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

 

They Wrote What? 

I stumbled on a comment the other day where someone bragged about never touching a novel, claiming that fiction is nothing but a waste of time. They were adamant that anything fiction offers could be learned more directly elsewhere.

I couldn’t disagree more. Let’s explore why fiction is far from a trivial pursuit, and why we can’t dismiss fiction.

 

Why Fiction Matters

Labeling fiction as just make-believe stories misses the point. It’s like calling a gourmet meal just food. Sure, fiction is made up. I mean… yes, and? Using that as an argument against it is pretty weak. “Made up” or not, fictional stories journey into the deepest corners of human experience.

So, why does fiction matter? Here are ten reasons.

 

  1. Walking in Others’ Shoes: Fiction lets readers live countless lives, understand diverse perspectives, and navigate the complexities of different characters. It’s one thing to be told how someone feels or what someone did. But experiencing that through the medium of fiction makes it personal, visceral. There’s a ton of research backing up how fiction readers end up being more empathetic. It’s about seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and getting why they feel the way they do.
  2. Igniting Creativity: Diving into fictional worlds is a creativity booster. It pushes the imagination to its limits, sparking ideas that can solve real-world problems. There’s a clear link between enjoying novels and being more creative and open to new experiences.
  3. Sharpening the Brain: Tackling the twists and turns of a good plot is like a workout for the brain. It hones critical thinking and analytical skills, making you better deciphering complex situations, not just in the story but in real life, and this boost continues on for a while after you’ve finished reading fiction. Keep it up, though! Read consistently to keep this benefit going.
  4. Cultural Exploration: Fiction is a backstage pass to different cultures and historical eras, offering insights and awareness that are hard to come by elsewhere. It’s like a time machine, providing a deeper grasp of various societies and their histories.
  5. Language Mastery: Regularly reading fiction can seriously amp up your language and communication game. The rich narratives and diverse vocabulary found in fiction enhance your ability to express thoughts and connect with others effectively.
  6. Mental Escape Hatch: Fiction is a sanctuary for the mind, offering a break from the stress and monotony of daily life. It’s not just an escape; it’s a way to recharge and improve mental well-being.
  7. Moral Gymnasium: The ethical dilemmas and life lessons woven into fiction offer a playground for exploring complex moral questions in a nuanced way. It’s about wrestling with right and wrong in a safe, contemplative space.
  8. Fun: Let’s not forget, fiction is downright enjoyable. It’s a source of pleasure and entertainment, enriching our lives with stories that thrill, move, and inspire.
  9. Building Communities: Fiction draws people together, creating communities where fans can share, debate, and geek out over their favorite stories. It’s about connecting with others who get just why that plot twist blew your mind. I love talking to other readers about books we’ve loved and the stories within.
  10. Resilience and New Perspectives: Fictional tales of struggle and triumph can be incredibly motivating. They offer fresh perspectives on tackling life’s hurdles, showing that obstacles can be overcome, often in ways we might not expect.

 

Making the Case for Fiction

Saying fiction is a waste of time overlooks so much! Fiction is a cornerstone of cultural and intellectual life, offering insights into the human condition that are hard to replicate elsewhere. It’s a powerful tool for growth, understanding, and connection. Ignoring its value to your own detriment; you’ll be turning your back on an incredible source of wisdom, pleasure, and inspiration. It’s anything but a waste of time—it’s a vital part of our journey to understand the world and ourselves.

While I don’t have the space here to drop links, I’d encourage anyone curious to check out the swath of studies and discussions on the benefits of fiction. Look into publications from the fields of psychology, literature, and education to see just how fiction molds our brains, hearts, and societies.

(If you’d like to read my fiction, check the links to the right! You’ll find links to two free short stories, my novels, my Patreon, and more.)

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” 
~ Anna Quindlen

 

Wait… Tarot for Non-Believers?

 

I love Tarot decks. Now, I also happen to be an Atheist. Tarot for non-believers? Does that seem like a contradiction? It’s not that, but it is something I’ve thought about a lot.

Tarot cards, often enveloped in an aura of mystique, are traditionally seen as tools for divination. However, their utility extends beyond fortune-telling. For the skeptic or non-believer, Tarot offers symbolism that can enhance personal introspection, creative thinking, and emotional understanding.

 

Deepening Meditation and Mindfulness

Tarot’s visual and symbolic complexity makes it an excellent aid for meditation. Whatever deck you choose, each card is a work of art, brimming with symbols that depict a myriad of human emotions and situations. By focusing on a card’s imagery while relaxing, one can enter a meditative state and open up to the subconscious. Meditation has many science-based benefits, and making a card, or several cards, your focus can unearth new insights into personal dilemmas, aspirations, and emotions.

For example, meditating on The Hermit may encourage one to explore a need for solitude and inner reflection, while The Empress could inspire thoughts on nurturing and abundance. This can lead to profound self-awareness and personal growth.

