It’s in the mail didn’t work in the 1850’s

When I was very young, I would stay with my grandmother. Grandfather ran his own business and Grandmother always got anxious when the mailman was due. There could be a check in the mail.

Back then the mailman came twice a day. Once in the morning and again around 3 o’clock.

In the 1850s there were not that many telephones, no radios, and telegrams were very expensive. You had to go see someone in person or send them a letter. You could send a letter in the morning to invite someone to tea and get a response that they would be coming well before tea time.

I haven’t seen a story that implies that the mail was prompt and delivered several times a day. Also there were messengers, professional messengers, not just any old person off the street.

How could they afford to deliver mail twice a day. Estimates for how much a 1850 dollars could buy today range from 33.33 dollars to 4000.00 dollars. I recently saw an inflation article that stated that a dollar in 2014 could only buy $0.13 in 1965. So I feel that a dollar today may be worth 1/2000th of a 1850’s dollar. That’s half way between the $33.00 and $4000.00 estimate. So a penny postcard would cost a dollar of today’s money or several dollars in today’s money.

Don’t forget that train service was good in the past and the mail traveled by train. Mail traveling by ship could take several days but it could beat a messenger.

People that lived before cell phones and telephones could and did communicate, some times weekly or even daily. Without telephones letter writing was the only way to communicate long distances and people took letter writing seriously.

Your story should take letter writing seriously.

Stay strong, write on, write a letter today. Professor Hyram Voltage.

Thanksgiving past

I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things for lunch. It’s a straight shot from the front door to the meat section. I headed to the meat case looking for an alternative protein for lunch.

As I was looking for the specials there were several people arguing about turkeys. This one or that one, the neighbors paid 49 dollars for a turkey.

I then realized it four days till Thanksgiving. Grabbed a package of turkey thighs and a box of dressing. I’m good.

I’ve been busy with projects. Time has got away form me. I’ve got friends coming in the day after Thanksgiving. I got to clean up the house, big time.

What’s this have to do with Writing Steampunk?

What was Thanksgiving like in 1880? There’s little information was on the web. Did they eat turkey? Dressing was common with most meals. It was a way to use old bread. You didn’t waste food in the 1880’s. Ice boxes were somewhat common. Ice was shipped in from the Northeast from ice houses where the frozen top of lakes were chopped up and stored. Still long term storage of food was hard to do. Some food could be salted, brined (as in pickled) or dried.

Canning wasn’t common. A lot of canning still used glass containers. Hard to ship the glass jars making canned goods expensive.

Your character could be working so hard on her river going pile driver hoping to win the new bridge contract that she forgets Thanksgiving is right around the corner. She has to make her mother’s famous turkey biscuits for Thanksgiving.

Or the hero is in a race to develop a steam powered crawler that can travel through deep mud to supply remote areas that has had their crops wiped out by floods. The storms and rain are stopping the air ships from making the run, and it cost too much to send food by airship.

Think of having your hero drop food out of an air ship. Supplying cattle trapped in a snow storm. The enemy cattle baron tries to shoot down and heavily damages your hero’s air ship. Saved by the native Americans that the air ship supplied earlier with food (the cattle food is grain and it wasn’t really meant for them). Think of the big show down between the air ship crew with the Native Americans against the Cattle Baron and his army of werewolf gunslingers.

Stay strong, write on, give thanks.  Professor Hyram Voltage.

