Five Pennsylvania Places I’d Love to Visit


Come along with me as I learn more about my own State,
and follow for possible visits to these mentioned places in the future!

The last time I did any traveling was in September of 2020. Half of Pennsylvania was still shut down due to…everything. But my family and I were experiencing an intense case of cabin fever. We were still able to work, but we missed doing all the summertime things we’d come to love participating in the years prior. So for my birthday I planned a trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As with many PA towns, Johnstown drips with history, and I mean that quite literally. Go check out that blog post when you’ve got the time. The photo at the top of this post is from that trip.

Yesterday before work, I began reading a book by a local individual named Bill O’Neill. The title: THE GREAT BOOK OF PENNSYLVANIA – The Crazy History of Pennsylvania with Amazing Random Facts and Trivia. Now I’ll admit I already knew a good 75% of what Mr. O’Neill wrote about. As a life long resident of this Commonwealth, how could I not? I’d definitely give this to someone who just moved here who may not know these things. The book is, however, where the idea for this blog post came from. For years I’ve wanted to tour around my own state more often. Maybe now I’ll have more incentive to do so. I’m not yet done reading it, but here are eight Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit in my lifetime.


Kennett Square – Mushroom Capital of the World. Kennett Square, closer to Philadelphia (or Philly) than it is to Pittsburgh, has boasted its status as the Mushroom Capital of the World since the 1880s. In fact, if you type “kennett square mushroom” into a search, the festival is the first thing that comes up. Anyone want to make a bet that the mushrooms in your fridge probably came from Chester County? Kennett’s population was roughly 600 in the 1860s. Today it’s around 6,000.

The Kennett Mushroom Festival is held annually in early September. The festival has been highlighted on Food TV. Annual parades are held on Memorial Day, Halloween, and before the Christmas holidays. Kennett Square celebrates Cinco de Mayo, which is organized by Casa Guanajuato, and other local companies. A free summer concert series is held on Wednesday evenings at the beautiful (over 100 acre) Anson B Nixon park. In mid-May, the famous Kennett Run occurs that ends at the Park pavilion. The Kennett Brewfest is held each Fall, featuring unlimited tastings of select brewers pouring different, rare, exclusive, limited, or seasonal beers. The local art galleries, studios, and independent boutiques participate in First Friday Art Strolls each month, presented by Historic Kennett Square. During temperate months there is an outdoor farmers market at the Genesis Walkway on State St. every Friday afternoon. These are but a few of the events for families and visitors throughout the year.

Source – Wikipedia

My apologies if you’re one of those who has a strong aversion to fungus. I, for one, love a good mushroom. They enhance just about any dish they’re added to – meatloaf, stew, skewers, stir fries, soups. The list is a vast one. Needless to say, you’ll probably find me visiting the Mushroom Capital of the World in the near future. I’ve always loved the idea of small town Pennsylvania. Contrary to what people believe, Pittsburgh is the second most populated city in PA, after Philly. I find I often crave small town life. This brings us to our next historic small town: Lititz.


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Lititz. Lititz knows what they’re about. They absolutely know they’re a tourist town in Pennsylvania. The above screenshot came directly from Visit Lititz, PA, and the tagline reads “The Coolest Small Town in America. I want to visit Lititz so, so badly. That was some bad grammar, but I really don’t care right now. Events are slowly coming back, and Lititz is no exception. And honestly? I really love their website (of course I do – it’s also built via WordPress!)

Just as Johnstown is, Lititz is a “blend of old and new.” Many PA small towns must be in order to survive, especially after many of the state’s industries pulled out in the 1980s. Let’s just say that Pittsburgh itself was a very depressed town. If we thought Pittsburgh was depressed in the 80s, the surrounding small towns also had to figure out their next steps. Behold: Lititz. As with many PA small towns, it has connections to the Civil War. Lititz especially due to its proximity to Philadelphia. The main reason I want to visit this small town isn’t its festivals, quaint shops or historical buildings (though all those are huge draws). No. It’s the railroad that runs through it.

