Five Favorite Childhood Books

This list doesn’t include Harry Potter. Wait. What? Yes, you read that statement correctly. When the first Harry Potter book came out in 1997 I was 12 years old. One year younger than a Hogwarts First Year student’s age. Sure, I’m fascinated by Rowling’s world, but my love of books began even before ’97. Remember all those Scholastic Book Fairs? Yeah, I wanted them all. I think that’s how I discovered L’Engle and McKinley. And I, um, “stole” The Castle in the Attic from my sister because I loved it so much. Guilty as charged. Listed below are seven of my favorite childhood books – some of which I still own and may repurchase to keep forever in a permanent collection.


“I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour.” This is the cover I remember from the copy I owned as a kid. Drawn to it like a moth to a flame, it’s McKinley’s debut novel. First published in 1978, this gorgeous tale birthed my love of fairy tale retellings. And I just discovered it has a sister story titled “Rose Daughter.”
I have to buy it!

Annnnnd…it’s bought!

Troubling a Star

The “A Ring of Endless Light” and “Troubling a Star” titles are part of the Austin Family series by Madeleine L’Engle. I don’t remember when I first fell in love with them, but they deal with issues a modern family could face at any time. “A Ring of Endless Light” was adapted into a film by the Disney Channel in 2002, but they added elements which didn’t belong and took away one of the important climaxes. Still…it has Ryan Merriman and Jared Padalecki. My fangirling heart is torn!

Star Trek

Wednesday nights on UPN was my family’s JAM. Why? Because that’s when Star Trek came on. My parents had band practice at church and they’d rush home to be home by 9pm to watch Trek. I couldn’t really get into the other series’ novels (DS9, TNG), but I love(d) the ones for Star Trek: Voyager. All written by various authors, some followed the timeline while others seemed to add on other elements and “what if’s.” They’re like their own episodes if you ever craved more. If you’re looking for some fun scifi, try the Voyager books!

The Cooper Kids

The Cooper Kids Adventures was Christian author Frank Peretti’s equivalent of the incredibly popular Indiana Jones films. From fighting terrorists and mythical creatures to time travel and a brother protecting his sister, this preteen series has a little bit of everything. From adult books like The Oath, Hangman’s Curse and Piercing the Darkness, these stories gave him a chance to reach out to a younger audience but keep with his genre.

The Castle in the Attic

The Castle in the Attic, first published in the year of my own birth (1985), is akin to a coming of age story with tiny knights, wizards and giant rats. It’s sequel, The Battle for the Castle, returns them to the stronghold a year later and they’re help is needed to defend it one more time. This is a great series to get any preteen interested in reading, who may also be dealing with low self esteem (as I often did as a kid). I think it’s time to reread The Castle in the Attic.

There you have it. From castles and starships to swords and adventure, a healthy mix of genres I dove into as a kid. While my cousins were playing Pokemon and video games, I was reading. I was “that kid who reads” during recess against the fence. All of these are great options for kids just getting into reading. The Star Trek might be a bit heavy. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Why I Write Historical Fiction

Historical fiction. Or historical adventure. Or historical fantasy. Or gaslamp…okay…my head’s spinning already. There will always be sub-genres within genres. Since childhood I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. Since childhood my mom has complained that I “make up stories for every little thing,” and I would always ask her, “What’s wrong with that?” It was my parents who fed the interest in our vacations. Dad was in the United States Air Force for 34 years, so many of our trips happened whenever Dad had to go to Florida or Texas or Georgia or Germany for some kind of training. Those trips included museum visits, travels to places of significance and learning.

Now I could go back into the whole “what inspired me to write,” but I have a whole blog post on that already. Visit this page to read about what started this journey as a whole. But I digress. All three of the genres in the title of this post have inspired me in one way or another, but the massive history of my own Commonwealth (if you’re a Pennsylvanian, you know we’re called a commonwealth) is what drew me in the most.

Enter in the idea for the series I’m working on. Novel research has never truly intimidated me. Maybe a bit at the beginning when I first started out and got a bit overloaded. As time went on I was able to discern what I actually needed to know and what wasn’t relevant. So the next three points will highlight the things that are relevant to historical fiction/adventure

1. Settings. All the settings.

The United States is a big place. I’ve been a citizen my whole life (born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA) and I think we get so focused on our own little regions that we forget that. It’s like when someone from another country decides to visit America and they think that Miami and New York City are close.

The same thing applies to Pennsylvania. Sometimes we don’t hear of places until something bad happens there and it ends up on the news. I don’t know what my original goal was when I began looking into my commonwealth’s history, but the more I learned about places I’ve only seen on maps the more I want to go there.

Last summer we went to Franklin, PA. An oil and train town, there’s so much richness in one tiny place that you could really spend several summers learning everything about what made the place tick. And when you realize how many familiar, historical names crop up there, it makes the experience all the better.

So, rich rich settings drew me in. What was vs. what’s there now quickly became a huge interest of mine. I hope to travel more for novel research in the future.

2. The complicated personalities.

Let’s face it, there’s complicated folk all over the place in modern history, not just the past. Back then, however, Twitter did not exist. Language was more eloquent. People had real connections with each other rather than what we see online. I love the idea of the simplicity of that time.

It doesn’t matter which century you choose there’s a plethora of personalities to investigate, some with more information on them than others.

3. To never forget where we come from.

There’s this funny agenda in modern times where people are attempting to either rewrite history or to let it fade into nonexistence by no longer teaching it. There’s history so gruesome we’d rather forget it but we can, we must learn lessons from it.

