted me to strive to shine a light on a book about the history of Presbyterian Women at Rocky River Presbyterian Church or Dr. Spence’s church history book on Pinterest on Fridays.

I wrote neither of the books, and the proceeds from their sales benefit the ongoing work of the Presbyterian Women at Rocky River and the church’s cemetery fund. (The church dates back to 1751 and has several very old cemeteries that have to be maintained.)

My social media plan for Pinterest looks a little out of whack in light of the 80/20 Rule; however, I hope all the pins I create will fall into the “inform, educate, or entertain” categories.

Since my last blog post

In addition to learning how to create my own Pinterest pins and pinning my creations last week, I have continued to work on the rewrite of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re an avid reader who has never considered the possibilities of using Pinterest, you might want to check it out. You just might find that your favorite authors have pages there and boards about their books. After looking for your favorite authors on Pinterest, please let me know if this was an enjoyable experience for you and specifically what you liked about it.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. Please let me know what your experience has been on Pinterest. If you haven’t thought about using it as part of your writer’s platform, perhaps you’ll consider it after reading this blog post.

Don’t be shy about spreading the word about my blog. Feel free to use the buttons below to put today’s post on Facebook, Tweet about it, reblog it on your blog, or Pin it on Pinterest. Thank you!

Janet

Some March Reading

I usually wait until the first Monday of the next month to blog about books I read this month, but I’ve read so many good books in March I decided to split them up between today’s blog and my April 2, 2018 blog post.

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

After reading Kristin Hannah’s best-selling novel, The Nightingale, last year, I eagerly awaited the release of The Great Alone. What a masterpiece! I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you haven’t read it.

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The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

I’ll just state the basic description – that it is the story of a troubled Vietnam War veteran and POW survivor who took his wife and daughter to Alaska to escape the craziness he saw in life in the lower 48 states.

Ill-prepared for life in the wilds of Alaska, things went from bad to worse for the family. Domestic abuse is a thread that weaves throughout the novel. Can love outlast the horrors this family lives with?

The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen

This historical novel alternated between World War II and 1973. After the death of her father, 25-year-old Joanna travels from London to a remote village in Tuscany where her father’s fighter plane was shot down in 1944.

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The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen

Since her father’s death, Joanna has found an undeliverable and returned-to-send letter he wrote to an Italian woman named Sofia. In the letter, he references “our beautiful baby boy” who is hidden away where no one but he and Sofia can find him.

Joanna had no knowledge of this woman named Sofia until discovering the letter in her father’s belongings after his death. Who was Sofia, and is “our beautiful baby boy” a half-brother Joanna knows nothing about?

White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

This historical novel was a difficult read for me because the subject matter was so bleak, violent, and sad; however, I’m glad I read it. I learned a great deal of history.

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White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum is about man’s inhumanity to man – or more specifically, man’s inhumanity to woman. The novel was inspired by the plight of Korean girls and young women who were abducted by the occupying Japanese soldiers during World War II. The girls and young women were physically- and sexually-abused and were forced to be “comfort women” for the Japanese soldiers.

This is also a story of the human spirit and what it is able to endure due to the innate will to live. It is also about the love two sisters share for each other and how they long to be reunited.

It is not for the faint of heart, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the early- to mid-20th century history of Korean-Japanese relations. As recently as 2015, the treatment of Korean girls and women by Japanese soldiers from the late 1930s through the Second World War was being swept under the rug.

In 2015, the governments of Japan and South Korea agreed “to remove the Statue of Peace [in Seoul] and never speak of the ‘comfort women’ again” according to the timeline in the back of Mary Lynn Bracht’s book. Thanks to her novel, a whole new generation will learn about his piece of history.

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen

I checked this book out because the title intrigued me. The author grew up in Finland but moved to the USA as a young adult. This book is her perspective on the social and governmental differences between the two countries.

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The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen

The prologue was interesting in that Ms. Partanen expressed her surprise in finding that Americans are less free and independent than the people of her home country. Her opinion is that

  1. the fact that most Americans’ health care is dependent upon their employer, we in the USA are tied to our jobs;
  2. Americans are sometimes forced to stay in unhappy marriages because the income tax laws are written to reward couples filing jointly;
  3. the tax laws in America encourage young adults to depend upon their parents for paying for college and supporting them financially in other ways past the age of 18; and
  4. the policies of the US government saddle parents with too much expense in the raising of children and saddle too many middle-age adults with the financial burden of caring for their elderly parents.

