Reading Goals 2019: Microhistories & Writing Reference

2018

My 2018 Goodreads Reading Goal was set at 20 books. I have to this point read 23 books and I am *hoping* to read another 2 before the ball drops on January 1st.

What about 2019?

I have started to think about what I want to set my reading goal for 2019. As a working mother, reading can be a super difficult thing to carve out time for. I found myself sneaking in pages during bath time, after bedtimes, and during breaks at work. That equaled about 23-25 books for me in 2018.

Granted, I did not prioritize reading over certain other areas of my life, like Netflix binging and social media which can seriously eat up huge amounts of your free time without realizing.

My greatest obstacle ended up not being a mother of a toddler or a full-time academic librarian, but rather a general disregard and disrespect for reading over non-soul fulfilling activities.

With all that in mind, I am hoping to increase my reading goal for 2019 from 20 books to 30 books coupled with a New Year’s Resolution to watch less TV and spend less time on social media and my smartphone.

What’s in my TBR pile?

My specific reading goals include reading more microhistories which are non-fiction books which focus on a very specific historical topic like Salt: A World History.

This is in connection with my writing goals for 2019, which include completing all drafts of my WIP, Changeling, which I have written about and shared pieces of frequently here in the past, get through the second draft of another WIP, Foxface, which was my 2018 National Novel Writing Month project, and write the first draft of at least two more story ideas I have been incubating the past year, an adult literary fiction novel titled The Gospel of Eve and a YA Fantasy tentatively titled Daring based on the myth of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

I also want to read more writing reference type books, obviously to compliment my writing goals. I have many in my TBR pile I have stocked up on over the last year so I really want to get through all of those.

My Owned TBR Writing References:

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going

Paper Hearts by Beth Revis

That list will undoubtedly grow as I buy/check out other writing references through the year. My favorite writing reference author is James Scott Bell and I have read at least two of his other references in the past year, he has many more, which I will probably add to this list soon.

Setting goals and getting ish done!

I think, and this is certainly not an independent thought, that setting goals and intentions is the best way to ensure you achieve those goals. These are concrete titles, numbers, and deadlines. There is accountability in that and that is so important for adult-type learners (Hello, twenty-nine, I see you creeping up on me).

Question-time!

What are your reading/writing goals for 2019?

Do you prefer to set goals/resolutions each year or do you set non-traditional time frames (two years, six months)? Do you set time-frames at all?

Extras

"Why try to cheat the Gods out of a game I am prepared to win?" An excerpt from Foxface on abookishmama.com
The last line of my 2018 NaNoWriMo project!

Favorite Quote from Today’s Writing Session (NaNoWriMo 2018 Project: Foxface)

I offer you everything I have, which is nothing material, but the use of my hands, the workings of my mind, and the powers imbued in me by my creators. Besides that, I give you my heart, the heart of a man who once knew love, then loss, and sacrificed it all to give me life. An excerpt from Foxface, my 2018 NaNoWriMo project.

The Gospel of Eve (WIP)

There is but one antidote to knowledge. Death. The Gospel of Eve featured on abookishmama.com

NaNo ’18: New Projects, Old Projects, and This Crazy Thing Called Life

I have been MIA lately and I am not ashamed.

Between work and the projects I have going on and having a toddler, husband, and household to run blogging is pretty low on the totem pole of importance.

What I have been doing, however, is working on the second draft of my Camp NaNo ’18 project, Changeling. That is an experience. I have been carving out an hour or so every few days to work on it.

After my first read through of the first draft I made notes and the second draft is implementation of those notes. This is essentially just me deleting large chunks of the first draft and writing entirely new scenes to make things connect and make a little more sense than it did before. Besides some glaring plot holes in draft #1, I am also changing place names (turning real place names into fantasy names to give myself more creative license in future drafts), and fixing obvious grammatical errors.

So that has been an experience. I am not done with the edits and I am already marking places where I need to return in the 3rd draft and do some major revisions.

Overall, progressing though slowly.

I am hoping to finish the edits before November 1st so I can begin a new project with slightly less guilt.

Foxface: A Novel. Justice is for the rich, for everyone else there is revenge. Author name: PhantasyCreator90. NaNo 2018.
NaNo signature banner featuring NaNo ’18 project.

As always, the new project is shiny and I am itching to move on. But I think Changeling is worth suffering over so I am committed to the revisions.

The shiny new project is a little different of a vibe from Changeling. For one, the shiny new project is steampunk so right away the time and setting will be vastly different. Tech will play a big role in it which is a challenge.

I also think the characters I am writing are vastly different and it will be interesting to get inside this new creation’s head and soul and see what I can find there. Foxface has suffered much more than Viviane and Rose (Changeling‘s main characters) and she has a score to settle. From my preliminary visits with her, she doesn’t seem content to let anything go.

Foxface, like Changeling, requires a lot of research into the historically relevant aspects of the story. Its heavily inspired by the politics of the Scandinavian region during the 1800’s-1900’s and the oppression of the Samí people in Norway. But its steampunk so its alt-history and I can take a few freedoms with some of the details.

I obviously like challenging myself with these history inspired stories. I think the context of certain events in human history just adds such an interesting significance to fiction. I like grounding my dreams in reality, I guess. Not even sure that means anything.