Immediately after the horrible events of 9/11/2001, the #NeverForget tag began to be used by news outlets, folks online, was printed on t-shirts and used in every day conversation. Eighteen years later, 9/11 is barely spoken about unless it’s the day of and perhaps in high school history classes.

That may have been an extreme example to use, but it perfectly illustrates the biggest reason why I write history. To never forget it.

The Firedamp Chronicles is an historical adventure series – based on real names and events that happened – I hope to continue focusing future stories centered on my home state. From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s tumultuous and rich history provides more than than enough curiosities to explore, and I hope, one day, to be blessed enough to share them with you.

The Writer Tag | Twenty Questions

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say. Now I may not understand half the Twitterness out there and some of it still confuses me, but I saw this one crop up recently and decided to participate. Apparently it’s been around for awhile and I’m just late to the party. But what else is new? I’m really not one to follow trends or go along with the crowd.

It’s been some time since I’ve updated my blog, and some time since it was a fun kind of post. There were so many examples of this tag to choose from and decided to go with the one on Inkblots and Icebergs‘ website. I don’t think you’re supposed to nominate anyone after you’re done posting it, like you do on Twitter. Let’s see how this goes!

1. What type of writing do you do?

Prose. All prose. I attempted poetry as a teenager for the Creative Writing class I had to take in high school and it wasn’t the greatest. I dabble in some short stories, but I like the flexibility writing novels gives me. Perhaps once I’m more practiced I’ll enter short story competitions but for now, I have a few posted on my site.

2. What genres/topics do you write about?

Right now it’s historical fiction; possibly a cross between historical fantasy and gaslamp. I’m still trying to figure it out! I do have another story on the side, an idea that came to me incredibly late one night, sitting in an untouched document for whenever I’m done with this first series. That one’s definitely more young adult.

3. How long have you been writing?

Since childhood. I can’t pinpoint the exact age, but I remember staying up late at night writing. There was also the Unfortunate PC Event where my computer, a Frankenstein of pieces from other desktops, fried and spit out ozone. The whole house surged in power and I lost everything. This was the early 90s. We barely had space on floppy discs for documents longer than five pages. I just aged myself…

4. Are you published?

Only in my high school’s literary magazine. And after that, only in my dreams!

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

Apparently I wrote fanfiction before I knew that existed. So I’m fairly positive that my first story was based on Star Trek: Voyager. Decidedly one of the least popular of the genre, it was one of my favorite series growing up. I never showed them to anyone and typically inserted myself into the story. I also used to write Supernatural fanfiction. One was pretty popular but I’ve always had trouble ending stories. So I ran out of steam and direction and never finished it.

6. Why do you write?

To get out aggression and perhaps things I wouldn’t say in real life. That really makes me sound like an angry person. I’m really not, though I’d say I’m more of the “glass is half empty” type. But writing calms me and allows me the freedom of expression. I typically don’t volunteer things in group conversations but boy can I write one! Introverts for the win!

7. How do you find time to write?

I guess the common-sensical (I made that word up) answer is by looking at my calendar. My job is part time right now (hoping to gain more hours soon), so sometimes I have a couple of days in a row I know I can write.

Another thing that’s been helpful is I deleted my Instagram account before Christmas last year and just last week I deactivated my Facebook. Both were great distractions and I found myself asking “I don’t have time to write, but then I have all this time to mindlessly surf the web?” Now I only use this site and Twitter.

8. When and where are the best time to write?

I, honestly, find this a very poorly worded question. The wannabe editor in me is mentally screaming at it right now. Moving on. I can write almost anywhere – except when my niece and nephew are tearing up my parents’ house during family dinner nights. I’m definitely more focused writing away from home, like in the library or at Panera. Set times don’t exist in my life.

9. Favorite foods/drinks while writing?

I’m going to sound like an old lady with this answer but for my drinks it’s chamomile tea with honey and ice water. And I don’t really like munching while I write. I reserve that for when I need to take a break and walk around.

10. You’re writing playlist?

I have several playlists spanning multiple genres. Feel free to follow the links below to discover something new! (They’re all links to YouTube lists).

International (Irish, German, Chinese, Japanese)
BTS, Girls’ Generation & SHINee (South Korean Pop)
Writing Playlist (I can only handle this one in small doses)

11. What do friends/family think of you writing?

It was quite a mixed reaction when I told them I’m working on a novel series.
Dad: doesn’t see it as a viable profession
Mom: “I’ll correct your grammar for you!”
Uncle (who’s published): “It’s good enough to be middle grade…shorten your sentences…”
But I think what they’re all thinking is that I have a history of not seeing things through that I start. I’m determined to see this through!

12. What parts of writing do you enjoy the most?

The research, choosing my words carefully and editing. I’m not much of a plotter so going by way of having an outline has been quite helpful.

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

Tenses. Tenses tenses tenses. I always seem to flip back and forth between past and present tense so I always look back through every paragraph I write to try and catch them before moving on. Sounds obsessive compulsive, I know. But I have to.

14. What do you write with/on?

For the most part I use my Chromebook, with an occasional note that I stick on a wall or my fridge. All my research is in notebooks. I like being able to cross things out, “arrow” and asterisk and highlight things I may include.

