Starting with My New Kickstarter

Historical fiction allows authors to creatively explore past events and personalities, blending established facts with imaginative storytelling. For me, this is especially fun when the author adds in science fiction or fantastical elements. My series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, and soon my spin-off series, The Anna Lynn Chronicles, do just that.

Before we go on, I’m running a Kickstarter to help pay for editing and other services I may need for the first novel in that new series. It’s called, Anna, Daughter of Creed, I’m half-way through it, and it’s time to get start putting the editing and publishing pieces in place.

This Kickstarter goes live on April 30, 2024! Before then, you can follow it at this link, and from April 30 to May 30, you can pledge to back it. Backers will get books (signed if you get them in print!), and more. Check it out here:

Anna, Daughter of Creed by Jonathan Fesmire — Kickstarter


Back to writing historical fiction! This genre’s unique appeal lies in its ability to make history accessible and engaging, especially when authors integrate real historical figures into their stories. The practice requires a delicate balance between staying true to historical accuracy and taking creative liberties that enhance the narrative without distorting history too much. My Creedverse, which is what I call my steampunk western milieu, incorporates figures such as Nikola Tesla, the Cooper Brothers, and Mary Ellen Pleasant into a layered fictional world.


Foundations of Historical Fiction

Good historical fiction begins with research. When you plan to include a historical figure, delve into that person’s life, as much as you can. This isn’t always easy! For instance, my depiction of the Cooper Brothers from Santa Cruz respects their documented historical roles. John and William Cooper were influential figures in Santa Cruz during the late 19th century. I portrayed in ways that echo their real-life occupations. John runs the Cooper Brothers Mercantile and William as mayor and, later, postmaster. However, there’s not much information about their personalities, so I had liberty there.

Once the historical groundwork is laid, authors can tell their stories while respecting the facts. In the Creedverse, Nikola Tesla is reimagined as a young prodigy recruited by a fictional character, Miles Morgan. explores his potential in an alternate technological timeline. It serves the steampunk elements, prompts readers to consider the impact of early technological advances on society, and I think does right by Tesla, who suffered in our own world because of Thomas Edison’s greed.


Techniques for Integrating Historical Figures

Historical figures can serve as cultural and temporal anchors, giving authenticity to the setting. For example, I’ve incorporated the real-world fraternity E. Clampus Vitus and characters like Emperor Norton into the Creedverse, using their historical significance to enhance the reader’s experience of San Francisco during the late 1870s. This way, I’ve held onto the essence of the characters and setting while adapting their narratives to suit the needs of my novels.

In some cases, historical figures can play pivotal roles in the plot, directly influencing the storyline and interacting with fictional characters. Mary Ellen Pleasant, known for her entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts, shares the multifaceted nature of the real woman. Her portrayal includes her known activities and speculated aspects of her life, such as running seances. This not only acknowledges her historical importance but also introduces elements of mystery and intrigue that are pivotal to three of the novels, including the upcoming, Anna, Daughter of Creed.


Ethical and Creative Considerations

Using historical figures in fiction also involves ethical considerations, particularly regarding the potential misrepresentation of people whose actions and legacies might still resonate. Authors must navigate these waters carefully. In your own writing, try to make sure to respect the individuals’ memories while providing engaging storytelling.

And yes, there were shady characters in the past, and it’s fine to portray them this way!

For example, James “Shanghai” Kelly was a notorious figure in San Franciscos in the 19th century, known for his involvement in the practice of “shanghaiing,” officially known as “crimping”—the coercive recruitment of men into maritime labor. This involved trickery, intoxication, or outright kidnapping, a practice deeply embedded in the criminal underworld of waterfront cities. Portraying Kelly as a criminal in historical fiction aligns well with documented historical accounts, as his actions contributed to the lawless and often dangerous atmosphere of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. He makes an appearance in Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate, and I plan to use him in a future series, too.

He’s a fitting character for narratives exploring the darker aspects of this period, and his notorious reputation provides ample justification for his depiction as a criminal in works that wish to delve into the gritty reality of historical San Francisco, such as the Creedverse novels.


Practical Advice for Writers

When using historical figures in fiction, you may not be able to research everything about them, but make sure you learn the most important things, and anything that might help you portray them fairly. Yes, in an alternate history, things may be different and some factual inaccuracies are acceptible if they make sense in your unique timeline. However, the more you can stick to the facts, these characters will help ground your novel.

Organic integration of historical figures helps maintain the flow of your story. They should enhance the narrative and contribute to the plot without overshadowing the fictional elements, including the main characters. Consider including an author’s note in your book, such as in the foreword or afterword. There, you can clarify the historical why you made certain changes. This can deepen your readers’ appreciation of the creative process behind your storytelling and foster a more informed and engaging interaction with your book.

