All three of Helen M. Pugsley’s published works are available on Amazon.
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All three of Helen M. Pugsley’s published works are available on Amazon.
Check Oblivious Luminescence for signed copies!
Read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
I have to admit, lately I have been seriously worried I have nothing left to teach you all, my dear followers. When one of you DMs me with a question, I more often than not can point you to a blog post! Which is great! But seriously, DM me more questions. I’m running out of them. As you know, I started writing for Goshen County Library (AKA “James Bond’s Library”) in 2017– maybe 2018, and started doing it here in 2020. I’ve covered a lot! But now I work in History Land rather than Library Land. Working in a museum, I pick up the phone to different, but similar questions. So let’s start there! In the next couple-a months, I’ll be answering questions, I commonly get from all ya’ll historians!
Let’s dive right in. I’m assuming you’re here because you put in the work, did a bunch of genealogical research, and now you’re sitting on top of a bundle of information you’re not sure how to share with people who would be interested. Mainly the rest of your family! And once you get into it, you realize your family is much bigger than you anticipated. Take me for example. We had no idea my great great grandfather Heinrich had a brother named Ferdinand. Heinrich left Germany for America, and Ferdinand left Germany and went to Australia. I have cousins on the other side of the world, who still live in a Germanic neighborhood, and they speak German and English! I am jealous! They’re the ones who did the work and eventually called my grandparents. I can tell you from experience, everyone wants this information but it’s going to kill your little home office printer. It’s time to make your family history a book.
I am once again going to hurt your feelings, but I need to be honest with you: There are few people who are interested in your family history, outside of your family. I mean, there’s people like me who will read next to any non-fiction book because they need something to think about, aside from the decline of America. Elsewise, I could definitely see someone on the curatorial staff skimming it because they’re looking for one human in a group picture of 30 people. What I’m getting at is that you do not need the broad distribution services you would need if you were, say, publishing a young adult fantasy novel. That is not a bad thing! Don’t spend your money on advertising, spend it on making a quality book! And don’t spend your time pitching your specialized history to a history press, spend your time making a quality book! Those places are looking for pieces about people like Butch Cassidy, not Grandpa Heinrich.
Don’t be disheartened. Family history is local history. It’s cool to get with your community and compare notes. My neighbor, whose ranch is right next to my family’s homestead read his great grandmother’s diaries on Tik Tok for the duration of the apocalypse, and got such a big following I made a friend on the internet, and she asked me if I had heard of the “Homesteader’s Diary” series on Tik Tok. (Here is a news article in case you’re uncomfortable opening Tik Tok.) When I told her, “Oh, das my boi, Taylor.” she acted like I was a minor celebrity! People my age are super interested in genealogy, and family stories. It is kind of part of searching for an identity. This work is still important, but don’t think you’ll get rich and famous from it.
“So Helen, quit yacking and tell me how to get started!” Alrighty! The first step is, and will always be, creating a quality manuscript. This means killing your home office printer with 260 page electric bugaloo, and then taking the red pen of judgment to it. Or printing off a bunch of cute little tree graphics, and then numbering them page by page, and spreading it across your kitchen table to show to your family. You need to decide what you want this book to look like. Is it going to be a ton of lists, with a few profiles? Is it going to be a recipe book with stories? You need to decide what you want. And if you need someone to actually write the book for you, look into hiring a ghost writer.
Honey, I’m going to square with you. I’ve not needed one, and I haven’t met many. There’s job boards online, and companies that specialize in choosing ghost writers for family histories. I haven’t used them, but I’ve seen them. The only one I know of off the top of my head is my friend’s cousin Mark R Morris Jr. I don’t know his specialty and I don’t know if he’d be in to genealogy. Happy Googling, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
So the next step. You’re now holding a solid manuscript. Now wha– Edit it. Yeah, make sure all your dates are right, all your names are spelled the same way twice, you have a basic understanding of grammar (unlike me), things are in chronological order, yadda, yadda. Once you go through it yourself, you need to turn it over to someone else. Preferably someone who understands English better than you (again, it ain’t me. I ain’t no fortunate son). This would be a good time to spend that advertising budget I mentioned you don’t need. Keep in mind, professional editing costs about as much as new tires, so really think hard about how you’re going to distribute this book. Are we buying a crate of books and bringing them to Christmas? Or are we leaving it up on the internet for any ol’ bum to find? How embarrassed will you be when Math Friend walks up and tells you that you have twelve type-os in your book? You can do this fast and free, but it’s going to look like you did it fast and free. If you’re just doing this for the family you see on Christmas, then don’t worry about it. Ask the raccoon in the dumpster to go over it once for you. No big deal. If you have any inclination to attempt to hand it off to a broader audience, ask a friend to look it over for you. Preferably in exchange for pizza. If your granddaddy was Butch Cassidy and you’re going to pitch it to a small history press, hire someone. Someone like Jenna.