 

Ms. Partanen boiled all this down to what she calls The Nordic Theory of Love.

My brief summary doesn’t do justice to this 450-page book, but maybe I have piqued your interest. I enjoyed a couple of days’ break from reading depressing World War II novels, but about halfway through Ms. Partanen’s book I decided I’d rather read fiction. Some short stories and novels were vying for my attention.

Since my last blog post

I’ve worked on letters to send to 40 bookstores to encourage them to place spring orders for my 2014 vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I’ve done a lot of reading, and I’ve studied book marketing and writing in deep point-of-view.

Until my next blog post

If you haven’t already signed up for my sometime-in-the-future newsletters, please fill out the form below.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline. Perhaps you’ll want to read one of the books I wrote about today.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Another Case of Wondering

A couple of weeks ago my blog post (Sometimes I Have to Wonder ) was about some strange recommendations I got from Pinterest. As a follow-up to that, today’s post is about a similar experience I had on Amazon.com

Occasionally, I do a search for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina on Amazon to see where it comes up in the search, to see how many copies remain and if Amazon is placing another order, and the fluctuating price.

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My book!

When I did that a few days ago, I was dumbfounded by the books that come up as “Sponsored products related to this item.” In case you haven’t been following my blog for several years, you might not know that in 2014 Arcadia Publishing published a vintage postcard book that I wrote. The title, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, pretty much says what a potential buyer can expect to find:  narrative built around vintage postcards from the mountains in western North Carolina.

The following is a list of the “Sponsored products related to this item” as listed by Amazon.com on December 4, 2017:

How to Mount Aconcagua: A Mostly Serious Guide to Climbing the Tallest Mountain Outside the Himalayas, by Jim Hodgson;

The Journey in Between: A Thru-Hiking Adventure on El Camino de Santiago, by Keith Foskett;

Coloring Books For Adults Volume 6: 40 Stress Relieving and Relaxing Patterns, Adult Coloring Book Series, by Coloring Craze.com;

Farthest North:  Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship “Fram” 1893-96 and of a Fifteen Months’ Sleigh Journey, by Dr. Nansen and Lieut. Johansen (1897);

Vagabonds in France, by Michael A. Barry; and

Adult Coloring Book: 30 Day of the Dead Coloring Pages, Dia De Los Muertos (Anti Stress Coloring Books for Grown-ups, by Coloring Craze.

That was just the first of three pages of “Sponsored products related to” The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison.

Klout.com

Klout.com is a website that measures one’s activity on social media. I mentioned Klout.com in my April 13, 2017 blog post, K is for Klout.com.I understand that 50 is considered a good score on Klout.com. My all-time high score so far was attained on April 18, 2017:  45.31. Hmmm. Odd that I hit my all-time high score just five days after I blogged about Klout.com!

My score has now dropped to 42, so my goal of reaching 50 by the end of the end is highly unlikely. It will be interesting to see if my score increases this week after mentioning the website in today’s blog. There might be something fishy going on here.

My point in mentioning Klout.com today is because when I checked my score on December 8, the site reported that I was an expert on languages. I had to laugh.

I am a native speaker of English, and I neither speak nor write it correctly all the time. I studied Spanish 40+ years ago. I can count to three in French, although I doubt my pronunciation is correct and I’d be hard-pressed to spell those numbers correctly.

You get my drift. I am in no way an expert on languages. Several months ago, Klout.com reported that I was also an Excel expert. Thank you, Klout.com, for your vote of confidence, but I am in no way an expert on anything related to computers.

I think such things are determined by the use of algorithms. That’s all I need to know. I never did understand or like math.

Until my next blog post

If I can get my act together, next Monday I’ll blog about an interesting piece of local history.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading at (yes, reading at) A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. I keep checking it out of the public library when I have other books to read. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just not the right time for me to read the book. It’s interesting, but obviously not holding my attention enough to make me drop everything else and read it. I think it’s me and not the book.

Shameless plug:  If you don’t have a good book to read, may I suggest you order The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison. You might be able to arrange delivery before Christmas, if you hurry. You can order the electronic version and get it instantaneously, of course.

