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:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNCybqmKugAThe 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.**


The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania
#allthebridges

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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJUryaDzt9c

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!

fictionalmaps.jpg

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:
    pennsylvania-topo-map
    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
Narnia