Okay, so now you’re actually holding a polished manuscript! Now we gotta think of formatting and cover art. Do you have the patience to figure out how to format a manuscript to make whatever online service you’re using happy? It was absolutely 110% my least favorite part of creating The Tooth Fairy. You can also hire someone to do this for you. Someone is also Jenna. I wanted to see if I had the self control not to punch a hole in the wall, so I just did it myself. *Eye twitch*
Mmkay, cover art. What are you using? What do you envision when you picture this book in your hands? You can use Canva, you can use the cover builder on the self-publishing site of your choice (I don’t recommend this. All the books from that one place end up looking the same, and I can tell who went where for publication at a glance, at this point.), you can use some third party service I don’t know about but I’m sure Aaron would, you can use a photo grandma’s painting and then overlay some text on it, you can use a family photo from 1812, a creative commons photo, you can use a picture of your big toe! Whatever you want, babs. This is another great place to spend that marketing budget I still don’t think you need. Jenna did The Tooth Fairy for me with a photo of my family’s 100+ year old ranch. That’s right! Jenna does that too! If you’re not good at being artsy, I definitely recommend investing in a cover artist. That “don’t judge a book by its cover” is helpful everywhere but Book World. You want cousin Gary proud to show his special lady friend the cool bound book with his pedigree! Some of us like to make sure we’re not blood related before we engage in that sweet, sweet, premarital hand holding. If you have graphic design skills, freaking go for it. Just build it. If you’re proud of it, use it. I like to just write the book, then make someone else make it look nice. Clear as mud, right?
Alright, now you’ve got this polished manuscript, edited, formatted, and you’ve got cover art. What we gun’ do wit dat? Dat’s right! We gun’ publish! Finally! I was told Modern Printing here in Laramie does brokerage, and will help you find a printer, if that’s the route you’re wanting to take. Last I’ve heard, anyway. You know I be supportin’ local business.
I’ve had friends use Lulu dot com for history books. It’s the preferred website of our museum’s official historian! I definitely haven’t tried it, because I definitely didn’t get hungry enough to publish under a pen name, for some freaking grocery money back in the bad old days, *WINK*, but if I had I’d say it feels an awful lot like they make the process frustrating on purpose so you’ll employ their services. And if I went that route, I wouldn’t’ve used their publishing services because I was doing it for the cheeseburger fund, but it’s me we’re talking about, so if I started it, you’d best believe I finished it! And if I had done it, I would’ve gone back at the end of it and said “Wow, that was a whole lot of trouble for not much pay off.” and said “Wow. Publishing The Tooth Fairy via Amazon KDP was much easier than Lulu.” But I’m freaking Helen M. Pugsley. What would I need a pen name for? I definitely didn’t write trash for money. Ew. Lulu’s distribution isn’t as great as it could be. I believe you have to pay an upfront fee to have it distributed to places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Otherwise, the only place to buy books is on the site, from the author, or the museum gift shop. Which, the distribution won’t be a bad thing if you want to just buy a crate of them, pass them out to your family, then make it disappear from the internet.
Seriously, I know none of us like Amazon, but there is a reason they’re creeping up on The Big Three for the top book publisher title. They’re absolute conquerors, and KDP makes publishing as easy as it can possibly be. I published The Tooth Fairy under the name Helen M. Pugsley. They offer publishing assistance, but don’t shove it in your face at every turn. I believe author copies are a little more expensive with them. Think $5 a pop. Amazon KDP has made money by making publishing easy and accessible. The idea is to publish as much content, as quickly as possible. Everyone gets a voice, everyone gets published, everyone makes money, particularly Amazon. It’s a double-edged sword, but the distribution is better on Amazon. I mean, it’s on Amazon. Where did you go the last time you wanted to buy a book? Exactly. So anyone can look up your book and read your story about how Uncle Bill killed a man in Sweden, and then dragged his brother, your great grandpa to America in 1872. Think real hard, if that’s something you want the entire world to have access to. It is also harder to bury things once you use Amazon KDP to build them. I haven’t figure out how to delete a failed project off of my author dashboard yet. You can always be a jerk-face and jack the price of the ebook and print book up to $100. It will deter most folks, but not stop a clever one. Anyway, it will be easier to make the book, but this will be harder for you if you want to control who gets access to this information. If you don’t care, and you want your Australian cousins to get hold of it, without paying the $50 in shipping fees it takes to get something over the border, then Amazon it is! You wanna throw open the crate on Christmas/Easter/Plumber’s Day and when you run out of copies you run out, choose somewhere else.