 

Reflective Tool for Personal Insight

In the hands of a non-believer, Tarot becomes a mirror reflecting the multifaceted aspects of the self. Drawing a card or spread can start a process of self-reflection, encouraging one to examine thoughts, feelings, and circumstances from different angles.

Consider a scenario where The Chariot appears in a spread about career advancement. This card might symbolize the drive and determination needed to succeed, prompting reflection on how these qualities manifest in one’s professional life. Sure, the reader drew the card absolutely by chance, but by considering how it relates to their life, or even if it doesn’t, the reader is thinking. Much of the time, that’s likely to bring new insights.

 

Stimulating Creative Thought and Problem-Solving

The Tarot deck, with its archetypal characters and scenarios, serves as a catalyst for creative thinking and problem-solving. Each card tells a story, and when these stories intersect in a reading, they form a complex narrative that can offer fresh perspectives on familiar problems.

In creative brainstorming or decision-making, using a Tarot spread, like the classic Celtic Cross Spread, can illuminate different aspects of a situation, helping to explore potential actions and outcomes. This narrative approach can break through mental blocks and open up innovative pathways for thought.

The reading may seem to fit the situation perfectly, or not at all. Either way, the reader is contemplating their question.

 

Tarot as a Comprehensive Learning Tool

Beyond its use in personal reflection, the Tarot is a compendium of human experience and cultural symbolism. Studying the cards exposes one to a range of archetypes and historical themes, offering lessons in psychology, mythology, and the arts. This educational journey can deepen one’s appreciation for the Tarot’s cultural and historical significance, irrespective of belief in its divinatory power.

 

Inspiration for Writers and Creatives

For the creatively inclined, Tarot can be a wellspring of inspiration. For example, I recently put a deck I designed, The Modern Wordsmith Tarot, for sale in my Etsy shop. This deck, which integrates themes of writing and creativity, can stimulate the imagination and aid in storytelling. Each card’s imagery and symbolism can spark ideas for character development, plot twists, or thematic exploration, or help authors think about the balance between writing and marketing.

Tarot for non-believers is not about foreseeing the future but about enriching the present. The cards offer a platform for meditation, a mirror for reflection, a source of creative inspiration, and a means for education. By engaging with the Tarot’s symbolic and narrative depth, one can gain valuable insights and perspectives, regardless of their stance on mysticism.

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” ~ Earl Wilson

 

 

Creating the Creedverse, my alternate history steampunk western universe, has been an exhilarating journey. There’s good reason people enjoy creating fictional worlds, even if they aren’t authors or game masters. It’s rewarding, and it’s a blast.

World building in science fiction isn’t merely about setting a stage for characters to perform; it’s about birthing a milieu grows with vivid characters, events, and cultures. It needs history, technology, governance, customs, and fictional people to bring it to life. It must be alive with possibility.

In this post, I’ll share insights into the world-building process, emphasizing the significance of structured frameworks, detailed record-keeping, and leveraging modern tools like WorldAnvil, which has been invaluable in organizing the Creedverse.

 

Structured Frameworks for Depth and Consistency

When I first started really filling out the Creedverse–and this was in the early stages of writing my novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western–I signed up for a site where I could make a personal wiki. The problem was, the site had no built-in framework for world building. It felt little different from creating a website back in the 90s, when we had to code each html page by hand.

Then, WorldAnvil came along, a site made for world building with the framework to back it up. By that, I mean categories, robust templates for each type of entry, easy linking of articles and so on, and a lot of other features. This made my job so much easier, and I quickly signed up and have loved it every since. (In fact, I’ve become friends with the wonderful creators of the site, and they’ve even featured me on their podcast.)

Applying their framework to each entry in the Creedverse ensures both depth and consistency. It’s like scaffolding that  keeps my fictional world solid, navigable, and consistent. The templates remind me of important details that might otherwise slip my mind. I don’t have to fill in all the details for everything, but when something is important, I’ll know to fill it in.

Some of the templates include the following:

 

  • Characters: For each character, I create a comprehensive profile that covers not only their physical description and personality but also their backstory, motivations, relationships, and evolution throughout the timeline. This helps ensure characters are multidimensional and integral to the world.
  • Locations: Every location I use the Creedverse, from the streets of San Francisco and Santa Cruz to the wilderness, is well-detailed. I consider geography, climate, culture, and the location’s significance to the narrative, creating a vivid backdrop that influences and is influenced by the characters. When I need a new setting, I can add it easily and make sure it fits in with what I’ve already detailed.
  • Technologies, Artifacts, and Other Items: The steampunk element of the Creedverse requires a focus on inventiveness. Each piece of technology I come up with, from steam-powered automatons to advanced medical devices, is documented, including its function, origin, societal impact, and limitations. I want to make sure that the technological aspects of the Creedverse are both imaginative and grounded in the story’s reality.
  • Governmental Structures: So far, I’ve dealt only with the U.S. government, as the Creedverse stories have all been set in the United States. Governmental structures, from local law enforcement to overarching government bodies, are outlined to provide a clear understanding of the world’s political dynamics, laws, and leaders, as well as the challenges and conflicts they face. As with many other aspects of my fictional world, I research how things were in the real world. While I often stick closely to it, the Creedverse is an alternate history, so some things differ, but I need to know how and why.

