A Day in the Life: Chance

No one day in Chance’s hectic life can be considered ordinary, but we can make some generalizations.

A handsome young fellow from the 1800's

A handsome young fellow from the 1800’s

Chance generally rises later than his partner. His active mind often makes it difficult for him to get to sleep and stay asleep, so he frequently dozes off around the time Carmela is starting the kitchen fire. Once up and moving, he’ll stop by the kitchen for a light breakfast with plenty of strong coffee. Before that, however, he must shave and make certain he is the epitome of masculine fashion.

After breakfast, he and Kye usually read through the morning newspaper in search of entertainment. Chance usually spends the afternoon working on whatever project he’s got going, whether it’s collecting information for their next job, practicing his card games or lock-picking skills, or writing the next installment in the Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid dime novels.

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If left to his own devices, Chance might forget to eat lunch. If he’s at home, one of the servants will remind him to eat, or if he’s with Kye, he’ll get dragged into whatever restaurant is closest. Chance tends to have his heaviest meal in the evening, and he likes fine dining. If not dining at home, he’ll choose one of the best restaurants in town and be certain he has reservations for the evening.

He and Kye usually spend the evening in search of entertainment. Chance prefers more excitement, while Kye is more comfortable with a few friends. Chance is likely to be found at any large social gathering, at the theater or a lecture, or anywhere people gather. He’s just as likely to be found in the “bad” section of town, too, though he’ll wear his oldest clothes in that case rather than dressing to the nines.

Lick House restaurant, San Francisco

Lick House restaurant, San Francisco

Chance enjoys strolling the streets of San Francisco, and often doesn’t stroll back home until early morning. He might have a pocket full of cash from a poker game, or he might just have spent his time exploring his city.

5 Habits of Successful Writers

Everybody knows the names of the current best-selling authors, right? But what about the writers who are successful, but not household names? How do you become successful, even if you don’t sell a million copies of your book?

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Here are some tips:

  • Forget success – yep, the Number One way to become successful is not to try to be. Focus on bettering your craft and writing the best work you can, instead of spending effort dreaming about the future and imagining your possible kudos.
  • Keep it going – once you finish a work and send it out, don’t just sit there waiting to hear back. Start on the next project and keep working. Again, focus on the quality of your work and concentrate on sending more of it out there.
  • Risk it – write outside your comfort zone. Try a genre you’re unfamiliar with. Write dialogue if you’re more comfortable with exposition. Experiment with a short story if you’ve been writing novels. Challenge yourself to stretch your creative muscle.
  • Set boundaries – learn to say “no” to anything that will get in the way of your writing. Turn down interruptions. Stop letting the wrong people read your work-in-progress. Avoid friends and family who try to divert your attention. Focus on your craft and stand firm in your decision.
  • Make your own path – some of the most successful authors are ones who didn’t follow the accepted advice, but did things in their own style. Maybe you can self-publish first and then sell to a traditional publishing house. Maybe you can finagle a book from that blog. Don’t just follow what “everyone says.”

What is your best advice for becoming a successful author?

A Day in the Life: Kye

Kye’s day begins simply enough: Grab whatever’s handy in the wardrobe, shave, then head downstairs for a huge breakfast from Carmela, with a pot of strong coffee.

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San Francisco theatrical newspaper 1875

After reading the morning newspaper with Chance, Kye usually spends the day working on one of his projects. If he’s not tinkering with something in his workroom or out in the shed, he’ll probably be over at Red’s working on some sort of firearm, or at one of the town’s blacksmith shops learning a new technique.

Lunch is whatever’s handy. He might eat at home, or he might stop at the closest restaurant or pub. Kye’s not nearly as picky as Chance is – he’s more drawn to plain cooking and large servings (or “all you can eat”).

If he’s not in the middle of a project, he might hook up with Chance in the late afternoon, for a visit to Woodward’s Gardens or a matinee performance at the theater.

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Woodward’s Gardens, San Francisco

Evenings might be spent in any sort of search for entertainment: theater, sports (Kye is partial to boxing matches), visiting or hosting friends, or attending a lecture or other educational exhibit. Kye and Chance generally eat dinner fairly late, either at a restaurant or at home, and stay out until all hours of the morning. This explains why they’re not usually up and about until well after most people have already eaten breakfast and gone about their daily business.

Once he gets back home, Kye is likely to tinker some more on his latest project, and then retire to his or Chance’s sitting room for the evening newspapers and conversation (with brandy and/or coffee and a cigar or cigarette).

