The Alphabet Book Tag // A to Z, Literally!

Hello again fellow book lovers! As 2020 creeps ever closer to 2021, I’ve tried to stay off social media and slow down with blogging. In theory, this break was to encourage work on my novel series and curb procrastination.

Let’s just say I failed. Miserably.

The internet’s full of different types of Book Tags. Today’s blog post was inspired by one of my favorite YouTube channels, one Mrs. Jessica Braun. I’ve watched her videos for years, and a previous video of hers also inspired my Bookviews posts:

June ~ August ~ September

Jessica’s YouTube video was all about her favorite makeup products from different companies. I’ll embed it below if you’d like to give it a watch! But right after that will be my alphabetized list of books I’ve read between 2019 and 2020!

*note: none of the links are affiliate links. I shared just in case you wanted to read.

And now, the Books!

A: An Uncommon Woman
by Laura Frantz

Synopsis: Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa’s long-lost friend, Keturah, who disappeared from the settlement years earlier.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when circumstances force Clay’s hand–and heart–the stage is set for one very private and one very public reckoning.

Intense, evocative, and laced with intricate historical details that bring the past to life, An Uncommon Woman will transport you to the picturesque and dangerous western Virginia mountains of 1770.

B: Beauty
by Robin McKinley

Synopsis: Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in appearance, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must travel to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father insists that he will not let her go, but she responds, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

C: Captured by a Highland Pirate
by Lydia Kendall

Synopsis: Losing her husband was Grace Smith’s greatest sorrow in life. That, and trying to avoid betrothals to men she would never love, to save her life. Until a mysterious Highlander rescues her from damnation.

Alec MacNeil’s only love in life is the sea. A notorious pirate all across Scotland, he never keeps a penny he steals for himself. On his mission to steal the Viscount of Fortershire’s wealth, he ends up stealing something more: the heart of a beautiful Sassenach.

However, their dreams for a shared future are crushed when a letter arrives. A letter that not only calls for Alec to honor an old agreement for marriage but also gives him an ultimatum: his life or his entire clan. His home is under siege and the attackers won’t settle for anything less than killing everyone Alec loves.

D: Dreamer of Briarfell
by Lucy Tempest

Synopsis: Sleeping Beauty meets Robin Hood. Her soul will be lost forever, unless she wins the love of the noblest of men. Cursed in her cradle by a vengeful fairy queen, Princess Fairuza of Arbore thought her fate was secure in the hands of her betrothed — until he chose another as his bride.

After the last attempt to find another prince to save her fails, Fairuza’s world fades to black, and she awakens in a castle, unseen and unheard by all—then a thief breaks in, and sees her. But Robin Hood is no prince charming, and he’s leaving for Faerie, to save Maid Marian from the Wild Hunt. Seizing her last chance to find royals who can break her curse, she joins him and his Merry Men.

Once in Faerie, the Summer King puts them through deadly trials, in exchange for his hand and help. But as they struggle to survive, Fairuza begins to fade. The longer her soul remains detached from her body, the sooner their tie will be severed. As her time runs out, she finds herself falling in love with Robin, despite knowing that this would doom her forever…

E: Elite by Carrie Arrow

Both the book and synopsis are no longer available on Amazon

F: Forest of Firelight
by Shari L. Tapscott

Synopsis: After the sudden death of her brother, Princess Amalia is charged with what feels like an impossible task—she must choose the next king. Youthful thoughts of love are pushed aside as she accepts her fate, setting upon a quest throughout the kingdom to find a man worthy of her father’s throne.

Little does Amalia know, someone has already set his sights on her.

Rhys is a man of secrets, and his mission is simple: befriend the princess of Renove. Coax her to trust him, convince her to follow him. Betray her when it’s time.

All goes according to plan until Rhys meets the princess. Amalia is a disaster. Never has he met someone so drawn to trouble. Never has he met someone so irritatingly likable. He’s not allowed to fall for her.

She could never entrust him with a crown. But, unbeknownst to them, their unlikely partnership might be the key to saving their entire world from a darkness that’s slowly creeping from the wounded earth that separates one kingdom from the next.