Anyway, that is the short of my creative projects. I have been sneaking in some reading time where I can. I think since my last review (Girl, Wash Your Face) I have finished seven more books:

  1. A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon-3 Stars
  2. Troubleshooting Your Novel: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems by Steven James-5 Stars
  3. Mama Gone Geek: Calling On My Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood by Lynn Brunelle-3 Stars
  4. Arabella of Mars (Adventures of Arabella Ashby Series) by David D. Levine-3 Stars
  5. An Echo in the Bone (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon-3 Stars
  6. 1984 by George Orwell-5 Stars
  7. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows Series) by Leigh Bardugo-5 Stars

I should have been writing reviews for these books but honestly my mental health has not lent itself to a desire to do that. Taking anti-depressants regularly keeps me sane but it puts a noticeable damper on my ability to write, or write something I feel comfortable sharing.

But I am currently reading three books and I am hoping I will be able to write some meaningful reviews for those. Check my Goodreads if you’re interested in what I’m currently read.

Enough of that, back to work!

Novel Research: My WIP Research Process

Novel research can be a daunting task if you are not the type who gravitates to research, study or spending hours on minute details. Unfortunately for those types but fortunate for people like myself, research is critical to writing. Whether research for you means learning about specific types of military vehicles or the ranks of nobility in 14th century Europe, you are (probably) going to have to look something up along the way.

When to Conduct Novel Research

As you begin writing the first draft of your novel you may find yourself questioning the minutiae of setting, plot, character, etc. You can start your research here, or may even have already conducted extensive research before writing a single word if you are a good planner. If you’re a pantser, you may find yourself glossing over specific details to avoid the research until the first draft is complete.

While putting off research is okay sometimes, you may want to take the time to ensure the story you’re crafting makes sense. You may create a plot based on an inaccurate detail that completely derails your second draft, basically meaning your novel needs rewriting. Where the particulars contribute substantially to your plot, even if you are not a planner you need to conduct some research to corroborate these details. If you take the time now to insert accurate details, you will save yourself time and frustration later. Researching while writing the first draft can also be an excellent trigger for writer’s block!

Where to Conduct Novel Research

So, you want to start researching a detail in your story. Where do you start? Google is the most obvious place for most people to begin searching. My day job is a Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Instructor at a community college academic library. That means I spend all day telling students not to Google their research. Our students have access to expensive research databases which allows them to prioritize their research origins. If you are not a student, or you struggle with research, you have a few other options that aren’t Google.

Public Libraries

Yes. I am a librarian advocating for you to visit libraries. Conflict of interest? Maybe. Public libraries are excellent research hubs for the beginning writer AND the seasoned writer. Why pay for books, databases, or magazines when you can get them for free? Many public libraries purchase the same database subscriptions that colleges have. They also accept recommendations for resources so if the library doesn’t have something if you ask they may get it. The public library is filled with people who are there to help you.

Wikipedia Resources

Wikipedia is not exactly a reputable site. There is a degree of accountability in the structure of writing and editing. You create a free account and correct inaccuracies. During my Freshman Year Experience class, we experimented by deliberately changing a Wikipedia article to make it inaccurate. We charted how long the false information remained unchanged. My material remained incorrect for weeks. That was a lot of views during this time that fake details were portrayed as trustworthy. However, users cite outside resources at the end of Wikipedia articles. This section is a gold mine of research opportunities. Explore these links and exercise critical thinking in determining if that source is accurate itself.

Check the site type (.com, .gov, .edu., .org, etc.). Look at the date the site was last updated. See if the site has an about page and read about the authors and their intent.

You may think researching to this degree is overkill for fiction but if you encounter a reader who is an actual expert you run the risk of alienating them.

Digital Collections

There are a plethora of digital resources available online. Images, ebooks, videos, and audio (radio broadcasts, etc.). The New York Public Library is one example of a collection of publicly available digital items that can be used for research. The Library of Congress is another primary source. One of the big inspirations for my novel was The Hammer of Witches. The full text is available online and provided me with a lot of information about witch hunting practices and how they were persecuted. Many older books can be accessed for free in full online through various reputable sites like Project Gutenberg. Aside from LOC, NYPL, and Project Gutenberg, there are less scholarly, artistic platforms like DeviantArt and Pinterest. Content on these sites is added by online users. These are more useful for inspiration though Pinterest can be helpful for storing your research in an easy to view and access platform.

Online Forums

In addition to these resources, there are online forums. Online forums should always be approached with caution. The community determines the usefulness of the information you can find in forums. Writing sites with forums like NaNoWriMo and Writer’s Digest are helpful. Subreddits for writers can also be useful. You can post for advice on conducting research, search for beta readers who can help you catch inaccuracies, or search for perspectives that are similar to your characters to garner a more honest representation. Your peers can be a valuable resource if they approach your inquiries with the right intentions.

Fact-Checking the First Draft and Beyond

Once you have completed your first draft, you still have some research to do. If you didn’t check the details central to your plot, mark your first draft up noting where more information is needed. Verify details, even small ones. The tiniest inconsistency can propel the reader out of your story.

  • What are the properties of an herbal remedy?
  • What did armor look like in France in 1365?
  • How did priests determine who was a witch in Germany in 1450?

However, these are my specific research questions. Wherever you explore something you are not sure of, check the detail.

  • Who was President of the U.S. in 1914?
  • What are the symptoms of lupus?

I recommend printing the first draft and either highlighting or using a pen to mark everywhere you need to insert research or check the facts.

With every read through, a second draft, third draft, etc. you will be looking at where you can improve/strengthen your manuscript. You cannot be overconfident. You need to doubt yourself and check, double check, triple check your story.

