Research It | Item 1: The Pen

September. Leaves are changing color, Fall fever is in the air, and students are returning to school. That means raking yards (yuck), pumpkin spiced everything a bit too early, and an influx of new school and office supplies to make every writer’s heart skip a beat.

If you’re a frequent visitor of my blog you know that I am a writer. An published one, mind you (not yet anyway), but I love finding a good notebook or new favorite pen just as much as anyone else.  Here’s a crazy question: what did people use before the almighty pen? As my one character’s profession deals with using this type of tool, I absolutely had to research it.

What? Research a basic tool? You bet!

Now I know what you must be thinking; It’s 2018. We use computers. You know, electronics? Cell phones. Touch screen tablets and styluses. Why would we need to know that? If you’re writing a modern day novel or non-fiction then sure, use all the modern tech and emoji references you want. What if your book, like mine, takes place in 1864? 1743? 1902? 44 B.C..? You really can’t use tech in those centuries unless you’re dealing with time travelers, portals, and space ships.

I find history fascinating. I’m not a classically historian and I haven’t been certified with signed and sealed stamps of approval hanging on my walls. But writing a historical novel series requires you to know things, everything really, about your chosen time period. So, in this first Research It post, I’ll be discussing and a very important tool that was used even before the invention of the typewriter itself. I doubt it’ll be brief (TL;DR status maybe?), and I’ll give credit to my sources of course. Without further adieu, let’s jump right into this madness, shall we?

Item 1: The Pen. I said PENS. #allthepens
Get your mind out of the gutter, dang it!
nor am I referencing the Pittsburgh Penguins

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? That can be amended to this version: Which came first? The graphite pencil or the pen? Now there is an entire website dedicated to the history of the pencil. I’m not kidding – it’s called pencils.com. I guess everyone has their own specialty, right? But that’s not what this particular section is about. Oh no. This is just as specialized as pencils.com. Enough with the thin sarcasm. Moving on with life!

Fun fact: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling recently posted this on her Twitter. My own confession: When I was in China in 2008 I wanted to buy all the adorable pens and pencils they had over there. But I guess I’m more practical…?

Typically, when I think of old style pens, my mind always jumps to the fountain pen. Those fancy, gold tipped things that every highly paid executive has sticking out of their lapel. I may be romanticizing that a bit. But what came before the fountain pen? And what came before that? Now I could just link the Wikipedia page here and just be done with it, but what fun would that be? Who wants to click out to a million little pages when it can all be here in one spot? So here’s the general order of things with some overlap of what was used depending on the development level of geographical regions:

  1. Reed and quill pens. c.3000 B.C. – 1700s. Their materials depended on what the writer had at their disposal to use. The type of ink was also determined by what they had to make it with. (Could ink be my next topic of discussion? I digress.) These, I think, are mostly self-explanatory. The tip of the reed or quill was whittled down into a point and dipped into the ink. I imagine they used a lot of ink – some things can be very porous and probably used more ink. Unless, perhaps, it was made of wood.
  2. Metal nib pens, aka dip pens. c.79 A.D. – 1822.  Usher in the Iron Age, where smelting and brewing and mixing of metals gave inventors the opportunity to create new tools. Including pointed metal nibs. These were typically fastened to another thing so the scribe could have a better grip on things. Nibs have been found all over the world in varying designs and their use continued into the 18th century without much change. That is, until the 1600s.
  3. Reservoir pens are not the same as fountain pens. c.1636 – 1827. Terminology doesn’t always do a new invention justice, as the German who developed an ink-holding pen still called parts of it “quills.” One of the earliest patents came in 1636 with more to follow as the designs were perfected and produced. The reservoir pen reigned supreme until the 1820s when a French student invented the newest writing implement.
  4. Ballpoint pens. c.1888 & beyond. A mere 60 years later came the official patent filing of the ballpoint pen. This device is the brainchild of a man named John J. Loud, followed by László and George Bíró,  Juan Jorge Meyne, Slavoljub Eduard Penkala and Yukio Horie with their variations in later decades.

For further details not touched upon here, please visit this Wiki page for all the juicy detailsStill gotta give credit, even to a Wikipage!

The rest is, well, history! I figured I would take it nice and easy for this first entry since it’s where I am in the first draft of my novella. How do you like this new series? Was it at least a little bit informative? Light with a dash of humor, or just plain stupid? Let me know in the comments below what you think!