G: Gangs and Outlaws of Western Pennsylvania
by Thomas White and Michael Hassett

Synopsis: The region played reluctant host to the likes of the infamous Biddle Boys, who escaped Allegheny County Jail by romancing the warden’s wife, and the Cooley Gang, which held Fayette County in its violent grip at the close of the nineteenth century. Then there was Pennsylvania’s own Bonnie and Clyde–Irene and Glenn–whose murderous misadventures earned the “trigger blonde” and her beau the electric chair in 1931. From the perilous train tracks of Erie to the gritty streets of Pittsburgh, authors Thomas White and Michael Hassett trace the dark history of the crooks, murderers and outlaws who both terrorized and fascinated the citizenry of western Pennsylvania.

H: The Hope of Azure Springs
by Rachel Fordman

Synopsis: Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

I: Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges by Todd Wilson and Helen Wilson

Synopsis: Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges,” and what remarkable bridges they are! The area’s challenging topography of deep ravines and mighty rivers – the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio – set the stage for engineers, architects, and contractors to conquer the terrain with a variety of distinctive spans. Many were designed to be beautiful as well as functional. While other cities may have one signature bridge, Pittsburgh has such a wide variety that no single bridge can represent it.

J: The Jewels of Halstead Manor by Kasey Stockton

Synopsis: When a cryptic invitation brings Giulia Pepper to her uncle’s remote estate in Devon, she arrives in dire need of a benefactor, only to discover that her uncle never sent her any invitation—nor does he want her there. Forced into a corner, Giulia must contrive a way to convince him to allow her to remain, just long enough to figure out where to go next.

Nicholas never asked for an earldom, but when an aged lord arrives at his door and tells Nicholas that he is next in line for the title, he willingly goes to Halstead Manor to learn the role. But someone isn’t pleased with the heir, and after a gunshot wound in the arm, Nicholas must discover who is out to get him.

When Giulia stumbles—literally—over a fallen man on the lane to Halstead, she has her answer: she can stay at Halstead and nurse her uncle’s heir back to health. But as mystery builds and danger mounts, will Giulia and Nicholas be able to solve the puzzle before the Earl forces Giulia to leave for good? And furthermore, can they manage to work together without losing their hearts in the process?

K: Killing Kate by Alex Lake

Synopsis: A serial killer is stalking your home town. He has a type: all his victims look the same. And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her home town – and his victims all look like her. It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

L: The Lost Countess That Counted The Stars by Patricia Haverton

Synopsis: Merial Hanraham has no recollection of who she is. Found unconscious in a dinghy with nothing but a mysterious coffer, she is taken on board by a crew of British sailors heading to England.

Christopher Buckthorn, son of the Duke of Heyerdahl and proud captain of the “Valkyrie”, never expected to find a woman with no memories floating in the middle of the ocean. Especially not one as stunning as Merial.

Amidst old superstitions turning the crew against her and pirates constantly on their tail, Merial and Christopher must piece together the fragments of her returning memories.

And the key to the truth might just lie in a riddle carved on the mysterious coffer; a single word to unveil not only Merial’s true identity but also the name of the person hunting her…

M: Maiden in the Tower by Heidi Kimball

Synopsis: Lisette Hunt has been hidden away her entire life, with nothing but a large window up in the cottage turret to give her a glimpse of the outside world. Until Gerry Worthington stumbles into her garden in search of his runaway dog. 

As a second son, Gerry has never seen the need to take life too seriously. Less than pleased with his frivolity, his mother orders him to marry a woman of means and banishes him to his family’s small, rundown estate. Unfortunately, innocent and penniless Lisette is the very opposite of what he needs.

But Gerry cannot resist the mystery surrounding Lisette, and soon he can no longer resist Lisette and her endearing peculiarity. As Gerry slowly opens Lisette’s eyes to a larger world, she begins to open her heart to him. However, when Gerry uncovers the truth about who Lisette really is, it may cost them a chance at happiness together.

N: Neverland Falling by Brittany Fitcher (did not fully finish, but it’s the only one that began with an N!)

Synopsis: Wendy’s parents have finally chosen her prospective husband, and her world is falling apart. So when the mysterious, handsome Peter invites Wendy and her little brothers to run away to a place called Neverland, she accepts.

