When Minimalism and Family Clash

Only you can change yourself. It isn’t something anyone else can do for you. The same is true for people in your life. You can’t force them to change to your mindset, because they’ll resist just as much as you know you would.

Where is this coming from? It’s got nothing to do with writing. I know.

Over the past few months I’ve taken on a new minimalism mindset – being thankful for what I have, keeping what’s useful and gifting/donating or storing things I no longer need.

There’s something I’ve discovered about my family recently that I think I always knew, but never quite paid attention to before. We like to hang on to the past. We’re very much set in our ways and we’re resistant to change. I include myself in that because there are some things I’m still working on in my own life.

But when it comes to physical objects, they’re just things. Someone close to me recently expressed “concern” for all the stuff I’m getting rid of and, quite frankly, I was incredibly confused. Example: there’s a neighborhood based website where one can post things for sale or free for curbside pickup, discuss happenings on the block, etc. I put a laptop desk out and came back from work to find it gone. I was happy. I thought some neighborhood kid snagged it for their room. But no. Where did I find it? In said family member’s basement.

*facepalm*

I don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s my stuff, not theirs. I don’t understand their need to keep things I’m getting rid of. Subsequently, I shouldn’t be too hard on them either because I *thought* I already let it go. Why should it matter to me what happens to the stuff after it goes away from my house?

I try to think of what I should’ve done differently in that situation – should I have just popped the desk into my car and taken it directly to a Goodwill donation center? That way, it’ll curb said individual’s temptation to hoard the things I’ve gotten rid of? Or do I just let the individual’s piles grow in their basement till someone else gets mad about all the stuff?

And so we return to the opening line of this post: only you can change yourself. But what happens when, in the process of changing yourself, you make others mad?

PREVIOUS MINIMALISM JOURNEY POSTS
Seven Single-Use Things I No Longer Buy
62 Things I’ve Decluttered or Stopped Buying

Top Ten Posts of 2019

There’s three more months left in 2019, but with my site’s recent anniversary of being live, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to highlight some of its most popular posts from 2019. Let’s rewind and take a look in the vault and resurrect ten of them!

AN INTERVIEW WITH JENI CHAPPELLE
Read Count: 100
Post Type: Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH MARIA TUREAUD
Read Count: 93
Post Type: Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH SHANA SCHWARZ
Read Count: 33
Post Type: Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGAN WETZEL
Read Count: 29
Post Type: Interview

PUNCTUATION I NEVER KNEW HAD NAMES
Read Count: 29
Post Type: Informational

18 LINKS ANY WRITER CAN USE
Read Count: 29
Post Type: Informational

AN INTERVIEW WITH KM WEILAND
Read Count: 29
Post Type: Interview

THE FIVE QUESTION INTERVIEW
Read Count: 27
Post Type: Interview/Informational

HOW TO HAVE FUN EDITING
Read Count: 25
Post Type: Informational/How-To

AN INTERVIEW WITH TERA CUSKADEN
Read Count: 24
Post Type : Interview

I love the analytics my web host provides. It shows me what works and what doesn’t, where I may need to improve and where my readers are from. I’ll admit that I get super excited whenever someone from across the globe stumbles upon these pixels.

So thank you everyone, for making 2019 a great year for anotherhartmanauthor.com! I’ve got PLANS for 2020.

I Am Discontinuing “The Bulletin.” Here’s Why.

Happy Monday, publishing world! Today’s one of those days where I finally made a decision on something and I must admit that it feels rather great. Back in July I announced a new eNewsletter called The Bulletin. In the three months of putting it out, here’s what I’ve learned:

A. I’m sorely unqualified to produce such a venture.

B. While I enjoy creating content, I find that I work better without a set schedule (even though I’m the one who set the dates).

C. I couldn’t find the right balance of material. If I were to include anything else, it’d take too much time away from actually writing my book.

D. I wasn’t concentrating on Project Chronicles. At all. The eNewsletter was just another distraction.

NO MORE DISTRACTIONS!

So I’d like to thank the small pool of folks who read The Bulletin. You’ve taught me that this writing thing is possible and people pay attention. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll start The Bulletin back up. But for now, it’s a shuttered project. I’d also like to thank Jeni Chappelle, KJ Harrowick and Gabrielle Saab who contributed to the “Writing Question of the Month” section. I hope you had some fun with it as well!

