10 Things About the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (Pt. 2)

And I’m back to give you part 2! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. I’ll just jump right in.

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Palace of Mechanic Arts – wikipedia
  1. I told you before that two buildings still stand in their original position from the fair. At least three more buildings survived after the Fair, but they have been moved to other locations, such as museums or privately owned land.
  2. It’s a little ironic that the Fair was supposed to show how Chicago had rebuilt itself after the Great Fire of 1871, since the year after the Fair much of the fairgrounds were destroyed during a fire. This second fire occurred during the Pullman Strike.
  3. One of the attractions was called the “Street in Cairo” and was designed to look like an Egyptian marketplace. It featured a belly dancer who was nicknamed “Little Egypt.” She performed what was, at the time, considered a “provocative” and “suggestive” belly dance (I do not know this dance and therefore cannot comment on whether or not it is actually suggestive or provocative) that was called the (I kid you not) “hootchy-kootchy.” It was performed to a tune that is now commonly associated with snake charmers. I’m betting the whole exhibit was just as offensive as it sounds and not at all representative of Cairo or a real Egyptian marketplace.

  4. The Chicago World’s Fair had the first moving sidewalk that was opened to the public. It was the Great Wharf Moving Sidewalk and carried people to the nearby casino.
  5. “Buffalo Bill” was denied a spot at the Fair, so he set up next to it so that attendees of the Fair would also stop by his show. He earned a great amount of money and didn’t have to pay any of it to the Fair developers.

  6. The Fair almost went bankrupt due to the cost of building and maintaining the exhibits (and paying the laborers). However, the Ferris Wheel saved the Fair by being an extremely popular attraction that drew many new attendees. The Chicago laborers employed by the Fair (those who survived it, anyway) were certainly glad for the work, since the Fair took place amid the Panic of 1893, a time of great economic depression.

  7. It is estimated that more than 27 million people attended the Fair during the six months that it was open.

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    Tesla Polyphase Exhibit – wikipedia

  8. People who visited the Louisiana pavilion were gifted with the seedlings of Cypress trees. According to some rumors, this actually helped spread the growth of Cypress trees to areas to which it was not native and it now thrives in places such as West Virginia.

  9. The Fair introduced attendees to a new breakfast food: shredded wheat. It also saw the debut of Juicy Fruit Gum.

  10. Milton Hershey purchased chocolate manufacturing equipment from a European exhibitor at the Fair so he could add chocolate products to his caramel manufacturing business.

So there you have it. The Chicago World’s Fair, or The World’s Columbian Exposition, gave us the current home of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Science and Industry, it introduced shredded wheat and Juicy Fruit gum (but not together – yuck!), and is partially responsible for Hershey’s chocolate. Interesting stuff. It also most likely had some outrageously problematic representation of non-U.S. cultures. Whose not shocked? 

Book Review: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt

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Quinn Bradley is a Vegas magician. His dream in life is to headline at a casino on the strip and he’s finally got a shot to make the big time–until a powerful and mysterious corporation blocks him out. They want him to themselves, to go through a secret portal into another world and impersonate a guild magician in order to retrieve a rogue official. The problem is that in this new world, magicians aren’t illusionists, but wield real power and the penalty for impersonating one is death.

Quinn goes through the portal with the others on the mission, but things go wrong from the start. A dragon attack, a pack of wild dogs, a closed portal, loss of communication with the company on the other side, and a trap waiting for them, and that’s just the first day. They chase a ghost through groups of mercenaries and highwaymen only to find the rogue official is already three steps ahead. And Quinn pays the price when the magicians guild captures him.

In a strange and fortuitous turn of events, the magician who captures Quinn senses a spark of true magic in him. Instead of immediate execution, the guild gets to see what Quinn has to offer. If he can convince them he’s more than just razzle-dazzle he gets to keep his life, but he needs to do so before another group of rogues kills his comrades and destroys the portal, locking him in this strange world forever.

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This was a good book. The characters were well-developed. Some plot points were predictable, but they were done with flair. I would recommend it to a lot of the readers I know. It didn’t quite grasp me the way I hoped it would, but I can’t put my finger on why.

First, the things I liked about the book.

Genre-bending. Is it Fantasy? Is it is Science Fiction? The truth is this story sports a little of both and I love that.

