Music That Drives My Writing

Does your writing reflect what you listen to? Does it match your story’s tone, pace, and action? Or is it so far removed that your eclectic choices surprise your die hard readers?

While I do enjoy some bands like Faun, Loreena McKennitt and Enya, I mostly rock out to film scores, musical numbers and Korean pop music.

What do I write? Historical fiction set in Pennsylvania during the Victorian Era. That doesn’t match at all, does it? Here are five favorite songs I need to play at least once during a writing session. They get my fingers going and my blood pumping; I’ve caught myself dancing in my seat instead of writing but hey, sometimes you need that bit of joy to get you through a scene or a chapter. I digress.

Once again, here are five favorite songs I need to play at least once during a writing session.

NATIONAL TREASURE – END CREDITS

As plot-holey as the film is, National Treasure is a cult favorite. It’s score, composed by Trevor Rabin, enhances the sense of adventure in writing certain scenes. I love the whole score, but this bit is the best.

DRAGONHEART – MAIN THEME

I keep forgetting this film exists. Produced in the same era as Dungeons and Dragons, The Three Ninjas, The Rocketeer, The Phantom, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (and many other film favorites of mine), this hopeful piece continues the theme of adventure.

BONUS TRACK – TO THE STARS by Randy Edelman

STAR TREK – 50th ANNIVERSARY FAN COMPILATION

This video is 40 minutes long and I hum along with the entire thing. It’s so well mixed that I don’t care it’s not in film/show release order. Even if you’re not a Trekkie, consider giving this a listen. May the hope Star Trek brings press you on to your publishing goals!

SABOTAGE by The Beastie Boys

I never would’ve fallen in love with this song if it hadn’t been included in Star Trek: Beyond. But the action sequence it’s associate with is awesome. Traditionalist Trekkies might be put off by the film (in how it purposefully deviates from the original timelines) but I like it for what it is. Sabotage starts of rather loud right out of the gate, so if you’re wearing earbuds, be careful!

IN THE AIR – Shinhwa

Okay, I think I’ve successfully managed to not over saturate this too many kpop referrals (but not my 90s references!), so this next one was incredibly difficult to narrow down. There’s just so much kpop awesome out there, and YouTube playlists barely scratch the surface. I’m really into Ateez, BTS, SHINee, Day6, Lay (from EXO), and many others. I could’ve chosen Mic Drop Remix by BTS ft Steve Aoki, or All Night by Girls’ Generation, or SOLO by Jennie. No. It has to be IN THE AIR by Kpop veterans SHINHWA.

I hope you enjoyed those tunes! They’ll always be some of my favorites, and maybe they’ll inspire you to try something new. Happy writing, editing, plotting, querying and living, #writingcommunity!


From Fan Fiction to Novels

There seems to be this stigma that comes with writing fan fiction. A stigma of, “Those people are dorks who spend way too much time involved in a fandom for something that isn’t real.”

That’s only partially true. And the same can be said for novel writers.

The other truth is that those who write fan fiction are still writing. They are still part of a community, learning and growing. Especially if writing is what they want to do with their lives. Some are more successful with it than others, but writing fan fiction is where I started my journey. I used to be “in deep.” I wrote Star Trek (which nobody ever saw) and Supernatural stories which I did post on sites like Wattpad and Archive of our Own.

I used to be “in deep.” I wrote Star Trek (which nobody ever saw) and Supernatural stories which I did post on sites like Wattpad and Archive of our Own.

As a child of the 90s it initially took a lot for me to learn to not hide behind a username. I’m a real person, not a “keyboard warrior.” Heck I even did those message boards back when the Internet was still a teenager itself. (Yeah, I’m older than the Internet). When I first began this website three years ago I definitely hid behind the AnotherHartmanAuthor name. While it’s still part of this site’s identity I realized that, if I wanted to seem more credible and approachable, people would want to know my name.

Having your name known in the writing community is, I think, something that many writers want but don’t admit out loud. We want our stories to be read by others. Perhaps we want to be as popular as R.L Stein, J.K. Rowling, Lewis Carroll, Stephen King, James Patterson and all those others. That’s only a small part of why I switched from fan fiction to novels.