At first, Neverland is more wonderful than anything Wendy could have imagined. So are the variety of interesting characters who live there, from the Lost Boys to the mermaids to the fae to the misunderstood privateer, Captain Jay. But as time rolls on, Wendy realizes that growing up might not be so bad…if she had the right person to do it with. The only problem is that in Neverland, growing up is forbidden. And the farther she gets from childhood, the more she endangers them all.

Unfortunately, when the fae decide she’s gone too far, both Peter and Wendy must decide where their love and loyalty lie and how far they’re willing to chase it. For if they’re not careful, Neverland and everyone in it will fall.

O: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Grey

Synopsis: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook presents over 100 recipes that showcase the cookery and customs of the Crawley household—from upstairs dinner party centerpieces to downstairs puddings and pies—and bring an authentic slice of Downton Abbey to modern kitchens and Downton fans. 

Whether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. Food historian Annie Gray gives a rich and fascinating insight into the background of the dishes that were popular between 1912 and 1926, when Downton Abbey is set —a period of tremendous change and conflict, as well as culinary development.

With a foreword by Gareth Neame, executive producer and co-creator of Downton Abbey, and featuring over 100 stunning color photographs, The Downton Abbey Cookbook also includes a special section on hosting Downton-themed dinner parties and presents stills from across the TV series as well as the latest film. Notes on the etiquette and customs of the times, quotes from the characters, and descriptions of the scenes in which the foods appear provide vivid context for the dishes.

The recipes are grouped by occasion, which include breakfast; luncheons and suppers; afternoon tea and garden parties; picnics, shoots and race meets; festivities; upstairs dinner; downstairs dinner; downstairs supper and tea; and the still room.

P: Pittsburgh’s Streamlined Trolleys by Kenneth C. Springirth

Synopsis: Pittsburgh Streamlined Trolleys covers the history of the trolley car system that once had the third largest fleet of Presidents’ Conference Committee trolley cars in North America. Pittsburgh Railways Company was very innovative and constantly made design improvements in its trolley cars. This led to increased ridership, as these streamlined trolleys were quiet, fast, and had comfortable seating. With the increased use of automobiles, ridership declined. After the Port Authority of Allegheny County took over Pittsburgh Railways, most of the trolley routes were abandoned. However, a number of trolleys were refurbished with paint schemes that included psychedelic commercial advertising and community messages. The last runs of these trolleys occurred in 1999, and new light rail vehicles are now in service.

Q: The Fire Queen by Emily R. King (the only Q!)

Synopsis: Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over. A warlord has invaded the imperial city, and now she’s in exile. But she isn’t alone. Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

But as Kalinda’s tournament strengths are once again challenged, so too is her relationship with Deven. While Deven fears her powers, Ashwin reveres them—as well as the courageous woman who wields them. Kalinda comes to regard Ashwin as the only man who can repair a warring world and finds herself torn between her allegiance to Deven and a newly found respect for the young prince.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

R: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

Synopsis: Living in London’s poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she’s offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship’s surgeon, he’s in charge of the passengers’ welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

S: Shard of Glass by Emily Deady

Synopsis: Once she was a noblewoman. Now she is a palace servant. Ashlin never pictured herself scrubbing floors. But with the family savings depleted and her stepmother crippled by grief, Ashlin selflessly takes a job at the royal palace. She can pursue her dreams of becoming a seamstress someday in the future.

However, as she forms an unlikely friendship with the prince, she learns that the future may not be so certain. Wielders of a powerful magic threaten their small coastal kingdom and Prince Onric does not believe that their defenses will hold. 

As Ashlin navigates growing feelings for the charming prince, she realizes that her unique skills could help save the kingdom. But can she trust the charming prince or he is merely exploiting her selfless nature? 

Shard of Glass is a fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Discover a world where heroines can be both powerful and worthy of protection. If you love sweet romance, a little bit of magic, and heart-melting conversations, then this story was written for you.

T: Through The Eyes Of A Blind Duchess by Patricia Haverton

Synopsis: Locked away in her family’s estate for more than two decades, Aurelia Blackmore has resigned herself to a life of exile. Blinded in the same fire that killed her mother when she was young, marriage is not even a thought for her. Until the day her father announces her engagement to a man she has never met.