 

The Importance of Detailed Record-Keeping

With a universe as rich and complex as the Creedverse (this may seem like bragging, but throughout 2023 I added a lot to my world, and the total content of my WorldAnvil site is close to 400,000 words… a lot of information!), keeping detailed records is essential. This helps in maintaining internal consistency and provides me with a reference to use when I’m writing. Some elements I include in entries include:

 

  • Historical background
  • Cultural practices and beliefs
  • Economic structures
  • Technological progress
  • Political landscapes

 

While not every detail directly influences the narrative, this comprehensive knowledge base allows for a world that feels lived-in and real.

 

Harnessing the Power of WorldAnvil

In the digital age, tools like WorldAnvil have revolutionized the process of worldbuilding. WorldAnvil, in particular, offers a suite of features that cater to the needs of creators like myself, enabling the organization, categorization, and linking of every aspect of the Creedverse.

 

  • Organization: WorldAnvil’s platform allows me to easily navigate between characters, locations, technologies, and governance structures, making the process of referencing and cross-referencing seamless. After I’ve written an entry, I can have the site auto-link to other articles.
  • Templates: The platform’s structured forms for various worldbuilding elements prompt me to consider facets of my universe I might otherwise overlook, encouraging thoroughness and creativity.
  • Privacy and Sharing: While the bulk of my notes remain private for my reference, I have the option to share selected information with my readers. This not only enriches their experience but also invites them into the world I’ve created, fostering a deeper connection and engagement with the narrative.

You can read about some of the main characters and lot more.

 

I invite fellow creators and readers alike to explore the Creedverse on WorldAnvil, where I’ve made select information available to enhance the storytelling experience and offer a glimpse into the intricate process of world building. You can read about some of the main characters and much more.

 

Expanding Horizons Through Worldbuilding

I’d go so far as to say that creating the Creedverse has expanded my imagination, which was vivid to begin with! It’s required meticulous planning, using innovative tools, and a desire to see this world I birthded right out of history keep growing. Building a universe with its own set of rules, histories, and cultures is both daunting and exhilarating. It requires a balance between creativity and discipline. My hope is that this ensures it resonantes with my audience. Through structured frameworks, detailed record-keeping, and the capabilities offered by WorldAnvil, the Creedverse has grown into a living entity that continues to evolve and inspire me. Worldbuilding, at its core, is the heartbeat of science fiction and fantasy. It helps authors and other creators stories, games, and so on with life. It transforms mere ideas into universes that captivate, challenge, and transport us beyond the confines of our reality.

To get started world building yourself, I couldn’t recommend WorldAnvil more highly. Full disclosure: I am an affiliate—why wouldn’t I be?—but it’s totally worth using the free version of the site until you decide you want to take it further, and then, subscriptions are very reasonable.

And, if you sign up there, follow me on my personal WorldAnvil page!

If you’d like to dive into the fiction of the Creedverse, check the sidebar links. Happy reading!

“Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

 

As the author of The Adventures of Bodacious Creed and the tales that take place in my weird western world, the Creedverse, I’m happy to guide you through the canyon maze of narratives and characters that populate this world I’ve created and love. Today, I’m pulling back the coach curtain and reveal what’s on the horizon for our adventures together. From upcoming novels to fresh short stories, let’s travel into the future of the Creedverse.

 

The Next Novel: Anna, Daughter of Creed

In the wake of my trilogy, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, our journey continues with Anna, Daughter of Creed, the spearhead of The Amber Lynn Chronicles. This new trilogy will shine a spotlight on Anna Lynn Boyd, a character whose resilience and ingenuity have resonated deeply with many of you. Anna’s story tells of her empowerment and defiance in the face of a society that devalues women, echoing the struggles and triumphs of women both in the past and present.

Anna, Daughter of Creed intertwines with the latter two novels of the original trilogy, providing a fresh perspective on the events unfolding in Santa Cruz while James Creed navigates the challenges of San Francisco. My goal is to offer richer, more layered exploration of this time period, inviting readers to experience the saga through Anna’s eyes.

 

The Creedverse Expands on Patreon

Beyond the novels, the Creedverse is growing in exciting new ways through my Patreon. This platform has become a crucible of creativity, where I share exclusive short stories that delve into undiscovered corners of my fictional world. Each month, I publish four short stories, approximately one a week. They often expand on the novels with heretofore untold tales and unseen perspectives.

Each short story is exclusive to the Patreon and the backers there for six months, after which I plan to collect them into published collections, more Creedverse-themed books.