That’s it for this short, simple blog post. Now to keep myself occupied with my stories and not some other, well, distraction!

Five More Books On My Reading Wish List (That I Just Bought)

Every writer, reader, agent, editor and publicist has a list of books they want to read. Some sit in an Amazon cart, others take to the library and still more are found in indie bookstores. No matter where you do your book shopping, you know what you’re looking for. Okay, maybe not necessarily always, but you have at least an idea of what you want your next read to be. And sometimes you’re utterly surprised by what you pick up.

I titled this post “Five MORE…” because I have a #histfic version that I put up earlier this month. And I see none of you offered to buy them for me (gasp!) Naw, I’m kidding. Really. 🙂 I’m full of lame jokes, what can I say? This post is dedicated to five more books on my reading wish list, no matter the genre. So it’s going to be a bit all over the place.

Come to think of it, my birthday IS this week. I may just have to treat myself…

…and I now have to amend the title for this post because I just bought all five of these books…

If I’m being completely honest here, this cover stared me in the face for a good day before I added it to my list. I mean, look how gorgeous that is! I can only hope, if I’m ever lucky enough to be published, that mine comes even close to it. But it was the post-apocalyptic premise that drew me in, and one day I’ll consume the story.

Synopsis (from Amazon): It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet.

Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

If my previous post’s theme was the color purple, this one seems to be all about the stars. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers but I can’t help it! Both this and THESE BROKEN STARS deviate from my normal realm of reads, but it’s good to change things up from time to time. And FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS promises to be a great adventure.

Synopsis (from Amazon): Fans of Divergent will love Diana Peterfreund’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a post-apocalyptic world.
 
In the dystopian future of For Darkness Shows the Stars, a genetic experiment has devastated humanity. In the aftermath, a new class system placed anti-technology Luddites in absolute power over vast estates—and any survivors living there.
 
Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart.
 
Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right.
 
For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking YA romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

We’re jumping from stars to ballrooms with THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY, but I’ve been wanting to read more Regency era stories for a while now. Not only that, but I’ve already read her IN A TREACHEROUS COURT series and fell in love with them. While Romance as a whole isn’t generally what I read, I thoroughly enjoy her writing. And I’m all about conspiracies!

Synopsis (from Amazon): Chance led to Charlotte Raven’s transformation from chimney sweep to wealthy, educated noblewoman, but she still walks a delicate tightrope between two worlds, unable to turn her back on the ruthless crime lord who was once her childhood protector.

When Lord Edward Durnham is tapped to solve the mystery of England’s rapidly disappearing gold, his search leads him to the stews of London, and Charlotte becomes his intriguing guide to the city’s dark, forbidding underworld. But as her involvement brings Charlotte to the attention of men who have no qualms about who they hurt, and as Edward forges a grudging alliance with the dangerous ghosts of Charlotte’s former life, she faces a choice: to continue living in limbo, or to close the door on the past and risk her heart and her happiness on an unpredictable future.

And I’m back to the conspiracy side of things with FOUR DEAD QUEENS by Astrid Scholte. It only seemed fitting to have this book be in the, ahem, fourth spot. I wonder how the POV’s going to turn out with this one. Is any of it told from any of the queens, is it through just the MC or both the MCs? I guess I’ll just have to find out the old fashioned way – by actually reading it!

Web search -> add to cart -> checkout -> wait for hardcover!

Synopsis (from Amazon): Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

From post-apocalyptic happenstances to Regency and the Renaissance, we’re jumping all throughout time with this blog post. In another divergence from hist fic, I may have to purchase the hardcover of this one instead of going for the Kindle form. The cover is that gorgeous. When I first began my own writing journey I didn’t realize how small my pool of books really is, so many of these authors are brand new to me. I’m looking forward to trying Ms. Ross’ story out!

Synopsis (from Amazon): Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne.

There you have it. Lots of blue, starry covers and lots of queens. Fairy tale retellings will always be my first love, but maybe now the princesses will get to grow up. Except in FOUR DEAD QUEENS. Because, well, we know (?) they’re dead!

Happy reading, writing community!

I Put Together a #writerslife Slide Show

THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES was birthed three years ago, and since then I’ve built up a rather large inventory of writing related images. Some are as old as 2016, others are brand new. But I thought I’d make this impromptu slide show for inspiration, in case you needed any! There’s little clues peppered throughout, of what my novel series’ is about. And some of them are in here for nostalgic purposes.