I want to ride the rails. “The Reading and Columbia Railroad operated passenger service through downtown Lititz until 1952. Norfolk Southern continues to operate freight service to Lancaster, while the line between Lititz and Ephrata has been converted into a rail trail. A replica of the Lititz Depot was constructed at its former location in Lititz Springs Park in 1999, along with a small museum in a Reading caboose.” source: wikipedia

But, look! There’s a connection here to another place in Pennsylvania I’d love to visit: The Moravian Book Shop In Bethlehem, PA.


Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA – The Oldest Bookshop in North America. With other Eastern seaboard cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York, who would’ve thought that the oldest book store would’ve been founded in Bethlehem, PA? Of all places? Bethlehem, about a five hour drive from Pittsburgh, is one of those places you rarely hear about on the news, and that’s a good thing. Even though Bethlehem is just under an hour and a half from Lititz, their ties to the Moravian Church are undeniable. Lititz was founded by members of the church in 1756.

For a century, only Moravians were permitted to live in Lititz. Until the middle of the 19th century, only members of the congregation could own houses; others were required to lease. The lease system was abolished in 1855, just five years before the beginning of the Civil War. More information can be found in the book A Brief History of Lititz Pennsylvania by Mary Augusta Huevener, published in 1947.

Source – Wikipedia

Back to Bethlehem. Also known as Christmas City, USA, it boasts a history longer than that of the United States itself. As such, it’s no surprise that it’ll also be home to “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.”

During the Revolutionary War, the Moravians were pacifists but doubled their output of hides to support the American cause. The Continental Army Hospital was located here in the Brethren’s House. Over 500 soldiers died in Bethlehem and are buried on the hillside along First Avenue. The story of Moravian farming still exists in the historic site known as the 1748-1848 Burnside Plantation which interprets early farming within the city limits of our community.

source: History of Bethlehem

The bookshop is featured on the Discover Lehigh Valley website, and it also services Moravian College. Naturally, as a writer and a reader and a blogger, I want to visit “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.” Not only that, but visiting Bethlehem itself would also be a big bonus.


Tassel Pharmacy, Latrobe – The Great American Banana Split Celebration. Latrobe wasn’t officially recognized as the birthplace of the famous banana split dessert until 2013, according to this article via CBS Pittsburgh. Folks weren’t sure if it originated in Ohio or Pennsylvania, so that accounts for how long it took for Latrobe to be recognized as such. Not only that, but I can easily visit Latrobe for their next annual celebration as it’s only an hour’s drive from my home in Pittsburgh (compared to nearly four hours to get to Lititz or Kennett).

Even this Ohio site acknowledges David Strickler’s invention of the dessert first:

Despite Wilmington’s claim that Hazard invented the banana split, it appears that David Strickler actually invented the dessert in 1904. Strickler worked at a pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and he invented the treat to increase business.

source

Latrobe has its connections to the railroad industry with Oliver Barnes, as well as the Palmer family. Does the name Arnold Palmer sound familiar? It should if you like the beverage, or even golf. How about Fred Rogers? Latrobe is also home to the training grounds for many sports teams in Southwest PA, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, Latrobe’s biggest claim to fame comes in the form of the sweet treat everyone knows and loves.

Never have I been interested in the football training camps that take place every year. Never have I been interested in golf or alcohol. What do I love? Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and banana splits. I don’t believe that Tassel Pharmacy itself still exists, but the rail town certainly does. Let’s go get some ice cream in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, okay?


Easton – The Crayola Company. Pennsylvania can boast many claims to fame, but one of the most visual comes in the form of art. Crayons, to be precise. Even though I am a life-long Pennsylvanian, I’ve never personally visited the company or its offerings myself. As for the town’s history, the Penn family (more precisely Thomas Penn, brother to William Penn) had a hand in Easton’s founding. This small town has been on my radar for a while, and not just because of the Crayola Company.

Easton’s history is just as long and rich as the aforementioned towns of Kennett Square, Lititz and Bethlehem. When the canals came into play in the 1830s, Easton’s valley became an integral cog in the canal wheel.