Guest Post: Subject is Variable – Character is Everything

Today’s guest lecturer is Amanda Rosenblatt:

When writing anything, whether it is an OpEd blog, a creative short story, or a fact sheet, the character put into the text is crucial. When I say “character,” I do not mean a talking rabbit that solves crimes.

People who are lucky to find careers in writing aren’t always going to be lucky enough to write about what they want to. Some are very blessed to have gotten to release the content they wanted to, or they find success in self-publishing, but there are others who write about the subject matter they are given to work with.

Any true writer is just happy to write and can work with anything they are given. The written word is their broken glass, the subject being the glue, and the final product becoming the mosaic made from materials once deemed worthless.

A great example of this concept is “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The “My Little Pony” franchise before 2010 was successful at selling toys, but their films and TV series were lackluster in their reception, at best. Now, the fourth generation of the franchise is highly successful and noted for its depth in storytelling, as well as character building.

The people who created this generation were not the makers of the subject, being “My Little Pony.” The series was born from a toy Hasbro released in the early 1980s, so it is not new.

The writers worked with what they had to make something better. Something relevant to modern society that was educational and entertaining. Not only did it appeal to children, its target audience, but it even pulled in an adult audience, who lovingly call themselves Bronies or PegaSisters.

Were the writers for this show passionate about the subject matter at first? Likely no, since it was just another writing job and they were adults building the concept of a children’s show. But look at what they created with the subject matter given!

The moral of the story is that it shouldn’t matter if you are writing a technical manual, a satirical piece, or a feature story. Take the subject, give it life, infect it with character, and make the words work with you. You’ll give them all something to talk about, even if it’s completely by accident.

Amanda Rosenblatt is a fellow contributor to Answers.com with J.E.S. Hays, and a writer for VA Home Loan Centers. Follow the VA HLC Twitter account, or visit their site.

A Day in the Life: Carmela

Carmela’s day starts early. She’s got to cook her own family’s breakfast before she leaves for Chance and Kye’s house. Fortunately, the lads usually sleep late, so she’s got a little leeway to stop by the market on the way and pick up fresh ingredients for the day’s meal.

A Victorian Era Kitchen

A Victorian Era Kitchen

She’s also got great employers, which means she’s got a modern kitchen with the best equipment. It doesn’t take long to get the fire going in the stove and start the coffee. Before starting breakfast, she’ll put lunch on – usually a big pot of chili or soup, or maybe roast beef or chicken that she can slice for sandwiches later. She’ll also pop the day’s bread into the oven.

Carmela’s day is unusual for a cook because of the odd hours her employers keep. Breakfast can be as late as 9 or 10 o’clock, with lunch (when the lads are actually home for it) in the early afternoon. Their largest meal is the evening one, but Chance and Kye don’t expect her to stay until they arrive. They’re perfectly happy to have her leave a roast warming in the oven, or a pot of stew on the back burner.

A Victorian Era cook

A Victorian Era cook

Of course, when Chance throws one of his frequent get-togethers, the timing of the meals shifts around. Lunch will more than likely be a light affair, perhaps only a sandwich (or two or three, in Kye’s case), and dinner will be in the early evening. That’s when Carmela really gets to shine. She’ll spend the entire day working on the meal, producing four- or five-course meals that never cease to amaze the lads. They’ve offered numerous times to hire an assistant, but the most she’ll accept is a part-time scullery maid to wash and prepare the vegetables and meats.

She does accept the assistance of a couple of day-maids on such occasion, to clean up after the affair. This leaves her free to start the bread for the next day and get home to her own family at a reasonable hour of the evening.

A Victorian kitchen

A Victorian kitchen

Here’s an example of a fairly typical Victorian Era feast:

  • Savory soup
  • Roast turkey with dressing – or Chicken fricassee with rice – or Roast pork with potatoes
  • Two vegetable side dishes
  • Citrus ice
  • Fresh dinner rolls with butter
  • Jams, jellies and sweet pickles
  • Fancy cake
  • Punch, coffee and water or wine

4 Tricks for Goodreads Authors

Goodreads is an author’s Number One social media – or it should be! If you’re still a bit confused by the site, here are some tricks to help you succeed as a Goodreads Author.