Friends, sometimes with things like this it’s best to use a vanity publisher. You give them a book, they charge you a fee, they make your book and hand you about 200 copies. No distribution, no fooling with being an author, no publicity. Just 200 copies of one book sitting in your basement. I don’t have a recommendation, you’ll have to Google, and very carefully research, and read lots of reviews. I believe this is the route my great grandmother took. She had six children, who had two kids each-ish, who had two kids each-ish, who had two kids each-ish (here’s where I come in), and so she wrote her life story, had it spiral bound, then handed it out to each part of her family. I enjoyed reading it. It was nice to feel like she was around and lucid again, just for a little while. I’m currently hugging myself, and getting all misty eyed. There is no shame in taking this route! Your story means the world to someone. Depending on what you’re making, this could be the best route! Do you want Gladys, your bingo nemesis, to read about how you left Germany at thirteen, with your mother and brother, then joined your father in New York? Do you want her to know how controversial it was that your father was a preacher who gave half of his sermon in English and half in German when he came to Wyoming? (Freaking legendary!) Do you want her to know you met your husband at a dance, and joined the family to become the second generation of ranchers in the Moore Springs/Jay Em community? Think carefully. Knowledge is power, and information is wealth. Once you put it out there it will be very hard to control who gets their hands on it. If you want it limited, limit the number of copies in circulation.
Please remember, that parts of all of human history get dark. You will run across ancestors that repulse you if you go back far enough. I definitely wasn’t manic one night, but while I was doing perfectly normal research at 1am, I found out that one of my grandfathers might’ve tried one of my coworker’s grandmothers as a witch, in Massachusetts. We high fived over it when we saw each other in the morning. Did he? I don’t know. We need to double check, but same timeline, same part of the world. Oopsie daisy.
Bro, the world needs your story. Your family wants your story! It’s a lot of work, I’m not going to lie. But it could be your grandbaby sitting at a computer getting all weird and emotional thinking about you, in 30 years. These family histories are necessary and important. I commend you for wanting to share them! It is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. And I sincerely hope I was some help.
I don’t know how not to make this statement sound not bitchy, but here it is: Publishing a book a isn’t easy. And it’s not easy just because someone like me actually did it. It was years of aggravating hard work. It was working in secret because I was a teenager, and I already had to play trumpet until my lips bled. Why would I want something else I loved gutted for scholarship money? It was no one taking me seriously because I was a kid. It was one person taking me seriously even though I was a kid. It was me finishing my first novella in a Harry Potter journal I had owned since my 9th birthday party. It was not having money to hire an editor, and agreeing to cat-sit for a summer in exchange. It was going to the public library and asking for a directory of publishers. It was the only resources being online, and my family not having a reliable computer, or internet connection. It was me, coming home from school, searching for publishers, on the computer we only had sometimes. It was me, twisting my mother’s arm into reading it, even though reading is her least favorite hobby. (Momma loves me!) It was me, editing my book off of an Ipod touch when I lived in a car, and writing changes down in a notebook. It was me spending time in the library in Key Largo, maybe Key West, while the rain poured down, and I punched in edits from my notes, on to the public computer, using the flash drive I keep in my purse. It was going through every page of that directory of publishers, going to give up when I got to the Z page, wanting to stop at S, and getting a call back from the I page. It was me, probably being cruel and obsessive while trying to publish the thing… In short, I was a diva.