The Great Square has been the site of the oldest, continuously operated outdoor Farmers Market since 1791. It is also the site where Robert Levers read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered public on July 8, 1776, standing on the steps of the courthouse. The Civil War Monument that now stands on the old courthouse site, is a 75 foot tall obelisk topped by what is locally called “The Bugler.” Formally named the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, the obelisk was designed to honor all of the armed forces who fought in the Civil War, and was dedicated to local veterans in 1900. Each year, the monument is shrouded by a one hundred foot Peace Candle, which is ceremoniously lit the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving and remains on display through January.

source

As you can see, Easton’s history runs far deeper than the Crayola Company. While Crayola is the original draw, it’s Easton’s history which keeps me interested in visiting.


As always, there we have it. Five Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit. Some are rather far away – a state away. Some are closer to home. But I hope this post encourages you to take another look at your own State. If you’ve come to not like your State’s politics, then take a look at its history. Look at it with an unbiased eye, and be open to learning about both the good and the bad. Perhaps you’ll learn to fall in love with your area once again.


My Birthday Stay in Historic Johnstown, PA

Masks. The ‘rona. Life. And 2020. Things aren’t exactly normal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still make things happen in this new decade. This includes changing vacation plans which were supposed to happen back in June of this year.

A weekend at the Library of Congress was to kick off a summer of historical tours and help me reboot my works in progress. Honestly? I haven’t felt that reboot, yet. These past two months or so I’ve filled with reading (both fiction and nonfiction), buying too many journals, and merely thinking about writing.

When the idea to visit Johnstown, Pennsylvania for my birthday popped up, my mind’s wheels turned again. I know, I know. My entire writing career shouldn’t revolve around what I can or cannot do. But the general consensus within the online writing community is many of us were in a summer writing slump.

Okay. Onward to bigger and brighter things.

The history of Johnstown, Pennsylvania is one of industry moguls, geography, tragedy, and a perfect storm of events that led to The Great Flood of 1889. The number of casualties rivaled the number of lives lost on September 11th, 2001. Visit the following links to read more about the Pennsylvanian tragedy that rocked the Victorian world:

As I complete this post, we’re now nearly two months removed from the event. Some details have become covered in dust, as though they’ve sat under my bed for weeks. But let’s brush them off and see what I can remember!

Wednesday, September 23rd

My mother and I arrived at our AirBNB in the early afternoon, half an hour before our allotted check-in time. Down winding, unfamiliar roads we went, and suburbia quickly transitioned to woods. Deep, thick woods. We missed our turn but eventually made our way to the right spot. Thankfully, our hostess was perfectly fine with our early arrival.

After checking in we drove about town, checking out shops, cafes and the like. Johnstown, as historical as it is, is an interesting mix of eras, country and city. Multiple churches dot the compact valley, and two rivers diverge from a third. Trains, buses and roadways interweave in an intricate dance, lasting from dawn to dusk.

Museums, landmarks and the like educate visitors on The Great Flood. A memorial stands on the site of the old club, and those willing to make the trek up to it can see why the sight was chosen for such a club.

Mom and I ended our evening drive on Johnstown’s main street, at a not-so-historical Subway for dinner. A short time later my sister and her family arrived.

The home in which we stayed once belonged to our host’s father. A rather peculiar addition it had, with ceilings barely six feet in height. If my father had gone, he wouldn’t have been able to properly stand in the kitchen or dining area. Another oddity was my room – it had no door! And no hinges for a door. So if you’re into communal living, this would be the place for you. I, for one, missed having privacy for a few days.

Pictured: my brother-in-law, niece and nephew atop the hill

Thursday, September 24th

After playing games late into the evening Wednesday, the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24th was spent sleeping in and taking our time waking up. We didn’t head out until early afternoon. The night before we’d decided to ascend the “The Steepest Incline in the World: The Johnstown Incline Plane.”

Perched atop the the steepest slopes in the valley, the dizzying view from the top rivals that of the overlooks on Pittsburgh’s own Mount Washington.

A behemothic American flag, (at that time secured at half mast for SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), flies on the tallest point of the plane’s hill. While familiar with Pittsburgh’s Duquesne and The Mon Inclines, Johnstown’s is different. It carries pedestrians, cycles and motor vehicles!