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Silas and Janet were equally excited the day “their” book arrived in July, 2014.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and I hope the algorithms used by Amazon.com are kinder to you than they are to me.

Hmmm. I wonder if I did a search for Adult Coloring Book:  30 Day Of The Dead Coloring Pages, would my postcard book would come up as a related item?

Janet

Sometimes I Have to Wonder

Raise your hand if you are addicted to Pinterest. I am guilty.

I have boards on Pinterest about various aspects of writing, cooking, blogging, local history, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (which just happens to also be the title of my vintage postcard book published by Arcadia Publishing), the North Carolina coast, quilting, Southernisms, hearing loss, and many of my other hobbies and interests.

If you follow my blog, you know that I generally write about books I’ve read, samples of my writing, or things I’ve learned about the art and craft of writing. I have a board on Pinterest called “Janet’s Writing Blog” where I pin each of my blog posts.

If you participate in Pinterest and have interest boards on the site, you probably get e-mails from Pinterest with suggested pins that might be of interest to you based on your boards. Those e-mails usually make sense; however, one I received a couple of weeks ago fell into the category of “sometimes I have to wonder.”

Considering the content I pin to my “Janet’s Writing Blog” interest board, why did Pinterest send me an e-mail titled, “A few new ideas for your board Janet’s Writing Blog” which included the following pins for me to visit?

“How much space do goats really need?”

“How to make homemade chicken feed – a simple formula.”

“Halloween Pumpkin Wall Clock A9 Nice for gift or home.”

“DIY Garden Fence.”

“Pinned for what they used to hinge the gate.”

“What to wear – frivolous Friday.”

Another one with a photo of a fence was titled, “So simple – inexpensive – would work    for the dogs.”

And last but not least:  “Small chicken coop and fenced area for egg laying.”

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(Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash)

It served a purpose

The Pinterest e-mail served a purpose, although not its intended one. It made me laugh. It loses some of its punch here since I can’t include the photos that accompanied each suggestion.  As I scrolled down through the recommended pins for my Janet’s Writing Blog interest board, I laughed again and again.

I try to find something to laugh about every day. A good laugh, when not at the expense of another person, is good for the soul. Thanks, Pinterest!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have something to laugh about.

If you’d like to visit my Pinterest page and see my various interest boards, go to https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049/.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius; Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb; A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles; and The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham. And, yes, sometimes I get the story lines and characters confused.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time this week.

Janet

Total Solar Eclipse!

Last Monday, August 21, 2017, I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I saw a total solar eclipse! My sister and I traveled several hours from our home to the mountains in southwestern North Carolina in order to see the eclipse in the band of totality.

Anticipating heavy traffic later in the morning, we left Canton, North Carolina (just west of Asheville) at 6:45 a.m. It was a scenic and pleasant hour’s drive to Bryson City, North Carolina where we had reservations on a steam train to Dillsboro at noon.

After a hearty breakfast at The Iron Skillet and a tour of the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum in Bryson City, and armed with NASA-approved solar eclipse viewing glasses, we boarded a train for the 75-minute ride to Dillsboro, North Carolina. Pulled by a diesel locomotive for the trip to Dillsboro, the train was pulled by a steam locomotive on the return trip to Bryson City that afternoon.

2-8-0 Class Steam Locomotive No. 1702

The 2-8-0 steam locomotive No. 1702 was built by The Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania in August, 1942. Intended for military service in Europe during World War II, it was sent instead to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to perform domestic wartime service. According to the information on the back of my souvenir ticket, “The engine is one of two remaining in the U.S. 120 2-8-0 class oil burning engines built.”

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2-8-0 Steam Locomotive No. 1702, owned and operated by Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

After being owned by various railroad lines, in 1992 the locomotive was purchased by Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. It gave passenger service in western North Carolina until 2004 when mechanical problems took it out of service. Restoration work began in 2014 and today the steam engine is a thing of beauty in great working order.

During the two-and-a-half-hour layover in Dillsboro, we were able to sit and watch the progression of the eclipse.

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That’s me, watching the solar eclipse in Dillsboro, NC, August 21, 2017.

The people on the train and in Dillsboro were all in a jovial mood and excited about the experience. There were people there from many US states, India, and Japan. The ladies from Japan had traveled to China to see a total eclipse. They brought with them solar eclipse viewing fans. They reminded me of the cardboard fans on a wooden stick that we used in our church before the days of air-conditioning.