Check out my other posts on writing!

Writing Inspiration: How to Trigger Your Muse When All She Wants to Do is Take a Nap

A How-To Guide for Writer’s on Pinterest

And When You Finish That First Draft…

Prepping the First Draft: A Second Draft Diagnosis

Prepping the First Draft: A Second Draft Diagnosis

As Camp NaNo 2018 draws to a close and I wrap up the first draft of my project, I am thinking towards that Second Draft Diagnosis. You know, getting ready for the first read-through of the first draft where you cut every other paragraph. I both hate and love this part of writing. I hate the anxiety of starting the read-through. The read-through is where my low self-esteem shines through. But I like it in that I can begin to polish (more like clear-cutting) the draft and create the novel I intended at the beginning. Something I could visualize in print.

I think like most writers; I am my harshest critic. So, getting through this part of the writing process is make or break for a lot of people. Getting through this part successfully separates the published authors from the unpublished and aspiring.

Second Draft Diagnosis

If you are a plotter, you may not have much in the way of substantial cleanup. I am not a plotter. I have notes, but they are not substantive enough to keep me entirely on track. My first read through will require listing all the characters introduced, their purpose to the plot, whether they should be axed or expanded to have a more significant role (I have one character who will have a more substantial role in the final draft and book two). I will also need to create a way to track any subplots because I had no idea what those were going to be starting out. I only had a general idea of my main plot.

However, that is on top of the need to correct grammatical and other semantic issues like repetitive usage of favorite words, cutting excess adverbs, fixing run-on sentences, comma splices, blah blah blah. This type of editing will carry on into third drafts and beyond but I know while reading through I will be noting the apparent grammar issues and correcting them as well.

What I hope to accomplish above all else is to determine whether or not this is a story on which I feel compelled to work. Is this something worth salvaging and pursuing publishing? For as many exciting writing moments I had throughout the process of writing the first draft, I had as many sluggish, just hit the daily word count moments. Those will need to be axed. If it turns out that is the majority of the story, I may decide the story itself is not compelling enough to finish. In that case, it gets shoved in a drawer, and it’s on to the next project in hopes of creating something I want to share with the world.

Characters

My number one concern, focus, and favorite aspect of a novel are the characters in a story. So the questions I need to ask myself the following the questions about each person I introduce in my story:

  • What is their purpose in the story?
  • Is my main character prominent or has anyone else eclipsed them?
  • Is the way they are portrayed consistent throughout the story?
  • If the characters change, is the change appropriate to the experiences they encounter or melodramatic?

Setting

The setting is almost a character in many ways. An appropriate setting will set the atmosphere of your story, establish the genre of your novel, present challenges to and aid your characters along their journey.

  • Is the setting appropriate to your genre?
  • Does the setting provide any obstacles to your characters’ intentions?
  • Is the setting consistent (plants appropriate to the climate, etc.)?

Plot

The plot, of course, is kind of important. A plot is the series of events that keep people turning pages. If it doesn’t make sense, if it meanders unintentionally, people will toss the book and tell their friends it stinks. Which it will.

  • Does each scene propel the reader to the next or establish some valuable information?
  • Is the plot compelling?
  • Do the actions of the characters in each scene correspond logically to the circumstance?

Subplots

As important, in my opinion, as the main plot, subplots take your story from linear to complex. This could be a romance unless your genre is romance or any other element that is not necessarily vital to the progression of the plot.

  • Do the subplots make sense when combined with the main plot?
  • Are the subplots too big/distract from the main plot?
  • Does every subplot have a conclusion or are they addressed in some way?

As you conduct the first complete reading of your first draft you should pay attention to these elements and notate your manuscript. Using different colored highlighters for Character, Setting, Plot, and Subplot is useful for assessing these individual areas after the initial read-through. You can change the highlight in your word processing software, print your manuscript and do it by hand (my preferred method), or use editing software like Scrivener (linked below).

Best case scenario you are left with a heavily colored, scribbled, notated manuscript and you can begin the second draft. Unlike the first draft, you know what the problems are and with a surgical precision you can remove and suture your story to create something worth saving.

Though if you carry on with that metaphor, the third, fourth, fifth, etc. drafts are recovery and rehab. It takes time, patience, and a lot of hard work and study to create a finished book and I hope to see all of your stories in print.

Writing Tools

Scrivener

Cost is $45 to purchase a full, unrestricted version of the software. Scrivener is available for Mac and Windows. Scrivener comes with a very useful template for a novel including sections for characters, setting, notecards. You can split the screens inside the software’s window so you can edit your manuscript while viewing your notes like scene cards or research.

Writer’s Digest

A year’s digital subscription to Writer’s Digest is $9.96 and well worth the investment. Writer’s Digest provides online resources, webinar’s (some are free but some come at an additional cost), contests, forums, and so much more.

Books on Writing (My Read, Currently Reading, and TBR Titles)

  • Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
  • How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
  • Troubleshooting Your Novel: 100 Incredibly Practical Ways to Fix Your Fiction
  • Writing the Breakout Novel

Check out my other posts in my writing series:

A How-To Guide for Writers on Pinterest

Writing Inspiration: How to Trigger Your Muse When All She Wants to Do is Take a Nap

My Favorite Writing Advice

Sneak peeks of my Camp NaNo Project:

Novel Ambitions: A #FlashFictionFriday Sneak Peek at My Current WIP

Novel Ambitions 2: Another #FlashFictionFriday Sneak Peek at My Current WIP

Novel Ambitions 2: Another #FlashFictionFriday Sneak Peek at My Current WIP

Viviane awoke to a shout from Rose, who’d sat up so quickly from her sleep that she’d forgotten the height of the bunk and banged her head on the wood. Cursing, Rose rubbed her head vigorously and glanced at Viviane before falling back to the bed in relief.