A Time to Stop Writing

I stopped writing for the NanoWriMo challenge this year. I know you what you are thinking, he wrote for a little over one week and then quit.
I didn’t quite writing. I have two manuscripts setting here that need to go to an editor and they’re not ready for the editor to see. To paraphrase Ben Grimm, It’s editing time. And I mean massive edit and rewrite time.
It’s also time to find more Beta Readers to run the manuscripts by before sending them to an editor. Finding Beta Readers is proving to be a huge time sink. Why is it so hard for me?
I have a four inch pile of print outs, covered with multicolored notes to crank  into the second manuscript before I can start editing it.
I’m a writer of books. It’s time to turn those manuscripts into books. Right now I don’t need another manuscript. So why am I coming up with so many ideas for stories, fascinating ideas. It’s amazing how your mind can sabotage you.
Editing and rewriting is writing, I’m not goofing off. Editing is painful writing. Slow painful writing. Emotionally trying, heart wrenching writing.
I am getting my priorities straight. I have fallen back to the priority of writing books, not to writing manuscripts. I’ve got manuscripts, I need to get some book published.
Could the manuscripts be better? Yes, but as Stephen King put it, the way to write better books is to write more books. That’s books not manuscripts.
I did not quit. I traded my time I would have spent writing in the NanoWriMo challenge for time to edit and get my manuscripts edited and published.
Stray strong, write on, edit more. Professor Hyram Voltage

Write now all yee good writers


Now is the best time to be a writer, ever.

It’s not because the internet, Amazon and Kindle publishing, or ebooks has made it so easy to publish a book. It’s because more people can read than ever before. (UN statistics).

Recently Joanna Penn on her Sep 10th, 2017 podcast interviewed author Micheal Ridpath. He said that he made most of his money on foreign translations. He’s a UK author and has traditional publishing contracts for the UK, United States, and Australia.

It is still hard to get a book into overseas book stores. The publishers overseas have a strangle hold on the book distribution their country. This is no longer the case in the United States. So even if you hire a translator it is hard to get the translated book into books stores in the country of that language. I have faith that Amazon will not let that last much longer. Besides there are many people all over the world that speak and read English. Foreign publishers will pick up books in English for translation and sells in their country, but it often takes an agent.

If your going to write a book, now is the time to do it. There are more readers than ever before.

The paranoid among you may be thinking why would I, an author, give away the secrets to writing a novel to you for free. If the secrets were any good you could use them to write a book and take away my readers.

1. Authors don’t own readers.

2. Voracious readers are always looking for another book to read. We can both sell our books to the same reader.

Now let’s look at the math of writing a book. OK, that just turned off two thirds of the audience. (Your all sitting there going I’m a writer not a math teacher)

Surveys show that 96 % of people want to write a book. An often quoted statistic.

Only 3 % of those who start a book finish it. (from Jyotsna Ramachandran of the web site).

Of that 3 % only 20 % publish the book. So out of a 1000 people I talk to, who go on to start a book only 3 % or 30 writers will finish the book.

Of the 30 that finish the book only 6 will publish the book. That’s point 6 % (0.6 %) of people that start a book publish it.

If you want to join the 1% go publish a book.

How many people who want to write a book, but never even start, I haven’t found that information.

If you finish your book, don’t give up. Get a professional to edit it and then publish your book. That’s an edit from a real professional, not a relative, teacher, or just anyone off the net. Research editors extensively before committing to one. There are many scams out there.

More bad news. Only a minuscule number of first time authors sell over 100 copies of their book.

Again, don’t give up. Many authors (published writers) I’ve talked to said that you have to write 5 books before you start to produce professional level books. I’ve lost count of the number of book signing I’ve gone to where the author has said that they have 1, 3, 5 or more books in a drawer that will never see the light of day. Those are usually the first books they wrote.

You may say that the author of Wool, Hugh Howey did it. Sold millions of his first book. Well Hugh had an old style publishing contract before he started writing ebooks. He wrote 7 books before Wool.

You say J. K. Rowling did it. Yes she did, but she spent 5 years pre-writing (I consider that a type of outlining) and doing character back grounds (in long hand) before finishing the first Harry Potter book. I think that taking a year to finish a book is about right for a writer with a child and a job.

Ms. Rowling spent five years working to become a better writer. That’s studying, reading, working at her craft.

5 years at 8 hours a day is about 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, that sound familiar. (See Malcolm Gladwells book Outliers).