Also, let me know what you’d like to learn about next:

  1. Notebooks
  2. Typewriters
  3. Ink
  4. Maps

Forward we write!


Facing It | Four Writing Personalities

I think that most of those who write, including myself, have dreamed of having their name included among the greatest authors of their time, from time to time anyway. So I’ve listed, down below, several things I tried and learned they’re things I just cannot do. Or. rather, need more time accomplishing. The next points emphasize the facts that not everything is free, whether its your time or your money.

  1. The Unrealistic Goal Setter. Word count and completion goals
    You really don’t need to be a hero in this area. Any time I give myself an unreasonable goal my mind sabotages my thought process. I always do everything and anything to “distract” myself from actually reaching those goals. For example, I made an IG post the other day about being *this close* to finishing the first draft of my novella. What do I do? I watch late night tv, bake, Star Trek, blog, stare at social media like it’s actually important – you get the picture.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you’re a new writer, set reasonable goals to start off. If you have a full or part time job on the side, work around that schedule. If you’re worried about word count, and you’re not even contracted for it, there’s no need to think twice about deadlines. You don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure. […] You don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

  2. The Egotist. Not writing anything down because you can always remember it
    I mean, really now. Unless you have one of those fancy eidetic memories, don’t kid yourself. If you think of it, write it down. If you dream it, write it down. That’s why you see pictures of piles of story notebooks and journals on your fellow writers and authors social media pages. It’s not just for show (well, in the world of social media itself, it could still be just for show). Regardless…

    #WriteTip: if you haven’t already, start your own stockpile of journals. Big ones, little ones, fancy ones, or simple ones. Find your own niche; the way you prefer to write. Even if you’re one of those strictly-electronic people, you’re not always going to have your laptop or computer by your bed. So get that notepad and start writing!

    If you think of it, write it down. If you dream it, write it down.

  3. The Over-dreamer. Thinking you’re going to get a publisher on your first query
    That is as fantastical as that fantastical fiction you’re writing. There are countless tales online of it taking years for writers to get noticed by a publisher. Now I’m not saying this to scare you away from your publishing prospects, not at all. Think of the next two points as the tough love section. Just how there are “cold calls” done by telemarketers, submitting a manuscript out of the blue can be considered “cold calling” as well without doing any research into the publishing house or sending out a customized a query letter.

    “But I just want to get published!” Trust me, I get it. I really do. But if going the traditional route is the way you’ve chosen, then you need to have the patience of a saint and the drive to do your research into the publishing houses you want to try for. Here’s a tip I recently learned from my uncle – don’t use that publisher’s book that has lists of agents, publishing houses, editors, etc. for at least the publishers side of it. His reasoning: from the time that book is published to the time you potentially buy it, information could already be outdated. A publishing house could go under. An agent may decide to not represent authors anymore. Go to your genre’s section in an actual book store. It can be at a place like Half Price Books, that unique mom and pop shop you love so much or even Barnes N Noble (if they’re still around in your area). Open the covers of the books in that section and take note of their publication pages. That way you can go online and you’ll know for sure that they’re actually still around.

    Publishing this way takes a lot of hard work, patience (as already mentioned), and tenacity. Make sure you’re choosing houses (no, I don’t mean being sorted into Gryffindor) that might suit you. Or, if you do have an agent, make sure it’s a genre they’ll be just as passionate about representing as you are. Either way, patience, patience patience!

    Publishing this way take a lot of hard work, patience and tenacity.

    1. The World Revolves Around Me. Thinking you can find an editor for free. Or a book cover designer or…
      If you’re going the self-publishing route, be prepared to potentially spend a lot of money doing so. On several websites for editors I’ve found that the minimum is $500 for 20k to 30k words. Ouch! But if you’re looking for an editor or one of those folks who critique works, I’m sure you’ve already heard that it is a valuable investment and it is. It gets you in touch with folks who have been in the business for years and know what to look for. Which reminds me…I need an editor…

      Along the same lines, cover designing is also up in the non-freebie realm. Even though there’s the old adage of “never judging a book by its cover,” we all still do it, right? Admit it. If the cover doesn’t pique your interest as a reader first, you’re likely to pass it up without even reading the back cover or inside flap. If you have artists in your family or you’re incredibly talented yourself, go for doing it yourself. However, I wouldn’t suggest putting one of those “can anyone just help me out?” tweets up and expect folks to come running. To many it can seem like your begging for attention and you wouldn’t want that either.