Book Review | Murder in Absentia

A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects a cult death, and knows who to call for discreet resolution.

Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a competent magician — but something in between. Drawing on his contacts in shady elements of society and on his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.

Murder In Absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hardboiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.

After indulging in fairy tale retellings for so long, it was time to switch things up and try something new. Enter in the Mystery and Thriller genres. The genres are such a new endeavor for me that I don’t know who the “headliners” are in those categories (except maybe Stephen King), so where do I begin?

Earlier this year I reviewed A DEADLY DECEPTION by Tessa Harris (review here) to get started. Then I remembered that one of my early beta readers is a published author and what does he write? Mystery! So I picked up a copy of MURDER IN ABSENTIA by Assaph Mehr. This is my review.

They say that the “Devil is in the details,” though I don’t know who coined it first. Regardless of the phrase’s origins, it certainly applies to MURDER IN ABSENTIA. It’s quite clear from the very beginning where Mehr’s strengths lie. The main character, Felix, is knowledgeable with a touch of eccentricity, reminding me of Dr. Temperance Brennan from the TV show, Bones. Felix’s factual, no-holds-barred persona takes a bit of getting used to. I wonder if that trait is by design?

There were multiple times when I thought the tale would go one way and things went a completely different direction. With pirates, magic, and sailing ships, and a few gritty, mysteries abound, the reader’s drawn into a place where magic is as commonplace as the people who live with it.

While I am happy to have delved into a different kind of adventure, I’m not sure if Felix’s tales are right for me. Reader tip: utilize the glossary and references in the back if interpretation is needed. Had I known they were back there, I would most definitely have used them throughout the read. I cannot ignore the vast wealth of knowledge Mehr has on his chosen subjects, and appreciate the inclusion of the glossary.

I’ll be completely honest here – If took a bit of time to finish this book. That has everything to do with it being outside my usual genres. That’s why it’s taken so long to get this particular review out. In my Kindle, Felix is surrounded by a bunch of princesses, and wannabe princesses. I’m not sure if he’d enjoy that or not!

If you enjoy a Roman-y read, give MURDER IN ABSENTIA a try.

My Rating: FOUR out of FIVE stars

DISCLAIMER:

In my adventure of reviewing books, I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not going to love every story I read, be it from the library, a second hand store, ARCs from NetGalley, or directly from the authors themselves. I will always be upfront with where I got the book:

I purchased MURDER IN ABSENTIA via Amazon. This did not affect my review.

I Picked Theme Songs for Five Characters in My WIP

After seeing this tag ’round the Twitter-verse, I thought it was a great idea for a writerly blog post. The tricky part was finding songs for Victorian era folks.

We begin with Junius – a hopeful kid with a tragic past and nefarious future. Just like the song I chose for him, it starts off nice and then everything explodes:

Second, there’s Edgar. I promise, he’s really important despite his unfortunate name. He hates his name, by the way. But he’s stuck with it for life! Edgar’s song is:

Next to enter the story is Grace. I see myself in Grace most of all, but I’m definitely not as brave as she is! Grace’s song is:

Next comes Simon. You’d think he’d have the most urgent sense of being. Eventually he does when things start going wrong. And I mean really wrong. Simon’s song is Fall On Me by Andrea Bocelli:

Finally, here’s The Boatman. This rickety old man isn’t all that he appears to be, but he knows the Pennsylvania Canals, what’s left of them, like the back of his hand. So Lazy River by Bobby Darin is his song:

There’s a good chance these songs will change when all’s said and done. For now, here they are! I hope you enjoyed this fun little post (though it threw my character developing brain all out of whack!)

If you’re stuck on your own characters, perhaps this will be a good exercise for you to try too. Happy writing!

Five Books On My #HistFic Wishlist

From the Medieval Era to Regency and beyond, I’m a sucker for historical tales of all sorts. Some of these titles are from authors I’m already familiar with, and some are brand new. What matters is, I want all the books! The question remains: How long will they sit in my wish list before I actually buy them?

It’s no secret that Melanie Dickerson is one of my favorite authors. Heck, I even pre-ordered THE WARRIOR MAIDEN, and I never pre-order anything – books or otherwise! I tried to get an ARC of The Piper’s Pursuit to review on my site but it was so popular I couldn’t *tears.* But I’ll continue to anxiously wait for it to come out so I can add it to my collection! Releases: Dec. 2019

I’m certainly drawn to covers with purple on them, aren’t I? Ms. Hedlund is a new discovery for me, and I’ve already devoured AN AWAKENED HEART, FOR LOVE AND HONOR, A LOYAL HEART and AN UNCERTAIN CHOICE. I really want this one as well but sadly it doesn’t release until March 2020. I suppose that gives me time to indulge in her The Lost Princesses series.

There are two books I want by Ms. Sarah Ladd, but I think I’d like to start with THE THIEF OF LANWYN MANOR over THE HEIRESS OF WINTERWOOD. The Regency era is a new dive for me, and it’s been fun exploring a different time period from the one I’m writing myself. I look forward to discovering who the thief truly is!

This one, quite different from the first three, still has elements of history woven throughout it. Or so the description promises! Every once in a while I indulge in a scare, and THE HAUNTING OF CRAWLEY HOUSE seems to be just the fix I need. This will be the first book I’ll ever read of Michelle Dorey

For a little more recent read, I’ve chosen to bookmark THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME by Hazel Gaynor. I think everyone, at some point in their lives, has developed a fascination with the tragedy that was the RMS TITANIC. With all that we know now, we wonder how they couldn’t see their mistakes themselves. But that truly describes the very nature of history. To this day my ears perk up when I hear anything Titanic related. Finding Ms. Gaynor’s novel was no different!

Why I Write Historical Adventures

Earlier this year I put up a similar post titled Why I Write Historical Fiction. One of the many things I didn’t know when I started my writing journey is how many genres there truly are. There’s your “umbrella” genres, where you strictly write “history” or “fantasy” or “mystery.” But then there’s all the subcategories underneath like “alternative history,” “crossover fantasy,” steampunk and more.

With all that in mind, how in the world is a writer to supposed to choose from all those options? Is what your writing something completely new or is it a tried and true combination? After a direct message conversation with another writer one night on Twitter, I realized that my realm is historical adventure, not just historical fiction. So I decided that it was time for an updated version of the aforementioned post. While many points in the original are still valid, here are three more for the adventure side of things.

1. I’m not tied down to a timeline.
While THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES isn’t a true “it could’ve happened” tale, I like being able to play with history a little. It was inspired by true events, whether it was something I stumbled upon in my life or through actual research sessions that took up much of my time in 2017. Overall, the story begins in 1872 and ends in 1892 with a pretty significant event in South Western Pennsylvanian history.

2. “But Leigh, aren’t you taking the easy way out? Why not just go the pure historical route?”
Unless you’re a true historian, with access to very specific information about your chosen individuals or events, it’s very difficult to go that route first. Trust me, I tried. I don’t know how I could’ve brought justice to my topics that someone else hasn’t already done. With THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES, the research came first. I tried to be a complete “pantser” and just write, but how am I to include details about a real life person I’m basing a character on if I don’t know how accurate they are?

There’s nothing easy about writing, no matter your what your genre is.

3. To encourage people to learn more history.
History is its own backstory. There are dozens of “backstories” behind real events in history. Some of them have amazing, unexpected connections and more obvious ones. If you’re a Pittsburgher, you’re keenly aware of names like Carnegie, Frick and Phipps. (This ties in with the previous point, I promise). My point is, every region or city has notable individuals who shaped the area’s identity. I’m quite drawn to the “what if” side of history, and writing historical adventure rather than true historical route provides that outlet.

No matter what genre you choose to write, there’ll always be those who will question it. Once you discover WHAT you want to write, write it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Write it, master it, and maybe, one day, try something new! I have a list of projects within different genres that I want to try, but for now, historical adventures it is!

Happy Friday, Happy Writing!

How To Maintain a Writer’s Website

After building up anotherhartmanauthor.com since 2016, there’s a few things I’d like to share about what’s worked for my site’s style, or even “brand.” That’s exactly what your website is – a visual representation of who you are as a writer.

The only prior experience I had with such things is my church’s website. For two years I built it up, made sure the public knew about upcoming events, and let them know what we were all about. While I still attend services there, I couldn’t do three sites (I also help with a local nonprofit website). Each one takes loads of time, and not everyone has it to maintain a site.