 

Future Narratives and Untold Tales

While The Amber Lynn Chronicles paves the way, the horizon teems with potential narratives. A second trilogy dedicated to James Creed beckons me, promising to delve deeper into the complexities of our resurrected hero. Similarly, the enigmatic Dockside Poltergeist awaits, ready to unveil its mysteries. These projects represent not just the continuation of our journey but an expansion into new territories, each brimming with challenges and revelations. As you can see, I have a lot planned, probably for at least the next decade.

 

Events, Marketing, and Community

The journey ahead is not just about crafting stories, but also about forging deeper connections with you, the reader. This year, I hope to cross paths with many of you at San Diego Comic-Con, made even more thrilling by my pro status. Despite challenges in securing badges for my son and me, I hope to enjoy this incredible celebration of geek culture.

Soon, I will launch the Kickstarter for Anna, Daughter of Creed, too! Through unique rewards, this campaign will invite you to be part of the creative process. It will also help me pay my editor, and more.

 

Creativity Amidst Life’s Demands

Writing fiction while managing a full-time job and being a single parent is a proverbial balancing act. I manage it by allocating time and energy across my various roles to ensure that each receives the attention it deserves. I’m dedicated to my craft and to you, my fellow adventurers.

 

The Path of Growth

The essence of writing is growth, discovery, and improvement. From my earliest days to the present, I’ve embraced learning as a cornerstone of my writing. Engaging with fellow writers, taking part in workshops, and devouring literature on the craft are just a few avenues through which I refine my craft. I want to ensure that each story I tell is a step forward in my quest to captivate and inspire.

 

The Power of Story

I want my fiction to be a source of enjoyment and reflection, offering a diverse experiences and perspectives. The power of narrative is not just in entertaining but also in enlightening. I hope my fiction encourages compassion.

 

Dreams and Aspirations

My ongoing dream is to weave stories that not only sustain me into retirement but also continue to kindle joy and wonder in you, my readers. The ultimate milestone is a life rich with creativity, community, and shared adventures in the Creedverse.

Stories contain magic. They unit, challenge, and transform us. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey. Together, let’s continue to explore the boundless possibilities that await us in the Creedverse.

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” ~ Enid Bagnold

 

 

One thing that becomes obvious if you read much is that literature transcends storytelling. Stories provide vicarious experiences and allow us to live countless lives, feel profound emotions, and explore the depths of the human condition through multitudes of characters. They’re gateways into worlds where we bond with characters who, though birthed from imagination, become as familiar to us as old friends. As readers, the moments that linger long after we turn the last page evoke emotions from the heights of elation to the depths of despair. Our connections to fictional characters heighten our engagement with the story and foster a deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and the world.

The Essence of Emotional Connection

Why do fictional characters captivate us? It’s because they encapsulate the myriad emotions and experiences that define the human experience, making it natural for us to empathize with their journeys. Writers imbue characters with hopes, fears, triumphs, and tribulations that echo our own, creating a mirror of our own lives. When a character laughs, we share in their joy; when they weep, we feel the sting of their tears. This empathetic bond is the alchemy of storytelling, and it’s a kind of magic. It blurs the lines between the real and the imagined, drawing us deeper into the narrative, be it short story, novel, or otherwise.

Crafting Characters That Resonate

Creating characters that resonate deeply with readers requires an understanding of human nature and also the ability to render it in all its complexity on the page. That’s not to say that young writers can’t create remarkable characters, just that the more experience you have, the more you understand others, the more believable your characters will become.

They must feel real, with backgrounds, experiences, dreams, flaws, and growth that unfolds organically over the course of the story. They should be as diverse and multifaceted as the real world. Modern writers know how important it is to write about characters from different backgrounds, providing not just representation for more readers, but for the sake of reflecting reality. Writing fiction is a chance to offer a spectrum of perspectives that allow every reader to find a piece of themselves within the story. A protagonist’s journey from adversity to resilience, for example, can offer inspiration, prompting readers to reflect on their own capacity for strength in the face of challenges.

The Role of Conflict and Resolution

Conflict is the crucible that tests and transforms characters. It drives the narrative forward and forges a deeper connection with the reader. Through conflict, characters confront their deepest fears, make hard choices, and develop in meaningful ways. These moments of adversity reveal the core of a character’s being, inviting readers to invest emotionally in their journey.

The resolution of a conflict may be triumphant or tragic, but they should feel right for the story and bring a sense of closure for readers. A well-executed resolution can stir a wide range of emotions, offering a sense of catharsis or prompting introspection about the narrative’s deeper meanings.

Empathy and Understanding

Reading is an exercise in empathy. In fact, it’s said that readers are generally more empathetic than non-readers, because they frequently step into the shoes of others and view the world from their perspective. Regularly connecting with characters on an emotional level enhances the reading experience and even enriches our real-world interactions. By experiencing the world through the eyes of diverse characters, we gain insights into lives and cultures different from our own.