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1. Focus on your reviews. Goodreads syndicates its reviews to a lot of big-name literary sites, so you want to increase your numbers. Here are some tips on that:

  • Post excerpts of your book on your Goodreads page
  • Link your blog to your Goodreads page – and don’t hesitate to make a blog post stating that your book is available for review!
  • Make sure your website has a Goodreads widget (available on the Goodreads site)
  • Join some Groups
  • Host a Giveaway

2. Maximize your profile. Make sure you’ve got everything filled in that can be filled in. Make sure you’ve got a link to your blog. Add a video if you have one – this is a great place for book trailers. Use your best professional photo.

3. Join an active Group and participate. Here are some tips for Groups:

  • Participation is key – join in on the polls and roundtable discussions. Nobody’s going to notice you if you just sit on the sidelines
  • Most groups have a bookshelf. Once you’ve established yourself as a contributing member, ask about adding your book to the shelf
  • If the group has freebie days (days when you can announce your giveaways), then participate – don’t make any sales announcements unless they do, though
  • Once you have an established readership, you can host your own Featured Author Group for your readers

4. Stay active. Don’t just set up your author page and vanish. Once a week, you should:

  • Add a book to your shelf – one you’ve read, are planning to read, or something that inspired you
  • Write a review for something you’ve read – and if you want to be a real darling, cross-post that review to Amazon!
  • Rate a book – you just give a book a “star” rating. Simple, right?
  • Update your blog or your Goodreads profile. If you don’t blog weekly, you can add a favorite quote or book passage to your profile. The key is to keep your profile active
  • Post something to your group – either a new topic, a comment or a response to something else
  • Add friends – find people in your group you want to follow, or reviewers, or other authors

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What are your favorite tips for Goodreads?

At the Movies: Westerns

Considering my genre, it’s natural for me to watch Westerns! Here are just a few of my favorites for you to check out.

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Rio Bravo: John Wayne and Dean Martin defend the town from a corrupt rancher. Features a very young Ricky Nelson.

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The Sacketts: based on Louis L’Amour’s books and starring Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, and Jeff Osterhage. There’s another Elliott/Selleck/L’Amour story called The Shadow Riders, which is also very good.

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El Dorado: another version of Rio Bravo actually, with John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and James Caan fighting evil Ed Asner.

Heck, I’ll watch almost anything with John Wayne in it!

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Tombstone: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as the Earps and Doc Holliday.

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The Magnificent Seven: Seven gunslingers come to the aid of a Mexican village.

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Dances with Wolves: Kevin Costner and Graham Greene in the story of a Civil War soldier learning about the Lakota tribe.

And for sheer silliness…

FB_Blazing_SaddlesBlazing Saddles: Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder try to save the town of Rock Ridge from corrupt Harvey Korman.

 

5 Rules To Know Before You Break Them

Many amateur writers mistakenly believe that they don’t need a solid grounding in the language in order to write. After all, great writers break the rules all the time, right?

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The fact is, those writers break the rules precisely because they know which rules to break. You can’t write well if you don’t know which rules can be broken and which can’t – and in order to know that, you’ve got to know the rules in the first place.

If you want to be a good writer, or even a great one, get started with a solid grounding in your language.

  • Spelling: know what the word is supposed to look like before you try to spell it in dialect
  • Vocabulary: know enough words to say what you want to say
  • Definitions: know what a noun is, or a possessive; understand what goes on behind your sentences so you know how to achieve the effect you want to achieve
  • Process: know how to make the proper plural or past tense; understand how the words change depending on what you want them to do
  • Grammar: know how to match your verb to your noun, or how to catch a run-on sentence or sentence fragment before you try to change things around

Any good language textbook will be useful if you didn’t pick up enough in school. Learn the rules so you can break them.

Setting: San Francisco

When I was scouting around for a place to set the Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid stories, I checked out several cities that would have fit their bill back in the 1870’s. I wanted something west of the Mississippi, of course, and there weren’t many large cities in that area.

FB_Denver_Larimer_1875Denver, Colorado was one option. The Denver Pacific railway line would have been in place, and the city was a major stopping point for travelers. I decided the lads would have spent time here, especially between “jobs,” but would have eventually settled on an even larger city as their permanent base of operations.

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San Francisco in the 1870’s rivaled New York City. Around 150,000 people called the city home, and Kye and Chance would have been able to blend right in. Plus, San Francisco was a modern wonder, with paved streets, gaslights, an excellent public transport system, and even skyscrapers.

It wasn’t too hard to pick the lads’ home city once I started looking at old photographs. They’d have gone for the bright lights and 24-hour entertainment.