I got frustrated with the fan fiction culture. When it felt like stories centered around abusive relationships and smut were getting all the attention, here I am in my own little corner attempting to not include any cussing whatsoever in my stories. It was like I couldn’t find anyone who felt the same so the aforementioned sites did end up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

Then again, that may have been partially my fault as well. If you don’t actually have a good story, it’s not going to gain traction in that kind of environment. But, Leigh…a lot of crap stories get traction! Yes, yes, I know that. I understand that. Writing is an imperfect and highly subjective field.

Then again, that may have been partially my fault as well. If you don’t actually have a good story, it’s not going to gain traction in that kind of environment.

And you know what? I’ve learned to just roll with it. To have a thick skin. No matter if you’re writing fan fiction or full on novels, you have to understand that everyone is going to have an opinion, for better or for worse, about your writing potential.

When I took the leap from fan fiction to novels I realized that didn’t solve any of my problems. I still have trouble finishing stories. I still chronically underwrite and it still takes me forever to actually write them.

But now I know things like outlining, editors, and agents exist. I know there are outlets, support groups and local library groups focused on discussing techniques and actual writing. I didn’t know about or have these things before so of course it felt like I was alone. The only one going through stuff like self-doubt, frustration and writing induced depression.

I am not alone, and neither are you. Whether you write fan fiction or you’re trying that old school traditional publishing route, you are not alone. Neither one is better than the other. The point is – you ARE writing. Whether it’s about Star Trek or Supernatural. Your favorite members in a kpop band or a historical story you can’t get your mind off.

Write. Write just for you. Technique and writing for others can come later. If you have a story to tell, then TELL it.

If you have a story to tell, then TELL it.


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. 


Don’t Worry. Just Write.

If beginning the writing process has taught me anything it is that writing takes time. This has been a hard lesson to learn because I know that I never figured that out when I was a kid. I always wanted the story to magically finish itself or I would play it out in my head and never put it to paper. I am positive that I have written hundreds of stories but was never confident enough to actually write them down.

My uncle often brought books back from his travels. He tours the world as an author, gave workshops and attended them. When he came back he would say, “Now this [book] is really popular in England.” I don’t think that I even have to tell you what one of them was. You could probably figure out that it was the first two books from the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. One time he brought back A Wrinkle in Time introducing me to Madeline L’Engle. When I was in high school he brought back Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. But when I read the most was in my childhood. That was when I realized that words can be powerful.

One thing I always appreciated about my parents is that they let me read them. (At one point I also owned almost the entire Star Trek Voyager book series. I wish sometimes that I still did!) I grew up in a Christian household so I often heard of the debates on the series from other parents in church, at school and on the radio. While Harry Potter does, of course, have the “mystical” elements to it so did the entire Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We viewed Harry Potter that also taught lessons as well being a well-written story. If you focused all your energy on one negative aspect, your mind can become closed to the other elements also in a story. That “negative aspect” was that some parents felt that the Harry Potter series greatly encourage kids to believe that they too were witches and wizards, poltergeists and goblins.

But is that not what good writing is supposed to do? A good show or film is supposed to do? Not discourage imagination but encourage it, as long as we know it is not real?

But is that not what good writing is supposed to do? A good show or film is supposed to do? Not discourage imagination but encourage it, as long as we know it is not real? That is why it is more than okay to take your time writing your first novel. You want your work to inspire, encourage and entertain. Every writer aims to have that ripple effect – the one where your breakout story will be latched onto by every reader the instant it is picked up. The one where your publisher cannot keep the bookstores’ shelving stocked because it is in such high demand. For most writers it is amongst their first thoughts with the initial keystrokes, ink on paper and pinned post it to a corkboard. The dream is in each word that is misspelled, scratched out and rewritten. The dream is in each scene or action sequence rephrased, completely deleted or moved to another chapter. The dream is in each step of the writing process and with each one of those the worry is there.

That brings me to the other point of my title – Don’t Worry. If you believe in your dream others will see it reflect in you. They will see the hours of hard work you put into it and books of research read. Writing is an art but it also takes time to hone and shape that art into something you know you can be proud of. Don’t doubt yourself because sometimes that is harder to pull yourself out of and you know you will never finish. Don’t worry about all that extra stuff and just WRITE. While networking, finding a publisher and putting yourself out there are all important things, don’t let all that extra stuff get in the way of what you initially started to do: WRITE. Write as though you are not aiming for publication but to begin and end a story. That’s the first step. The other steps will come later but for now work on your craft and don’t let others discourage you. You are your own greatest enemy.

You can do anything you set your mind to, regardless of if you are a seasoned writer or novice prose enthusiast.


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!