While I know this information will be helpful to aspiring writers, I’ve also written this article for readers. The emotional journey we undertake with characters infuses literature, and by that I mean all fiction genres—with its enduring power and appeal. It transforms reading from a solitary act into a shared experience, a dialogue between the reader, the characters, and the author that resonates long after the story ends. Good fiction takes us on emotional voyages, entertaining us, challenging us, and prompting reflection on the human condition. Ultimately, the true magic of literature lies in the emotional odysseys it invites us to join, where we explore the landscape of human emotion and discover universal truths that connect us all.

One More THing

If you’d like to hear about all the stories I’m sharing on my Patreon, my steampunk western novels, news about when I’m attending conventions, to get alerted about new blog posts here, and much more, follow me on Substack. I send out a newsletter from there once a week on Tuesday morning.

“The three things that matter most in a story are characters, characters and characters.” ~ Bob Gale

 

As a writer, I’ve encountered a lot of advice–some invaluable, others not so much. Some, while potentially beneficial in moderation, can severely limit creativity and storytelling when taken to extremes. In this post, I’ll delve into three bad bits of writing advice that I’ve encountered recently and give explain why authors shouldn’t take them seriously.

What follows are three particularly egregious examples of bad writing advice, and why they’re so bad.

 

Do Not Use Prologues

One of the most contentious pieces of advice I’ve come across is the staunch opposition to including prologues in novels. Critics often argue that prologues can deter readers, suggesting that they serve as unnecessary preambles rather than engaging hooks. Evidently, some readers even skip them!

This perspective overlooks the unique role that prologues can play in setting the stage for a story. A good prologue can serve multiple purposes. It can provide essential backstory or context that enriches the reader’s understanding of the ensuing narrative. For instance, a prologue might introduce a historical event, a myth, or a legend that lays the groundwork for the story. Alternatively, it might offer a glimpse into a pivotal moment from a perspective not featured in the rest of the novel, adding layers of depth and intrigue to the narrative tapestry.

Prologues can help to create suspense or foreshadowing key themes and events. For example, in my novel, Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate, the discovery of a body buried at an abandoned farm south of San Francisco hints at crimes yet undiscovered. By offering a glimpse of what’s to come, an author can pique readers’ curiosity and draw them into the story with a sense of anticipation. Ensure that the prologue is directly relevant to the story and crafted in a way that complements the narrative rather than detracting from it.

Also, recognize that prologues are distinct from chapters. They are not simply “Chapter One” by another name. By design, prologues stand apart from the main narrative, offering unique insights or setting the stage in a way that chapters, which propel the story forward, cannot. Dismissing prologues outright can rob a story of a powerful tool for engagement and depth.

 

Write Only When You Have Something to Say

“Write only when you have something to say.” On the surface, this advice seems sensible, encouraging writers to speak with purpose and clarity. However, it harbors an insidious implication: that one should wait for inspiration or a fully formed idea before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). This waiting game can be the death knell for creativity.

Writing is as much about discovery as it is about expression. It’s a process through which ideas are explored, refined, and brought to life. By writing regularly, even without a goal in mind, writers can unearth thoughts and narratives that were previously obscured in the recesses of their minds. This exploratory process can lead to unexpected insights, interesting stories, and a richer, more nuanced understanding of the themes at hand.

The discipline of writing regularly hones one’s craft. It ensures that when inspiration does strike, the writer is better equipped to capture and express it effectively. Waiting for a fully formed idea before writing is akin to a musician waiting to be proficient before practicing–it’s counterproductive and inhibits growth.

 

Only Conclude a Chapter at the End of a Scene

Another piece of advice that I’ve found baffling is the notion that chapters must not end in the middle of a scene. This rigid guideline ignores the myriad narrative techniques at a writer’s disposal and the dynamism they can bring to a story.

Ending a chapter mid-scene can be a powerful tool for maintaining momentum and reader engagement. It can create suspense and encourage readers to turn the page to find out what happens next. This technique, often referred to as a cliffhanger, can be especially effective in genres that thrive on tension and suspense, such as thrillers and mysteries.

This approach can offer a more immersive reading experience, mirroring the unpredictability and fluidity of real-life events. Life doesn’t adhere to neat, chapter-like segments; it’s full of interruptions and unexpected turns. Reflecting this in writing can add a layer of realism and relatability to the narrative.

While writing advice can be invaluable, it’s essential to approach it with a critical mind and consider how it applies to your voice and storytelling style. Writing should be a playground for creativity, exploration, and expression. By questioning conventional wisdom and embracing a more nuanced approach, whatever writing advice you encounter, you can unlock additional dimensions of storytelling and connect with readers in profound and unexpected ways.

 

P.S. I have a Patreon now where I’m sharing four stories every month! For your $5/month subscription, you’ll get to read these exciting tales that take place in the steampunk weird western world of my Bodacious Creed novels. Since I started it last month, four tales are already there for your enjoyment!