It was my first book signing, in the library that I went to story time in as a kid. It was coming up with an off-the-cuff presentation for the first time. It was living in my parent’s basement, writing, trying to find a job, writing, job hunting, writing, developing a drinking problem, finishing a second book, getting a job, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working, drinking, writing, working. It was waking up with pages glued to my face from drool and sweat. It was doing that until I was sick of it. It was getting sober, because I couldn’t remember writing the first half of book three. It was falling in love with a community. Working, writing, working, writing, working, writing, working, writing, working, writing. It was getting my heart broken over years of silence when two different publishers accepted book two, but never offered me a contract, and never published it, on two different occasions. It was still writing even though I was worried my career would be over with only one book to show for it. It was working full time, and writing in my car over lunch. It was finishing book three, and buying a portable keyboard so I could type it up, from the handwritten copy, over lunch. It was valuing a laptop from 2015 just as much as a limb. Working, writing, working, writing, fired. Don’t drink. Writing, writing, writing, pandemic. It was being so angry at the world an entire book fell out of my head and on to Kindle Direct Publishing. It was my cover artist getting sick, and my editor going back to law school. It was Jenaniper hearing me complain and coming to my rescue. It was publishing a second book, just not the one I expected. It was my friend who started his own publishing house approaching me again, and asking if, I’d consider trusting him, and his crew with my books. It was my dear old friend, off screen, coming back into my life, and convincing me to work with this publisher, because he quit his job to go to work for his friend’s business and he had been much happier for it. It was me, trusting my friends. It was my cover artist pushing himself through the darkest places to finish the artwork for me. It was sitting on the trunk of my car, with a cigar, reading proofs, in the dark, on a late-autumn night. It was so many problems delaying us, that the release date hit on a horrible traumaversery. It was me curled in fetal position on the shower floor. It was glancing at my phone to see Drakarium Publishing holding our collective breaths while distributor’s bots read over our work to make sure it was good enough to sell. It was feeling too numb to celebrate with the crew. It was three books. So far.
And it was not easy.
Just because a broke, white, vaguely female, kid from Cow-Town can do it, doesn’t make it easy.
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Hey, we’ve all had it right? That one woman runs up to you when you’re in a dark room, standing under a single spotlight and tells you she’s one of your [great, great, great, great,] grandmothers, or that she used to live in your house. Or even that one old dude in the old tymie clothing strolls up and informs you you’re “quite the fetching young lady.” and he’d “like to show you the town”. It’s cool at first, and then they want something!
They see you’re a writer, so they want you to finish the handwritten manuscript hidden in the beams of the attic. Or that you’re a writer and you’re dirt poor, so now your weird little old man is all worried about you, and he vehemently wants you to invest in the railroad. Even though you’ve told him a million times, we harvested all the coal, and now we need to look to renewable energy, before we’re really boned! Grandma wants you to find her son’s grave and tell him she’s sorry! You know, that’s none of your business! You didn’t ask to be in the middle of this family drama!
Well I’m writing this blog post to tell you, that you do not have to listen to the ghosts that keep invading your dreams! This is your life, mother licker! They had theirs! They’re not going to experience character development! They’re dead! You do what you wanna do! You write what you wanna write! You show the town who you wanna show the town to! Make a whole PowerPoint about that place! You invest in solar energy! Or wind energy! I don’t know your life! Run around, claiming you’re an airbender for all I care.
But Helen, I can’t dull my extra senses enough to not have this keep happening! Well first off, your English sucks. That’s a double negative. It should be “I can’t dull my extra senses enough to keep this from happening.” Second, have you tried telling them to get riggedy riggedy wrecked? Legit. You can just tell them to scramblam, fambillam. Shoo those suckers straight out of your dreams. Like, literally. If you tell them to get lost, they have to. Them’s the ghost rules.
Don’t let yourself be tormented by specters. Set some boundaries!
April fools. J
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My guy, you’ve just put a piece of yourself, bare, in front of the whole world. People need to be able to find you now. Some of the people want to be your friend, some of the people think you’re cool and want to silently watch your progress, some liked the one book of yours, and wanna see about getting more, some are even small town librarians, trying to invite every author in the state of Wyoming, to an event. *Ehem*
So I’m going to split this post in two. The point of view of someone who works in book world, and the point of view of someone who reads.
We’ll start with book world. I feel like it’s more straightforward. If I can’t find you on Google, I don’t really want to work with you. Simple as that. And I don’t mean that in a snobby way. I mean, I cannot find you to contact you. I don’t have time to rent a mule and trek up to your house. Look, I totally get it if you wanna live that J.D. Salinger life. Just vibe out in your hard to reach cabin in the mountains, and refuse to do interviews with the press. Buuuut you’re not going to get far in your career. These days, the modern author needs to invite the world into their office, make Tik Tok videos, and send thank you notes when the newspaper bothers to even look at you. You do need to be accessible, if you want to stay relevant.
Not only that, but if I’m the one hosting a giant author event, (not my M.O. these days, but you get the gist,) then you need to be able to tell people where to find your books when they get paid again. Are they on Amazon? Only on your website? Your publisher’s website? This proposes a unique challenge to authors who used vanity publishers. The kind of publisher where you buy 1,000 copies of your own book straight from a printing press, and then distribute them as you see fit. That’s a great option if you want to share, say, family recipes, and/or family history! My great grandmother did it with her auto-biography! It’s not going to go great if you want to share a fantasy novel with the world. By the way, if some snob tells you that that’s not “real published” smack them with your paperback. That wasn’t real assault!