A cast that isn’t lily white or without distinctive character voices. There were two characters with similar voices, but they were still distinctive enough not to be confused. I like when characters aren’t cardboard cutouts of each other just taking up space in the background. I cared about each character’s struggles.

There were unanswered questions that didn’t make the novel into something that couldn’t stand alone, but left enough room so that the sequels (it is the first in a series) make sense and already have a pull.

Not everyone magically survives battles, wars, or thugs and those that do aren’t unscathed emotionally. It feels more real when the characters have scars.

Now for the things I wasn’t so keen on.

The admiration Chaudri has for Holt and the questions about their relationship allude to a workplace romance. I dislike the colleague romance tropes. It’s just not my thing. To be fair, it seems pretty one-sided and not like an abuse of power.

I like romantic subplots and there was one here, but it was an afterthought. That is a plus for a lot of readers. More power to you.

That’s pretty much it. It has a lot going for it, and I suspect if I read it on a different week than I did (I was busy and distracted) I’d have loved it instantly. And truthfully, I care enough about the characters that I’m still interested in the sequels. So when I say it didn’t grip me, don’t let that turn you off. I stand by my first statement. It’s a good book.

Book Review: Prophecy by Lea Kirk

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When an alien race attacks Earth and decimates the population, Alexandra Bock is caught in the crossfire. Captured and locked up with a small group of survivors intended for sale on the intergalactic slave market, she comes face to face with her least favorite thing–more aliens.

Gryf Helyg is part of the Matiran Guardian Fleet that has protected Earth for millennia. Betrayed by one of his own, Gryf is captured in the defeat of the fleet and is locked up with the very people he failed to protect–Earthlings.

Alexandra and Gryf get off to a rocky start, but it soon becomes apparent that their connection is more than tangential. They are each one half of a twelve-thousand-year-old prophecy about the protection, or destruction, of both Earth and Matir. To fulfill the prophecy the two have to bond their souls, forever tying their lives and their fates together. Gryf would do anything to protect Earth, but Alexandra quickly realizes more than her planet is on the line. Their bond could be a blessing to both their people, but it could also break her heart.

If Alexandra can overcome her fear and Gryf can maintain a level head, the two of them could save both their planets. If not, both of their races will be annihilated. But no pressure or anything.

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I love a good sci-fi romance. This book had all of the parts of the equation. Aliens, both good and bad. Rescue missions. Intergalactic stakes. A heroine with bite. But each fell just a little bit short.

The book felt more like a season of a television show than a book. About every three chapters a problem was solved in a very episodic fashion, and with the breaks in between the story was choppy. There was potential, and of course, the story isn’t a Thriller, so the characters have to have a chance to react, but these characters begin a tryst on the outer border of their safe zone while the Watch looks on. They don’t take the threat seriously enough. I have seen this advice given to writers, so I think the intentions were good, but I don’t think the advice was applied to the book’s best advantage.

The Matirans are altruistic in the desire to protect Earth without anything in return. There is no trade, no tax, nothing from Earth–the planet doesn’t even know they exist. There is some weak DNA link from thousands of years ago, but it’s a weak argument for millennia of military resources and maneuvers, so the backstory and premise for their presence are weak.

Also, *Trigger Warning* one of the antagonists is a sexual predator. He impregnates a fifteen-year-old girl. He carves his initials in his victims’ skin to mark them as his possessions. He doesn’t make a lot of appearances, but it’s enough. It definitely affected my overall impression and opinion of the story.

As for our heroine, her bite was muzzled early on and she gives the reins to the Matirans without much fight. She also convinces her new extraterrestrial friends that their tradition of letting the woman make the first move in a relationship isn’t attractive to Earth women.

Your mileage may vary. Maybe this is up your alley. I won’t judge. But it wasn’t my cup of tea.

And to be clear, I’m not saying the author isn’t talented. Her concept for the story was intriguing, in the end, I just thought it could have been executed better, and perhaps without some of the more problematic elements.

Battling Imposter Syndrome

Thanks to all of you who are still here after my little hiatus. A friend of the family passed away, one of my nephews graduated high school, and my husband and I took our boys to the beach for a few days. My time away was jampacked with both joy and sorrow, but it was good. And now I’m ready to get back to my routine.

