Friday, November 30, 2012

My Next Book?

1868 Map of St. Louis County
Over on my personal blog I have been writing about the fact that I am researching a house in Shrewsbury, Missouri. The land that the house is located on, and in fact all of Shrewsbury itself, was once Murdock (or Murdoch) Farm. What little has been written about John J. Murdock always states that he was a general in the Civil War. This, of course, makes for a good story. But being a genealogist first and a house researcher second, I have been trying to find records that prove Murdock was indeed a general. So far, after thorough research, I can't even find him fighting in the Civil War at all much less as an officer. I am now on a mission to debunk the "general" theory.

So why I am talking about this over on this blog? Well, John Murdock has kind of grabbed me by the throat. He is mine now, and his family tree sits beside my own on my site. I have found that he was quite an influential man in early St. Louis history. He has a fascinating story, even without the "general" status. Is there enough for a book, or will there be when I am done with my research? And more importantly as a publisher, will anyone care enough to buy the book? Can I sell enough copies to recoup my costs? All good questions that require answers.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blogging and Copyright

As authors, publishers or anyone trying to establish a platform on the Internet it is recommended that you periodically Google yourself to see what results you get. After all, this is how most other people will be trying to find you. I did this search on myself this morning and was pleased to see that nearly all the listings for the first 7 pages I looked at referred to me - blog posts, my presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest, Youtube videos, Slideshare, etc. But as I looked closer at a couple of entries I became somewhat perplexed. The websites listed did not sound familiar to me even though my name and a blog post I had written on my personal blog appeared in the title of these two websites.

When I clicked through on the links, I saw that my whole blog post had been placed on these two websites with no credit or link provided back to me. I did a search about what to do when someone steals your work on the Internet and found this wonderful article How to Complain and Report Spam Blogger Blogs. The post has a lot of great tips, and after I read it I could readily see that the two blogs who stole my posts were indeed spam blogs (aka splogs).

Neither one of the blogs has any advertising on it, or I could report the abuse to Google Adsense. For now I have filed complaints about both of the blogs with Blogger since they are in violation of the Terms of Service. I am not sure how effective that will be, but it is a first step. In the meantime I will continue to look for other things that I can do to these two thieves. My advice to you is Google yourself - you might be very surprised at what you find!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Speaking of House History...

Century Home, Webster Groves, MO
Thursday night I gave a presentation on how to research the history of your home to the Kirkwood/Webster Groves branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I was unfamiliar with the organization, but apparently one of their members knew of my book on researching house history and they asked me to come to their monthly meeting. In case you also have not heard of the AAUW, it is an organization dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

Because my topic is obviously so focused on house research, I was a little concerned that some members of the audience would not be interested. I should have know better with a group of women (and one man) who live in or near Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Once we finally got the provided projector to recognize my laptop, things went smoothly. They had a lot of great questions, which always makes for a more interesting event for everyone.

It was helpful for me to do the presentation at this point because I am giving a talk in Richmond Heights after the first of the year as part of their centennial celebration. From the questions raised at the AAUW meeting I can see that there are a few more slides that would be helpful if included in my slideshow. Though I did not sell any books Thursday night, I did have the opportunity to talk about all of them. I was also able to give a little insight into why people should be writing stories down - their own, an ancestors, or those of their house.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

National Lifewriting Month

Authors Liz Moloney, Kim Wolterman & Linda Austin
November is National Lifewriting Month, which is designed to encourage people to document their personal and family stories. 6 North Cafe in St. Louis wanted to kick the month off by having Liz Moloney, Linda Austin and me at the cafe this morning to talk about our books and inspire others to write down their life stories. Liz has authored a book about her own life, Linda co-authored her mother's story of growing up in Japan during WWII, and has just released a book of poetry entitled Poems that come to Mind for those who love someone with dementia. (What a perfect illustration of why it is so important to write the stories down while they can still be remembered and told.) And I have told the story of my father's WWII history through the photos and documents he left behind. Houses also have stories to tell, so my other books tie into this topic as well.

We did have several people stop by the table and talk to us about their desire to document some of the stories in their lives, so it was fun to be able to offer words of support to them. We were also able to let them know about the St. Louis Publishers Association and what it has to offer authors in the area.

For more information about National Lifewriting Month just click on this link.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nora Roberts and Book Marketing

Nora Roberts books in Turn the Page Bookstore
As a long-time fan of Nora Roberts, I have read every book she has ever written, including the In Death series she writes under the pen name of J.D. Robb. Did you know that she began writing back in 1979 while stuck in the house with two small children during a blizzard? Because I write non-fiction I am exceedingly amazed by writers who spin stories out of their own imaginations, and Nora's books are always filled with interesting people that I would like to meet in real life. Her women are strong and independent, the men sexy and intriguing, and the romance scenes...well, let's just say they are hot!

The latest trilogy from Nora is set in Boonsboro, Maryland, which is near where she lives. They involve the remodeling of a 1790s era inn and the people and places in the town. What is interesting about the series is that many of the places in the book actually exist. Nora bought the decrepit inn several years ago and had it remodeled into an eight room bed and breakfast. Each of the rooms, with the exception of the Penthouse, are named after famous literary couples. The inn really was mostly furnished with pieces from Basts of Boonsboro. Vesta Pizzeria is real, and is owned by her son Dan and his wife. Turn the Page Bookstore, also in the trilogy, is alive and well on Main Street. The bookstore is owned by Nora and her husband. The fitness center (owned by Nora) and new restaurant (also owned by son Dan) discussed in the second book are now open to the public.

Inn Boonsboro
At first glance you might think that the Inn Boonsboro trilogy was just a way for Nora to market her inn, bookstore, and the restaurants owned by her son. That thought did briefly cross my mind. But last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Boonsboro and stay at the inn. What I realized is that Nora has taken her time and resources to breathe new life into a town of 2,800 people that, without her help, might dry up and blow away like so many other small communities. The inn and restaurants provide food and lodging to the hundreds of women and men who flock to the town every year for one of Nora's book signings.

Turn the Page Bookstore
In speaking with the woman at Turn the Page Bookstore, it became clear that Nora Roberts and her book signings are the reason that this store has been able to survive when so many other independent bookstores have closed their doors. It also offers a venue for local artists to display and sell their crafts.

At the end of my visit I came away with a whole new respect for the woman who has enabled me for so many years to slip away into the lives and worlds of her fascinating creations. Beyond the characters in her books, Nora has helped many others in Boonsboro to live their happily ever afters.