The integration of historical figures in fiction offers writers a powerful tool to enrich their narratives by merging historical authenticity with creative speculation. The result should be stories that expertly explore the most important question in speculative fiction, “What if?”


“I have always regarded historical fiction and fantasy as sisters under the skin, two genres separated at birth.” – George R. R. Martin

As an author, I’ve written both series books and standalone novels. I’ve also learned that modern readers prefer a series, meaning there’s a economic incentive for authors to write them over standalone novels. They lead to higher overall book sales. This serial approach fosters a devoted readership and encourages writers to craft a rich, evolving narrative that might span several connected series. Yet, standalone novels captivate with their ability to deliver a full, satisfying story in just one book. Some of the best novels are standalone. Think of books like 1984, The Stand, A Tale of Two Cities, or Hucleberry Finn. (Although The Stand fits into Stephen King’s larger narrative shown in The Dark Tower Cycle, and Huckleberry Finn ties into Tom Sawyer. Oh, and Greg Matthews much later wrote an excellent sequel, The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that I highly recommend.)


Mastering the Standalone Novel: The Art of Closure

Approaching a standalone novel involves a focused commitment to closure. Every major plot and character development introduced must come full circle by the book’s end. This doesn’t mean answering every question or resolving every minor subplot, but ensuring that you address the major conflicts. Standalone novels excel in providing a powerful narrative impact, encapsulated in a single volume. They offer new readers an accessible entry point into an author’s work and satisfy those seeking a complete experience without the need to commit to following a series. It’s no wonder so many stand-alone novels appear on top literature lists.


The Dynamic World of Series Writing: Continuous Threads

Crafting a series presents unique challenges and rewards. Each book in a series should fulfill a dual purpose: it must resolve its own narrative arc satisfyingly while also paving the way for future installments. (Authors sometimes do this too with intended stand-alone projects, leaving them room to write a sequel.) Achieving this balance is critical to keeping readers engaged over the long term. One effective strategy I employ in series writing involves layered plot structuring:


  • A Plot: This is the central storyline of each book, designed to resolve within that volume.
    B Plot: A secondary subplot that develops to become the A Plot of the next book.
    C Plot: A lesser subplot that upgrades to the B Plot in the subsequent installment.


This structured approach ensures that, while the primary plot (A Plot) reaches a conclusion by the book’s end, the secondary (B Plot) and tertiary (C Plot) plots introduce additional elements that extend into the next book. This technique maintains a moving narrative and keeps the readers intrigued and invested in the unfolding story.


Organizational Strategies for Series Writers

The organizational demands of series writing are more complex than those for standalone works. While a standalone novel might require just a notebook of background details, a series demands a robust system to manage a wealth of information to maintain narrative continuity across multiple books. I use World Anvil to organize the expansive Creedverse. It’s a platform that allows me to document everything from character developments to intricate plot threads and technological nuances within my universe. I’ve found it indispensable for keeping track of the sprawling details that define the series. For a deeper insight into the Creedverse, you can visit my World Anvil site. Note that most of the information is private, but I’ve made some entries available to readers.


The Creedverse (


Navigating Your Narrative Path

The decision between writing a standalone novel or a series hinges on the scope of the story you wish to tell and the commitment you expect from your readers. Standalone novels are perfect for telling a potent, self-contained story, while series offer the space to explore more complex narratives and character developments over time. As a writer, the key is to understand which format best serves the essence of your story and meets the expectations of your readers.

For those embarking on the writing journey, whether in the realm of standalone novels or series, remember that each format presents unique opportunities for creative expression and audience engagement. The most important aspect is to keep your readers enthralled and eager for whatever narrative journey you choose to take them on.



I’m setting up my next Kickstarter! My trilogy, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed is widely available. While I plan to write another trilogy about our hero, James Creed, I’m currently writing the first spin-off series, The Anna Lynn Chronicles.

This new series is about one of my most popular Creedverse characters, James Creed’s daughter, Anna Lynn Boyd. It’s appropriately called Anna, Daughter of Creed. Alas, I’m still working on the project video, but I plan to have the Kickstarter live within a month! To get the news when it’s up and running, sign up for my newsletter by choosing one of the free short stories in the sidebar.

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” ~ Samuel Johnson


Anna, Daughter of Creed – Coming Soon to Kickstarter 

It’s that exciting time again! I’m preparing for a new Kickstarter campaign for my upcoming novel, Anna, Daughter of Creed. As many of you know, each new project brings its unique challenges and learning opportunities, and this one is no exception. Today, I want to give you an inside look at what goes into getting a Kickstarter ready, from crafting rewards to selecting a narrator, and more.