The vision, Viviane remembered. She’d seen her in some trouble on deck at night. Viviane had tossed and turned, sweating in the stale cabin air, stomach heaving with the contents of the small chunks of bread she’d eaten for dinner. She’s wanted fresh air so badly, could taste the salt air that leaked in so excruciatingly slightly from the small porthole above their heads. She could imagine the relief she’d feel gulping air, driving away the stink of the old wood boards, the damp wool blanket, and her own bile that seemed to sit at the back of her throat.

But she’d stayed. Even when she wanted to unbolt the door and jump into the sea from the misery of it. The fear she’d seen in Rose’s eyes only rivaled the fear she’d seen in them when she described her visions to the Shepherdess. It wasn’t a suggestion. Rose knew it to be her fate if she crossed that threshold in the dark of the night. Viviane wanted to prove that her visions weren’t set in stone, that she had free will and she would save herself by heeding the warning. Nothing would drag Viviane outside, no matter how ill she felt. At least not until the sun rose and she could find relief safely.

They made themselves as presentable as possible, no mirror available in the small space. Viviane dressed Rose’s hair and refused Rose’s offer to do that same for her. She opted to braid her hair in a long braid that she kept draped over her shoulder, partially obscuring the mask that was sure to draw attention and superstitious interest.

Smoothing their ruffled gowns, they unlocked the door and stepped out. The hallway was dim. A ladder led them up into the bright sunshine on the deck. They squinted into the light, covering their eyes with their hands as they sought out Christian among the men scurrying over the ship’s deck, engaged with predetermined chores. One short man with a frazzled beard streaked with gray-barked at them to move as he stomped past with a thick rope slung over his shoulder. He ran towards the mast, jumping up and clinging to it before scurrying up as deftly as a squirrel.

“Wow,” Rose breathed. “I did not think a creature like that could move in such a way.” Viviane covered her mouth, stifling a giggle. They moved to the railing and Viviane raised her head to the wind, breathing in deeply and exhaling all the stale air from below deck from her lungs. It felt like magic, the effect of the crisp, damp breeze blowing over her face and filling her chest.

The sea, a slim channel of water compared to the stories of seemingly unending water of the oceans, seemed like it could stretch on to eternity. It was dark blue in the bright light of day, capped with white waves that made the ship vibrate when they collided. But watching the static horizon in the distance, Viviane did not feel sick at the jolting movements. She felt a little like she was flying, standing there with only the wood banister pressed into her stomach, no obstructions in her line of sight. They crested a wave, and the ship sailed up and then dipped, and she allowed herself a laugh at the thrill it gave her.

Rose, by contrast, had turned a little green at the sight and clung to the rail. She obviously would prefer to return to their cabin below, safe in the hollows of their bunks. But Viviane could not imagine returning to the interior of the ship with the view spread before her.

Viviane thought, if she could never return home, perhaps she could turn pirate and explore the sea, maybe even take to the open ocean. Pirates were allowed eye patches and such, so maybe her mask wouldn’t seem so out of place among them.

Remembering the thin wooden shell belatedly, she grasped it, ensuring it was firmly tied in place despite the gusting winds and jolting deck. As she felt it, she noticed the attention they were getting. The sailors moved slower as they passed, sizing the girls up. Their cloudy red eyes lingered on Viviane though, on the mask and they frowned. Some made signs to ward against evil. Viviane felt her joy dissipate and her shoulders curled in again, trying to make herself smaller.

“Good morning, Mademoiselles!” Christian greeted them cheerfully as he raced to meet them on deck. He was panting, covered in a sheen of sweat already from the morning’s labors. But he was grinning broadly and seemed unperturbed by his promised assistance.

Viviane thought it was odd, that a nobleman’s son would so willingly commit to physical labor. He had trained with the King and his soldiers, she knew. But that was different. That was considered honorable by others in their circle, almost a sport. This kind of labor was backbreaking and grueling and humbling. The established hierarchy placing him firmly at the bottom, a grunt to be bossed around by men who couldn’t even read.

But he seemed so alive in spite of it. Happy even, to be working with the sailors. For the sailors. Viviane corrected as one barked an order at him and he scurried away to complete the task, throwing a grin and promise to meet them for breakfast back over his shoulder.

“It isn’t normal, no,” Rose answered her unspoken question. “Eden would never allow sailors to boss him so. But he is a little more petted it would seem. That’s probably my fault, and Father’s.” Rose laughed.

Viviane laughed too. She couldn’t picture Eden in the same situation, sleeves rolled up and sweat dripping from his temples. He was a royal, half-child as he was. He was a full-blooded dandy.

“I miss him,” Rose continued. “I wonder if he made it back to the castle safely. And if anyone noticed his disappearance so close to ours.”

“I wonder what they will do when they notice ours,” Viviane added. Would they question her mother? No doubt they would. And the miller, perhaps. Others knew of the escape route, they would know where it led. Could he deceive them into thinking he knew nothing of them?