Now go prove me wrong and write a best selling first book.

Stay strong, write on. Professor Hyram Voltage

The 10,000 league Journey of writing a book.

You know the old saying;

A journey of ten thousand leagues begins with a single step.

           Wear good shoes.

That’s good advice. If you get massive blisters before you finish your first hundred miles you may not finish the next 100 miles let alone make it to the end of the journey.

What are good shoes for a writer?

1. A pen that you don’t have to bear down on and will not skip. Pilot G2 is favored by many screenwriters. If you have an old ball point that you have to bear down on to get it to write you’ll end up with a sore wrist if you write a lot with it.

2. A computer. You don’t need a GAMING computer. Dell is going to have a black Friday sale on computers with one for about $130.00. It’s not the fastest, and the hard drive is tiny, but on a computer you can put words down faster than with a pen. You can also make corrections faster. And there will be corrections, it’s called editing and rewriting. Check out the keyboard before you buy. Never buy a computer that doesn’t feel right or you have to fight.

If you can’t afford a computer then go to a public library and use theirs. Get a Dropbox or Evernote account with free storage to save your writing on.

Don’t use Google Docs, the small print says Google can publish anything you write in Google Docs any time they want to. You want to publish your writing for money and/or credit, not to have someone else publish it for free.

3. A quite place. Anything that distracts your brain or mind is slowing down your writing. A distractions can even stop you from writing. Writing is hard enough, don’t make it harder by multitasking. Studies prove that multitasking slows you down. A multitask-er trying to do two jobs at once takes longer to finish both job than if he did one job, took a break and then did the other job. No distractions, no music, no TV, nothing (pets, children, objects) moving around you.

Put your cell phone in another room and put a thick folded blanket or folded towel over it. A study showed that people having a cell phone in the same area when taking an intelligent test made them dumber. (from David Burkus at the Super Connector Summit of 2017)

4. A good chair helps. You’re going to spend a lot of time in it. I’ve seen several writers take seat cushions to the coffee shop because the chairs where you can type get very hard after an hour or more.

The journey of ten thousand leagues begins with a single step.

                  Get a map.

Your not going to want to hear this, but if you’re going to make your living writing books you’re going to have to know where you’re going. That means you need an outline. Outlines make book writing easier and faster. Go buy a copy of 2,000 to 10,000 How to Write Faster by Rachel Aaron or 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. To put 5,000 words per hour on paper on in the computer you’re going to have to type 84 words per minute. Can you think about a plot line and type that fast? That’s why you need an outline.

People like Stephen King (who does not outline) only has to write one book every so often. You are not him.

Writing a first draft in 21 days is doable, if you have written books before and have the outline done. People doing Nanowrimo (a writing challenge where you write a 50,000 word rough, first draft, manuscript in November) spend all Oct doing their outline. They only have to do 1667 words a day. An outline makes that a lot easier to do. If you only write on week days that’s 2273 words a weekday. Many people competing in Nanowrimo do not get 50,000 words done in 30 days, and they try very hard to do it. Some try year after year. And some have written and published books and they still can’t meet the Nanowrimo challenge.

If you write faster than someone who will not outline then your book will be out there for the hungry reader to buy before the writer who won’t outline (the wandering writer) can get her book done. You get the sale first and you’re started on your next book before she has finished her book.

Writing a book may take longer than you want it to, but you can do it, outline or no outline.

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

               Pack a good lunch.

What I mean is take care of yourself.

Get a timer and set it for an hour or no more than two hours. When it goes off get up and move around. Your body needs to move or you will make yourself sick.

Eat well. You’re doing a lot of sitting. Don’t eat and type, that’s the worst type of multitasking. It will also jam up your keyboard. Don’t over eat.

Sleep well. No sleep equals no think.

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

Talk to someone who’s been down that road.

Join a critique group. Get a mentor. Take classes. Go to conferences. They are a lot of people on the same journey you’re on, support and share with those fellow travelers.