Anyway, when you’re not using your books as weapons, where do you keep the mother cache? Can people access it without contacting you first? Some folks feel weird about that. Sincerely, publishing houses shouldn’t be doing the lion’s share of your of your advertising. Whether it’s traditional, self publishing, hybrid. That’s you. They need to do some of the advertising. Especially since with a traditional house, you’re getting, like 20% royalties, best case scenario! But it’s not right for you to lay back and wait for money to come either. It’s a partnership.
So secondly, as a reader: When I find your book in a trade-cache (like a Little Free Library) and it rips out my still beating heart, while I’m tipsy, after dinner, I wanna go nose around in everything else you’ve put out there! And let’s be honest, I will absolutely wine and prime books, especially if I’m still crying from reading the first one you wrote. Take advantage of stupid heads like me! Stupid heads like me want taken advantage of! Now if I have to email you for copies, even if they are free, because that’s what you want to give to the world, Immuna feel weird about it. What if I don’t like your work as much when I’m sober? What if you had a sophomore slump? Now you know where to find me, and you know I probably read your book. Feels weird, fam. Legit, Goodreads is your friend. Stupid heads like me can say “Wait, I’m mildly intoxicated. Maybe I shouldn’t buy thirty-two books of poetry by one human. I’ll just add it to my TBR, and maybe buy one a month.” I use Goodreads to keep me organized while I read. Even if you did use a janky vanity publisher (because most of them kinda suck for promotion) you can add your books, and yourself to Goodreads. I’ve had to do it with books I didn’t write so I can count them towards my 300 books in a year goal.
Anyway, this is me telling you to go get out there! Post some pictures to Instagram, click the toggles and send it to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr! Tell people about the dumb thing your cat did while he was jealous you were paying more attention to the laptop than him! I.e. Mine made me wear his tail as a mustache. Don’t worry about your social media presence, and hire me to do it for you! Post stupid updates about the book you’re not sure you’re ever going to finish before you freeze to death in one of these spring storms. Show us your wedding photos! People love wedding photos! Find a nice little start-up like Shepherd and put yourself out there even more! Make sure people can Google you!
So to recap: You need to be out there. At least a little. The more you’re out there, the more your books will be out there. The more your books are out there, the more your career will succeed. Go, fight, win!
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It’s my birthday. We’re talking about me. I don’t write everything everything by hand. These days it’s mostly just the novels I write by hand first. Also some poetry. Not often much you see on the internet, some of which you can see on Patreon. Let’s not forget ye olde daily journal entry. This blog post isn’t saying you should go to the dollar store and get you a super funk cool notebook. I’m saying, everyone enjoys reading about unknown author’s writing regimen.
It’s the way I was taught in school.
That’s right. I’m that old, and my school was that underfunded, I guess. I was born in the 90’s. I wasn’t allowed to approach a computer, much less it’s word processor, until I had the second draft of a report hammered out. That only changed when I hit high school. By that point in time, my father took our family laptop to work, so I preferred to write my reports, once in a notebook in pencil, then once on college rule, three hole punch, paper, in red ink, in cursive. It was a bear, and it was especially challenging because my hand writing is terrible. I remember there being tears on at least one occasion, because I had to rewrite a report, by hand, because my teacher said he couldn’t read it. He was trying to set me up for survival and success once I left high school. I don’t resent him. I was just frustrated. Anyway, I’ve been writing by hand, since I learned to write. Why stop now?
It’s free plagiarism protection.
None of ya’ll can read my hand writing, so you can’t read it over my shoulder when I work in public! Mahaha!!
…Every now and then one of you surprises me when I post an aesthetic pic from a café, on Insta. Then ya’ll walk up to me like “What happened to the princess once she left the castle?” Like, you were super in to the three sentences you got from translating it from some sort of elvish.
No one wants to steal a notebook.
Laptop? Boom. Gone.
Half used notebook? Can’t give it away, if you tried. It’s right up there with sweaty gym socks… That being said, please don’t steal my notebook just to prove me wrong. I too, am a spiteful creature. Still not cool, George!
People keep buying me really cool notebooks.
All the close homies know I write by hand. So all of them get me journals. Like, I’ve had a problem with “I need to take bullcrap notes, during Stupid Adult Time, where I Have To Learn Things™, and I don’t have a notebook I’m not emotionally attached to…” Like, I would be distraught if I lost one while it was empty, kinda notebooks. They’re also beautiful. Like “Nice journal!” “Thanks, it has pockets!” kinda beautiful, with the gold trim. I’ve remedied this by buying a pot load from the dollar store. Cash me rolling up with a rainbow kitty unicorn notebook, boi!
The notebooks are treasure.
“My wealth and treasures? If you want it, you can have it! Search for it! I left it all at that place!” – Gold Rodger, One Piece (2006)
Like I said, my friends buy me nice notebooks, and I’d be distraught if I lost one. They become even more valuable to me once they’re filled with my literal life’s work. I put them all in a little safe that holds up my dual VCR/DVD player.
They weigh a ton less than my laptop.
Even my heftiest notebook weighs less than my laptop.
Typing it up gives me time to take an unbiased look at it fresh eyes.
By the time I finish off a novel, and start transcribing it from paper, to digital madness, I’ve forgotten what I wrote. Now I get to see it as if it’s the first time. I can look at it like a fresh novel from a stranger, and if it’s trash, I can pop it with the .22 behind the gas shed. Usually I don’t, and just make a note the beginning sucks, and I was bored to tears reading it, thus I need to change it.
By the time I make it back to the end, I forgot how it ends! So if I’m running around my apartment screaming “NO! Zoey and Chloe were meant to be together!” I’m less married to the way I had it, and am willing to change it.
Pen feel good. Paper go scritch.
Dude. We gotta be real. There’s a weird tactile pleasure to this too. I also enjoy the ink stains on my hands when I’m finished.
I can take so many cool aesthetic pictures with my notebooks.
That one where I have them lined out on a fence, that one where I have them on my stairs in my apartment, those pictures of towering stacks of notebooks. Dope, and bangin’. I enjoy doing that, and you enjoy looking at it with your face. Not to mention, here’s the park over the edge of my book, here’s the café, here’s the library, here’s the ocean. All of it. Ya’ll have seen about every cool zoomed in angle of my laptop I can get.
I can see my notebook in the sunlight.
I can write outside and I don’t need an outlet. Nuff said.
It keeps me from taking myself too seriously.
In 2016, when I was writing full time, I got heavily into social media. Suddenly, it was like I had the voices of 1,000 strangers in my ear: “Are your characters diverse enough? Are you including people of color? Are your portrayals of people of color offensive? Are you including gay representation? Do your female characters have lives outside of your male characters? You write YA. Are you putting a child in a problematic situation? Do you really want your character to swear that much? Now, not swearing at all is unrealistic.” It was so much pressure.(Even though that vetting is necessary, just after the first draft!)
When I write in a notebook, I can convince myself no one is going to read it. When I’m ready to pull it out, and make sure my book meets all of those standards, I line it out on ye olde laptop.
Anyway, here’s the question no one asked answered. I hope you enjoyed the ride anyway. By the way, while we’re on the subject, Clive Barker writes all of his manuscripts out by hand, three times, before typing them out. I really hope there’s a handwritten copy of Kry Rising somewhere. My father and I are anxious to see it.
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 Once Piece, Gold Rodger. “Opening Narration.” One Piece Wiki, Wikipedia, 2006, https://onepiece.fandom.com/wiki/Opening_Narration#:~:text=Narrator%3A%20Wealth%2C%20fame%2C%20power,entered%20a%20Great%20Pirate%20Era!
You know what my favorite hobby has been lately? Cleaning. I don’t know why, but it’s like a compulsion. I start mopping, do the dishes, scrub the shower, start the laundry, vacuum. I don’t know why. I think it’s how I assert control over my environment. After coming home from a family emergency out of state [keeping in mind I write these months in advance], I find myself at wit’s end. I have a solid queen sized bed all to myself, I don’t have to listen for someone moving around so I can be up and ready to help, there’s not mountains of dishes and laundry, and I have this weird thing called privacy! I don’t know how to act!
Just so we’re clear, I don’t resent that time. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a privilege. However, if another one of you slides into my DMs with “Hi momma,” Imunna get stabby. No one calls me “mom” but my gang of street urchins. Athankyaverymuch!
You know what makes me feel like I’m flying? Writing. In my mind, I’m free, and I get the privilege of language, to share a magical land with you all. That is so special. I can send all of my emotions, screaming, into a poem. I can put my frustration in a short story and pack it off to Wattpad! Actually, I don’t have to share anything at all for it to bring me joy. I was told all my life this is how music should make me feel. Writing is much more my niche.
In all honesty, I only used one regularly scheduled, house-wide, naptime, to work on my newest YA novel The Knight Terror Rises. And I’m such a bad writer, I made memes about it on Facebook while I did it! You remember what I said about how you shouldn’t feel obligated to write during your most trying times in life? That too. So I also broke my “one sentence a day” goal.