I intended to spend some of my vacation time writing. I like to write, so it doesn’t feel like work. But I didn’t get nearly as much done as I hoped. Part of it is because two kids under five at the beach are wonderfully exhausting. But part of it is because I felt like I shouldn’t.

Guilt wasn’t what kept me from my keyboard. After all, I saved writing time for after the kids were asleep, so it’s not like they were missing out on time with me. No, it was something far more difficult to conquer. Imposter Syndrome.

Every writer encounters it eventually. That voice in the back of your head that whispers–or yells–you’re not a real writer. You’re a hack with delusions of grandeur. You’re wasting your time. Give up. Give it a rest. Nobody wants to read your dumpster fire anyway. Throw it all in the trash.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

That voice is powerful. It can be hard to ignore. But you have to. Because if you listen to that voice for even a few days, it’ll get to you. It got to me. Oh boy, did it ever. But just when I was about ready to throw in the towel, something pulled me back. Before I left for vacation, I gave some pages to a CP of mine and just at the right moment, I got her feedback. It wasn’t glowing. On the contrary, she had numerous comments and questions. But suddenly, I was excited to work on my project again.

Seeing my work through someone else’s eyes helped tremendously. It’s not hopeless. I’m not a hack. My work was (and still is) unrefined. Now that I know where the problems are, I can fix them and make it better. And editing is an important part of the writing process. I’m a writer. For better or worse.

This isn’t the first time imposter syndrome has reared its ugly head to me. And each time, I’ve dealt with it in different ways. Everyone copes differently, but I’ll share a few of my more successful tricks in hopes that perhaps it will help one of you.

  1.  Writer Twitter. More than just a great way to procrastinate, this is a great place to see that I am not alone. I see at least one post about imposter syndrome every day. They may not call it that, but the sentiment is the same. Sometimes it is enough to know that I’m not alone in what I’m feeling.
  2. Critiques. As I mentioned before, sometimes just knowing where the problem is can be a big help. I can stare at my work so long that I go word blind. I want this scene or this chapter to work and can’t figure out why it doesn’t. Fresh eyes help. Then I can attack the issue. Also, if I’m the one doing the critiquing, it can help too. It makes me feel like I have something to offer the writing world, even if it’s just a few comments here and there to improve someone else’s work. It reminds me how far I’ve come as a writer already.
  3. Reading. A writer needs to read. Reading can give great inspiration, it can be an escape, and it can serve as a reminder that your manuscript doesn’t have to be flawless. I’m not saying you should skip editing. But if there is a typo on page 79 that a well-known author, her editor, her agent, and her publisher all missed and the book still sold, just knowing that can take a little pressure off. Breathe. I can do this.
  4. Write something else. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Part of the reason I like writing this blog is that I get to switch gears and step away from my fiction projects. A quick post that doesn’t take weeks or months to write gives me a small sense of accomplishment. I started something and finished it. Now I can go back to my long-term project without feeling like I haven’t completed anything.
  5. Listen to a podcast or read a crafting blog. Sometimes the advice I see or hear on my favorite sites can remind me that other people need help too. I get excited because if a whole podcast, or series of podcasts, addresses an issue then I can’t be the only one struggling with it. And then I’m excited to try out the advice offered to see if it helps me.

Are there any ways that you battle imposter syndrome? I’d love to hear them. Maybe I’ll add it to my bag of tricks for the next time that little voice comes calling.

 

Pitch Contest Etiquette

I joined Twitter last year in the middle of the summer storm of pitch parties and contests. I know. I’m a bad millennial. Anyway, I joined Twitter so I could participate in said pitch parties and contests. My manuscript needed a lot of work, and some of the writers I met during the chats for those pitch contests became my critique partners who helped me see that. But I also learned some key things about pitch parties in general.

Every new baby writer makes mistakes when it comes to pitching their manuscript. Thanking an agent for their rejection on social media? Yeah. I did that. I was genuinely thanking them because they at least took the time to look at it and respond. Still. Awkward. But it’s letting those mistakes become habits that linger long after you stop being a “baby writer” that’s a problem. So as we gear up for another summer of pitch parties and contests, let’s review some of the rules of etiquette of Author Twitter.

  1. Be at least a little professional. Yes, it’s fun and good to joke around with other writers. It’s encouraged. But be aware that what you say, even as a joke, can and will be seen by people who you are hoping to work with in a professional capacity at some point. I’m not telling you not to be yourself, but be your semi-professional self.
  2. Don’t whine. You didn’t make it in the contest? Celebrate the winners in public. Convey your disappointment in private. Your CPs, your friends, your support system. They will understand. If you whine and cry on the hashtags, it looks bad. If you can’t handle rejection at the contest level, how will you handle a book that doesn’t sell? This stuff matters.
  3. Celebrate the successes of others. Someday that could be you with your name on a list of winners, or on that press release. You’ll want people to be happy for you. Be happy for them. Yes, even if you think your work is better than theirs. This isn’t kindergarten. You don’t get to stomp your feet and scream about it not being fair. It isn’t cute when a five-year-old does it, it’s worse when an adult does it.
  4. Be considerate. You don’t have triggers, painful secrets, or anything you’re scared to talk about? Congratulations. Other people do, though. Don’t belittle anyone. Don’t be that jerk.
  5. When you’re wrong, apologize. We all make mistakes. Just own up to it.
  6. Don’t hit on people like a creeper. Enough said.
  7. Do your due diligence. If you ask someone a question that can be answered by a simple Google search or by checking the event’s homepage, you not only look lazy but like you expect other people to do your work for you. If it is something you need clarified or help to find, that’s one thing. Don’t be afraid to ask anything, just make the effort before you ask someone else to do so.
  8. Don’t brag. Or humble brag. You are always allowed to be excited about your successes. Celebrate. Don’t gloat.

This list isn’t comprehensive. It’s also not written in stone. But, in truth, most of these rules can be summed up by saying “Don’t be a jerk.” It’s that simple.

For those of you who are about to jump into the wonderful world of pitch contests this summer, good luck! And welcome to Author Twitter!

10 Things About the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (Pt. 1)

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School is about to let out for summer vacation and all over the country (the United States), fairs and festivals are gearing up. From now through the fall, Ferris Wheels, funnel cakes, and (mostly) family-friendly fun are the orders of the day. To celebrate that, this month’s 10 Things post will be about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. This will be part 1 of 2 because there are several fascinating things about the World’s Columbian Exposition and I plan to share more of them with you next month. Buckle up, my friends. It’s time to get your history on.

The Chicago World’s Fair, otherwise known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, was held in 1893. The area for the fair covered more than 600 acres and spawned such attractions as the Ferris Wheel, but that’s not all. There are some really interesting things associated with the Fair that you might not know, especially if you’re not a history geek like me, so I thought I would share a few things that might spark your interest.

  1. One of the principal designers and builders of the Chicago World’s Fair was Daniel Burnham, who also designed the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Frederick Law Olmsted was another principal designer (but he worked with the landscaping, while Mr. Burnham worked with architectural structures). Mr. Olmsted is most famous, however, for co-designing Central Park in New York City.
  1. The design of the “White City”, the nickname of the part of the Fair officially known as the Court of Honor because all of the buildings were white (and because of the extensive use of streetlights actually made it possible to use the area at night), was actually the inspiration for L. Frank Baum’s Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. It also was the inspiration for the “alabaster cities” referenced in the poem “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates.
  1. The world’s first Ferris Wheel, so called because it was designed by George Ferris, debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair. It was 264 feet high and had 36 cars, each car could carry 60 people. In fact, in some parts of the world today the Ferris Wheel is actually known as The Chicago Wheel.