Check it out here:

Jonathan Fesmire | Crafting Bodacious Stories | Patreon

“Writing is an act of discovering what you think and what you believe.” ~ Dan Pink

 

Hey there, aspiring author. Have you come up with a writing routine? If you’re serious about their craft and committed to making significant strides in your literary career, you’ll want to do that soon. A thoughtfully established routine enhances productivity, sharpens writing skills, and enables the seamless construction of interesting narratives. In this guide, we’ll explore how to create a writing routine that harmonizes with your life and creative endeavors.

This is the second post I’ve written recently about creating a writing routine, but it’s a worthy subject to revisit.

Understanding the Importance of a Writing Routine

Creating a writing routine about fostering a consistent, sustainable practice that cultivates creativity and combats the dreaded writer’s block. It provides a framework that guides you towards achieving your literary goals. Recognizing the value of a routine can transform your approach to writing from a sporadic hobby to a professional endeavor.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting achievable, clear goals is the first step in establishing a routine that motivates and even propels you towards your larger aspirations. Whether you plan to write a set number of words each day or finish a novel chapter a week, these targets should stretch your abilities without leading to burnout. Goals act as milestones. They’re tangible evidence of your progress, and each goal met gives a sense of success that can help propel you forward.

Designating a Dedicated Writing Space

The space where you choose to write plays an important role, as it will influence your creativity and concentration. Create an environment that minimizes disruptions and also visually and emotionally inspires your writing. The wall I face at my desk has beautiful canvas portraits of my son and me; a digital picture frame rotating art that I like; my Writers of the Future Honorable Mention certificate, framed; a fantasy map from the Hero’s Journal; a Bodacious Creed calendar; a Ginny Di calendar (she’s a Dungeons and Dragons YouTuber); a picture of my D&D character, and various buttons from Disneyland and conventions. All these give me a sense of home and comfort in writing space, which makes me feel at ease and able to write well.

To generalize, tailoring your space to reflect your personal tastes and preferences can transform it into a sanctuary of creativity, where ideas flow freely and distractions remain at bay.

Crafting a Writing Schedule with Flexible Scheduling

The cornerstone of a solid writing routine is finding a consistent time each day dedicated to writing, preferably when you feel most creative and alert. I use a flexible approach to scheduling and write in between other important tasks. When I’m working on a blog, like this one, a short story, or a novel, I often work in writing sprints. That’s where I dedicate perhaps 15 to 25 minutes just to writing, and after that, I take a short break.

You probably have some sense of when you’re most productive. Try to schedule writing for that time, to fit your natural productivity peaks. This can significantly enhance the quality of your output, be it prose, poetry, or brainstorming.

Embracing Rituals and the Power of Habit

Making writing as habitual as other everyday activities can demystify the process and reduce resistance to starting each session. Small pre-writing rituals can act as cues to your brain, signaling that it’s time to shift into a creative mode. These rituals, whether it’s brewing a pot of coffee or organizing your workspace, can significantly ease the transition into a productive writing mindset. I’ll sometimes watch a few recent news videos, or free-write for ten or fifteen minutes in my journal. Since I’ve made it a habit to work on my fiction after, these rituals prime my mind for that purpose.

Using Tools and Resources

The right set of tools can make a world of difference in organizing your thoughts and maintaining focus on your writing projects. From sophisticated writing software that helps structure your narratives to simple timers that keep your writing sprints on track, these resources can ease the logistical burdens of writing. This allows you to dedicate more mental energy to the creative aspects of your work, enhancing both efficiency and enjoyment.

Some that I use include the following.

 

  • 4thewords – If you find video games addictive, why not use that to increase your writing output? On 4thewords, you can battle various monsters and make progress through a fantasy world, all through writing. Create projects composed of individual files, keeping your writing organized here, too. In my 4thewords account, I keep my journal, win battles by pasting in the articles I write for my day job, and even organize and write the first drafts of short stories and novels.
  • Scrivener – Scrivener makes it easy to organize all the parts of your books, from non-fiction to novels. It’s a robust software package that’s also affordable. And, if you don’t love the default look, you can switch to another theme. After I write my a scene into 4thewords for whatever novel I’m in the middle of, I then paste it into Scrivener.
  • World Anvil – Not a writing site per-se, World Anvil is the ideal platform for world building. You can create multiple worlds, and populate them with characters, locations, and so much more. Get a glimpse at what you can do on World Anvil by checking out the world of my novels, the Creedverse. (Keep in mind that what you’ll get is just a taste of my world. I’ve made enough information public to wet the appetite for my novels, but most of the information I use in my books is private. How much information do I have? Try nearly 400,000 words so far!)

Prioritizing Writing

To make writing a non-negotiable part of your day, it’s crucial to establish boundaries and communicate the importance of this time to those around you. Viewing your writing as a paramount task underscores its significance in your life and ensures that it receives the respect and time it deserves. This commitment signals to both yourself and others that your writing is not merely a hobby, but a vital aspect of your identity.