This incline also offered a view of the inner workings from inside their small gift shop. During this sleepy weekend getaway, not many locals were out and about, so we had the whole incline area to ourselves.

A meal at the highly recommended Boulevard Grill followed our incline adventures. Only two groups ate on the enclosed patio on the side of the restaurant, and the first group were nearly finished by the time we sat down to a very late lunch. What we all ate for our meals isn’t clear in my memory, but I do remember I had sweet potato fries and a steak wrap. From there we found a few small antique shops (I purchased an cream-colored teapot with gold details), and an old timey toy store with an owner readying his shelves for Christmas.

Friday, September 25th

On Friday we did something our mom wanted to do – tour historical sights around Johnstown. This included the Flood Museum, the Gentlemen’s Club and what was left of the dam itself. Even with Johnstown as depressed as it is, you cannot deny the natural beauty of the valley. One can see why the likes of Frick, Carnegie and Phipps would want to go there to get away from smog-filled Pittsburgh.

In the top center photo, where my sister, niece and nephew are reading an informational placard, that entire area was the lake. And where my sister is sitting in the grass with my niece, that was once the top of the dam. A dam with flawed maintenance from the very beginning.

Johnstown has both such a sad and intriguing history that we couldn’t help but visit. Many floods happened even before The Great Flood which nearly destroyed them all. All my life I’ve lived on high ground, and I still can’t wrap my mind around why anyone would choose to live in a notorious floodplain.

In a half suburban, half country city like Johnstown, it’s “curb appeal” and industrial draw is what makes it appealing even today. It’s not, however, without its own social and economic issues.

Saturday, September 26th

Not much happened at all on Saturday morning. Check-out time was 10:00 AM, and we were ready to go home. Mom and I stumbled upon a Saturday-only flea market halfway home, and we wandered its many rooms and aisles for at least two hours.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister/family showed up right when we were leaving!

Mom and I headed back out, and once we reached the outskirts of Monroeville, PA, we stopped for lunch at an Applebees.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister and family pulled in behind us!

Great minds think alike, I suppose!

With bellies full of food, minds filled with history, and hearts full of family togetherness, we made it home around 5 PM on a Saturday evening.

And, wouldn’t you know?

We all live on the same street.

It’s as though our little pod never left home to begin with.

And that, my friends, is really all this birthday girl ever really wanted – time with her little pod for her 35th birthday.


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

My Multiple MC Problem

Even though I’ve done a lot of writing since childhood, this is the first time I’ve attempted something as big as Project Firedamp. Not only are there a lot of moving parts, historical facts to keep straight, and cultural differences to look out for, things are in their early stages and I’ve got time to make changes.

When my idea for #ProjectFiredamp first came to fruition, I tossed around several sub genres of historical fiction before settling on historical adventure. The time period I chose (late Victorian) and the characters created (some real, some not) really give me wiggle room in the adventure realm.

However, since a few NPCs (if you do online gaming you’ll know this stands for non-player character) and my antagonist were, in fact, real people, I still have to play the “How far can I go into their historical facts without bogging down the reader?” game. (Thank you, Paulette, for getting “NPC” stuck in my head! I love our writerly DMs). Not only that, but since I decided to have two point of views instead of just one, the fear of under developing one of them is real.

Dare I add a third POV? I’m not sure I’m capable of juggling that many subplots just yet!

I asked a question similar to this on Twitter a few weeks ago and KM Weiland shared her method for developing characters. Not only does she have a full book called Creating Character Arcs and its corresponding workbook, she also has a list of interview questions I’ve started using myself. While my fear of under developing a main character is still ever present in the back of my mind, these resources have really helped keep some of that anxiety under control. Let’s face it – I’m a list lover. And you’ve surely deduced by now that I’m an outliner as well.

Method is something I never looked at as a kid. Heck, I grew up in the 90s. We didn’t have as many easily-accessible resources then as we do now. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. Ms. Weiland will have no idea I’m writing this until I share it on Twitter. Everyone has their own way of helping them keep track of their characters. So far, keeping a running dialogue with them via a list of “interview” questions is helping my process. Maybe those lists will help keep that seed of multiple MC doubt from growing!