Donovan Harding, the Duke of Oakhampton, has suffered many losses, with his wife and his fortune sacrificed on the altar of an illness. With no good options left, he must marry again. But his new bride’s secret might be more than he can handle.

Tied together by the strings of his son’s violin, their marriage is a precarious one. When a fire claims her childhood home and a constable brings news of a murder, the strings begin to unravel. A familiar voice, awakening memories of her past, threatens to tear away all that she loves, just as it had the fateful night she lost her vision and her mother.

U: The Unlikely Chaperone by Dorothy Mack

Synopsis: At twenty-eight, Alexandra Farrish has no hopes of marrying. However, she vows to shepherd her beautiful but prickly younger sister, Didi, through a London season to help her secure a perfect match.

As expected, Didi soon becomes one of the season’s greatest successes, and even captures the interest of the Marquess of Malvern — one of London’s most eligible bachelors.

As one of the Farrish family’s most frequent visitors, the handsome marquess seems to be on the brink of making Didi an offer.

But as Alexandra spends more and more time in the company of their new friend, she begins to question her own feelings…

V: The Victorian Book of Cakes by T. Percy Lewis and A.G. Bromley

Synopsis: A treasure from the past, this book was originally published at the turn of the last century, during the heyday of cake-making, designed to be the standard work on cakes and confectionery. There are recipes for all kinds of traditional Victorian cakes, biscuits and cookies, petits fours, shortbreads, pound and slab cakes, gingerbreads, marzipan and nougat, as well as a multitude of fillings, icings and frostings. With notes on adapting the recipes for the modern kitchen, this nostalgic book will enchant all cake-makers.

W: A Worthy Rebel by Jody Hedlund

Synopsis: While fleeing an arranged betrothal to a heartless lord, Lady Isabelle becomes injured and lost. Rescued by a young peasant man, she hides her identity as a noblewoman for fear of reprisal from the peasants who are bitter and angry toward the nobility.

Cole Warwick cannot turn his back on a person in need and soon finds himself falling for Izzy, the gentle and beautiful runaway who is mending in his cottage. As the leader of an imminent uprising against the nobility, he tries to resist his growing feelings for Izzy to protect her from the dangerous life he’s chosen. But the longer she stays, the more he hopes she’ll never leave.When Izzy’s true identity is revealed, Cole feels betrayed.

With the rebellion underway, can Cole forgive Izzy and find a way to save her from an unhappy marriage? Or will he and his peasant army be destroyed before he has the chance to fight for the people and the woman he loves?

X: –

Y: –

Z: –

Whew! That was time consuming but a lot of fun! Can you tell I’ve got some very specific book interests? I love fairy tale retellings, some mystery and true crime, historical fiction, Regencies, romances, young adult, new adult and adult stories.

2020’s not over yet, so there’s still time to find some books with titles that begin with an x, y or z. I still think the list turned out pretty well. All titles were taken from the On My Bookshelf page here on my website.

Are you a book blogger? Or have an editing or authoring website? I challenge you to make your own list! Can you tell I’m a sucker for the classic damsel in distress trope?


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.


Books vs E-Readers

Have you ever noticed that books all, for the most part, have the same smell? When you walk into a modern shop the scent is that of new pages. Fresh. Where glossy and matte pages alike wait to be read for the first time. It’s in these establishments where new books are released, parties are hosted and coffee is brewed.

Let’s travel down the beaten side street to a place called…well…the name wore off the sign years ago but everybody local still knows the name. A bell tingles above as another shopper exits, book in hand, and holds the door open for you. You thank them as you cross the threshold and inhale deeply, letting the thick wooden door behind you click shut.

With shelves climbing to the ceiling you are transported to another dimension, one where adventure is itching to happen. This place doesn’t sell digital media, vinyls or 8 tracks. There’s no electronic card catalogue and the labels on the spines are from a sticker pricing gun. This is more like it. That smell reminds you of your grandmother’s bookshelf that housed copies from the 1970s. Their bindings are weak but your grandma still lets you read the one about the Loch Ness Monster for the twentieth time. You bring the book to your nose and inhale, bringing you back to the shop you’re in now. The clerk asks if you’re looking for anything in particular. “Not today,” you reply. You’re just looking. Who knows what you may find. She nods, understanding, and goes back to her own read.