Perhaps not. Viviane sent up a prayer that the miller would avoid imprisonment and punishment for their flight. The Princess didn’t need another’s fate lying heavy on her conscious.

“Hopefully we will hear something when we reach land and find asylum,” Rose answered. If Eden was able to return unnoticed. If he could get a letter out. If that letter found its way to wherever they were headed.

There were so many ifs. Viviane felt a little hopeless as the questions and conditions piled up.

Christian returned, noting their concerned expressions. He reached for their hands, taking one of their in each of his. “We will make it,” he promised, his face set with determination. “We will change this vision, save your family,” he nodded at Rose. “And you will return home to your mother,” he nodded at Viviane, squeezing her fingers gently, allowing his thumb to stroke her palm in secret.

Viviane flushed but met his gaze. She nodded back, gulping to keep the tears from escaping.

Christian, Viviane, and Rose ate breakfast with Captain Ashe who, despite his grizzled appearance, was educated and soft-spoken. He could tell they were not telling the truth of their identities, could see the excellent breeding in Rose and Christian, their expensive educations, their health that marked a lifetime of always having enough to eat and a warm bed.

He noted Viviane’s mask with the same suspicious glances as the sailors but said nothing, directing most of his conversation to Rose and Christian who were trained diplomats in any case, Viviane was relieved by his inattention and ate her breakfast heartily, empty from the scant dinner and her nighttime seasickness. Breakfast consisted of thick porridge and cured ham. Viviane was not complaining as she gulped down the steaming spoonful, feeling her belly fill pleasantly. The meat was precious, in short supply for the servants of their castle and usually disguised with gravy in stews that could be stretched to accommodate them for more extended periods of time.

It was well-preserved and flavorful. Viviane savored the salty taste on her tongue, before swallowing. She was enjoying the food so much she did not hear herself addressed until Rose nudged her foot beneath the table.

“Captain Ashe wanted to know if you were enjoying your breakfast?” Rose repeated, smothering a laugh with a cloth napkin.

Viviane flushed and nodded vigorously trying not to choke as she swallowed the mouthful she’d been appreciating.

“I can see you get a pretty simple fare where you are from as well,” he said to her directly. His tone was not accusing, and she relaxed as she swallowed finally and could speak.

“Yes, our chef does his best but the winter seasons are always a little difficult,” Viviane replied.

“The Lady has a chef?” The captain asked, eyebrows raised at Rose. She’d explained their positions in no great detail to the captain while Viviane had been devouring her meal.

“My family does, yes.” She replied.

“But you choose to travel quite simply.” He pressed, gesturing to the cargo ship’s hold. Even the captain’s quarters where they ate was a plain room, the wood rough-hewn and pieced together without thought for ornamentation or polish. “Your family could not afford to place you on one of the passenger ships?” His eyes jumped to Christian who had worked out the details of their passage, fully aware of his bargain to pay their way through his own labor.

“Honestly,” Rose began.

Viviane felt her spine tingle, and her blood ran cold. Would she tell him the truth so quickly?

“My family doesn’t approve of my journey.” Rose lied, but not quite lied, smoothly. “They would prefer I stayed home but told me if I could find some way to procure my own passage I would travel to the continent. I seek training from a master, you see.”

“What sort of master?” The captain asked, his tone switching from wary to conversational.

“A master of magic,” Rose replied.

Viviane started at that. That was the truth. And a dangerous fact.

The captain only stared at her, swirling a glass of brandy in one hand. The liquid was thick and clung to the sides of the glass.

“Magic,” he did not sound surprised. Or confused. Captain Ashe merely studied her, tasting the word on his lips.

“Why do you seek a Master of Magic?” he asked finally.

Rose grinned back at him, charming and pretty. Poised as a Queen and very nearly one.

“To learn it.” She admitted.

Still, the captain was not shocked. He did stand though, moving slowly, almost lazy.

He closed the door to his cabin which had been left open to catch the fresh ocean air, barking an order at an errant sailor before closing it slowly. Intentionally.

He turned to face the small band, studying them. They were young and inexperienced travelers. It was apparent how vulnerable they were, especially shut in Captain Ashe’s quarters, surrounded by men loyal to him, surrounded beyond that by miles of sea.

Viviane gripped Rose’s hand under the table. She squeezed her fingers back, in reassurance or realization of their predicament, Viviane could not tell.

“I knew you were one of us,” he said, sitting back down in his chair and scooting forward to rest his elbows on the table before him. Again, he was casual, unhurried.

“What?” Viviane was the one stunned.

Captain Ashe turned striking purple eyes on her. “A witch,” he clarified. “Or wizard in my case,” he chuckled, waving away the issue of semantics.

Christian and Viviane were dumbstruck, sitting silently and wondering how they had ended up here, face to face with a ship captain wizard.

Rose leaned forward too, propping her elbows on the table and placing her chin in her hand, observing him coolly. She seemed unfazed by his revelation.

“I know you knew. I felt the same. I felt that you possessed magic. Strong magic, from the scent of it.” Rose’s nose twitched as she noticeably sniffed the air around them. Viviane flushed, trying to surreptitiously sniff the air as well. All she could smell was the ham, the grease all that remained in a golden-brown smear on her plate.

“You can smell it?” Christian asked in amazement.

“Kind of,” Rose said to him. “I can smell something, and I only now realized what it was, thanks to a vision.”