Eight Things I’ve Already Researched by Jan 8th

The new year’s just begun but I didn’t take a break from researching at all. In fact, since removing one of my villains late last year, my work level increased ten fold as other characters rose to the challenge. With this change came the need for deeper character development, and the need for more research. No “histfic” writer would be worth their salt if they didn’t dive deep into their chosen time period. As such, I’ve already researched at eight new things that may (or may not) affect the story or my characters in some fashion.

  1. German confections
  2. Secret orders that really existed (or did they?)
  3. Small town populations of Southwestern Pennsylvania in the 1890s
  4. How to candy almonds
  5. Merchant supply lines
  6. A history of American currency
  7. Known allergens in the 1890s
  8. How to create character arcs

With historical fiction, one always seems to take two steps forward and three steps back. And even though my genre is historical fiction, I’d still like things to have accuracy. This way, I’ll know the kind of world my MCs could’ve come from, and the world the’ll end up in at journey’s end. Whether you write historical fiction or another genre, what have you learned so far in 2020?


My Seven Writing Goals for 2020

2019, for me anyway, was a rather directionless year. Every time I tried to set a schedule, or curb my procrastinator nature, my laziness grew by leaps and bounds. Yes, you read that right. I am a lazy writer. And I don’t want to be.

2020. Not only do those numbers roll right off the tongue, they begin a new decade. My overall goal for the decade is to become a published author (dear God…if I do it within the next ten years I’ll be 44. Excuse me as I have a pre-mid life crisis). I digress.

They say that having seven items on a to do list is a magic, accomplish-able number. I kept trying to think of an eighth, but I decided to stick with seven. Do any of them look similar to your own goals? We shall see! Let’s start with finishing Project Firedamp:

1. Finish Project Firedamp
I recently read somewhere that it can take ten years (or MORE) to finish a writing project. Oh my! I officially began my journey in 2016. So, going into 2020, this will be my fourth year of dramatizing, character building (and killing, ha), outlining and researching. I think that world building for fantasy, sci fi and historical stories are the hardest of all the genres.

It took J.R.R. Tolkein twelve years to complete The Lord of the Rings. Whether you prefer the book over the films and vise versa, you can still see why his story resonates with so many people. I think that every writer strives to create worlds as realistic as Middle Earth.

My story isn’t as fantastical as Aragorn fighting with a horde of cursed, dead soldiers, but one of my other goals within the “Finish Project Firedamp” umbrella is to increase my skill in that department.

2. Tour more historical sites
As my story takes place in the 1890s, I’ve got some fantastic, real locations around my own hometown to explore. The problem is, I haven’t properly explored them as an adult.

When my sister and I were kids, our parents would take us on “Destination Unknowns.” Sometimes they were to historical places around the city of Pittsburgh, sometimes to a Pirates baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium (now demolished and replaced with Heinz Field and PNC Park. See? I can’t help but offer information like that!) At the time we’d get annoyed because we weren’t told where we were going.

If we were told, it’d defeat the “unknown” part, right?

Eventually, Dad stopped taking us on those ventures, but we’d still tour museums, Mt. Washington in South Dakota, etc. when we went on vacation. Here’s something I never told my dad – I think all those “Destination Unknowns” planted this historical adventure seed inside me as a child. It’s waited years to sprout. Now’s the time.

Now Dad’s retired, and my sister’s kids are a bit older. I think it’s time for Destination Unknowns to return!

3. Bring more story themed decor into my home
Although Project Firedamp is set during the Victorian Era, I can’t seem to bring myself to go all ham on decorating my home with the Victorians’ style. Throughout my research journey, it seems like they appreciated clutter, deep jeweled colors with gilded elements, dark polished wood and floral patters enhanced with lace.

As much as I want my writing environment to reflect that setup, my minimalist-centered brain won’t allow it. So I’ve settled on shabby chic; the cheaper(?) cousin to true Victorian style. I can live vicariously through the upper class Victorian ladies in Project Firedamp, and incorporate Victorian-on-a-budget in real life.