Enter in digital media.

Libraries have always been supported by communities as places to gsther, learn and preserve history. Without libraries, or museums for that matter, it is feasible that much knowledge would have been lost. Without ink and parchment there would have not been the movable type. Without the movable type there would have not been the printing press. From there we gained mailing services, mechanical computers, and every invention in between that led to the modern day tablet.

In the 1930s a man by the name of Bob Brown dreamt up the concept of electronic books. He dubbed the device:

A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing  (Bob Brown, ‘The Readies’)

And boy did we deliver…seventy years later. We have the Kindle by Amazon, the Sony e-reader, the Kobo, the Nook and more. Let’s not forget the countless apps that enables amateur writers to showcase their own writing and read others as well.

As a pre-teen I remember worrying that there wouldn’t be any pages to turn because I did not like the idea of an e-reader. I remember thinking it was silly for Barnes N Noble to advertise something like the Nook in a place that sold actual books. What is also interesting to note is I was (and still am) fully in support of a world where Star Trek could one day exist. Where all information was stored for instant access inside data cores. So you would think that I would have been open to the idea of having something like that to carry with me.

You are wrong. I was afraid that bookstores would disappear forever and I, without a doubt did not want to contribute to that. While some larger book chains have been downsizing printed books are not disappearing as quickly as I feared. Authors and readers who grew up like I did still love the feeling of a cover beneath our fingers. But, in this digital age, there are a few advantages to having electronic books available. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

1. Convenience. So you finally booked that summer flight to Florida beach for R&R and you’re preparing to pack. What is spread out on the bed before you? Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check. Travel info? Check. Books? All the ones you have chosen will cause your bag to go over the alotted weight limit. What do you do? You know you can easily go through one or two a day. Seven days. Seven books. Not enough space. Enter in the e-reader. Once you purchase a book and save it to your device, it is yours to keep. You can reread it like any physical book because you paid for it. And because you know you have at least two new reads ready to go you toss it in your purse instead.

Disadvantage: Making sure to remember the power cable.

2. Encouragement. For most bookworms it is almost unfathomable to hear someone comment that they don’t read. Don’t READ?! How is that even possible?! Illiteracy still exists in the United States amongst all the age groups. And there are others who know how to read who just choose not to. The e-readers, especially those with access to more apps, I feel greatly encourages them to think about trying the reader app out. Instant access to all levels of books and material supports readers and authors alike, and maybe if they begin to enjoy ebooks they will come to support libraries as well.

3. Innovation. A perfect example of ebook innovation comes from the recent reestablishment of Reading Rainbow (no, this blog is not sponsored by then whatsoever. They are just a great, current example of modern technology). From 1983 to 2006, Reading Rainbow opened the world of imagination to generations of young minds. I was greatly amused as a child that LeVar Burton taught us about books by day and repaired starships as Geordi LaForge by night on The Next Generation. There had always been the hope that Reading Rainbow would return but instead we got something even better. LeVar and the R.R team began a Kickstarter campaign to begin a new concept – online learning tools to teach a new generation to love reading. Without platforms such as tablets and e-readers, and without the fervent enthusiasm of the donors to support them, Reading Rainbow would have remained a thing of the past. It is encouraging, interactive and, as with any learning tool, constantly changing.

4. Library Supported. Not only is there the above example of reading apps, many libraries also have e-books available for borrowing add well. All you need is a library card, an account through their website and an app that supports their format. Many moms I know love the ease of it, especially when it is not always convenient to get to a physical library.

Doesn’t there seem to be an awful lot of pros to this “debate” in favor of e-readers? When you look at the overall picture, e-readers and physical Books have formed a symbiotic relationship:

Symbiosis: noun, biology. interaction between two different organisims living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

While the definition of symbiosis is technically of a scientific nature it can be applied to the world of words as well. In this ever-changinf age of technological advancement it was inevitable that someone would bring Bob Brown’s prediction to reality. A true reader will be able to appreciate both forms of literature.