“You had another vision?” Viviane asked. She hadn’t even noticed. It had been nothing like her unusual behavior the night before, the panic, the undiluted fear of what she’d seen.

Rose nodded. “Of Captain Ashe, his powers, and how people with magic identify each other.” With a knowing look at Viviane, she added, “And how he should sleep with a dagger under his pillow tonight to avoid an attempt at mutiny.”

A How-To Guide for Writers on Pinterest

Pinterest can be a fantastic tool for cataloging information from home improvement ideas to parenting tips. Did you know that you can also use Pinterest as a writing tool? True, it is not a great platform for interacting one-on-one with other people. Fortunately, writing involves a lot of solitary time for research and inspiration.

Signing up for Pinterest (C’mon, you know you already have an account)

The process of creating a Pinterest account is relatively simple if you don’t already have one. I have my Pinterest linked to my Facebook account, making registration quick and straightforward. If you don’t want to connect your social media accounts, you can create a new account with your email address. (If you do decide to create a Pinterest profile using Facebook, it will use the email address associated with your Facebook account.)

Private v. Public Boards

Once your Pinterest account is created, you can start pinning articles, websites, images, etc. You pin these resources to collections called boards. These boards can be public, meaning anyone can view the items you save here. If you would prefer to keep your content private, when you create your board, just set the button to “Secret.”

Secret Pinterest Board Dialog Box
Click the “Secret” button to make your board private.

However, if you do not make your board private, you may notice that people can follow your board, meaning they will receive notifications when you add resources. You can also follow other boards in the same way, receiving alerts when things are added to the boards you follow.

Creating Pins

So, you have created a board for your writing project (or a single aspect of it like research, aesthetic, or technical advice), now you ready to add pins! A pin is an icon with an image and link attached that consists of the resource you want to add to your board. Think of it like the push pin that holds a photograph to your corkboard at home above your desk.

There are a couple of different methods for creating a pin.

Creating a Pin On Pinterest

You can add a pin to Pinterest directly on the website.

Create a Pin button on Pinterest
Click the plus button beside the search bar on Pinterest to open the dialog box which allows you to create a Pin.
Create a Pin Dialog Box with all features
Add an image, link, and description to create a Pin. The more information you provide, the more useful the Pin will be in the future.
Create a Pin Dialog Box with the option to insert website URL
Enter a website URL to generate a Pin.

The above option is customizable within the website itself. However, there is one other option to creating Pins that does not require entering the website.

Creating a Pin Using the Pinterest Browser Extension(Google Chrome)

If you prefer, you can add the Pinterest browser extension to your web browser. I installed this extension through the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome Extension for Pinterest from Chrome Web Store
Add the Pinterest extension to your Google Chrome and pin directly from your browser!

Once you have downloaded the extension it will show in your web browser along with any other extensions you have, next to the URL search bar.

During your research, you can use the extension to Pin a webpage, or webpage resource such as an image, without navigating to Pinterest itself. From the resource’s webpage, you will click the browser extension icon and create the Pin according to the following steps.

Pinterest Extension in Browser Example
The Pinterest Browser Extension will install and be available from your browser next to the URL search bar.
Pinning from Browser Selecting Image for Link
Once you click on the Pinterest browser extension you will be prompted to choose an image that accompanies the link.
Select a board for your pin from Pinterest extension
Once you choose the image you want to pin you must select the board you want to pin to. Clicking “Pin” finalizes the pin creation and will automatically exit you from the dialog box, returning you to the webpage.

Creating Writing-Centric Boards

You may have various preferences for how you conduct research and get inspiration for your writing projects. Pinterest boards are just one of a myriad of ways you can compile and optionally display your resources, inspiration, etc.

Boards can be organized into subboards, allowing you to more specifically sort resources under a broad subject. For instance, creating a board for your writing project, then subboards for the various aspects of writing your story. I have broken my WIP board down into three subboards, aesthetic, research, and general writing advice.

Aesthetic

Creating a writing aesthetic means compiling things that capture the feeling you want to convey in your novel or things that place you in the mood to write your particular story. For instance, my current WIP is a YA fantasy about medieval witches. My writing board for this project is filled with art of witches, witchy items, spells, and other Wicca related resources. The artwork enables me to visualize the atmosphere I want to convey in my writing. The spells and witchy items likewise provide inspiration for actual scene setting and plot.

(WIP aesthetic example)

Research

Similar to things that might capture the feeling of your story, research that you compile can range from images of clothing, historical or fantasy objects, incantations, recipes, myths and fairy tales, charts, etc. On my WIP board, I separated pins that I consider specific to research for that story from pins of more general writing advice.

(WIP research example)

General Writing Advice

This is an optional subboard and can really be its own topic board if desired. I have one separate board for “Writing Inspiration” pins. Then I have my individual writing project boards with writing advice pins that I feel more succinctly meet my needs for that story. This can encompass avoiding bad writing habits like using the word “very” too much to ways to write believable emotional scenes.

(WIP writing advice example)

Happy Pinning!

In conclusion, I hope I was able to provide some helpful information on how to use Pinterest as a writer. Pinterest, unlike other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, provides an interesting format that is more accessible to the user than followers. I love the box format of displaying my information and find the layout particularly helpful with images.

Check out my other posts on writing advice and inspiration!

My Favorite Writing Advice

Participating in Camp NaNo this year has me searching out writing advice, motivation, and inspiration from the World Wide Web. I need it. Some days the motivation is just not there. Some days I wonder why I try. I’m never going to get published. I’m never going to reach a significant audience. Some days I just lack the vision to see the benefit of putting pen to paper (finger to keyboard) each day.

