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For Writers - How to Not Write a Bad Novel (or, How to Avoid Looking Like an Amateur Writer)

I found a romance novel in my bedside table drawer written by a woman who consistently receives good reviews (I found at least 10 novels by her on Amazon, all with 4+ stars). So I assumed this particular novel would be really good.
Well, the story line was pretty good/believable and there was plenty of conflict: Highland laird who distrusts women. English woman who needs protection.
So far so good. However, upon reading it I struggled through so many flaws (which screamed "amateur") that I decided to post this brief article in hopes of guiding other writers in not making these same horrendous mistakes, because now I've crossed this author's name off my shopping list. Keep in mind, I'm not an expert, but I am an avid reader with a big opinion.
  1. Extreme Head-Hopping POV - In some scenes, the POV flipped from head to head to head and back again. It becomes so confusing to keep up with whose head the reader is in when there are more than 2 characters in a scene. Plus it's just plain annoying.
  2. Going into Minor Character's Heads POV - Do I really care what the maid thinks if it's not that vital to the plot/story? All it does is distract.
  3. Dumping Research on the Reader - This particular author made the research sound like copy and paste from a reference book (for example, "In 1305 the river flooded"). It pulls the reader out of the story and frankly I rolled my eyes. Who talks like that?
  4. Having a Character Ask How Things Work - This book was full of these. The character would ask "How does that work?" so that the author can dump more research on the poor reader. Of course the facts are interesting but save those for your blog/website and not your novel. Another eye-roll.
  5. Using the Same "Big" Word or Phrase in the Same Paragraph - This shows a lack of editing skills IMO. If I read "bizarre" in one sentence and then it appears again in the next sentence (without a valid reason) then I'm going to assume you didn't spend enough time self-editing. Then I'm going to think the publisher was in too big a hurry to edit it either. The first time it happens, I can forgive. But in this particular book, it happened again and again, especially towards the end giving the impression they were rushing to finish the book.
  6. Unbelievable Solution to Conflict - In this book, the villain has been pursuing the heroine for ill reasons and is a violent, temperamental man. So it's extremely unbelievable that he would simply go away in the end without a fight because the hero uses the name "Robert the Bruce" to intimidate him.

I hope these little pointers will help your writing be stronger and not allow the reader so many eye rolls. ;-)

The Real #GeorgeWashington - #NationalGeographic Channel

The Real George Washington


Of all the legendary figures in American history, George Washington is in a class by himself. Founding father, Commander of the Continental Army, and Americas first president his face is as familiar as the dollar bill. Most everyone knows this great man, or thinks they do. But were starting to learn that much of what we thought is fact, is actually fiction. Today, archaeologists, scientists, and historians are uncovering new clues about the real George Washington. Their hi-tech tools and scientific techniques are peeling back the layers on this famous American, revealing the true man behind the myth - George Washington, the founding father we hardly knew.

  • Fredericksburg, Virginia - site of George's childhood home, 40 miles south of Mount Vernon
  • George's family was considered the second-tier gentry of Virginia
  • When he was 8 years old, Christmas Eve 1740, a fire broke out and destroyed most of his home.
  • At 16 years old, George was charting/surveying properties of te wealthy
  • At 21 years, George joined the Virginia Militia
  • At 26 years old, George targets Martha Cuscus, one of the wealthiest and prettiest widows of Virginia. Secretly, George was infatuated with his friend's wife, Sally Fairfax, and even sent her a note. Eventually his own marriage becomes a love match.
  • July 9, 1755 - George (at 33 years old) accompanies English advanced guard in French and Indian War. Indians attack. General Braddock is killed. Officers are dead or wounded, leaving George to lead remaining soldiers out.
  • December 26, 1776 - Washington crossed the Delaware River. George knew frost would arrive during the night and his group could evacuate so they leave behind decoy campfires to trick English General Cornwallis. At 8am, Cornwallis attacks but Washington and his men are gone; George surprise attacks them and defeats them.
  • Washington was around slaves his whole life. He had 300 slaves at Mount Vernon (6 days a week) and brought slaves to the Executive Mansion (precursor to the White House).
  • Washington dies at 10:20 and the clock is stopped to mark the time. In his will, he requests all his slaves be freed and educated but only after Martha's death. She actually frees them early.