The fans from China had a strip across so one could hold the fan in front of the face and look at the eclipse through the strip. One of the women let me try it out. I thought it was more convenient and sturdy than the flimsy eclipse glasses we have in the US. Afraid my glasses would slip and expose my eyes, I found myself holding them in place.

Eclipse projected on the ground

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Image of sun just minutes before total eclipse as projected on paper through a telescope and binoculars

An engineer from Conyers, Georgia set up a telescope rigged with binoculars just a few feet from where we sat. It was fascinating to watch the progression of the eclipse, which started at 1:06 pm and ended at 4:00 pm, as his setup projected the image of the sun onto a piece of paper on the ground.

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Tiny solar crescents being project through a round disk with tiny round holes in it.

He had a round disk containing a myriad of tiny holes. Everywhere the eclipsed sun shone through the holes, we could see tiny crescents of light on the paper underneath. He also showed the women from Japan how to hold they hands palms down, crossways of each other at a 90-degree angle and somehow the tiny crescents of light appeared on the ground beneath his hands. I never got the hang of that.

Total Solar Eclipse!

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Photograph of total solar eclipse in Dillsboro, NC, August 21, 2017

When the partial eclipse transitioned into total eclipse at 2:35 pm, we could take off our viewing glasses and look at the sun unprotected for the minute and 50 seconds of totality. Nothing was visible of the sun during that time except its spectacular corona. I could see one star to the left of the sun. Everyone cheered and applauded when totality began and again when it ended. The birds started singing again as totality transitioned into partial eclipse.

The street lights came on during the twilight of total eclipse. If I had it to do again – which I don’t expect to – I would go to a place far away from any source of artificial light, and I would go the a place in the center of the total eclipse band. Even so, I have no regrets and feel fortunate to have had this opportunity. The last eclipse that could be seen in the Dillsboro area was July 20, 1506. The next one will be October 17, 2053. Since I’ll be 100 years old then, I don’t expect to see it.

When the eclipse was at about 50%, we could see what we thought to be a sunspot on the sun as we looked at the half-moon image on the paper under the telescope/binoculars setup. Unfortunately, the sunspot was too tiny to show up in the photograph I took.

Traffic!

It had taken less than an hour that morning to drive from Canton, North Carolina to Bryson City. After the steam train returned us to Bryson City after the eclipse, we enjoyed pizza at Nick and Nate’s Pizza across the street from the train station and headed back to Canton.

It wasn’t long before we caught up with bumper-to-bumper traffic. It took us three-and-a-half hours to drive back to Canton, so we were glad we’d taken time to eat supper in Bryson City.

A nice surprise

A nice surprise that morning in Bryson City was visiting O’Neil’s Shop on the Corner and finding a copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, prominently displayed near the bookstore’s entrance.

One of the shop’s owners, Tom O’Neill, asked me to autograph it and the other copy on another shelf. I was thrilled to find my book still available there! (I wrote about my first experience meeting Tom and Cynthia O’Neill in my December 30, 2014 blog post, O’Neill’s Shop on the Corner)

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That’s me, proudly standing beside my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, on display at O’Neill’s Shop on the Corner, Bryson City, NC.

It was a really nice day. We’d had such a good experience all day, the long drive back to Canton wasn’t so bad. We regretted that we were missing the NOVA program about the eclipse on PBS that night, but it turned out that we got to see it later in the week after we returned home.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve almost finished reading Hatteras Light, by Philip Gerard, for tonight’s meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

Photo credits:  Marie Morrison

 

Getting Blog Traffic in 2017

Tomorrow is my blog’s 7th blogaversary. My first blog post was on June 24, 2010. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been blogging for seven years. There’s a good reason for that. In 2010 I only blogged four times. I blogged once in 2011. In 2011 I blogged only seven times. It wasn’t until July 7, 2014 that I started blogging on a regular basis. That was the month before the publication of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I finally felt like I had something to write about!

 

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Happy 7th Blogaversary to Janet’s Writing Blog!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I am constantly learning more about blogging. You may have noticed that I’ve started trying to write catchier blog post titles. I’m also trying to limit my post titles to five words. I read somewhere that’s ideal, but now I don’t remember why. Seems like it has something to do with showing up in a Google search.