      Even though there’s the old adage of “never judging a book by its cover,” we all still do it, right? Admit it. If the cover doesn’t pique your interest as a reader first, you’re likely to pass it up without even reading the back cover or inside flap.

Publishing is still big business. Don’t let those who want to move everything to the tech world fool you into thinking that it’s a dead line of work. Do you know how many other authors and writers I’ve connected with through Twitter and Instagram? Many have been in the biz for years but a good many of them are babies just like me. We’re still finding our way and trusting the experienced to not lead us astray. Sometimes the writer’s community can be a toxic one, but if you surround yourself with the right folks who encourage you and you them, then you have found some gems.

Sometimes the writer’s community can be a toxic one, but if you surround yourself with the right folks who encourage you and you them, then you have found some gems.

Keep an eye out for the scams. If something looks too good to be true then it probably is. If someone is asking you to “give us x amount and we’ll do ALL THIS for YOU,” run hard. Run fast. I came across a website like that recently and their graphics kept emphasizing that they accepted all forms of payment even though they looked quite professional. If you get the feeling that something is off, check their location, their social media presence (ie follower count to the number of active users on their posts – they could have purchased followers to seem like they have a good presence online), and so on.

If you’ve found a mentor you can trust throughout your journey, ask them.
Rely on your instincts and write.

Rely on your instincts and write.


Facing It | Receiving the Advice

thankful.jpg

I’ve touched upon this topic a little bit already in an earlier post, how there’s a fine line between going back over a chapter you’ve already written ten times over without letting yourself just write the story. But now I feel like I’ve gotten far enough along to where I actually need to start paying further attention to lengths of scenes and what’s actually considered “fluff” over what’s actually “necessary.”

A writer has a certain degree of artistic license. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it comes time for those edits it can be painful to cut any of it out. Especially if it’s a scene you’ve come to love. Advise is a tricky thing, because you want to learn from someone who’s more experienced than you and that’s why you asked them to beta read in the first place. At the same time you don’t want to just dismiss what they have to say because you don’t like it.

  1. Know that it’s okay to reject an opinion.
    You don’t have to accept everything someone says about your story. If you want to leave a bit in there, leave it in there. If the scene needs shortened or lengthened, do it. If it’s a section that reveals too much of your plot early on, maybe save it in another document to put it elsewhere in the story. I recently had to do that with one of the original scenes I wrote when The Firedamp Chronicles project began. In fact, I had to accept that it actually belongs in the fourth planned book rather than the first. So I have several documents of original scenes, imagery and terminology that I’ll work in as the WIP presses on. Don’t feel that you need to explain all your decisions to your beta readers either. If they’ve only read a couple of chapters and something they suggest (for or against) will make sense later on, don’t reveal all your secrets just yet! Let them discover it on their own.

    Don’t feel that you need to explain all your decisions to your beta readers either. If they’ve only read a couple of chapters and something they suggest (for or against) will make sense later on, don’t reveal all your secrets just yet!

  2. For the most part, they’re right, even if you don’t want to hear it.
    You’ve probably experienced this next topic at some point in your life whether it’s with writing or some other area – advise from family is the worst. The level of acceptance can be depend on the kind of relationship you have with them! (You love your family, for the most part, am I right?) But when it comes to any level of professional advise it can be more prudent to seek counsel elsewhere.

    In the early 2000s it was seen almost “weird” meeting strangers on the Internet. But over the past fifteen years with the rise of multiple social media platforms it’s much more socially acceptable. There’s still the fear of someone stealing your work or “catfishing” you, but there are still trustworthy folks out there whose aim isn’t to take advantage of you. Find a small group of people you trust, using whatever method of communication you trust, and let them know that they can trust you as well. That way, whether you beta read for them or they for you, you know their opinions will hold more weight and the advise pill will be easier to swallow.

There’s still the fear of someone stealing your work or “catfishing” you, but there are still trustworthy folks out there whose aim isn’t to take advantage of you.

So I guess the only question that remains is this: Have you found someone you can trust? I’d like to think I have, and I’d like to think that they can trust me. We all have a singular goal – to be a published author. If we hold each other up and support one another in our journeys rather than be cutthroat about it, then we can celebrate each others achievements and be genuinely happy for each other.

#WQOTD for all you more grammatically-minded folks: Should I have used “advice” or “advise” in this post? I just picked one form and stuck with it!

If we hold each other up and support one another in our journeys rather than be cutthroat about it, then we can celebrate each other’s achievements and be genuinely happy for each other.