CLICK HERE for the official website

Check your local library for a copy or you can view via online streaming through Amazon here:

#Diggers - Wyatt Earp #WildWest - #NationalGeographic Channel

Diggers - Wyatt Earp Wild West (Season 3, Episode 11)


Two quirky pals scour the country for lost relics and riches of American history. In this episode, the guys go to Dodge City, once home to the Wild West's famous lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.

  • Tombstone, Arizona - 1879 Wyatt Earp moves in from Dodge City. October 1880 - cowboys high on opium shoot their guns into the air; Marshal White was killed by "Curly" Bill Brocius while trying to disarm the group; Virgil Earp became marshal at 37 years old after White's death; town council banned guns and slapped anyone with a gun a $25 fine (about $600 in today's money)
  • October 26, 1881 - The Earps and Doc Holliday approached 5 Cowboys (Billy Claiborne, Billy and Ike Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury) and ordered them to disarm. 30 rounds were shot in 30 seconds. 3 cowboys were killed (Frank and Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton) while the other two fled. Only Wyatt Earp made it thorugh unharmed. "OK" stands for "Old Kindersley" who were the previous owners of the property.
  • Fort Barclay, Watrous, New Mexico - built in late 1840's and included a mercantile, blacksmith and stables; was abandoned late 1800's when railroad bypassed it completely. The Diggers find an Eagle Button with a "C" in the center to indicate "calvary". They also find an oval U.S. belt buckle which was added to the standard uniform in 1839.
  • Naco, Arizona - 1916 Pancho Villa raided New Mexico and was pushed back into Mexico; the Diggers find a pin with crossed canons motif (which was for the artillery, known as "King of Battle"); the Arizona Army National Guard was formed in 1865 almost 50 years before Arizona became a state; the U.S. set over 5,000 troops to the border to protect against Villa. Pancho Villa had a contract with Hollywood to film his battlefield exploits.

Check your local library for a copy or you can view via online streaming through Amazon here:

#Diggers - The #GoldRush - #NationalGeographic Channel

Diggers - Gold Rush (Season 3, Episode 16)


Two quirky pals scour the country for lost relics and riches of American history. In this episode, the guys explore mines that produced a fortune in silver and gold during the prospecting frenzy.
This show is really fun to watch because these are "ordinary" guys just running around with their metal detectors (with permission, of course) uncovering cool artifacts in the ground. It's interesting to see the history behind the quest's topic (in this case, the Gold Rush), what types of things they find and what the experts say. Take some of their antics with a grain of salt and you will enjoy it.

  • Matchless Mine, Leadville, Colorado - Silver mining capital between 1878 and 1880 with production around $50,000 per day. Mules were used to pull the cars (loaded with silver).
  • Toughnut Mine, Tombstone, Arizona - 5.4 million ounces were mined here; deep tunnels; danger of poisonous gases and cave-ins; paths were irregular as the miners followed the vein of ore; Sears catalog pages were used as toilet paper (ouch!); drilling was often a two-man job with one working the drill steel and the other working the hammer
  • Kennedy Mine, Jackson, California - 6000 feet deep; 1.75 million ounces (worth $1.5 Billion today); largest gold nugget ever discovered weighed 210 lbs (worth over $4.2 million today)

CLICK HERE for Nat Geo's official Diggers series website

Check your local library for a copy or you can view via online streaming through Amazon here:

10 Things You Don't Know About The #GoldRush - #HistoryChannel

I found this neat series on the History Channel called "10 Things You Don't About..." and each episode focuses on a different historic topic, event, person or group ranging from the Gold Rush (reviewed here) to the Founding Fathers to Adolph Hitler and reveals interesting tidbits that we never learned in history class.

10 Things You Don't Know About - The Gold Rush (Season 3, Episode 10)


In Season 3 of 10 Things You Don't Know About on H2, punk icon Henry Rollins continues to uncover crazy new twists and facts about historic eras, figures and places in American history that you thought you knew.

