Category Archives: On Writing

Discovering the Lost Art of Letter Writing

Or perhaps the title should say Rediscovering, because it isn’t as though I’ve never written a letter before! Anyway…

You never know where clicking that “Accept Invitation” button will lead you!

A friend of mine invited me to join a Facebook group of likeminded women recently. I didn’t have to think about accepting, since I’ve been really enjoying focused groups on Facebook for quite some time. I belong to at least one group for pretty much everything I’m into, whether it’s cross stitch, writing, fountain pens, or bearded dragons.

Soon afterwards, a pen pal project arose within the group where members would be randomly assigned to another member to write to for a couple of months. I didn’t have to think at all about joining the project. An excuse to use my vintage fountain pens? Yes, please! What could go wrong?

Well, maybe not wrong, but it’s certainly given me yet another hobby. I’d forgotten just how much I love writing letters. Even more so, I love getting them! I couldn’t settle for just one pen pal, and so I joined yet another Facebook group which focuses specifically on that. The next thing I knew, I was buying digital stationery to print out on my favorite high-quality paper. That led to envelope templates that I could trace onto scrapbook paper, and these envelopes are way cuter than what’s available in the office supply store. Then came stickers, stamps, and so many glorious rolls of washi tape!

While I really do love using the materials, I have to say it’s also wonderful to find a way to connect with people offline. Especially in a time when we’re all stuck at home more than usual, it’s refreshing to take a short trip downtown to check the post office box, and even more so to sit down with a pen and paper to reply.

So much of our lives happens on a screen, whether it’s a phone, a computer, or a television. There’s no doubt that the digital world has truly come into its own during the pandemic. Zoom meetings, remote learning, online grocery orders. It’s all really fantastic in so many ways. That online world has brought me offline, where I’d much rather be.

It’s also been interesting to find out how many people have never sent a letter in their life, who post in the group questions about how to address an envelope, how to buy a stamp, or even how to use a mailbox. I’ve even met a few who can’t read cursive. I’m not criticizing these people, especially because I know some of them are younger than I am and probably grew up writing emails to Grandma instead of letters. I just think it’s interesting that it’s already something that’s so old-fashioned as to become a novelty.

Have you had a pen pal, or do you now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Fountain Pens and Ink, On Writing

Contemplations on Romance as a Genre

I did a book review a while back on a Nora Roberts book. Someone left a rather snide remark on the shared post on my Facebook page, basically saying I was wrong for enjoying the book. I’ve thought about it a lot since then.

Romance as a genre is often thought about as smut for lonely moms that’s poorly written. I’ve caught myself thinking the same as I read for research. (Despite my passion for dragons and fantasy, most of my freelance work involves ghostwriting romance.) I’ve got plenty of books on the shelf from library book sales or that have been passed on by friends, and I dove into them expecting them to be terrible. I’ve actually found there are some really great stories between those cheesy covers.

Obviously, there’s got to be sort of appeal to the boy-meets-girl story. Even in action movies, the guy has to get the girl at the end, right? I personally find Die Hard to be an incredibly romantic story.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with romantic notions but in marketing. Current romance covers have changed quite a bit, no doubt in an effort to be appealing as a thumbnail for digital purchases. Shana Galen‘s books are an excellent example. I admit I always found the classic covers to be pretty amusing, with Fabio’s hair blowing in the wind and a simpering woman in a gauzy dress groveling at his feet. It’s corny, and it invites potential readers to judge the book by its cover. But hey, if you’re looking to get swept away by a romantic story, I guess that cover says it all!

I think we could also tackle the rather unhealthy relationships that are, well, romanticized in the genre. A couple who doesn’t communicate well enough to admit they’re crazy about each other can’t really have a happily-ever-after, can they? And why wouldn’t any reasonable woman run screaming for the hills when the man who’s so interested in her is known for being dangerous, either physically or mentally? I’ve thought a lot about whether romance creates unrealistic expectations. It might, but I think it’s also important for us to consider that real-life people aren’t perfect. You’ll find any number of people in the world who are bad with money or lose their temper or who suck at communicating or who leave their dirty socks on the floor, and yet they still manage to find The One. Maybe the romances we’re reading about are just far more relatable than we’d like to admit.