MostlyBlogging.com

Janice Wald’s blog post on June 10, 2017 (http://www.mostlyblogging.com/generate-better-traffic) said something that made me stop in my tracks and reread a couple of paragraphs. The post was written by Raymond Crain, who works for E2M, a social media marketing agency based in San Diego.

In a nutshell, Mr. Crain said that blogging daily is out and blogging good content is in. Yay! I don’t have to feel guilty for only blogging twice-a-week!

He said Google now puts more emphasis on the “intent” of the searcher and the “quality” of the blog post. If you’re blogging for your own enjoyment, posting daily is fine, but if you’re trying to get your brand out there and drive more traffic to your blog you might want to read Mr. Crain’s article. This was just one of his five recommendations.

A Writer’s Path blog

Guest post contributor Shelley Widhalm said on Ryan Lanz’s A Writer’s Path blog on June 13, 2017 (https://ryanlanz.com/2017/06/13/why-blogging-is-important-for-writers/) that blogs are here to stay, but that it is quality and not quantity that’s important when establishing your brand and your credentials as a blogger worth reading. Therefore, there is more to blogging than attaining high search engine optimization (SEO.)

Ms. Widhalm stated, “Research shows that blogs should be posted once a week on the same day of the week . . . .”

She did not cite that specific research, but I will take the statement under consideration and continue to watch to see what becomes standard practice. Blogging is a creative outlet for me, so I won’t promise to conform to recommended schedules.

What do you think?

Would you prefer that I only blog once-a-week? I might give that some thought.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have good book to read. I’ve just finished reading Camino Island, by John Grisham and Put the Cat in the Oven Before You Describe the Kitchen, by Jake Vander Ark. (More on that in July when I blog about the books I read in June.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

Words That Give Me Trouble

Words-That-Give-Me

Writing keeps me humble. There are words I worry about now in my writing that I used to not be concerned about. Since I’ve claimed aloud to be a writer, I feel the spotlight on all my written words. Sometimes I come up short.

Memory and Age

Memory and age begin to take a toll. Words that I used to spell or remember the definition of without a second thought now fall into the “need to look it up” category. Some words I’ve thought to be synonymous aren’t quite equal when examined. I continually learn of words I have used incorrectly all my life. It happens often enough that I’m losing my confidence.

Mark Nichol’s list

After creating an account on StumbleUpon last week, I stumbled upon Mark Nichol’s article, “50 Problem Words and Phrases” https://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-problem-words-and-phrases/. In today’s blog post, I’ll share a few examples of words that give me trouble.

  1. Compare to / compare with – Compare to implies only similarity; whereas, compare with   implies similarity and contrast.
  2. Each other / one another – Use one another when more than two are involved. (Who knew?)
  3. Jealousy / envy – If I am jealous of you, I resent your having something. If I envy you, I   covet something you have. (I’ve didn’t realize there was a difference until reading Mr. Nichol’s article cited above.)
  4. Since / because – As stated by Mr. Nichol in his article, “Informally, these terms are  interchangeable, but in formal writing, since should be used only to refer to time.” (This one from Mr. Nichol’s article was new to me, too.)
  5. Transcript / transcription – Mr. Nichol stated, “A transcript is a thing; a transcription is the process of creating it.” (I know I’ve been guilty of using “transcription” when I  should have written “transcript.”

I need to keep Mark Nichol’s list of “50 Problem Words and Phrases” handy as I’m writing. The more I read about the sometimes subtle nuances of words, the less confident I am in my writing.

chicago-manual-of-style-008

Self-Editing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

I’m having flashbacks of the days when I had to follow the 1,000+-page gold standard of American English, The Chicago Manual of Style, as I self-edited the manuscript for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.* That’s when I began to realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

Writing-keeps-me-humble

Writing keeps me humble.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (Among other things, I’m reading Camino Island, by John Grisham.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and a better memory than I have for spelling and proper word usage.

Janet

*Shameless Plug:  In case you haven’t purchased a copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, please look for it at any independent bookstore. If it’s not on the shelf, please request it. If that doesn’t work, you can order it from Amazon.com.

 

What is a Conversion Habit and Do I Need One?