15. How do you overcome writer’s block?

Sometimes I don’t. I just let it happen. If it’s for a month or more, so be it. I found that if I force it the story just doesn’t seem right. It’s forced. But then there’ll be that day I’ll get a spark of an idea and I can’t stop writing for hours.

I think I’m also too logical with this writing business for my own good (probably because I’m less logical in other areas of my life). I refuse to start any other projects until this series is written. So I don’t allow myself the luxury of having side stories so I can churn my outline over and over in my head.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

I think I’m also too logical with this writing business for my own good (probably because I’m less logical in other areas of my life). I refuse to start any other projects until this series is written. So I don’t allow myself the luxury of having side stories so I can churn my outline over and over in my head.

Did I truly answer that question? Eh…it is what it is at this point!

17. Author(s) who inspired you to become a writer?

Easiest question in this survey: Cornelia Funke. My uncle gifted me with the first book of her Inkworld series as a teen and I immediately fell in love. Later, when my one cousin got old enough, I bought her a copy and asked Ms. Funke to sign it. She agreed, I sent her the book, and not only did she sign it for Maddie (my cousin), but she signed a bookmark for me! I don’t even use the bookmark. It sits proudly on my shelf staring at me as I write.

19. Writing goals this year?

To finish writing my series; or at least book one
To travel more for research
To join the Historical Novel Society

20. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

I’ve forgotten who said it or where I read it, but I’ll paraphrase it here: pave the way for yourself. You’re not obligated to have to do it one way or another. Write the story first. Everything else is secondary.

Everything else is secondary.

Even “networking” on Twitter.

*goes and posts this blog up on Twitter*


Useful Tools & Tags

Building an audience while still writing your manuscript(s) can be a tricky business. You either get noticed right away or it takes a long time. There always seems to be that one little niche that’s more popular than others, but don’t think that just because you haven’t grabbed readers’ attention right away that it’s never going to happen. This is where that “patience is a virtue” thing comes into play.

Ever since I was a kid, reading on the playground while others around me socialized (yep, I was that kid sitting along the fence, the school building’s wall, or against a tree in the woods with a book), I’ve never been one to go with the flow. My mom knew it would take time for me to come out of my shell, despite my teacher’s concerns that I was “spending all my time reading.” And look, mom was right.

Now, as a 33 year old adult, I’m learning to find what works best for my writing ability in the midst of all the noise of publishing. It doesn’t matter if you’re self publishing or going the traditional route: there is a LOT to learn and a lot more to decide if it’s right for you or not. 

In everything I do I strive for simplicity. Simplicity in what I own. Simplicity in what I use. Simplicity in how I explain things to folks I cater to at work and when I write. Who truly cares about doing this, that or the other thing? Set your own expectations, discover a program or two you love to use and go with it. So below I’m going to merely suggest, in no particular order, Five Useful Tools and Online Tags that have helped me along the way. Perhaps you’ll find them useful as well!

1. Google Docs

Finding the right word processing system to write your story with can be one of the hardest things to do. I found that it was. For years I used Microsoft Word, which is still the standard. Then you have Apple’s Pages system for MAC users. Add to that the now defunct (I think) Open Office and a plethora of others who tried to beat out the Big Two. There are dozens of other programs out there built specifically for manuscript writing and book building. A website called First Manuscript has a fantastic blog post on the Best Novel Writing Software by Dax MacGregor that’s worth a read. The problem with some of the items mentioned is, depending on the type of laptop or desktop you are using, they may not be compatible to even download and test it out. 

That’s my conundrum. I don’t have years of writing & publishing experience under my belt, so, for now, Google Docs works best for my needs. I can still add notes, check my word count and format the document into MS submission format. The bare necessities. While I do appreciate what I can do for me, there are a few things I wish Google would fix: (1) document load time – gets a bit sluggish the longer the doc. becomes, and (2) word count without having to use a shortcut or menu to view it.

I suppose I can always break back out my desktop computer, have Microsoft install over two years’ worth of updates and try some of the other programs out in the aforementioned blog. But it’s Christmas. That’s too much work…

2. WordPress

I’ve used WordPress for years. I tried out Wix some time ago but found it super slow and a bit buggy. I used it to set up and maintain my church’s website, and now I use it to host this site for my writing. Just like with anything else mentioned on this list, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to developing something others will see. WordPress also recently updated their interface so I’m having to learn things again myself.

WordPress also provides web hosting. While you can, of course, have a completely free site, build it with free templates and the like, I found my OCD was flaring up every time I saw my site’s name with the after it. So I bought my domain and I’m still a happy camper. 

Not only do they do web hosting, their customer service is fantastic as well. They’ve troubleshot me through fixing bugs, formatting how I want my site to look, and more. I swear, this post is not an ad for them. I just like giving credit where credit is certainly due. So if you’re looking for an inexpensive web host, give WordPress a try!

3. BeFunky

Along with web hosting comes a plethora of photo editing and graphic design software you can use to add personal touches to your site (if you so choose to). You can always use stock images your host provides, but there is always the risk of running into copyright issues if you do a web search for other things.

That’s why I choose to create my own graphics using as much as my own photography as I can. I use the free version of BeFunky. I suppose I could purchase a monthly subscription to be able to use more of the options but I have yet to bite that bullet. I’ve been able to avoid it so far, though I have been considering it for quite some time. You can always go even bigger with Adobe Photoshop, but I am not that skilled in the graphic design realm. I’ve created graphics for church, other people and myself. It’s one of those “guilty pleasure” kind of things I don’t mind taking a break from my manuscript to do.