Inspiration Behind the Novel

The genesis of Anna, Daughter of Creed stretches back to my time working on my MFA in Animation and Visual Effects, originally starting as a 3D modeling project. This led into my novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and everything snowballed from there. Now, I have a rich alternative wild west setting for my novels and stories, the Creedverse. Anna emerged as a pivotal character in that first Creedverse novel as co-protagonist alongside James Creed. As I wrote the next two novels, it became clear that Anna’s story demanded its own trilogy to explore the challenges she faced during the events of Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake and Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate.


Setting Kickstarter Goals and Funding Needs

Having run both successful and less successful Kickstarter campaigns, I’ve learned a lot about setting realistic goals and managing expectations. For my previous project, Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate, I set a modest goal of $300, which was quickly met and exceeded. Of course, the final pledge amount was much greater, coming in at $1,681. With that experience, I plan to use a similar strategy for Anna, Daughter of Creed.


Marketing and Promotional Strategies


Marketing is crucial for the success of any Kickstarter. I use a combination of social media platforms—Facebook, Threads, Substack, and my newsletter—to reach my audience. I also make TikTok videos and maintain engagement with previous Kickstarter backers by updating past campaigns. The goal with these efforts is to build anticipation without overspending on advertising.


Engaging the Audience

Engagement doesn’t just start with the campaign launch; it’s an ongoing process. I’m currently working on creating engaging content, including a potential video featuring a booktoker who could provide a compelling introduction to Anna’s character. This adds an element of social proof and helps assure backers of the quality and appeal of the novel, especially from a perspective that validates my ability to authentically voice female characters.

Managing Kickstarter Logistics

Running a Kickstarter involves meticulous planning, from setting up the campaign page with engaging text and pictures to coming up with the reward tiers. Rewards for Anna, Daughter of Creed will again include unique items like a specially designed deck of playing cards, which have become a signature part of my campaigns. Essential tools for this phase include graphic design software for creating appealing visuals and spreadsheets for tracking funding goals and expenses.


Advice for Aspiring Kickstarter Creators

To anyone considering a Kickstarter for their project, my advice is simple: go for it! Platforms like Kickstarter offer a fantastic way to gauge interest, build community, and fund your creative endeavors. From my experience, starting with a clear plan and a modest goal can lead to surprising and inspiring results. Kickstarter has instructional videos, and you should check out similar projects for ideas.


Looking Ahead

While I have yet to decide on the exact launch date for the Kickstarter of Anna, Daughter of Creed, preparation is in full swing. I am working on the video, page text, and rewards, and you can expect a follow-up soon with more details, including the official launch date.

Kickstarter campaigns are like a rodeo, full of activity, surprises, and excitement. Each one teaches me something new about the process and about my audience. I see Anna, Daughter of Creed as a doorway into a world where the struggles and triumphs of a formidable woman take center stage. I’m thrilled to bring you along on this journey.

Stay tuned! As always, thank you for your incredible support and enthusiasm—it’s what makes this journey so rewarding.

“When I look at Kickstarter, I see small businesses that have been funded by their customers. I see the acceleration of this shift away from the industrial manufacturing ideology to more of a maker economy. And I also see an idea so powerful that the company name has become a verb.” – Om Malik


The American Gambling Frontier


As an author of novels in an alternate, retro-futuristic Wild West (check out my popular trilogy, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed), I love learning about that period of American history. One fascinating topic is the art of gambling in the Wild West.

The story of gambling in the United States is woven through our tumultuous Wild West history. In the late 19th century, the American frontier was a melting pot of adventurers, outlaws, and entrepreneurs, with gambling a common thread linking communities. Let’s travel back to the 19th century and explore gambling in American society, focusing on its explosive growth during the Wild West era, embodied by legendary figures like Wild Bill Hickok and the enigmatic card sharp S.W. Erdnase.


The Card Games of the Wild West: Faro and Poker

In the bustling saloons and gambling dens of the Wild West, two card games reigned supreme: faro and poker. Faro, often referred to as the “King of Games,” (and pronounced pharaoh, like the kings of Egypt) was the most popular gambling game of the era. Originating in France, faro made its way to America in the 18th century, gaining immense popularity in the West because of its fast-paced nature and easy-to-understand rules. The game involved betting on cards drawn from a specialized deck, with players wagering on the order in which the cards would appear. Its appeal lay in its simplicity and the quick resolution of bets, making it a favorite among casual gamblers and seasoned professionals alike. However, faro’s popularity also made it a prime target for cheaters, with rigged dealing boxes and marked cards frequently reported, leading to its eventual decline as trust in the game waned.