I received an e-mail on May 4 from ProBlogger.com with a link to a blog post about conversion habits. I’m not a theology student. I didn’t have a clue what “conversion habits” were or if I needed to try to work them into my life. I didn’t know if a conversion habit was a good habit or a bad habit. ProBlogger.com is a trusted source, so I clicked on the link to learn more.

https://problogger.com/the-9-conversion-habits-of-the-worlds-most-successful-bloggers/

The blog was written by a guest blogger, John Stevens. Mr. Stevens, according to the blog, “is the CEO of Hosting Facts, a startup that helps consumers make data-backed decisions when choosing web hosts. He is also a frequent contributor to WebsiteSetup where he helps businesses set up their website.”

Used by the world’s greatest bloggers

The best I could tell, conversion habits are practices the world’s greatest bloggers use to convert a blog reader into a customer. Since I have nothing to sell at the moment, other than copies of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, three Morrison genealogies compiled by my sister and me, and several privately-printed-on-demand booklets I wrote about Rocky River Presbyterian Church history, I don’t think I need to expend my limited energy working on conversion habits. It’s not like I’m trying to get my books on the New York Times Bestseller List!

I didn’t really need anything to add to my “to-do” list, so I was relieved that I don’t need to be bothered with conversion habits – at least for now.

(Warning:  shameless plug — Incidentally, if you’re interested in purchasing one of my books, visit https://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com or visit your favorite independent bookstore.)

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The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina on the shelf at Lake Junaluska Bookstore.

That didn’t mean I didn’t keep reading the blog post, though. I am a curious person, and the post’s title promised me nine conversion habits. I got down to the ninth habit, thinking I was almost finished. I could delete the e-mail and go to bed. But no. The ninth conversion habit was, “They use prominent CTAs.”

What the heck is a prominent CTA?

Turn the light back on. There will be no sleeping tonight until I figure out what a prominent CTA is. I read on. The first sentence asked me what color my CTAs were. That sounded like a personal question to me, and I felt myself blush. Never fear! I surmised that you want your CTA to be a contrasting color to that of your logo.

The blog post went on to talk about the Von Restorff effect, which is also called the “isolation effect.” Not being a student of marketing, I wasn’t familiar with that effect. Mr. Stevens explained it as follows:  “this principle states that when confronted with multiple stimuli (in our case, CTAs), the stimuli that stand out the most wins our attention.”

Regaining my composure, I kept reading. The next sentence informed me that “your CTAs have a big impact on your conversion rates.” Since I don’t feel the need for conversion rates, I’m once again tempted to delete the e-mail and call it a night. I keep reading, though, because I still don’t have a clue what a CTA is, and I try to learn something new every day – even if it appears to be useless information. I read on.

Higher CTR

Mr. Stevens continued with, “Since your CTAs lead visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, download your eBooks or buy your courses, it makes sense to optimize it for higher CTR.” I don’t know what a CTR is, but it’s far too late in the evening to chase after that rabbit. After all, I need something to do tomorrow, right? (No – I’m too curious. Google search. CTR is currency transaction report. That’s all I need to know about that.)

Study results

I learned that a study revealed that changing the color of CTAs resulted in an increase of 21% in a blog’s conversion rate. That sounded impressive, so I looked at the illustrations. The best I could tell, a CTA is a clickable button that says something like, “Get started now!”

But what is a CTA?

A search on Google, “What is a CTA?” brought up the definition of a computed tomography angiography. I wasn’t just in the wrong pew, I was in the wrong church! Another search choice was “What is a CTA on a website?” Bingo!

The answer that popped up when I clicked on that option was, “In web design, a CTA may be a banner, button, or some type of graphic or text on a website meant to prompt a user to click it, and continue down a conversion funnel.”

That’s all?

My response to that explanation was, “That’s all?” (Peggy Lee should be singing, “Is That All There Is?” right about now! For those of you who don’t know who Peggy Lee was, that song was a big hit for her in 1969.) I just spent 10 minutes trying to learn what a CTA is and it’s just a button? I can see why they call it a CTA. That’s a lot more impressive than “button.”

The letdown

I feel like I’ve been on a wild goose chase. Tomorrow will I still remember what conversion habits and CTAs are? It makes me wonder if universities now offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Blogging. Are such courses as Conversion Habits 101 and CTAs 101 included in the required curriculum? Can one minor in CTR?