For now, don’t worry about the edits, unless you’re already at that stage of course! Just remember that you asked for their help. They’re giving up time in their day to sit down to analyze and enjoy and believe in your story. So don’t be too harsh on your return. They’ll appreciate that you’re just willing to listen!


#WQOTD: On Racism in Literature

Stardate 96178.85

With racism still present in modern society, there will always be that one person who will use a slur without a second thought. They think that it’s right because it’s what they’ve been brought up using. But when it comes to literature, there is a distinct choice between using something derogatory and using nothing at all.

This is where my current dilemma comes into play. One of my main characters is Irish, another set of characters is German. America saw a huge influx of immigration from both these groups during the 1800s as more workers were needed to bring about the American Industrial Revolution and they were willing to do the jobs that many American citizens were not.

Racism over from the Old World – Europe, the Middle East, etc. That racism didn’t disappear overnight just by being in a new country. In fact, if anything, it got worse as they vied for jobs and land. While they were a freer people than those on plantations in the South they were still discriminated against just as they were in the British Isles. In the late 1800s there was a movement in the States against the Irish Catholic population.

Jobs for the Irish were just as hard to come by, if not harder, in the New World as in their native land. But still in numbers they came. The Great Famine pushed them out of their own country until the American Great Depression in the 1920s. Whenever they tried to get a job in places other than hard labor they were met with the “Irish Need Not Apply” sign at the door, in the ad or were flat out told no by the employer in person. It also would be historically accurate that they would constantly hear racial slurs directed towards them just for their nationality.

Which brings me to this question: How do you use something that’s historically accurate – like a certain word or words – without sacrificing the integrity of your own beliefs or story line? I have Irish blood in me and I have German blood. I’m a mutt; your typical European mix inheriting the identities of multiple nationalities. I think that’s why I wanted to write something from this time period – we all come from somewhere. We all should learn history. But how much history is to much history?

How do you use something that’s historically accurate – like a certain word or words – without sacrificing the integrity of your own beliefs or story line?

Do I conduct a poll? Do I try to figure out which name is “less bad” and only use that? Do I write several versions of the same scene to figure out the best route? Do I not use it at all? As someone who has experienced zero discrimination, all opportunities have been what I created for myself. I’ve never felt uncomfortable because of my gender, my religion or my nationality; I don’t know what the flip side feels like. And this is why I’m questioning rather than moving ahead with the word choice.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable because of my gender, my religion or my nationality; I don’t know what the flip side feels like. And this is why I’m questioning rather than moving ahead with the word choice.

The word is only one small part of the overall story but the themes are still there. The character grows immensely as an individual and that one incident is one of the catalysts for that change. They overcome it and eventually find love. Still, my nerves are coming into play with that one particular scene; while I do use light language throughout the stories I’m not as worried about that as I am with this. I would rather question it now than get my novel black listed before it gets any further and I have to scrap it.

So I’m open to suggestions. If you want to know the scenario a bit more to be able to further advise or give more input, message me. I’m an open book. I’m legitimately both curious and cautious…


The True Order of Things vs. the Fictional Order of Things

Stardate 95650.99

I am writing an historical adventure novel. At one point in time I dreamt of it being a fantastical one as well but when I realized I was biting off more than I could chew for a first novel I downgraded it to purely historical.

Another problem arose: should it be true to the historical timeline or is it okay to take the creative license and put things slightly out of order to work for the story line? Does one sacrifice actual history in order to move a story along or do they choose different events to spur the characters onward?

Last week I asked my uncle to look at my novel outline and get his opinion on it. He’s been publishing children’s books for over twenty years and many of the children in the family have books dedicated to them because of him. So I trust his eye and knowledge of the system. Of course he’s been in the system for years and things have changed a bit since he’s started but he did make a good point. He said;

Am I right in remembering that there was going to be some fantasy element in the story? Or is it now more of an adventure based on historical events? If that is the case, then you might find people raising questions if things are out of historical order. Readers can be very fussy. And social media hasn’t made that any better.

Read More


Why I Gave Up On Wattpad

Stardate 95645.98

Community. It’s something I think every writer seeks to be a part of whether they want to admit it or not. We crave reviewers, feedback and opinions from others who may be more experienced in the field even though we may disagree with it at the same time. That’s why a place like Wattpad seems so appealing. It’s a community of other writers and readers who crave new stories, but who also crave being taken seriously as they write. There are downsides, however, to this kind of format and that’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s blog post. So let’s dive right into my thinking here with my Top 3 Reasons for Why I Gave Up on Wattpad.