4. Visit the Library of Congress for a day
I have family down in Maryland, so it’s entirely plausible that I can spend a weekend exploring the famed, marbled grandeur that is the Library of Congress. During the initial stages of Project Firedamp research, I ran into several road blocks when it came to certain places. When my local libraries had very little on a subject, I discovered the Ask a Librarian link on the website for the LoC.

Let me tell you – they’ve got some fantastic researchers working there! Depending on the demand, and if there isn’t a government shut down happening, they’ll send you multiple links, documents, and titles of books they think will be helpful for your project. Sometimes it ends up going nowhere, but there’ve been times when I’ll open a link and it’s information solves EVERYthing.

So not only do I want to spend a day in those same stacks, I want to see if there’s some crazy book on the upper levels that will point me towards a national treasure.

5. Build a paper organizer
This may seem like a silly goal, but I really want to custom build a paper organizer for my office. Between crafting and writing, I’ve got a LOT of paper. The problem with pre-built ones is, not only are they super expensive, but they come in standard sizes that won’t work in the space I have.

Enter in my job at a home improvement store!

Granted, I don’t get a discount, but I also don’t need super expensive materials to complete the project. Earlier this year I built the table I’m typing on, and put together nearly every piece of IKEA furniture I own (not without at least a LITTLE bit of help along the way). At least, with my organizer, I can specify measurements and cater it to my needs as a creator.

Or it could just, you know, downgrade into this:

6. Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation)
This one’s pretty self explanatory, albeit a pretty important hope of mine for 2020. I don’t go on vacation as often as I’d like (because priorities), but every few years my family and I trek down to Tennessee and spend a week tucked away in a cozy cabin surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you’re a forest person like I am, and that sounds AMAZING, because it is.

Picture writing in a screen-enclosed porch (to keep out the mosquitoes of course, a couple snacks, and the Tennessee summer. If I ever won the lottery (that I never play), I’d buy a cabin in Tennessee and summer there just to write every year.

A girl can dream, right?

7. Hand copy a novel
This may seem like an odd goal; hear me out. If you’ve spent any time online, deep in the trenches of the #writingcommunity tag, I’m sure you’ve seen tweets from folks who do this type of thing. I always thought it odd as well, until I thought more on it.

As someone who knows she has trouble with grammar, hand copying a novel, or even just a few chapters, can help. One of my biggest problems is I’m personally drawn to longer sentences and words used in the Victorian style. However, that form of writing just isn’t widely accepted in the modern age and I’d greatly limit my audience if I went that route.

The challenge with this goal: choosing WHICH novel to work from. I have a couple in mind (none of them are The Lord of the Rings), from a few favorite authors. Maybe I’ll finally figure out why I love them so much!


Do any of my writer goals for 2020 reflect your own? What are your goals? Are you further along in the journey than I? Share some of your thoughts in the comments below and let’s complete some writing goals by this time next year, or even sooner!

Good luck!


How Removing One Villain Solved Everything

I’m one of those people who learn lessons the hard way. It’s a stubborn streak I inherited from three of my grandparents. As much as I love them – thanks guys. Some cycles are harder to break than others. This can be applied to characters you create for stories as well. You fall in love with them, paint them in your mind, and think about them as you work your 9 to 5 job or cook dinner for the kids. But what happens when a character says goodbye? Not you. The character.

Work on THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES began nearly four years ago. I thought this particular character was, well, brilliant. His storied, embattled past, who his ancestors were and mannerisms. Little did I know my most thought-about character held back the entire story. My own personal villain.

I cried. Literally, not figuratively. I’ve got the “receipts” to prove it. Please excuse the typos – I’m only human!

Emotion is something I don’t oft post online in any manner. However, November 19th, 2019 called for it. I didn’t realize, until today, just how much he was holding everything back. I suppose that’s the very definition of a villain, isn’t it? They’re nefarious, whisper self doubt in your ear, and can be quite ridiculous in the things they choose to latch on to. For years he had me wound so tightly ‘round his finger I couldn’t see potential in other’s stories. So I’ll end this post on a high note. Here’s an embed of the pros of leaving my original villain behind. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll make an appearance in future stories!