I keep coming back to story-telling. I get ideas and it’s like an itch I can’t satisfy until I write it down. There is some part of me, some part of being a writer that is so ingrained in us that we can’t escape it. We may not ever make anything of it through publication, but that is irrelevant to the personal comfort writing gives us.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of writing advice from other writers that inspire, teach, and reach me, compiled in graphic form for you to save and share with other writers!

(Looking for more writing inspiration?)

Machine Men

Note: This week’s short story was 100% inspired by the Charlie Chaplin speech from the 1940 film “The Great Dictator.”

Spring Hills, Indiana
2015 

William grunted as he jerked the tubing of the fuel pump out the smoking gear wheel. He wiped his creased, wet forehead, leaving a streak of gray grease. The grease was meant to ensure the machine functioned fluidly. They rarely did. All around him, production had stalled. The other men on the line watched him, some with disgruntled expressions, obviously impatient to get back on schedule to meet quota. Some laughed and joked with their comrades, glad of the brief break.

And then there were those who stared blankly at their feet, no expression, no opinion, no soul. There was one in every bunch.

William swore and inspected the machinery now that it was free of the errant part. The tubes on the pump had somehow become snagged in the gears of the machine that was meant to click the wires into place. What the part had left behind was an obviously disjointed section of the gears where the teeth no longer met up, ensuring the machine would not complete its prescribed task. It would need at least an hour to fix.

The men around him all groaned irrespective of their opinion to the initial pause. They would be forced to stand around while he tinkered with the machine, falling further and further behind their production schedule. If they wouldn’t work twice as hard from then until quitting time, they would be forced to stay after. Though that meant overtime pay, it also meant an extra hour on already worn and aching feet, an extra hour away from families, friends, and an extra hour until they could eat their dinners.

They were already pulling 12-hour shifts, any overtime was both a blessing and a curse.

The men formed small groups and started to chat, settling into their regular conversational cliques whenever a machine broke down. William pulled a little light from his tool bag and shone it into the deeper part of the machine, checking the lines that connected the gears in the front to the larger mechanism in the back.

“Did you hear about that Trump feller, running for President?” one of the men in the group closest to him began.

“Isn’t he a billionaire? Why would he make a run for President having all that money?” another man replied doubtfully.

“He said he was, on the news last night. Called in and said he wanted to make America into what it once was. Rich, put everybody back to work, put more money into the military. Sounded pretty serious to me.” The man pressed, crossing his arms.

“Well, I’d like to see him try it. God knows Hillary Clinton won’t do a damn thing for us. We don’t need no elderly woman running this country. What we need is a man who is willing to stand up and speak out.” Another man chimed in, breaking into a wide grin. A chorus of agreement rose from the group.

William rolled his eyes to the machine. He’d heard that the reality TV host had announced a run for President as well. But he doubted his odds against the dozen or so career politicians he was up against in his party alone. And even if it did come down to Trump or Clinton, surely her past controversies wouldn’t make her lose to a twice-divorced, reality TV star.

His mind wondered away from their conversation as they dissolved into a competition of who could come up with the best Hillary Clinton insult, most of them primarily targeted at her gender. With three young daughters at home, he couldn’t really stomach the wording.

Another huddled group had a more pressing conversation topic. A rumor had started that the factory where they processed automotive parts for a Japanese car company was on the short list for relocation to Mexico. William had heard the gossip before but couldn’t help but clench his gut when he heard the words again. He didn’t know what he would do without this job. It paid well enough, offered health insurance with a moderately affordable deductible, and above all allowed him to live close to the town he had grown up in, where his aging mother still lived alone in an apartment and he could drive five minutes to help her whenever she needed.

His wife, Jamie, stayed home with their young daughters, all three were under five and childcare costs were astronomical for three kids and his wife had no training for a job that would pay more than what that childcare would cost each month. But it worked for their family. She was a damn fine mother and homemaker. He was proud of the work she put in each day, raising their kids, caring for their modest three-bedroom home, and making his commitment to financially providing for them as easy as possible. She was just as exhausted as him at the end of each day, if not more so. There was a woman, he thought, who could run the country and make it better than it was before. He smiled to himself.

“I’d have to move away, for sure.” One of the men was saying when William tapped back in to their conversation. “There aren’t any other options around here that pay as well. I hate to go but how can I afford to eat and keep a roof over my head on a minimum wage, part-time job?”

William feared that would be his only option as well. To sell the house, they had painstakingly searched for and brought three beautiful daughters home to, uproot them all to an unknown town, leave behind his mother who had no one else to help her, and start over probably making less pay and fewer benefits.

Their small town was already next to nothing, coming from humble roots as it was. They had a handful of fast food restaurants, the auto parts factory, and a dollar store. They could be wiped off the map, and nobody would care.

What would he tell his wife if the news came? His mom? How could he live with himself if he couldn’t find another job to support them?

The group echoed his worries, shoulders set in tense lines all around.

He gave a heaving tug on the gear that had offset, the metal ripping beneath his pliers.

“Shit,” William said aloud. “Sorry, guys, it’s probably going to be another hour.”