  • John Sutter is given credit for discovery gold (at Sutter's Mill) but it was actually carpenter James Marshall who actually discovered it in January of 1848. Sutter tells Mariano Vallego (California Military Commander) about the gold and word spreads. Eventually people just flood Sutter's land holding (11,000 acres) and squat. Sutter eventually sells all but 600 acres.
  • Colorado had a gold rush around 1858. It was considered the richest square mile on Earth (worth about $8-$10 billion today)
  • William Thomas invested a wind-powered wago. It could go 25 mph, carry 25-30 people, and had 12 foot wheels. But too much wind caused the axels to overheat and the brakes went out.
  • More people got rich from selling water and supplies than finding gold.
  • 1850 - Ships sailed into Yerba Buena cover (San Francisco). 500 ships were abandoned in the cover creating a "forest of masts". People bought the discarded ships to build up "land" with the broken-down lumber (creating very unstable holdings).
  • Malakoff Diggins - 1853 - hydraulic mining (using water canons). The levees broke and flooded the town. By 1882, the destruction was so bad that the farmers sued. The case went to Federal Court and eventually the first environmental law went into effect.

CLICK HERE to view Full Episodes from the 3 seasons. "The Gold Rush" is featured in Season 3, Episode 10 (CLICK HERE to view)

If you can't view the online video, check your local library if they have a copy or you can watch it via Amazon here:

Picture Credit: The History Channel

#ModernMarvels - #Locomotives - #HistoryChannel

Modern Marvels - Locomotives (Season 2 Episode 4)

Original air date: May 23, 2008

Zip through the French countryside at nearly 300 MPH on the TGV--the fastest locomotive in the world. Ride on the little engines that could as they guide giant ships through the Panama Canal. Watch two locomotives crash head-on as the federal government monitors safety.

  • 1804 - the steam locomotive arrives
  • The "Fireman" shovels coal into the train's fire to produce steam only when needed
  • He shovels about 1.5 tons of coal per hour
  • The Fireman is on duty 12 hours a day (that could be up to 15 tons of coal a day!)
  • The temperature is around 2500 degrees!
  • The Railroad Engineer is also a technician and may have to make repairs when necessary
  • When 2 locomotives crash head-on, the one with the most momentum will move up/over the second one

Check your local library for a copy or you can buy one from here:

You can also view it via Streaming here:

#Tribes of #Native #America - #Apache

Apache (Tribes of Native America Series) by Marla Felkins Ryan, Linda Schmittroth

ISBN-13: 978-1567116045

Publisher: Blackbirch Press (October 2002)

The Tribes of Native America series from Blackbirch Press delve into the major tribes that have helped shape and form the America we know today in an easy-to-read format and loaded with factual tidbits. This particular book from the series concentrates on the Apache Indian tribe and a handful of famous Apaches (such as Geronimo and Cochise).

  • The word "Apache" comes from a Zuni word, "apachu" which means "enemy"
  • 1540 - Spanish explorers meet the Apache natives for the first time
  • Late 1500's, the Spanish built settlements and missions and forced Apaches into slavery
  • Geronimo (1827 - 1909) was a medicine man and warrior. In 1858, Mexican raiders killed his mother, wife and children.
  • In 1861, the Chiricahua tribe leader, Cochise, is arrested on false kidnapping charges. He escapes but his people are murdered which triggers the Apache Wars.
  • 1874 - Cochise dies.
  • 1886 - Geronimo's band surrenders, effectively marking the end of the Apache's war against white settlement.
  • 1913 - Most of the surviving Chiricahua natives move to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico.
  • Apaches build single-family homes called wickiups which are cone or dome-shaped frames covered with brush/skins/mats.
  • Since a lot of Apache bands lived near the Mexican border, they adopted Mexican-style dress and customs.

Find a copy at your local library or you can order one through Amazon:

#AmericanHeroesChannel - #Gunslingers - Pious #JimMiller

The Gunslingers series on the American Heroes Channel is rather enjoyable and entertaining to watch. This particular episode (Season 2, Episode 6) titled "Deacon Jim Miller - The Pious Assassin" revealed some interesting facts that I hadn't found before and will share here.