While I  still prefer connecting worth other readers in the physical realm of books, I do enjoy being able to find a series or author online that I otherwise would never have known. You can find readers everywhwre. You can find authors, bookstores, librarians, historians, preservationists…everywhere. even though e-readers don’t “smell” like a bookstore, don’t immediately dismiss such a useful tool without trying it first. You may surprise yourself. Just find the best fit for you. 


The Dream that Star Trek Gave Me

I began this journey when I was ten years old. At least, I believe I was around ten. It seems that most of my memories from childhood come from between the ages of seven and ten, and I probably blocked most of my middle school years from memory because that was not the greatest time for me. I hated school. I hated that I couldn’t just read all the time. Yes, I was that kid. The wallflower who would rather read than play during recess. The introvert who preferred to write but not show anyone what she had written. Back then the teachers were “concerned” because I never socialized. And when I did it was with a few people in a one-on-one situation. I was always “that kid” who believed everyone else around her was, well, childish. But apparently now being a writer is cool. I believe everyone can agree that Reading Rainbow and Levar Burton greatly encouraged my generation to read and write and dream. I may not have been the most social kid, but you really can have a balance between the two. As a preteen I never saw that as a possibility, but being in my 30s looking back on childhood, I almost wish that were the case.

I have a confession. I used to write fanfiction. Little did I know that what I would write actually had a name, but my life revolved around science fiction. I adored Star Trek. We would also watch X-Files with Robert Patrick, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. I distinctly remember hiding behind my dad’s armchair at some of the scenes, deeming them too obscure and gross for my eyes. Let’s face it, I did the same with The Dark Crystal and some Star Trek episodes. I distinctly remember greatly disliking “The Thaw” episode where takes place inside their minds. A program that was supposed to just entertain the crew placed in stasis became sentient, and I did not want them to kill off my favorite character played by Garrett Wang. It was only season 2! All that aside, I saw something in Star Trek that made me want to write. So I wrote. I wrote short stories, when I got older I joined communities that discussed and debated tech and trek, and made a few friends I still talk with to this day.

There are many themes presented in Star Trek, but I will leave just a few with you today. One: hope. Star Trek encompasses the very ideals that, as a human race, we need to constantly have hope. One of the greatest debates between those who like Star Wars and those who like Trek is that Trek is too “intellectual” to be good viewing. On the flip side there are those who say that Star Wars is just the dumbed down version of Star Trek. Now before I cause a rumble, there are good points to both. With the resurgence of JJ Abrams’ and Simon Pegg’s Trek in the 2000s, I am given hope that a new generation of kids are being inspired by the hope that this genre brings.

In second place comes the theme of dreaming. When Star Trek: The Original Series aired in 1969 the United States was in the midst of a space race with the rest of the world. Even our landing on the moon is a highly debated topic, but space travel was fresh in the minds of everyone, creating the perfect time for a show of Trek’s nature to air. While Lost in Space can be credited with being one of the first to hit airwaves along with Great Britain’s Doctor Who series, Star Trek rocketed (pun somewhat intended!) to popularity.

Fun fact: William Shatner was not the original Captain Kirk. They had aired one pilot episode with Jeffrey Hunter playing the role, so they re-aired the pilot with Shatner as the new Kirk. I wonder if Hunter regrets giving up that role… Just one of the many things a Trekkie such as myself contemplates!

Finally, Star Trek brings to mind the theme of equality. It was common sense when a show about alien races and exploring the stars was dreamt of. Why would they also not include the theme of everyone being on the same playing field. Just look at the original cast – DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, James Doohan – the cast that was put together by Gene Roddenberry reflected his dream of an equality. The first interracial on-screen kiss took place on Star Trek, and to this day every crew from The Next Generation to the 2009 Star Trek reboot has carried this them.

Hope. Dreams. Equality. All this, along with my own faith, helped shape the person I am today. You can’t have one without the other. As a quiet kid it encouraged my imagination and showed me that if they can do it, anyone can. For a while I gave up on my dream of being a published author, and even though I will be 31 next month it is never too late to pick right back up and conquer it. It may take a while with two jobs to accomplish now, but I hope you will join me on this journey as I work on my historical novel, The Girl Made of Coal. It is in its infancy stages, but as it grows I will have more to share! So for now I will leave you with this:

Keep Calm and Star Trek On!