I think, much like that little brunette girl who hid her eyes behind her bangs found shelter in reading, and this grown person just bought a book online like capitalism will save them, you should be able to hide in books. Even ones you’re making. Don’t put yourself down for that. I love to read too. I used to trade it for sleep, and I wonder if that’s how I became an insomniac. Just set the table for a lifetime of bad habits.
To me, reading feels like resting, and writing feels like flying. You should allow yourself to find your peace in both. Create, until you’re emptied out, and then you can rest again. Allow yourself to fall away into your work. Bury yourself deep, and find yourself again on the other side. Tell yourself a bed time story until you’re safe again, then go tell it to someone else.
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Check out my interview with lovely Liis! This was one of the coolest ones I’ve done.♥
Helen and I bumped into each other on Twitter, at 1am, on a cold wintry night as 2022 was getting closer to being, well, done and dusted. Since we were well past midnight at that stage and there were no crossroads involved, I promise, the vibes are all good, we did not sign our souls away that night.
Welcome Helen! First things first, imagine that you’re introducing yourself to a whole new audience on another planet somewhere in the wide universe, what would you say? I heard you’re a bit of a nerd? We do like nerds around here. A lot!
Hello! I come in peace! …Ignore the fact I’m filled with the hereditary rage of one thousand grandmothers… Anyway, I’m Helen M. Pugsley, I hail from Wyoming. Grew up in an agricultural community working on the family ranch, but now I live in a very small city.
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Hey, I found an old interview. Neat, huh?
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I am Helen M. Pugsley, and I’m a 20-something from the wild, wild, west.
Fiona: Where are you from?
A town of 20 in Eastern Wyoming
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My family has been running a ranch for the past 100+ years (I’m not exaggerating. We celebrated our centennial anniversary 2015). I turned around and surprised everyone when I started writing fantasy novels instead of westerns!
I’m a librarian at the county library and I love what I do!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As soon as possible! We have manuscripts I wrote when I was four. I plagiarized song lyrics and drew pictures, my mother acted as my…
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So I work in History Land, rather than Library Land. Wild shift, but there you have it. Because I’m trying to keep up with the people I work with, I wind up doing a lot of reading. I have a goal to read one non-fiction book a week, because I have perfected the art of skimming text, and retaining important information… It will take me a month or more to read a novel. Shuddup.
Anyway, my coworker and I got on the subject of historians, and then broadened out to non-fiction writers in general who don’t do proper amounts of research, and fill in the gaps with fiction. They are annoying, and sometimes it’s an honest mistake. When it’s not, and someone bends the timeline to fit their narrative, that’s when it really makes my blood boil.
If you think your ears were burning, then I was ranting about you at work, because not only did you publish inaccurate information, you had the audacity to target one my friends in a public forum. You opened your mouth, and used your influence in your community to do permanent and irreparable damage to their life, and career(s, who has one job anymore?), because you were jealous they’re a better human being than you ever will be, and probably more talented. But hey, how can we find out if they’re too heartbroken to write? Congratulations, you’ve beat someone who wasn’t competing with you, but trying to work by your side. The only reason I haven’t stooped to your level and called you out by name, is because God reminded me I’m a Christian and revenge belongs to Him. Also, yeah. You need to check over your manuscript for the reprint. That’s not how it went down.
If you think your ears were burning because you did something awkward at that conference, where we were hanging out: Don’t worry about it, fam. I’m awkward too. I get two drinks in me and start taking selfies with people I just met. By the way, did I ever send that to you? Text me. Honestly, mistakes happen. Sometimes we make assumptions without having all the information, and then we have to change because we found new information. It’s chill, man. Just fix it for the reprint.
Anyway, the Nice Lady in the room, started giggling and asked “Helen, remind me what you write again?”
“Young adult fantasy, ma’am.”
“Ah. And in fantasy, I’m sure there’s not much research, because you’re making up everything, right?”