10 Miles Outside of Camp Dwyer Marine Base, Helmand River Valley, Afghanistan
2010

Sgt. Matthew Garrand lay on his belly along with two other tan camo-clad men on top of a craggy cliff face, hard soil and small rocks stuck painfully in his stomach, elbows, and knees but he did not move. None of the men in the group did. They each peered through their scopes, scanning the low road below. The sun, high and naked in the sky, burned down on their shoulders and helmets. Sweat poured profusely down their faces, over their eyebrows. They blinked rapidly to keep the salt water from stinging their eyes. Not that it helped.

The only advantage to the singing heat of midday was that there were no mosquitos buzzing around their faces or trigger fingers.

A tall, tarped truck rolled into view on the road below and they all tensed. Civilians, Garrand told himself. They were piled into the back, sitting one on top of another, some grasping sacks of food or other personal belongings. Small children sat on the back and floor of the vehicle’s truck bed, faces grubby with the desert dust. They all looked hollow, hungry, and dirty. Refugees, perhaps trying to make their escape for a better life outside of war-torn Afghanistan.

Garrand didn’t blame them. As soon as he was released from service he would never come back to this Hell on Earth.

Then a literal Hell ripped open below them. The force of the blow knocked them all back, Garrand, Staff Sgt. Tanner, and Sgt. Hatton. Only briefly incommoded, they sprang up, looking through their scopes for the source of the attack. There, under a partially concealed cliff, men poured out of the darkness, one in front cradling an enormous grenade launcher awkwardly as he ran towards the vehicle. Those who hadn’t been killed or knocked unconscious from the blast were running, away from the men swarming down on them.

Garrand had been wrong, he thought briefly as he took his stance. The heat had not kept the mosquitoes at bay. While Tanner called the attack in on over his radio, Garrand and Hatton took aim at the attackers, taking them down one by one. They weren’t fast enough, couldn’t be quick enough to defend all of the survivors.

The Taliban insurgents had their own weapons and meters of proximity of advantage over the soldiers above them. An elderly man fell, blood spurting from a gunshot wound to his back. A woman, an infant clutched in her arms, wailing then falling silent as she fell, a grenade catching her feet and blasting them to the afterlife, taking her soon after.

A young boy, the farthest ahead, no more than seven years old, was the last to fall. A man with a machete and a face wrinkled with hatred cut him down as the insurgents overtook the civilians. Garrand, face boiling and eyes bloodshot, put a bullet through the man’s head soon after, a bittersweet grin only briefly touching his lips.

The soldiers hadn’t saved anybody. They rarely could in these ambushes. But they picked off the insurgents like picking maggots off a rotting corpse. What was the point if they couldn’t save anybody?

Back up arrived, finally. An M2-M3 rolled into view over the horizon, moving heart-breakingly slow. Guns from the top of the vehicle boomed through the valley, striking the remaining insurgents.

The men in the vehicle whooped in victory when they drove onto the carnage. No one stirred from the mound of bodies and there was little differentiating between insurgent and civilian. There was only blood and bone and sand.

Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
2018

Senator Joshua Brantley sat straight in his leather computer chair, his black tailored suit unwrinkled as though he hadn’t moved a muscle since the tailor snipped his last stitch. An email was opened on the sleek silver computer screen before him, the salutation greeting him as the “Most Honorable Senator Brantley.”

His eyes were not reading the words on the screen. They were glazed and red-rimmed from too much scotch. He mused to himself as he avoided answering his constituent’s email, probably just another request to not cut funding for elderly heat assistance or some other nonsense. His red cufflinks, which matched his red tie, clinked against the dark wood of his desk as he considered. His secretary sat opposite him, clicking away with her long, manicured nails on her own computer station. She was young, perhaps in her late twenties, with blonde streaked smooth hair coiled up on the back of her head and pinned. He eyed her long legs beneath her desk, uncovered in her pencil skirt and shapely, the calf muscles developed either from religiously running or strutting about all day on Capitol Hill in her 4-inch heels. Modest enough height with just enough of a hint at what lay beneath.

She looked elegant. A future politician’s trophy wife for sure.

Perhaps not his. He darted eyes at a framed picture on his desk, his wife, brown-haired and slightly rounding out, and son smiled back at him. They looked genuinely happy, and maybe they were. They had a lot to be happy about, living in a large house downtown, attending a private, nationally recognized school, sporting a 6-carat diamond ring on both hands. He snorted angrily and pushed his wife from his mind.

It wasn’t hard to do. Brantley’s secretary smiled up at him, and he grinned back, well aware of the dimple that he sported in one cheek and smiling crookedly to emphasize that feature.

He could have her, he thought, as she bent her head back to her work, noting the rose blush that colored her cheeks. He could have her whenever he wanted her. If he wanted her. He squinted again at his wife, older, heavier. They had been married for nearly twenty years, she had been with him through his entire political career, helping to catapult him to where he sat now as a member of the U.S. Senate. Together they appeared to be the quintessential American family, and he, the quintessential American Father, Hero, and Savior.

It would seriously harm his public image to divorce, no matter his urge to have a newer model to ride.

But a test drive could never hurt.

He leaned back in his chair and linked his fingers behind his head, sighing in satisfaction at his decision. A little proverbial grease on the hands and nobody would ever know. Outside his office, a group of small children awaited their meeting with their representative. Joshua Brantley, devoted family man, church member, and proud NRA A+ rated supporter.

He shifted in his chair, raising an eyebrow at the picture of White Jesus he kept over his door.

“Father, forgive me, but I know exactly what I do.” He smirked again and stood, moving slowly towards the girl across from him.