4. Twitter

Networking. What do you think of when you see that word? Perhaps you think of something like this scene from Ugly Betty:

Sure, there are times when this is applicable. Maybe not the lying part of it (because that always come back to bite you in the butt later), but it’s what I’m learning about becoming a writer. While networking isn’t exactly critical, you can get connected to other writers, literary agents and agencies through social networking.

Social networking still takes common sense. Don’t be that writer who DM’s (direct message) their info to said agents. Many, if not all of them, have websites or use a site like Query Tracker for manuscript submissions. I’ve seen many Tweets where folks automatically block folks who don’t follow those guidelines. Might seem rude, I know. But imagine being an agent who just wants to have a silly conversation and is constantly being sent unsolicited items. If they want to know you, they’ll seek that information out themselves. It may very well work in your favor in the future

Along with all that common sense stuff, there are numerous hashtags many writers use to promote, query and connect. I have this page bookmarked, 85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know, to refer back to for ideas. I only use maybe 3-5 of the suggested tags in the link. Find what works for you and have at it!

I only use maybe 3-5 of the suggested tags in the link. Find what work for you and have at it!

5. Pacemaker

Pacemaker is something new I’ve added to my writing routine. The idea for this project came to me back in 2016, but I wish I knew exactly when I started writing it. There’s something called “NaNoWriMo,” or National Novel Writing Month, which encourages authors to reach certain word count goals throughout the month of November. I didn’t start working on The Firedamp Chronicles until December, but that concept seemed just too stressful for my writing needs. So I refused to track anything, or set goals for myself.

Two years later (it’s now December 2018), through several rounds of development, writing and editing, I wish that I had. So I searched up a word count tracker to help me keep myself accountable for the time I spend actually writing versus the time I spend procrastinating. From apps on your phone to websites on your tech there are dozens of options. I liked the simplicity of Pacemaker once I saw the interface. Of course there are other functions you can pay for, but the free option works just as well.

Not all interfaces are created equally. If you’re looking for a program like this, choose one that’s right for you!

The moral of the story is:

There’s lots of noise out there. Lots of things to distract you from the core of what you’re doing: writing your story. Everyone can suggest all the things in the world, but find what works for you. You can either stick with the same system and routines or mix ’em up to keep yourself on your toes. Feel free to check out any of the above tools and happy writing!


When I began writing this post I was nearing the end of my first project. Key word: was. Then I tried writing the next book in the series and nothing was working; until I had a late night conversation with one of my beta readers (aren’t betas awesome?). What began life as a novella turned into a full, fledged novel. Worthy to be fully included in my debut series.

But now I just wanted to put up a different kind of post than I normally do on my blog. Something lighthearted and fun. Something to take my mind, even for a moment or two, off timelines, maps and inconsistencies in historical data.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “amwriting” and “amediting” tags. I participate in a few of them for the writing community but I’m a simple person when it comes to all that. I streamline my interests and minimize the tags I use. This helps me (somewhat) curb the amount of time I find myself online. There’s one I really enjoy doing, the “YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen” tag. So below I’ve listed the ABCs of Writing, all with that tag front and center!

  1. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you anticipated the time you’ll spend writing your story, and miscalculated it at the same time.
  2. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you birthed the idea from a bubble bath/extra long shower or a dream in the middle of the night.
  3. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you created a protagonist you know everyone will love, or love to hate.
  4. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you decided to give that protagonist their own story.
  5. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you edited the crap out of your manuscript, or crap into it.
  6. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you figured out the climax only after staring at your screen like a drunken llama for five sleepless days straight.
  7. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you greeted each character you create with open arms, even your antagonists and characters only there to annoy the protagonist.
  8. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you hurt your fingers dropping your laptop on them.
  9. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you imagined 20 spectacular locations, realizing halfway into it that you can only logically include five of them.
  10. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you justified killing your favorite character. Or two. Then you realize you have to justify the choice to your readers.
  11. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you killed the character. Because a story where absolutely nobody dies is illogical.
  12. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you love writing in poetic justice as well as justice that isn’t poetic at all.
  13. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you moved around an adverb 100 times until you realized you really shouldn’t use it anyway.
  14. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you n
  15. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you outlined your entire series when you swore you’d never use the method.
  16. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you put your jar of peanut butter in the fridge instead of the pantry because you’re mentally plotting the climax of your series.
  17. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you quit using a pen and paper, for the sake of the trees, only to remember you have five unused notebooks on your office shelf waiting and ready to go.
  18. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you realize that writing a 280 character Tweet does not count towards your daily word count goal
  19. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhenYou s
  20. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you tell people not to call you after a certain time because SHHHHH, you’re writing for goodness sake! They might incur the wrath of a Gollum-like creature holding their manuscript whispering, “My precioussssss” over and over again.
  21. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you understand the characters in your head more than flesh and blood people.
  22. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you view book reviews and “how to” guides on YouTube to help yourself step up your writing game.
  23. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you w
  24. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you x
  25. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you y
  26. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you zip home from work so you don’t forget that new funny bit you really want to include in your story.

Now it’s your turn! I couldn’t think of any for “n,” “s,” “w,” “x,” or “y.” In the comments below or even on Twitter, @ my handle, “barefoot4life85,” feel free to add your additions to the list! I figured, since many of us are in the writing/querying/researching etc. stages, that it was time to have to have a little bit of writing fun.

A Short Update

Hey everyone!

I thought I’d have a quick, casual conversation here on my blog since I recently posted an update on my Facebook page.

I’ve finally begun writing Book One in The Firedamp Chronicles after spending so much time on the pre-story novella. I don’t know if any agents actually represent novellas but I’m putting my best foot forward and giving it a shot! My writing can either get better or go downhill from here, right?

To that end I have decided to postpone any further #FacingIt or #ResearchIt posts. While they’re fun to write and I learn much from researching specific topics, they do take up time I could be spending on the actual story I want to publish. Blogging can be a great tool but it can also be a great distraction. I’d rather it become a tool in the future than a current distraction [and there are soooo many distractions out there!]

Of course I’ll be leaving up the posts already made on this site [no sense in deleting them] and if something comes up that I just have to write about, I’ll do a little mini post.

On the actual writing side of things, I’ve begun querying the novella pre-story to the series, For One Night at the Winter Garden. I’m going to attempt not being too hard on myself with the submitting and rejecting routine. Let’s face it – if I eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for every “no” I receive I’ll gain back the 15 lbs I’ve lost within a week. Nope! Not gonna happen!

So if you don’t see me post for a while on this blog, have no fear! I’m still around. I probably spend way too much time on Twitter for my own good, but if you leave a message or a comment for me here I’ll certainly see it and reply when I can.


To read more about the my current projects, please visit this page!
To read a bit of fun flash fiction, visit Cheese and Crumbs.
To learn a little more about me, have a read here. It’s Q&A style.
Read my most recent Research It post.

Read my most recent Facing It post.

See you around the universe!

Facing It | Author Envy

Have you been able to pinpoint exactly why your favorite authors are, in fact, your favorite? Is it their writing style? Their genre? How active they are on their social media? What they do looks easy when you’re reading it, doesn’t it? They can pump out a new book every year or two so you decide that you can do it too.

Then you find yourself sitting in front of a computer or a notebook, the blank page staring you directly in the face and you don’t even know where to begin. and you figure you should read for inspiration. As you read you begin to wonder, “Why didn’t I write that?” The paragraph is brilliantly built, the choice of words perfect, and the prose is spot on. So now you feel even less qualified and you realize it: you have a bad case of author envy.

In this post of Facing It, I’ll be sharing two things that have helped me keep away author envy; learning the craft and practicing the art of patience.

Facing It | Keeping  Away Author Envy
Be gone, you green eyed monster!

  1. Learning the craft
    I am not a seasoned author, so it’s only logical that I have a lot to learn about this industry. My favorite authors have been at it for years and a couple of them aren’t with us anymore. Yet their stories have stayed with me and I continually reread them.When you’re writing, you don’t really have time to sit there and be jealous of someone else’s writing style. You’re developing your own. Finding your own rhythms. Your own time period and your own story lines. You can’t bank off their name if you’re no relation but you can still be inspired by their work.


    You can’t bank off their name if you’re no relation but you can still be inspired by their work.

    Just so long as you’re not copying that work.

    You don’t have to learn to be a copywriter, or a publisher or an agent or an editor. There’s too many fields within the publishing world to worry about all that. Learn who you are as a writer first, especially if that’s what you really want to do. Write. If your life leads you in another direction, then you can focus on that.

    Write. If your life leads you in another direction, then you can focus on that.

    The publishing world isn’t as cut and dry as I thought it was, and I’m learning everything the hard way because that’s just how I roll. That also leads into my second topic:

  2. Practicing patience
    I’ve already touched on the topic of patience in a couple of posts on this blog, but patience really is imperative. Think about this. You’ve finally completed all the edits of your manuscript and, unless you’re going the self-publishing indie route, you are still going to have to wait. Wait for replies that may never come to your queries. Wait for your manuscript to come back from an editor. Wait for…Okay, I think I’ve driven that analogy into a grave.Sometimes I wish that the Star Trek world is reality, with avenues of publication like holodecks where writing literally comes to life. (They’re called holonovels). I think it’ll be easier if I just insert a clip here if you’re unfamiliar with Trek: difference between the 24th century and our century is that things don’t happen as instantly as that and maybe that’s a good thing. In order to perfect your craft, learn your craft, you need to have patience to accomplish it and finish it well.


    Sometimes I wish that the Star Trek world is reality, with avenues of publication like holodecks where writing literally comes to life.

Author envy may be ever present, but it’s what you do with with it that counts. You can either channel it into bettering yourself and your craft or you can quit and be disappointed that you never fully took the plunge.

I prefer channeling it and supporting my fellow authors. I may not be published yet but you can most certainly learn from the experiences of those around you. You’re only human and so are they. They’ve most certainly made mistakes on their way through the publishing world, and you and I will too. Just like in anything, be it family, politics, even stanning your favorite musical artist, keep it civil. Keep it real.

The truth is, you’re just starting to find your voice. They’ve also, probably, been at it a lot longer and have had the time to develop their patterns and rhythms. Love on each other, get to know them, and you’ll realize they’re merely on the same journey you are. So don’t be impatient with yourself. You’ll get there!

Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And, most importantly, be kind to others. Even if you don’t like them.” ~Stacy London

Research It | Covered Bridges

Pennsylvania. The land of bridges. If you read my last post about the different kinds of maps, then you’ll know about topographical maps. If not, then the briefest definition of topography is the “detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area” and is used mostly in the study of geography. But if you’re familiar with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, you’ll know that it’s a vast region of varied land formations from the Poconos of mid state to the low levels near Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh, located in South Western PA, is known as the City of Bridges. While they’re mostly of steel construction (another nickname of the city being the Steel City…more on that at another time), most of the covered bridges were in rural areas, used for trains or normal walking paths and roads. These days, not many of them survive but there are many covered bridge festivals throughout the year, most of them taking place in our gorgeous fall season.

Can you tell that I am a Pennsylvanian?

Washington County. Green County. Columbia County. Montour County. These are just a few of the places in the Commonwealth that celebrate this important structure.

**These condensed histories brought to you by “Images of America: Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges” by Fred J. Mollalong with other online sources that will be cited.**

Item 3 | The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania

A Condensed History
The first covered bridge in the New World was built in 1805 over the Schuylkill River along one of the main routes out of the city of Philadelphia. Many of them were built over such rivers and needed to be tall enough for barges and other water traffic to travel under. Larger covered bridges even required the traveler to pay a toll to cross it for general maintenance or to offset the cost of building the bridge. Often there would be a general store or post office built next to it.

brandywine.jpgSadly, this isn’t the Brandywine on the way to Hobbiton in “The Lord of the Rings.” Pennsylvania isn’t that special! To Brandywine:

The earliest covered bridges were built in Philadelphia with the trend continuing westward, encouraging travel between rural communities and cities. Some were constructed out of stone and could support heavy loads of material goods. However, most were smaller, wooden structures used mostly for foot and vehicular traffic. Because of this aspect, many bridges also had advertisements from shops and companies showcasing services or products, and many were commissioned by companies or other entrepreneurs.

Sadly, not many survive today but those that have are celebrated for their contributions to the communities they serviced. These days, a bridge is seen as a common, basic thing. In America’s earliest centuries, if there wasn’t a bridge, you just didn’t go that way until one was built or you built it yourself.

1806 – King’s Covered Bridge, Middlecreek, Lancaster County
1812 – Colossus Covered Bridge in Philadelphia, PA
1872 – Risser’s Mill Covered Bridge in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County

Covered Bridges in Modern PA…so to speak
As time moved forward covered bridge construction soon became a thing of the past, morphing into the more modern, steel trussed bridges we see today. Iron and steel were Pittsburgh’s main export for many years, so it was easy for engineers to use the materials throughout Pennsylvania for bridges of all sorts, railroads, ships, and tunnels through mountains. That doesn’t mean that by the 19th century, covered bridges fell into complete obscurity. In fact, their charm and usefulness encouraged many living near them to invest in their upkeep and future use.

Covered bridges were still being used well into the 1930s, such as the Wertz’s Mill Covered Bridge off Route 222 North of Reading, PA. The Davis Covered Bridge, built in 1875, has modern paving inside, as well as the Hollingshead Mill Covered Bridge near Catawissa in Columbia County and the Stillwater Covered Bridge, also in Columbia County. Many of the surviving bridges have either been modernized to accommodate 21st century vehicles or restored using similar materials that would’ve been used at the time of construction for historical preservation.

Train and Trolley Use
Unfortunately, none of these types of covered bridges survived the passage of time in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, as a child of a family fascinated by trains and trolleys, we would’ve most definitely have made a journey to visit at least one of them by now. My grandfather, Louis J. Redman of Pittsburgh, PA, played a role in starting the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in 1949. He was also a founding member of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) a few years later in 1954. Being born in 1916, he most definitely would’ve seen and used these bridges.

There really isn’t much change between the history of these bridges versus what’s already been discussed, but of course they had to be constructed a bit differently to support the weight of steam engines, its cargo, and house the necessary wires for trolley traffic. On September 30th, 1896, the Columbia-Wrightsville Covered Bridge was destroyed by a category 1 hurricane. I mention this one because it was, uniquely, a rail and road traffic covered bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad took the width of the river and bay into consideration when they constructed it, but it was later replaced, as many were, by an iron bridge.

Well, that wasn’t the most colorful of histories and maybe not the most interesting, but without bridges in general, we may not have seen as much engineering growth that the Industrial Revolution was built upon. Many working parts had to happen, and advancement in travel only pushed that Revolution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to another level.

Because, let’s face it. Covered bridges are not only practical, but magical.

Facing It | Publishing Temptations

Patience is a virtue. Have your parents or grandparent or older figure in your life ever said that to you when you were younger and you threw a tantrum when you didn’t see immediate results? That’s what this Facing It post is going to be all about.

Let’s look at the very definition of patience. According to the great cliche, Webster’s dictionary, patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Patience is such important topic that it’s even in the Book of Galatians (yep, the Bible), chapter 5, verses 22 to 23a, “22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Forbearance is just a fancy word for patience; we don’t need to get into the etymology of all that!

Have patience, and allow yourself time to properly plot, plan and write your story. If you write your book too sloppily, readers can tell. Last summer I purchased an ebook (Don’t ask me which one. I can’t remember the title now. I think I was so annoyed with it that I put it out of my mind!) and it clearly hadn’t been edited well. If I had a paper back or hard cover version, I would’ve taken a red pen to every error I found. It was so bad that I found it hard to concentrate on the story. You don’t want to discredit your story without going through the process first.

Trust me, I get it. You want to publish and publish now. Let me tell you flat out: it doesn’t work that way. It can, but it shouldn’t. So below I’ll be discussing:

Three Temptations that Stem from Impatience
and how I’m working to avoid them.

Temptation 1: Shooting the first few chapters of your novel to every publisher that accepts that kind of submission.

Don’t. Wait. When I had my first several chapters written, this has been my greatest temptation of all. My outline was half written and barely plotted out, only a third of my characters were named and all the conspiracies I wanted include were mere pipe dreams. So even if a publisher or an agent wanted further information about my project, I wouldn’t have been able to provide them with anything more.

My outline was half written and barely plotted out, only a third of my characters were named and all the conspiracies I wanted include were mere pipe dreams.

My impatience was clearly taking over. I asked my already-published uncle a question about that very kind of submission several weeks ago when he was visiting the States from the UK. The look on his face told me all I needed to know before he said it. “Write the story,” he said. “Write the story to tell yourself it first. Then edit. Then find an agent. A well written, edited, and supported manuscript is better than submitting the first draft of anything.”

I known it all along, but I just needed to actually hear it from someone else. Since I’m going the traditional route of publishing, finding an agent to believe in my story as much as I do is going to be a daunting but well-worth it task. And I hope that we’ll not only have a great working relationship, but that they’ll be honest enough to tell me when a manuscript is crap as well (ha!)

Temptation 2: Thinking that your first draft is the most amazing thing you’ve ever written.

That’s going to be the worst thing to listen to, that your first draft is crap. I can’t tell you how many times I tweaked my first chapter before I managed to start writing the second chapter of my current work in progress. I mean, there are countless memes out there jokingly stating how everyone’s first drafts completely, utterly suck.

Do you know how many times I’ve also wondered what the first draft of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone looked like? Or if JRR Tolkien thought his first draft of The Hobbit was glorious in every way? I highly doubt it. Then again, artists of all mediums have been known to be a little eccentric in one way or another!

I have several fellow writers who have amazingly agreed to critique what chapters I have of my first story ever intended for publication. What did I say after they agreed? “I crave criticism, but I haven’t edited it yet!” I was just being honest and they understood that they’re mostly looking at the flow of the story, not necessarily word choice and grammatical errors. I wouldn’t be surprised if they printed an extra copy just to do that though! (I would. Then again, I’m hyper critical of my own work in general).

Temptation 3: Wanting to go into self-publishing right away because you just want to start making money off your writing.

This Temptation isn’t going to talk about the right away portion because we’ve already touched upon that a bit with Temptation 1. Rather, the making money side of things. You’d think this would be the most common sensical (I made that word up) thing, but most artists don’t go into the field with delusions of getting rich off it. Maybe not right away.

Think about your favorite authors for a moment. Are they from the 1700s? 1800s? Or are they more modern? Did their work become recognized before or after their death? After twelve years of publisher submissions? After countless tossed manuscripts? I’m not trying to burst your bubble or douse your enthusiasm; I am trying to highlight the fact that they had to exhibit a great deal of patience in the brutal publishing world.

If you go the agent route, they’re there to negotiate terms for you. Once a manuscript is accepted by a publisher, it’s time to get into the legality of it all. Agents are there to make money themselves, yes, but if they believe in your story as much as you do, they’re going to fight long and hard to get it published so all you have to concentrate on is writing. If you go the self-publishing route, you have to do all the leg work. All the promoting. And you’ll probably dish out just as much $$ you make for good editing or book cover designing.

The point is this: don’t rush things. Writing isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. It takes patience (surprise surprise), perseverance, and lots and lots of moxy. It may take a while to get noticed but when you do, if I ever personally do, I know I’ll be grateful someone even took the time to read the characters I’m coming to love so much.

All in all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from others in the biz. If they don’t have the answer you’re looking for, I can guarantee they’ll probably know at least the right direction to steer you.

Community is a funny word. When it works well, it works well. When it’s toxic, it’s toxic. Find that small group of confidants, regardless of if they have the time to critique your work, but who can encourage you because they’ve been there/done all that. And make sure you wholeheartedly trust each other. Patience with yourself and patience with others is still a valuable asset. Never forget that.

All in all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek advice. […] Patience with yourself and patience in others is still a valuable asset. Never forget that.

Research It | The Map

In my first post of this series I discussed the history of the pen. Exciting stuff, I know. Before there were computers, the pen in all its many forms was the only way to go. Well, there’s the pencil, but that’s a post for another day. Oooh…pencils…. Today’s post is going to be all about Item 2 in this Research It series, maps. (That Dora the Explorer map song is stuck in my head. Let’s turn on some soundtracks to get rid of that).

When I was in China during the Summer of 2008 (we left two weeks before the Beijing Olympic Games), I helped TESOL students with their students and it was a might bit disorienting seeing them have China at the center of the world maps in their classrooms. As an American, typically the US is in that position, so it would make sense that each country would take some liberty with their mapping.

People who create map are called cartographers, and this post is all about their contributions to the traveling world.

Item 2: The Map. #allthemaps
I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the MAP~~!
Goodness, get out of my head Dora!


Maps have been used for centuries. Whether they’re drawn in the dirt with an index finger, scrawled on a cave wall or meticulously plotted and updated as new lands were discovered. Maps are popular additions to novels, placed in the first few pages of the story to help the reader find their way, and maps have aided the world’s generals in plotting routes their troops are ordered to take. And star charts (essentially a map) played a huge role in the Dominion Wars with Deep Space Nine as the center of the universe. Okay, that last item is a Star Trek reference. I’m a complete dork, what can I say?