This stuff gives me a headache. All I want to do is write my novel and finish reading my current library book so I can start reading the next one.

All jokes aside, Mr. Stevens received wonderful comments and praise for his blog post. It was well-written, well-illustrated, and apparently contained useful information for people who are in the business of selling a product through their blog. I’m just not there yet. I highly recommend the blog post to anyone who is marketing a tangible product or something intangible such as a writing course.

Until 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.

Janet

V is for Vocabulary and Voice

On this 22nd day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “V.” Two options came to mind as I considered “V” words that have something to do with writing. Not able to decide which one to go with, I am writing about both:  Vocabulary and Voice.

V is for Vocabulary

As I do on a fairly regular basis, I’m going to show my ignorance. One of the things I like about reading books on my Kindle Fire is that I can simply rest my finger on a word I’m not familiar with and its definition pops up on the screen. I even find myself doing that while reading a traditional book! I laugh at myself and reach for a dictionary.

When contemplating today’s post early in April, my first thought was to blog about “V is for Vocabulary.” I started jotting down new words that I was learning.

Bildungsroman

Since Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville, North Carolina agreed to sell my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 2014, I’ve been on the independent bookstore’s mailing list. I receive e-mail invitations to author events hosted by the shop. On April 6, the e-mail announced that Jackson County author David Joy would discuss his new novel, The Weight of This World, on April 22 at 3:00 p.m.

I’ve read about David Joy and his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it. It picks up on the widespread drug problem that plagues the mountains in western North Carolina just as it does the rest of the United States. (Bear with me. I promise to get to Bildungsroman soon.)

Here it is two years later, and Mr. Joy’s second novel has been published. I was not able to go to Waynesville on April 22 to hear Mr. Joy speak but I plan to read one of his books the first chance I get.

Getting back to “V is for Vocabulary,” it was when I visited the website for the Cabarrus County Public Library system that I discovered that the genre in which Where All the Light Tends to Go is categorized as Bildungsroman. I didn’t have a clue what that meant.

Since I was at my computer, I took advantage of Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. I learned that Bildungsroman is the combination of two German words: Bildung, meaning “education,” and Roman, meaning “novel.”

Hence, according to www.merriam-webster.com, a Bildungsroman “is a novel that deals with the formative years of the main character – in particular, his or her psychological development and moral education. The bildungsroman usually ends on a positive note with the hero’s foolish mistakes and painful disappointments over and a life of usefulness ahead.”

Anaphora

Ironically, later that same day, I read a post on JstinsonINK.com about the word anaphora. Quoting from Jonathan’s post, “Anaphora – This is a form of repetition where you repeat the beginning of a phrase multiple times in succession. Think the quote from The Help:  ‘You is smart. You is kind. You is important.’”

I talk to my dog, sometimes to the point that he gets up and walks away. He is a rescue dog, so he has self-confidence issues. I often say to him, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Until three weeks ago, I had no idea that what I was doing was an anaphora.

I don’t regret majoring in political science in college but, if I’d known I would someday be a writer, I would have taken more English classes. It seems a shame to be my age and just now learn the meanings of Bildungsroman and Anaphora.

V is for Voice

A writer’s voice is his personality. It’s the way she expresses herself. Every writer has a unique voice.

Liebster Award

Since being nominated by Philip Craddock (philipcraddockwriter.wordpress.com) for the Liebster Award last April, I have found my voice on my blog. A criteria after being nominated for the Liebster Award is that you have to open up about yourself. It was then, in my April 6, 2016 blog post, that I “admitted” I have an illness that has my circadian clock off by about six hours, but I didn’t reveal the name of the illness. (I’ve always been a “night person,” but now I’m a “middle of the night person.”)

In my blog post on April 11, 2016, I listed 10 random facts about myself – which was required as a nominee for the Liebster Award. I explained that I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as it’s known in the United States. In the rest of the world it is called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), so some of my readers in other countries might be familiar with it at ME.

My reticence

I was reticent to reveal this about myself because I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted people to read my blog because they liked what I had to say. I thought being open about my illness would hurt my chances of being represented by a literary agent and getting my work published.

Found:  My Voice!

What I discovered, though, was that sharing those very personal details about myself gave me the freedom to write more from my heart. I had found my voice!

Until 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.

Janet