Poker, on the other hand, emerged as the enduring symbol of Wild West gambling, encapsulating the region’s blend of skill, bluff, and chance. Unlike faro, poker allowed for more player control and strategy, with variations like draw and stud poker becoming staples in gambling halls. Poker games were intense social encounters; reading opponents and strategic betting were as crucial as the cards dealt. The game’s inherent complexity made it a staple of Wild West culture, immortalized in countless tales of high-stakes games in dusty frontier towns. Poker’s ability to combine luck with skill and psychological warfare ensured its lasting place in gambling history, far outliving faro to become a cornerstone of modern casino gaming.

These card games, with their rich history and deep association with the Wild West, provide a glimpse into the era’s social dynamics and cultural preferences. Faro’s fast decline and poker’s enduring popularity reflect the shifting trends and tastes in gambling practices, mirroring the broader evolution of American society from the rugged frontiers of the Wild West to the structured complexity of contemporary life.


The Heyday of Wild West Gambling

Gambling in the Wild West was more than a leisure activity; it was a vital part of social life, reflecting the era’s ethos of risk and reward. Saloons, tents, and makeshift casinos buzzed with activity, offering games like poker, faro, and monte. These establishments provided a communal space where men, and some women, won and lost fortunes in the blink of an eye.


Wild Bill Hickok: The Gambler and the Gunfighter

Wild Bill Hickok, a quintessential figure of the Wild West, exemplified the era’s gambling spirit. Known for his sharpshooting and law enforcement career, Hickok was also a notorious gambler. His death in 1876 while playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, has cemented his place in gambling lore. Shot by Jack McCall, purportedly over gambling grievances, Hickok’s last hand of aces and eights became the infamous “Dead Man’s Hand,” symbolizing the perilous nature of Wild West gambling. This incident underscores the volatile mix of gambling, honor, and violence characteristic of the time.

S.W. Erdnase: Master of the Card Table

In the shadowy corners of gambling history lurks S.W. Erdnase, author of “The Expert at the Card Table.” Published in 1902, this book remains a seminal guide to card manipulation and cheating. Erdnase, whose real identity is still debated, captured the essence of the card sharp’s art, detailing techniques that influenced both gamblers and magicians. His work offers a glimpse into the underground world of professional gambling, where mastery of sleight-of-hand was as revered as the ability to read an opponent’s tells. The best magicians use his slight-of-hand techniques to this day.

The Culture and Consequences of CheatiNG

In the Wild West, gambling was not just a game of chance but also a game of skill, wit, and deception. Cheating was rampant, and accusations thereof often led to deadly outcomes. Gamblers’ reputations hinged not only on their success at the tables but also on their perceived integrity. A cheater, once exposed, faced ostracism or worse, as personal honor and respect were paramount in the gambling community.

Gambling Halls and Social Dynamics

The gambling halls of the Wild West were social and economic centers that provided a nexus for exchange beyond mere currency. They facilitated the flow of information, goods, and more. These locals reinforced, and challenged, social hierarchies, and the diversity of the American frontier was on full display.

Economic Impact and the Gold Rush Connection

The link between gambling and the economy was obvious in gold rush towns, where prospectors gambled with the same fervor with which they mined. Towns like Deadwood and San Francisco experienced economic booms fueled by both mining and gambling industries. Gambling revenues helped build infrastructure and funded public services, contributing to the growth and development of the West.

Legal and Social Ramifications

As towns grew and societies became more structured, the need for regulation became apparent. The initially unbridled gambling practices faced legal scrutiny. Efforts to curb gambling’s excesses reflected broader social and economic shifts, marking the transition from frontier lawlessness to regulated civic order.

The Legacy of Gambling in American Culture

The Wild West period laid the groundwork for the gambling industry in the United States, blending the thrill of chance with the American ethos of opportunity and risk. The legacy of figures like Wild Bill Hickok and S.W. Erdnase continues to permeate the world of gambling, symbolizing the blend of skill, luck, and daring that characterizes the American gambling spirit.

From Frontier to Modernity

The evolution of gambling in American society from the Wild West era to the present encapsulates a journey from lawless frontier activity to a regulated mainstream pastime. The tales of Wild Bill Hickok and S.W. Erdnase highlight the allure and danger of gambling in the Wild West, reflecting broader themes of American history such as innovation, risk-taking, and the quest for justice. As the gambling industry continues to change, it carries forward the legacy of the Wild West, marrying the thrill of the gamble with the steadiness of regulated enterprise.

“The highest form of wisdom is to know when to play and when to stay away.” ~ Earl Wilson