The truth is, a lot of agents and publishers are looking to see if you have an online presence. And, while it absolutely isn’t a necessity, they do want to see if you have an outlet to, eventually (if you haven’t already) market your work. That’s exactly why I referred to your site as being your brand. It all comes full circle.

I’ve maintained this site for three whole years. I tried to be clever enough to name this article “Three Tips On Maintaining a Writer’s Website,” but I thought of a few more items as things progressed. So here are, ahem, four tips on how to maintain a writer’s website:

Look for a Platform YOU Understand and WANT to Use
You don’t have to understand how things work right away. You know about “author envy,” right? Where you get jealous of folks who’re already further along in their publishing journey than you are? The same can be said for “website envy” as well.

I’ve tried MySpace, Blogger (fair warning, Blogger makes it INCREDIBLY difficult to delete one’s account), and several others. WordPress works the best for my current needs, with ample opportunities and outlets to expand later on. That’s a key – being willing to grow as you grow. Your website grows as you add more content.

Be willing to learn. Be willing to grow.

Let’s face facts, shall we? You can spend an entire day on one social media site and not get any actual work done. All those cute cat gifs can wait. They’ll always be there. You also don’t need to have an account with every single outlet either. If you like Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads, use that combo. If Facebook and NetGalley and Wattpad are your thing, run with them.

Here’s the first take away: The great thing with *most* of the aforementioned sites is they offer ways of connecting you from one platform to the next. Some keep up with the “trends” more than others, but at least they give users the opportunity to showcase their chosen networks.

Read Other Blogs
Creating content, building an online presence, and doing any of the following tips isn’t everyone’s forte. Much of it I learned through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t, what takes up TOO much time and what’s just right. Okay, that last sentence sounds like I paraphrased Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But trust me, you’ll know when you’ve discovered your niche, and that it’ll be just right for you.

Admission: I’m not as good with this as I’d like to be. Just as I’m terrible in not keeping up with my NetGalley book review list. One way I’m attempting to remedy this is including a Blog Round Up section in my new monthly eNewsletter called The Bulletin. Five seemed like a good choice, and coincides with the Five Question Interview series. The similarity being with the number five.

The take away is my next point:

Be Consistent and Follow Through
Updates, short stories, blog posts, online series…the list of content you can include on your site goes on and on. and the like, readers appreciate at least some consistency

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I tried writing oodles of short stories just so I’d have some content. What did I find? That my focus was torn between concepts, worlds and characters that had nothing to do with each other. It drove my OCD crazy, so I stopped. I may post something here and there, but short stories really aren’t necessary.

Honesty. I think most folks appreciate it. Those who don’t usually have ulterior motives. This past Spring I hosted The Five Question Interview series. To be completely transparent, I almost quit halfway through. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Perhaps. Am I glad that I followed through? You betcha.

Here’s the next take away: If you start a series or a project, and you know folks are following your progress, let them know if you decide to scrap it. Or if you’re taking a break to reset.

Stick with an aesthetic
This logically follows the previous tip in consistency. You know those image collages folks make for their works in progress? I think one of the more popular ones is called #WedWIPAesthetic, or something along those lines. Here’s a tip-within-a-tip:

Think of your website as a template for how you want your future book covers to look. What era are your stories set in? Are they modern or more historical? Are they light in theme or urban and gritty?

The great thing about photo editing sites like PicMonkey, BeFunky, Ribbet and Pixlr (just to name a few), is their versatility. Many of them offer a free version you can practice on. Can you layer things? Add filters, text and specify dimensions (many sites have different graphic requirements).

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one), because they KNOW things (or should know things) like CSS coding, widgets, and tweaks you might not think of.

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one)

Here’s the last take away: You don’t have to use the same graphics everyone else is, or pay someone else to develop a website for you. The great thing about having control is that you can grow it at your own pace, without depending on anyone else to do the legwork for you.

After all that was said here, I’ll leave you with one final tip: you don’t need a fancy SEO, a team of developers or even a paid account with a web host. What matters most is how comfortable you feel putting yourself out there so visibly through a website. And give yourself time to learn, develop and gain a sense of identity in this online world.

I’m not gonna lie. I had loads of help with this thing that you see before you. Don’t forget, however, the most important thing – your writing.

Everything else is secondary.

Even a website.