If you’re offended by the romance genre because of the sex, then I suggest you sell your television, cut up your library card, and trade your smartphone in for an old-fashioned flip phone. It’s everywhere. I’ve seen ‘worse’ stuff in music videos than I’ve read in some novels. In fact, most romance novels are about the emotional connection instead of explicit bedroom scenes. Sex is used as a marketing tool for men all the time, so what’s the problem if it’s marketed toward women? Would a cheap romance novel be an unacceptable marketing tool for a woman who has a lot of cooking and cleaning to do?

I certainly don’t have all the answers on this, but it’s something to think about. If you think romance novels are terrible, you might want to read a few and give them a fair shake. (Suggestions below) If you have read them and still hate them, then maybe just scroll along and let someone else enjoy the genre. It isn’t as though romance is going away any time soon!

For historical romance, try Shana Galen and Susie Murphy.

For something more modern, Nora Roberts is always a good start.

For fantasy romance, try Susan Carroll or J.R. Ward.

Who’s your favorite romance author, book, or series? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Book Reviews, On Writing

Lamentations on Creativity in the Modern World

Creativity comes from a wilder place inside us. We can access it when we go outside and rediscover the nature of ourselves. It takes hold of us when we travel, when the entire world–even something as insignificant as a convenience store–is new and different. It swells to the forefront of our minds just as we’re about to go to sleep, preparing us as we leave reality and tumble headlong into dreamland.

Our lives aren’t built around these inspirational moments in the modern world. We get up too early, rush around too quickly in the morning, and drive too fast to work. Our employers claim they want us to be creative problem-solvers, but it can only be within their own parameters. Lunch provides little escape as we drudge through cafeteria lines or wait impatiently in clogged drive-thrus to grab the same old meal. After clocking out–not a minute too early or too late–we do it all in reverse so that we can come home to a to-do list far longer than the evening.

Our weekends are booked months in advance as we attend the ball games, practices, concerts, and meetings of our children whome we’re programming to be just as busy as we are. The demands of Perfect Parenthood require that we cook and clean and work full time and love and cherish and indulge and discipline and throw a few crafts in there for good measure.

Family gatherings, yard work, shopping trips, and home improvements gobble up the last few hours after arguing over who’s been getting more done. We take a pill to go to bed and another to get up in the morning, shoving ourselves through a daily grind that even if it varies never truly changes.

The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t make this any easier. It has only added the tasks of making/buying/cleaning masks, exploring new ways to safely get groceries, shopping far in advance in case of postal delays, and figuring out how we’re supposed to do remote learning for our children while also filling all the roles listed above.

By the time we have a few moments to ourselves, we’re too tired to pursue the creative or adventurous pursuits we’ve been dreaming of.

Where and when, then, are we to find the time to explore that other part of ourselves?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under On Writing, Random Things

World Building: Small Businesses

While we think a lot about plot when writing a story, it’s also vitally important to build the world around the events your character experiences. Where will they bump into an old flame? When they lose their job at a big corporation in the city, what mom ‘n’ pop shop will hire them?

Small businesses can be great fodder for many genres, but they are the backbone of cozy mysteries. The ones I’ve listed here can be run by only a handful of people, which makes for closer interactions between the employers. Have a family run the place and you have even more drama.

If you’d like other handy lists or articles to help keep you inspired, check out my Writers’ Resources page.

  • accountant’s office
  • antique store
  • art gallery
  • bakery
  • bank
  • book store
  • butcher shop
  • cafe
  • car repair/auto body
  • cleaning company
  • coffee shop
  • convenience store
  • computer repair
  • craft store
  • daycare
  • doctor’s office
  • flower shop
  • funeral home
  • gas station
  • hair salon
  • hardware store
  • horse stable
  • HVAC company
  • insurance office
  • interior design company
  • jewelry store
  • law office
  • lumber mill
  • music store
  • new age shop
  • organic grocery store
  • pet groomer’s
  • pet rescue
  • pet store
  • pharmacy
  • photography studio
  • plumbing company
  • real estate agency
  • tea shop
  • used car lot
  • video store

If there’s a business you’d like to see here, leave a comment and I’ll add it!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Hobbies for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

Just as a quirk can make your character more interesting, so can their hobbies! Having a hobby gives your character something to do, whether they stumble into the craft shop and discover a murderer or build model planes while discussing their crumbing marriage. What hobbies would you add?