When a Character Says Goodbye

I always thought writers were crazy when they Tweeted about their characters “speaking” to them. For the first time since my novel’s conception, I experienced a “sayōnara” moment with my original villain. Now I know what all those “crazy writers” were talking about. And you know what? I’m now one of them. Yay!

The downside to saying goodbye to a villain is, who do I put in his place? An entire plot line is now poof, gone. Destroyed during a ten minute research session on a chilly November Saturday morning. He’s gone after my mind’s played with his family history for three years.

I looked at my villain in the eyes; he looked back. Then he gathered up his crown and jauntily walked out of the story.

Fighting with him, I called him back, reaching for his cape as it billowed behind him in the wind. “NO! Did these past three years mean nothing to you?!” Just like the villain he is, he ignored my pleas, blood, sweat and tears, and disappeared into the morning sun. He left me in the dust. In a pile of words, scenes, plot lines and intrigue only he can solve.

Sometimes characters will do that to you. You’ll discover that they’re just not right for the current story that needs telling. I was going to pull my own form of villainy and out him for his treacherous, turncoat nature but you know what? I think I’ll just lock him in the story vault and feed him with facts of what he hates the most – news that the Union Army won the Civil War.


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!


My Top Ten Victorian Slang Words

Writing historical fiction isn’t easy. There are so many decisions I have to make to prevent myself from overdoing it with language and writing style. Do I try to match it with the time period? Do I use modern slang? How far into 1800s etymology do I really want to go? Research has been key in helping me make these choices and every once in a while I stumble across a gem of an article I couldn’t pass up blogging about. Today I came across a list of 56 Delightful Victorian Slang Terms – some crazier than others – and I’d like to share just ten of my favorites.

Side note: This blog post wasn’t easy to write as there are so many amazing choices!

ARFARFAN’ARF

It took everything in me to not bust out laughing in the middle of Panera reading this one and it’s following definition (according to the article above, “A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. “He’s very arf’arf’an’arf,” Forrester writes, “meaning he has had many ‘arfs,’” or half-pints of booze.”

BATTY-FANG

Sooo many thoughts came to my mind at the description for this phrase, but I’ll refrain from adding in that commentary! This will be enough: “Low London phrase meaning “to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.”

BRICKY

I’m honestly not sure if this term is meant as a compliment or an insult. I can tell you that I am not bricky at all. “Brave or fearless. “Adroit after the manner of a brick,” Forrester writes, “said even of the other sex, ‘What a bricky girl she is.'”

BUTTER UPON BACON

I think I definitely need to start using this more often. “Extravagance. Too much extravagance. “Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn’t that rather butter upon bacon?”

DOING THE BEAR

This phrase would not go over well in the twenty-first century (ie too many innuendos which is why I found it so funny). It simply means, “courting that involves hugging.”

GAS-PIPES

While gas lighting and systems were invented in the Victorian era, that’s not what this is referring to. And it’s yet another term I snorted at in a public place, “A term for especially tight pants.”

MAD AS HOPS

Also known as “excitable.” I’m definitely going to start saying this at work!

PARISH PICK-AXE

I certainly have a parish pick-axe. Also known as a “prominent nose.” Though why they use the term “parish” I don’t think I’ll ever know.

SHAKE A FLANNIN

“Why say you’re going to fight when you could say you’re going to shake a flannin instead?” And I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and explanation!

SKILAMALINK

I’m not sure I even know how to say this word, but I wonder if this is where the writers for the Muppet Treasure Island film got the idea for “boomshakalaka.” Eh, probably not. But it’s a fun thought! It means, “Secret, shady, doubtful.”


And there you have it! My top ten favorite Victorian slang terms. A few of them make sense for use in modern times but many of them are a bit out there. Of course this is all in good fun in 2019! Stop on by the main list on Mental Floss’ article to learn more fun terms! Happy writing!