Original air date: August 23, 2015

Series Description:
The 19th century territory west of the Mississippi was a rough place, swarming with outcasts, murderers, thieves and bounty hunters. From bank-robbing outlaw Butch Cassidy and hard-nosed enforcer Seth Bullock, to infamous Dodge City sheriff Bat Masterson and lone-ranger Bass Reeves, the unforgivable Wild West kicks into high gear in this season of Gunslingers.

Episode Description:
His neighbors saw a devout family man. The last thing his victims saw was a shotgun aimed at their heads. If there's an outlaw who was born to kill it's DEACON JIM MILLER – the Bible-thumping psycho-killer.

  • Jim Miller, also known as "Killer Jim" killed 51 men.
  • He acted like a mobster - scared or paid off witnesses (or had them killed).
  • Although he was a murderer, he didn't drink or use foul language and he attended regular church services. This clean appearance gave him the nickname "Pious Jim Miller".
  • His first crime was murdering his grandparents at 8 years old. He was never charged with the crime.
  • July 30, 1884 - he killed his sister Georgia's husband, John Coop, during church service.
  • In 1891, Jim Miller became deputy of Pecos; the sheriff Bud Frazer eventually stripped him of his badge after Jim murdered a Mexican prisoner.
  • Jim plots to kill Bud Frazer to get him out of the way, but Bud's friend overhears the plot and it is foiled. Eventually, Bud loses it and starts shooting Jim at close range but Jim was protected by a steel plate. Bud was fired.
  • Miller was appointed to town marshal (a pretty important position similar to today's police chief).
  • Eventually, Miller becomes a killer-for-hire. His payment starts at $50 and eventually grows to $2000 a job.
  • Jim's downfall started when he is hired by a group of corrupt cattlemen in Oklahoma to kill a cattleman and former Deputy U.S. Marshal named Gus Bobbitt. Gus's wife spots Jim and he is eventually tracked down and thrown in jail. Now, Jim has a history of getting acquitted from his crimes based on technicalities or lack of witnesses, so this time the angry locals take matters into their own hands and hang Jim and his gang.

You might find this episode on the American Heroes Channel or check your local library or you can view it through Streaming:

#ModernMarvels - #Saws - #HistoryChannel

Modern Marvels - Saws (Season 3 Episode 4)

Original air date: June 27, 2008

They have the sharpest teeth known to man, but only bite on command. They brought down the forests and built up the pyramids. Some have used them to torture, others to cure. They're a cut above for construction, salvage, demolition - and they even make music.

  • Prehistoric flint stone saws have been discovered
  • 4900 BC - Egyptians created metal/copper saws (eventually replaced with bronze and iron)
  • 700 BC - The teeth on the saw are designed in the direction of the cut
  • 1730's - Amputation Saws are used (sawing back and forth). Unfortunately, they were not properly cleaned or sanitized and spread disease.
  • 1930's - Crosscut saws are introduced
  • Interestingly (and sadly) - Timber Cutting is one of the most lethal jobs in America with 110 deaths per 100,000 workers

Check your local library for a copy or you can buy one from here:

You can also view it via Streaming here:

#America - Facts vs Fiction - Fool's Gold - #AmericanHeroesChannel

America: Facts vs Fiction - Fool's Gold (Season 2 Episode 1)

The real facts behind America's biggest economic boom and biggest bust will shock you. On this episode of America: Facts vs. Fiction, discover a treasure of nuggets about the California gold rush and the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

  • North Carolina experienced the first gold rush in the U.S. (in 1799)
  • Georgia experienced the second gold rush in the U.S. (in 1828)
  • The California Gold Rush was actually the third god rush in the U.S. (1849), but two things made it so memorable and lasting: the gold was found on Federal land (making it available to any one to mine) and the amount of gold was massive
  • Interestingly, the biggest danger was Disease (thanks to poor sanitation practices and lack of clean water)
  • One in Five miners died in the first six months
  • One in Four miners arrived in California from outside the U.S.
  • The people who actually became rich were the store or supply owners.
  • A store owner named Sam Brannan was California's first millionaire
  • The California Gold Rush pretty much died down around 1860

Check your local library for a copy or you can watch it via Stream here: