Tag Archives: Research

Top Five Posts of 2017

My Top Five Posts of 2017

As many of you know, I’ve been doubling down on my blog versus sharing and spending time on social media. This blog and my newsletter, Dead Drop, are the best locations to discover what I am working on and find major announcements. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Since the year is wrapping up, I thought it’d be great to revisit the most popular posts I’ve shared in 2017. I’m actually really excited about this list. A lot of work went into the posts in this top five, work I was proud to share. It’s nice to see people found them enjoyable. (I’m considering my experiment a success.) So let’s take a look at the best of the best! We’ll start at number five and work our way to number one.


Making Magnificent Mountains5. Making Magnificent Mountains

It’s no secret that I love making maps, and I am a minor participant within several communities across the internet dedicated to the mapmaking process. So I’m not surprised that when I offered a set of 19th-century hachure-style topographical brush for download that people were interested. I plan on more offerings like this one in the future.


Riverboats at War4. Riverboats at War

This year I started sharing research for my manuscript, Coal Belly, in particular, research surrounding American steamboats. In these posts, I offer bits of knowledge and include a whole mess of photos gleaned from the historical record. (Usually the Library of Congress) War, and the history of war, always captures people’s attention, and this post about the brown water navy used in the American Civil War sparked excitement.


How Passenger Airships Work3. How Passenger Airships Work

Airships have always been something of an interest for me. But I never quite understood how they worked as passenger transport. I thought everyone crammed into the small gondola that hung below. So for my own education, I looked into it. What I discovered was something that many others found fascinating making this one of my most visited posts for the year.


Hunting the Yellow Sign2. Hunting the Yellow Sign

Robert Chambers’ collection of short stories, The King in Yellow, features some of my favorite cosmic horror tales. For years, I’ve seen a wide variety of artist renditions of the titular king’s yellow sign, but none of them quite hit the mark. I too wanted to know more. What was this mysterious symbol? How it was described in the work? Why was it rendered in various ways? I wanted to see if I could get to the bottom of this mystery. And a great many of you were just as engaged. Did we solve the secret of the yellow sign? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out.


And the number one post of the year is…


The 2017 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide1. The 2017 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

My Lovecraftian Holiday gift guide is always incredibly popular, so it is no surprise that this post ended up being my number one post for the year. (Despite being the youngest on this list.) It’s full of fantastic gift ideas for yourself or the cosmic-horror fans in your life. I make sure to try and find items for every budget. If you have an idea for next years list, why not shoot me an email and let me know.


So those are the top five posts of the year! I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to those who read, subscribe, and share the stuff I post here on I Make Stories. You make it all worthwhile. Thanks for making 2017 one of the best years for this blog, and stick around, there’s a lot more to come in 2018.

❄️ 💀 ❄️


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Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo Kicks Off Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the beginning of the summer session of National Novel Writing Month: Camp NaNoWriMo! If you’re new to writing or just want to try out the lifestyle, I highly encourage you to attempt a NaNoWriMo at least once. It’s a fascinating experience. It’ll help you discover your creative process and understand how you work as a writer.

Since the kickoff is tomorrow, I figured it’d be helpful to share some of my previous NaNoWriMo posts with everyone. Hopefully, you can glean something useful from my advice.

  • NaNoWriMo Is Here
    I offer a few simple steps to getting your writing project complete, from spending time researching, to actully writing those 1700 words a day, to getting involved in the NaNoWriMo community.
  • NaNoWriMo Cometh – Four Early Tips To Enhance Your Novel Writing
    While most of these require some preparation ahead of time, I find that these four tips are very helpful in aiding any author. I have four every single one of these critical to my own success.

and when you’re done…

  • NaNoWriMo Is Over, Now What?
    Save this one until August 1st. I break down some thoughts on where you can take that freshly finished manuscript.

Oh, since you’re starting out, do yourself a favor and watch this video. It’s still the best (and most encouraging) little videos for anyone starting something new. (It’s also a bit NSFW, so consider yourself warned.)

Good luck campers! Have fun, we’ll all be here on the other side ready and excited to read your finished masterpieces.