If I’d gone the route of archaeology I imagine myself having rolls of maps in my pack, some haphazardly folded and others neatly rolled and slightly poking out the top of the bag. I suppose that’s the romantic way of looking at them, but it raises questions (in my mind at least). How did maps come to be? Who started making topographical maps? Nautical maps? Gigantic wall maps? (Insert Beckett’s gigantic world map to egotistically display the “accomplishments” of the East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise)Beckett_World_Map

Well then, that’s enough for the introduction. Let’s get into 3 Different Types of Maps and what they’re used for. Okay, so there are literally dozens of types of maps that can all be read about here, so I’m just going to touch upon ones that have more practical applications.

  1. Aeronautical.
    My dad was a pilot in the USAF for 34 1/2 years (he’ll typically make a point of adding that half year in there so I had to as well). While he flies the plane and looked at aeronautical maps beforehand, it was the job of the navigator in flight to make sure he got them where they needed to go. At one time I thought of going into the Air Force, but I get majorly air sick, whether I’m the one flying the craft or not. He suggested that I become a navigator. “But Dad, you know I’m directionally challenged on the ground, right?” He admitted that I was correct. Being an aeronautical engineer was not the career for me.These maps are important combinations of air, sea and land travel, utilizing longitude and latitude coordinates.bay-area-detail.ngsversion.1522276711646.adapt.1900.1Um, what?! I have enough trouble with your typical road map. What even is this?! That was dramatic…. I understand the land, and there’s the sea. The circles are almost like sonar blips on those blue and black screens you see in a movie like The Meg. But stop on by National Geographic’s website to have a read on how to interpret this very specific type of map. Visit the ESRI website for a brief history on this type of map.
  2. Global. 
    Arguably the most recognizable of all the maps, globes have been used in classrooms seemingly since the beginning of time. I exaggerate, but what was once a staple learning tool has been converted into those giant pull down maps that cover blackboards (maybe this is where those Flat Earth theorists got the idea from? Now I know I’m not the only one who could spend hours spinning a globe, stopping it with a finger and looking up the place it landed on. You can’t really stick a map pin into a globe though, unless it is one of those blow up balls. But then you’d have a different problem on your hands – a flat globe.And now, directly from Wikipedia itself, “A globe is a spherical model of Earth, of some other celestial body, or of the celestial sphere. Globes serve similar purposes to maps, but unlike maps, do not distort the surface that they portray except to scale it down. A globe of Earth is called a terrestrial globe. A globe of the celestial sphere is called a celestial globe.” I honestly think that I may have to start calling every glob I see terrestrial. That is the technical term after all! I suppose the other plants could also be turned into their own spherical models, but, as many are just giant balls of gas, they wouldn’t really be that helpful.The term “globe” was first dubbed by the Greeks c. 150 B.C. While the use of the word remained constant, the history of using physical globes isn’t. As with anything not well documented, there are long periods where globes aren’t really used in conjunction with the globe we’re familiar with today. The first known record of that comes from 1492 by a German mapmaker named Martin Behaim. No one country is emphasized over another so that the viewer can have a non-biased view of the world as a whole, very useful to those trekking on land and sailing the high seas.
  3. Topographical.
    When I first started researching The Firedamp Chronicles I would catch myself staring at maps far longer than what was necessary. Maps fascinate me, what can I say? Particularly maps of my own state of Pennsylvania. While the majority of the population is settled at either border, one only has to take a look at the topography of PA to figure out why. Topography played a huge role in that. With Pittsburgh in the South Western corner and Philadelphia closer to the Eastern seaboard, they are divided not only by the sheer size of the state but by mountains, plains and countless rivers.Of course there’s rich, farm-able land and early settlers knew this would be a great selling point to bring workers and families over from disease, disaster ridden Europe in the 17th century. In fact, many Germans are here because this land was similar to their own homeland. Penn’s Colony, named by the man himself, would become a hub of activity and development for the American Industrial Revolution. Let’s take a look at what a typical topographical map looks like:
    See that legend in the bottom right hand corner? That tells you how tall an area is or how low. That swoop in the middle of the state are mountains, and directly below them are huge coal deposits, squished together when the land was formed. 0-100 is closer to sea level, the dark green, while 1350 – 1750 indicate the Appalachian Mountain Range.Topological maps are more commonly used by those studying geology or cartography, but I do remember my dad having a really cool one of the Pittsburgh area. I think that’s why I like them so much. There isn’t really a history on this type of map other than it being associated with topology, or the study of, geometry, apparently. “Topology developed as a field of study out of geometry and set theory, through analysis of concepts such as space, dimension, and transformation.” (As defined here). But really, the only thing that really matters, and makes more sense to me anyway, is that it’s a representation of the geology of the land itself.Now I could go into underwater topographical maps, ones for other countries, etc., but that would make an already-long post unnecessarily long. I think you get the point of topographical maps by this point.

Well folks, there you have it. Maps. Unless you love maps like I do, I doubt you’re going to start staring at them, figuring out routes your characters are going to take. Maybe you do, if you’re a writer like I am. Then we’d have a lot to talk about! But maps are not only useful for real life application but for fantastical application as well. Maps open doors for us, allow us to dream of places we want to go. It may seem like a small distance on a piece of paper or on a globe and not everyone has the opportunity to travel. But, if you’re one of those who really can’t, at least you can travel there in your mind, through the power of the Internet and by the power of the book.

Honorable Map Mentions
The Marauder’s Map
Middle Earth
Land of Oz