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  1. Walt Disney’s father was one of the laborers who helped build and paint the buildings used for the World’s Fair.
  1. It was the Columbian Exposition because it was meant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World.
  1. When it was originally suggested to have such a celebration, it drew little interest. However, in 1889 Paris hosted a World’s Fair during which the Eiffel Tower was unveiled. At that time, the Eiffel Tower was taller than any American Building, and during the fair France made sure that their exhibits seemed more elegant than those of any other nation, including America. Wounded pride is a driving force, and soon the idea of having a World’s Fair, with the excuse of it being the Columbian Exposition, that would top anything France could offer seemed only right. It took a vote of Congress to decide where the Fair would be held and Chicago won over Washington, D. C., New York City, and St. Louis. Chicago lobbied for votes by saying that this was their chance to show the world they had rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871.
  1. The Decorations Director for the Chicago World’s Fair, Frank Millet, died in the sinking of the Titanic, while Daniel Burnham, by now his close friend, rode a sister ship, the Olympic, going the opposite direction across the Atlantic. The Olympic made an attempt to answer the distress call, but it was too late. Mr. Millet invented spray painting as a way to speed the process of painting all the building facades white for the Fair.
  1. Chicago’s Mayor, Carter Harrison, Sr., was assassinated two days before the Fair’s Closing Ceremonies. The Ceremonies were canceled in favor of a memorial service for the late mayor.
  1. Both General Electric (backed by Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan) and Westinghouse (backed by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla) made bids to provide the electricity for the event, but Westinghouse won, and the Tesla alternating current system was used, instead of General Electric’s direct current proposal.
  1. All of the 200 buildings that were built for the fair were intended to be temporary. Two of them, however, still stand in place today. One now houses the Museum of Science and Industry and the other is home to the Art Institute of Chicago.

To be continued…

It’s Never Too Late to Start

I thoroughly enjoy learning self-defense through mixed martial arts. Teaching it to newer students is even more fun. I’m both student and teacher, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I was a child, my father taught me the very basic concepts for self-defense. He worried. Rightly so, since his wife, my biological mother, had died and he was a single father–which he would remain until I was a teenager. I was the youngest of four children. He knew he couldn’t follow us around to keep us safe, so he taught us what he could about protecting ourselves.

With a beginning like that, you probably expect me to say that I started karate classes at eight and have my belts proudly displayed in my home today. But that didn’t happen. In fact, it would be years before I learned anything beyond the basic lessons my father taught me.

When I was in middle school a family down the street owned a kickboxing studio in town. They were the first step in my journey. They had a son one year my junior and a daughter one year my senior. Waiting for the school bus in the morning, we would goof around and I began to learn from them. It didn’t take long for me to want to learn more.

Unfortunately, we moved before I got to high school. It would be a number of years before I cared to pursue anything of that nature again. In fact, it wasn’t until after my eldest son was born that I got really involved in mixed martial arts. I attended a special moms group to try to meet other mothers in my area. I loved it and still attend it to this day. A few months in, we had a guest speaker come talk to us about some simple self-defense techniques that could help keep us, and by extension our children, safer. The speaker offered to start a class for those of us who wanted to know more.

So here we are, four years later and that speaker is now my mentor. Though, we both laugh that we’re more like family now. I still take his class every week. And when he teaches classes to newer, especially younger (and yes, that is a distinction), students, I help teach as well. We work together to teach my children, too.

I don’t know everything there is to know. I don’t know every technique. But I love learning. And I love teaching others. There is something about MMA that I didn’t get with other sports. I played basketball, ran track, and eventually played soccer. But when I spar and have to be aware of what my body is capable of with every move toward my opponent, it’s empowering in a way that nothing else has been.

Truthfully, if you were to look at me as I walked down the street you would never guess that my main hobby is MMA. I’ll be honest that my body type wouldn’t give that away. And yet, if you see me on the mats in class, you might not want to spar with me. I don’t say that to be arrogant, but more to point out that you don’t have to be shaped like a superhero to start training.

I had lessons here and there, but my training began as an adult. Moreover, my training began while I was desperately trying (and, honestly, failing) to lose the baby weight after giving birth. I trained, with caution, all through my second pregnancy. In fact, I was helping teach a kids’ class less than a week before I went into labor. There are students in class with me who joined in their 40s or 50s. My mentor’s teenaged daughter is also in class with us. She began her training at 4. Yes, she’s better than me. A lot better. I’m in no way ashamed to admit that.

The point is, it’s never too late to start. You don’t have to wait until you’re in shape. You don’t have to wait until you’ve established a gym routine (it’s a workout on its own, I assure you). And you didn’t miss your window because you aren’t a teenager anymore.

You can start any time. You should. It’s fun and empowering. It’s cathartic, too. How many other hobbies let you take out your frustrations by punching a training dummy in the face repeatedly? I highly recommend it.

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