Mindfulness and Breaks

Integrating mindfulness practices into your routine can significantly clear your mind and enhance your creative output. Try incorporating regular breaks and mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or leisurely walks, to rejuvenate your mind and body. These practices not only prevent burnout but also foster a mental environment where creativity can thrive, leading to richer and more nuanced writing. Also, while I write almost every day, I’ll take a day off if I’m feeling overworked, but I’ll get back to my writing the next day.

Finding Your Community

Building connections with fellow writers can offer invaluable support, motivation, and feedback on your work. Whether it’s through local writing groups, online forums, or social media platforms, engaging with a community of like-minded individuals can provide a sense of belonging and shared purpose. This network can become a source of inspiration, challenge, and encouragement, pushing you to refine your craft and persevere through challenges.

Attending conventions, first as a paying member, and later as a guest author, or a vendor, is another fantastic way to meet other writers. I have a lot of author friends, many of whom you’ve surely heard of, that I’ve met at various cons.

Keeping the Well Filled

To sustain creativity, take part in activities that fuel your imagination, whether it’s reading widely, exploring new hobbies, or simply engaging in thoughtful observation of the world around you. These experiences enrich your inner well of ideas, ensuring that you have a diverse reservoir of material to draw upon in your writing.

Reviewing and Adjusting Your Routine

An effective writing routine does not remain static. Stay open to tweaking it to ensure it continues to serve you well. It’s meant to support your growth and development as a writer.

Developing a writing routine is a personal journey that demands a blend of discipline, flexibility, and self-awareness. Embrace realistic goal-setting, create an inspiring workspace, adopt flexible scheduling, and incorporate habits and mindfulness into your practice. In this way, you can craft a routine that propels your writing forward while nurturing your creative spirit.

“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.” ~ Maxwell Perkins

 

SPIRITUALISM IN THE CREEDVERSE

 

I’m the author of the steampunk zombie western series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, and one thing I’ve known about since starting the first novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, is the main discovery that revolutionizes the world’s technology also connects to another side.

Okay, what does that mean? Do I mean “the other side,” as in the hereafter? Or another dimension? Maybe. Honestly, that’s all I can really say at this point. This aspect of the luminiferous ether, which is the key that unlocks greater electrical power, basic artificial intelligence, and much more, finally gets revealed in the third novel, Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate.

I’m currently writing a short story that involves it as well, and that will be the story my Patreon subscribers will get in mid-February. If you’re interested in reading a lot more Creedverse stories, please sign up for just $5 a month! You’ll be supporting me and my son. I’m a single parent of a terrific kid with autism, and every bit helps.

Spiritualism in the Creedverse goes beyond what it ever could in our world, as mediums no longer need to put on shows with trickery. Here, the hum of machinery and the whispers from beyond the veil exist in harmony for those in the know.

In the final novel in my The Adventures of Bodacious Creed triology, and in my upcoming Patreon story, readers get a glimpse of how technology and the mystical merge. How? With the use of spirit rings, celestium alloy, and the luminiferous ether, Let’s delve into the complexities of connecting with the otherworldly in the Creedverse.

In my envisioned world, spiritualism flourishes at the edge of society amidst the backdrop of an industrial revolution powered by ether, steam, and steel. The movement captures humanity’s enduring quest to pierce the veil of mortality, reflecting the spiritualism movement of our own world.

Real historical figures like Mary Ellen Pleasant, and members of the Theosophical Society, including Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge, are around to possibly make appearances in my fiction.

The Spirit Ring: A Technological Marvel

The spirit ring, a creation of my characters Tobey and Esther Ghering, makes it possible for characters to connect with the unknown. This device, infused with a special form of celestium alloy, acts as a bridge to the unseen, enabling communication with voices that seem to emanate from the ether. Through this narrative element, I explore the mystery of these communications: Are they the lingering consciousness of individuals who have passed, or is the ether itself, a collective consciousness, reaching out to the living? The spirit ring is a symbol of the blurred lines between science and the supernatural in the Creedverse, challenging both characters and readers to question the nature of reality and the afterlife.

The Luminiferous Ether: The Creedverse’s Mystical Foundation

 

The concept of the luminiferous ether, borrowed and expanded from historical scientific theories, serves as the mystical foundation of the Creedverse. This ethereal dimension is the life force that powers the world’s technological wonders and spiritual practices. It’s within this omnipresent–yet other-dimensional–ether that I posit the existence of a repository for human essence. Within it exist thoughts, memories, and perhaps the very soul.

Celestium Alloy: The Key to Unseen Realms

Anna Lynn Boyd, a protagonist in The Adventures of Bodacious Creed and the main character of my upcoming series, The Anna Lynn Cornicals, invented the first celestium alloy and several variations of this versatile metal, which draws the luminiferous ether into her world.