Stay strong, write on, and take that first step. Professor Hyram Voltage

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

               Get a Fitbit

Just how long is a league? 1 League = 14763.7795 Feet or 2.79617037 Miles.

You got to pace yourself. Don’t burn out going to fast at first. Your on a journey of 27,962 miles. It will take time. There will be set backs. Still while you’re fresh and strong you should go faster than an even pace through out the process. I subscribe to not setting goals but have a process. You can go over or under the process limits with no penalty and not feel bad.

Steampunk Writing Accessories

If it gets you in the mood to write use accessories. You don’t need accessories, but anything that helps you write go for it.

You can write with nothing more than a pencil or pen handed out by your local insurance agent or you scarfed at a writers convention and on a brown paper trash bag. Better yet you can write on a computer at the local library and save stuff on a free Drop Box or Evernote account.

More writers should write at libraries. It’s quiet and there’s plenty of reference material at hand. The big draw back is they won’t let you bring coffee into the library.

A fountain pen. What’s more 1880s than a fountain pen? What’s more Steampunk than to sign your book than with a fountain pen? I use a Pilot brand Metropolitain fountain pen with a fine or medium nib. Well made, you can get pre-filled ink cartridges or a fountain pen converter to load ink from a bottle. The pen cost $11.00 to &20.00. See the YouTube videos by the Goullet Pen company. Mine is a Black Plain pen although I liked the Gold Zig-Zang one. I thought a gold colored outside was too flamboyant for a serious writer like I am. Checkout The Goulet Pen company and give Mr. Goulet a call and ask him what he thinks is the most steampunk pen he sells.

I use Noodler’s No Feather ink. Feather is where the ink bleeds away form the line you drew. The Pilot ink is good too. If you buy enough ink from Noodler’s you get a free pen, but a 4.5 ounce bottle will last a long (years and years) time.

The one draw back with the Metropolitain fountain pen is that you can not see how much ink you have left. Other pens have clear windows or clear bodies that show how much ink is left. They don’t look steam punk.

Another steampunk writing accessories is a roll top desk. I just got one. Get a solid wood one, not one made from particle board. Do I need a roll top desk? NO. But it sets the mood for writing steampunk and I wanted one since I read a story that featured one in Analog Science Fiction magazine when I was in high school.

Surrounded by real, dark stained, oak. This is better than the old door held up by two, two drawer file cabinets it replaces. I typed on that lash-up for years and years. This desk has class. The desk is not new and I saw a blog where that author also got a roll top desk too. Must be something going around.

If it helps you write and doesn’t hurt anyone then do it.

Stray strong, write on.      Professor Hyram Voltage


Halloween Playlist

While handing out Halloween candy I like to crank up the stereo and play Halloween music. What is music you ask, see the list;

Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Back. I use an organ version. It’s a classic.

Tubular Bells. People don’t recognize it but sets the mood for Halloween

Grim Grinning Ghosts by Thurl Ravencroft, from Disneyland’s haunted house. Lighter fare after the grim classics

Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Picket You got to play it on Halloween.

It’s Alive by Bobby Boris Picket. A little known song that I like.

Psycho Chicken by The Fools.

The Addams Theme by Vic Mitzy. A snappy tune that young trick-or-treaters have never heard.

Masochism Tango by Tom Lehrer. Tango during Halloween, what an idea.

Zombie Jamboree by Rockapella.

Ghostbuster by Ray Parker Jr.

Out of Limits by Marketts

The Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Thiller by Micheal Jackson. You gotta love the laugh at the end.

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevan.

What does a playlist of Halloween songs have to do with writing steampunk stories? If your writing a horror or spooky part of your story putting on the right music will get you in the mood or mind set to write a good horror bit. It might even entice the muse to come by. Try Tubular Bells the next time you want to add a Science Fiction or fantasy element to a scene.

Stray strong, write on, listen hard.   Professor Hyram Voltage