1: Fan fictions
Now I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions (and some readers of this blog may strongly disagree with me on this). Far from it. Writing fan fiction was partly how I got my inspiration to write an actual novel.  I grew up writing Star Trek stories (before I even knew what the term fan fiction actually was) and it morphed into Supernatural stories in my college years. There’s, most likely, more words in my Supernatural fan fictions than there were in four years’ worth of college papers combined. There is an overwhelming number of fan fictions for every fandom you can think of. Kpop bands? There’s fan fiction for that. Supernatural? Of course. Ninja turtles? Yep. Anime, manga and OST? Definitely.

Let me return to my original premise: I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions. I had one, based off Supernatural, called Sam in Wonderland, that I thoroughly enjoyed writing. The problem with it, though, was that I could never seem to finish it. And since it was an un-publishable fan fiction, I just kept it going. But here’s a pro for stories such as these: there are some truly amazing ones out there. And Wattpad does give non-traditional writers a place to practice and find others who enjoy what they do as well.

Solution: If you want to get good feedback on a story you eventually want to publish either through traditional means or self-publishing, finding someone to critique your work who has been in the biz may prove incredibly useful. You may argue about scenes you love verses what they may see as not part of the story, but that’s what they’re there for. And fan fictions may even turn into a potential episode script (we’ve seen it happen before! Let’s face it, The Orville is basically one big Star Trek fan fiction within itself!)

2: Noise
Wattpad boasts a “large reading audience” but it can be very overwhelming and difficult to get “noticed.” Unless, of course, you write something that’s trending or popular. There’s a rather uncomfortable level of sexy stories with incredibly mature themes that anyone of any age can read. I love finding new stories, but I have the same problem with my Amazon Kindle that I do Wattpad – there’s a never-ending supply of new books and stories and sometimes ones with potential fall through the cracks. You can tailor your searches but I found myself browsing more than reading and never actually posting stories myself.

3: Potential for Theft
This is something that makes me nervous about posting something on a website – anyone can just copy-paste your story and try to pass it off as their own. Of course plagiarism exists even when a book is actually published and in readers’ hands (flashback to high school English class with the MLA Handbook for research papers and how to not plagiarize), and the website does require you to have an account before you can even browse for something to read. So I don’t think that I would ever want to have a story up on an unsecured site where anyone can just grab it for their own. Call me paranoid but unfortunately you can’t be too careful in today’s world with everything from debit card information to stories.

Final Thoughts
While Wattpad and other sites like it may be overwhelming for some they can be incredibly useful tools for others. Some have had success and Wattpad itself even has a list of books that started out as stories online. But there are those who, like myself, definitely prefer the “old school” way of publishing. Sometimes a place like Wattpad can be too “noisy” and other types of free software can help minimize distractions. Everyone has their own methods and what helps them write. If Wattpad is that for you, then by all means. If finding critique partners is it, go for it. The publishing world can be competitive but that doesn’t mean we have to stomp on anyone’s toes to get there. This blog may have been slightly tongue-and-cheek so I hope it made sense to someone out there!


What Inspired Me to Write #firedamp

Stardate 95237.46

It was literally a dream. Without sounding prophetical or in need of being admitted to an asylum, that is exactly how the idea for Firedamp came about. A dream. The kind of dream that was so vivid that you wake up after and you have to wonder if it actually happened or not. So I had the idea but it was the execution of it that perplexed me at first. Then it dawned on me:  what better way than to combine something fantastical with historical fact? Not only that, but center it in a place you love and where you grew up? We’ve all heard the phrase, “Write what you know.” What I know is Pennsylvania.

The American Keystone State of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest colonies in the United States. From Fort Pitt to Gettysburg to Homestead and beyond, events in these places helped establish Pennsylvania as an integral force throughout history. But also in Pennsylvania, it became an industrial hub for the blue collar working class. With their lives being dictated by old money and those who controlled it. All these factors will come to play in Firedamp in one way or another, and I hope I somehow do it justice.

While I admit that it has been an on-again-off-again project, I am constantly thinking of it, constantly researching, constantly writing and constantly outlining. Firedamp is a historically-driven novel that combines several big events where hopefully readers of all ages will not only enjoy but learn something new in the process about the past that should not be forgotten.

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