And unfortunately, I hit her with the “WeLl AcTuAlLy” and not in that tone, on purpose. I just know how I probably sound. And poor Nice Lady got trapped in a conversation about how I am so fricking frustrated with the intricacies of the Gishlan eco-system. Like I told her, “I don’t want a palm tree, just growing next to a cottonwood.” which, made her giggle, because of course, she’s nice, and was originally gently suggesting, maybe, just maybe, I should be nicer too. But I went on to explain “I had to make sure the soil would support cotton crops, because otherwise, everyone would have to wear leather.” The ecosystem mimics my homeland, Goshen County, with heavy spoonfuls of Oregon and California. Because a fourteen year old started this series for me, and she wrote a beautiful looking place that felt like home. I had family in all three places. Do you know how not impressive a redwood is to a four year old? Everything is big. What’s a big tree? Did you know we have cotton in the Bible Belt because of an iceberg that predated humanity deposited enough PH in the soil when it melted? The other part of the world where cotton grows easily is India. I had to learn that, so I could give us those nice princess dresses we all love so dearly.
I had to think about where they got wood to build furniture, where their rock quarries were, what kind of stone they had, I had to think about what kind of food they were able to grow, I had to look at the blue prints of multiple castles, to see how I wanted to build Slipsong Castle, which has housed 19 generations of Amethyst’s family, thus far. I just had to log in to an online database to tell you that. I had to build the Gishlan royals their own family tree, to keep them all straight. There is only so much land will support and I have to have approximate knowledge of these things so I don’t break science.
I didn’t tell the Nice Lady this because it was some sick own. It was just the truth. Yes, I can make up crap as I go along. But I wanna make up good crap, so I choose to research. I think she was actually interested, and curious, when I explained things like “If you have giant mushroom farmers, you need them to have an economy for mushrooms, an ecosystem that will support the mushrooms, a purpose for growing them, and you need to know how mushrooms work or the mycologists will come after you.” We can’t have the mushie farmers gathering their seeds in the fall. (Mushrooms don’t have seeds. They produce spores. So when you have that urge to kick shrooms in the field, it’s because that’s how they spread, and at one point, the instinct to kick the shroom probably kept some of your ancestors alive… Either that or the mushrooms are farming us for our delicious rotting corpses, and they told you to smack their sex organs to further their agenda. Cool right?!) Buy the t-shirt here.
So this is me telling you to go ahead and lose yourself in your research. Write what you know, but go forth and know more! The libraries, museums, and archives are here to help you do just that… The mushrooms on the other hand…
No one wants to see your character chase the bad guy through the house with a broadsword, and then get enlisted in the war, and go into battle with a cutlass. (Because I will die if I don’t over explain, everything, to everyone, all of the time: broadswords and claymores are supposed to be used in open spaces. Like fields. Battle fields. Cutlasses are smaller, and easy to maneuver around a confined space. Like your apartment. Which is why I sleep with one.) Guys, I’m telling you, if you’re a fantasy writer, get yourself a blacksmith. Here! Borrow mine! Lonnie is amazing and has spent hours teaching me about steel grades, knife types, general maintenance, and who else knows. I just absorb. One of these days, I will have him forge me a broadsword so I can practice acting out scenes before I put them on paper. Research! The one I have now, the balance is way off, and the pommel obviously isn’t doing anything.
Even when I was writing silly fanfiction for the The Road to El Dorado meme group, I took my happy self to the library, and asked for books about the Aztecs… In doing so, I found out I should’ve asked for Mayan! Either way, I wound up learning a lot about the culture, and the people. “You can’t write offensive content about a mermaid, because mermaids don’t exist.”–or so an indigenous woman sang to me on Tik Tok, to the tune of ‘Colors of The Wind’. If you have skin, and a culture, and you choose to write characters with different colored skin, and a different culture than yours, I strongly recommend you listen to people with that skin tone, and culture, talk about their experiences. Maybe even hire a sensitivity reader. There are plenty of content creators on social media, that will voice their frustrations with the entertainment industry, talk about their culture, and their experiences as a human with skin, that mushrooms will eventually eat. I don’t recommend you ask these content creators to work for you for free (you do that, you get what you deserve), but I recommend you actually consume their content and learn from it. Although the fic remains unfinished, I’m pretty fricking proud of what I made.
So yeah, that’s my advice for this month. Find what interests you, pull on a thread, then threaten your kidnappers with fan theories about ‘El Dorado’ and how it ties in to Mayan mythos. Google the domestication of cats, then have your characters ride large ones through your cotton fields! Write about how Alaska doesn’t really grow vegetables, but people still thrive there. Learn how to darn socks, and can fruit. Teach yourself folk magic, so you can borrow it for your wizards. Read old magazines from the 60’s, so you can get a handle on the fashion. Trap your entomologist friend with the sweet allure of coffee so you can try to understand how he’s trying to cure cancer with fly brains. After all, I was just picking my coworker’s brain about herbal remedies for colds, so I could give plants to my imaginary friends! Just go have some fun doing research! It’s still important, and kinda fun.
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