Old Maps Online

Writer’s Toolkit: Old Maps Online

If you’re a writer the odds are high that you’ve poked around through your share of maps. It could be a map you’ve created, a pile of maps you’ve collected for research, or just some maps you have gathered for inspiration. If you’re like me you can never have enough resources for that sort of content. You owe it to yourself to check out today’s toolkit link:

Old Maps Online

I simply love this site. It gives you the ability to explore a myriad of high resolution maps simply by navigating to an area and zooming in. Looking for victorian maps of London? Need a street map of a 1950s town? No problem. With some quick navigation you’ll find it easy to get the sort of information you’re looking for. It even lets you narrow your search down to specific date ranges and updates automatically showing what maps are available from their collection of links. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how extensive and deep their database seems to go. Old Maps Online is not only incredibly handy, it’s very powerful, and an easy way to get the information you need. Worth checking out.


Have a resource in your toolkit you’re willing to share? Leave a comment below or send me an email and I’ll feature it in the next Writer’s Toolkit.

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Cometh – Four Early Tips To Enhance Your Novel Writing

So, we’re well into the second weekend of September. Which means NaNoWriMo draws near. I know it still feels early, but if you’re planning to participate now is the perfect time to start thinking about your project! Below you’ll find a list of four things I do before I dive into my writing. Addressing these early can help you spend more time on prose and racking up those daily word counts.

1. Start outlining.

If you’re the type of writer who doesn’t work from an outline—George R. R. Martin calls you gardeners—then you can ignore this step. However, for the rest of us, now is the perfect time to get an outline complete. They don’t have to be long, nor are they some hard-and-fast document you need to follow to the letter. Instead, it’s a good way to get yourself thinking about the project as a whole and get your thoughts down on paper. It’ll give you a feel of your plot, your characters, and make the other three steps easier. Personally, I found outlining critical in finishing manuscripts. Consider reading my post on my own planning, I go into details on how I outline, how I use my outline when I write, and I even share an excerpt from the outline for The Stars Were Right.

2. You should be researching.

In my early attempts at writing this is often one of the biggest slowdowns. I will be working along and come to a part in my story where I need to spend a little time learning. This would lead from article to article, from book to book, and I’d end up spending more time distracted by the research instead of writing.

To avert this I have begun noting things I should research in advance within my outline. That way I have a nice list of subjects before I go into the library or start looking for books on Amazon. If you’re someone who doesn’t outline, consider the themes/genre/style of what you want to write. I bet you could come up with a list of topics to research in no time.

It’s never too early to start researching and I know you’ll find it exceptionally helpful for tackling a challenge like NaNoWriMo. Removing that extra distraction of having to look something up can mean a world of difference on those tough days.

3. Get to know your characters.

Now is the perfect time for you to start getting to know your characters. There’s a million and one ways to do this. Some folks have worksheets, others have systems, some writers create D&D characters and use those as a base. There’s no right or wrong way. Just find a way that you’re comfortable with and allow yourself to explore those characters.

Think of this preparation as sketching. You really just exploring an idea. Nothing you come up with will be permanent. I often find that I want to write a character a certain way, but when I start telling their story they take me in a completely different direction. That’s okay (and part of what makes writing fun!) What’s important is being comfortable with your characters so when you’re telling their story you can do it to the best of your abilities.

4. Work out those ancillaries ahead of time.

Finally, think about anything else you need to include, especially those things that might get in the way with your writing. Often, especially for genre writers, these are things like maps, lists of slang-terms, glossaries, location lists/descriptions.

I cannot tell you how many times I had distracted myself from writing to go draw a map or design a logo for a faction or write a timeline of history. I once spent half a day coming up with the ranking system for a military that I never once used in my story. (I wrote a post about that as well.)

When you’re trying to hit 40k words in a month you need to keep focused on your words. 1400 words a day isn’t insurmountable but it can be overwhelming. Any extra distractions you can remove will help you focus on hitting those numbers.

* * *

I love NaNoWriMo. I am a big supporter of its mission, and it’s what got me interested in writing in the first place. It’s a great experience for any writer, aspiring or otherwise, but it can also be a little daunting. I think you’ll find—as with most things in life—some early preparation will make the whole experience better. Good luck!

Here are some things.

Here are some things.

A few days ago I launched my official tumblr:

Here are some things.

I’m pretty excited about it. Unlike other attempts in the past HAST won’t be a regurgitation of what I write here on my blog or reposts from things I have said on twitter. Instead it’ll be a heavily curated feed focusing on quick bits of big bold imagery, text, and maybe some music. To myself focused the plan is that anything I post will be tied into my books or research in some way. So far I’m really digging it’s boldness. Expect to see some cool things there.