Later, others, including the Gherings, created their own formulations with other powerful properties. And, the Gherings distributing their sprit rings marked a juncture in the Creedverse, bridging the gap between the tangible world and the realm of spirits. Their form of celestium alloy serves as the backbone of spirit rings. Place a crystal ball on top of one of these rings, and the vibrations resonate with the energies of the ether and the human mind.

To explore spiritualism in the Creedverse, I combined it with my fictional celestium alloy, allowing me to explore the intersection of technology and the supernatural. I wanted to raise questions about the mechanisms of communication with the spirit world, inviting readers to ponder whether these interactions are grounded in science or if they touch upon something more profound and inexplicable.

The Creedverse Conundrum: The Intersection of Science and the Supernatural

 

So, are these phenomena rooted in scientific principles, or do they venture into the realm of the metaphysical? Though characters will surely debate this in the Creedverse, I don’t know if I’ll ever fully answer that question. Instead, I’d like to challenge readers to navigate the murky waters between empirical evidence and the mysteries of existence. I aim to not only captivate the imagination but also to provoke thoughtful consideration about consciousness, the possibility of an afterlife, and the essence of what it means to be human in a world where the boundaries of reality are constantly being redefined.

In weaving the narrative of the Creedverse, I’ve endeavored to create a world where the marvels of technology coexist with the enigmatic allure of the spiritual, where the quest for knowledge and understanding transcends the confines of the physical world. It’s a realm that invites both characters and readers to embark on a journey of discovery, to question the limits of human understanding, and to marvel at the mysteries that lie at the heart of existence.

And, if there is no afterlife, our thoughts, shared in stories, articles, blogs, social media posts, and more will continue on for a long time, like memories in the ether.

“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.” ~ Roy T. Bennett

 

As the author of the Adventures of Bodacious Creed series and upcoming novels in my corner of the multiverse, which I call the Creedverse, I enjoy blending historical events with the world of my creation. A perfect example of this is my depiction of the hoodlum revolt of 1877 in San Francisco, a real-world event that I’ve reimagined in my short story, Siege! A Bodacious Creed Story.

The Real-World Hoodlum Revolt

 

In July 1877, chaos engulfed the streets of San Francisco. Originating as a labor protest by unemployed workers, the demonstration soon turned violent. Anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant, driven by economic strife and job competition. Chinese immigrants, seen as undercutting the labor market, bore the brunt of the rioters’ fury. They torched buildings and protected in the streets of Chinatown. Many were injured or killed in a city fraught with racial and economic tensions. The local police force, overwhelmed by the scale of the violence, struggled to restore order. It was only with the intervention of federal troops that the rioting finally ceased.

The Creedverse Reimagining: SIEGE! A BODACIOUS CREED STORY

 

In my Creedverse, this historical backdrop sets the stage for Siege! A Bodacious Creed Story. Here, the story takes a fictional twist with James Creed, a former U.S. Marshal and a central figure in my series, playing a heroic role during the first night of the riots. In my narrative, Creed, now a private investigator, takes it upon himself to protect a group of Chinese individuals, including a family in their teahouse, as well as the son of Wu Tingfeng, leader of the Wu Cai Tong, and some of Wu’s men. This element of heroism woven into the fabric of historical events adds depth and action to the story. He also protects an 11-year-old white girl who snuck out of her home to visit a young friend in Chinatown and finds herself in the middle of the siege.

Furthermore, the Creedverse introduces a steampunk elements, including several auto sapients. These advanced humanoid automatons, a signature of the Creedverse’s technological progress, participate in the conflict on both sides.

A Fusion of Fact and Fiction

 

The integration of historical facts with the fantastical elements of the Creedverse offers a blend of reality and imagination. I was a chance for me–and readers–to explore “what if” scenarios: what if advanced technology existed in the late 19th century? How would it have affected historical events? Through Siege! A Bodacious Creed Story, I aim to offer not just entertainment but also a deeper reflection on history, technology, and the human condition.

For those eager to dive into this fascinating intersection of history and fiction,Siege! A Bodacious Creed Story is now available to my Patreon subscribers. It’s a thrilling addition to the Creedverse, promising action, historical intrigue, and the innovative twist of steampunk technology. If you subscribe to my Patreon for $5/month, you’ll get a long story (at least 3,000 words) and at least three flash fiction pieces set in the Creedverse every month, with more coming as additional subscribers join. I’m happy to offer this fans of my novels to enjoy more of my fiction. Each story is exclusive to the Patreon for six months from when it went live!

Check it out on my Patreon page if you’re interested!

In the end, the story of the hoodlum revolt in both the real world and the Creedverse underscores the complexities of societal change and the enduring spirit of humanity. It’s a reminder of the power of storytelling to reshape our understanding of the past and to imagine the endless possibilities of alternate realities.

“San Francisco itself is art… Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal.” ~ William Saroyan