  • fishkeeping/aquarist
  • cross-stitching
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • painting (oil, acrylic, watercolor)
  • spelunking
  • reading
  • playing a musical instrument
  • cryptozoology (Big Foot, anyone?)
  • history buff
  • volunteering (there are more ideas on this here)
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • swimming
  • fishing
  • hunting
  • poetry
  • diving
  • sailing
  • sci-fi conventions
  • historical reenactment
  • crystals (either as a rock collector or in a New Age sense)
  • antiquing
  • tarot cards
  • bicycling
  • cooking or baking
  • scrapbooking
  • gardening
  • making fishing lures
  • writing
  • traveling (by boat, plane, bicycle, motorcycle, etc)
  • martial arts
  • running
  • crafts
  • playing billiards/pool
  • watching football
  • collecting (stamps, figurines, spoons, shot glasses, etc.)
  • surfing
  • sailing
  • photography
  • horseback riding
  • parasailing
  • skydiving
  • origami
  • mountain climbing
  • golf
  • gambling
  • skateboarding
  • chess
  • yoga
  • blogging

I’ll continue to add to this least, so feel free to check back! Also take a peek at the other information on my Writers’ Resources page!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Cover Tease for Remembering Calix

My newest novella, Remembering Calix, is currently available for pre-order! Check out a partial cover reveal below, and keep your eyes open for the full, official cover!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside Detective.  Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under On Writing, science fiction, Self-Publishing

Unusual Jobs for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

I’ve already given you a list of common jobs, which are useful in many genres of writing.  But sometimes you need a career for a character that’s far beyond the norm, and that’s what this list is for!  Some of these jobs pull in a lot of money, and others are just unusual.

Check out more lists like this on my Writers’ Resources page.

If you have an idea that belongs on this page, leave me a comment and I’ll add it to the list along with your preferred link.

animator

archeologist

astronaut

bodyguard

choreographer

cruise ship captain

CIA agent

cryptozoologist (studies legendary creatures)

entertainment lawyer

exobiologist (studies life on other planets)

fashion designer

film director

fountain pen dealer

hemp/cannabis farmer

hunting guide

literary archeologist (studyies ancient writing/literature)

microbiologist

mine rescuer

Olympic athlete

paranormal investigator

paleontologist

professional athlete

professional gamer

puppeteer

royalty

royal aide

snake milker

stunt coordinator

toy designer

TV producer

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Volunteer Opportunities for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

When building a character for your novel, it’s great to give them a few quirks and a job, but a volunteer position can add a lot to their depth.  It not only makes your character more of a real person, but it might also give her a reason to be in the right place at the right time and solve the crime/win the love of her crush/tick off someone who deserves it.

Since I love just these sorts of lists when I’m writing, I’m sharing them with you!  You can find this list and more on my Writers’ Resources page.

If you have any suggestions for this list, leave me a comment!  I’ll add your idea as well as your preferred link.

animal shelter

Big Brothers Big Sisters

blood drive

booster club (athletics, band, etc)

Boy Scouts

Boys and Girls Club

churches

city cleanup

coaching

food pantry

Girl Scouts

Habitat for Humanity

historical society

homeless shelter

hospice

library

literacy program

national parks

park district

political campaign

Red Cross

retirement home

schools

soup kitchen

warming shelter

YMCA

youth center

 

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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20th Century Timeline for Writers (1900-1999)

This is a work in progress as part of my Writers’ Resources page!  It’s here to give you some help or maybe just a little inspiration if you’re working on any sort of historical fiction.  You’ll find that the links open a new tab so you can come back easily.  You can also check out the 19th Century/Old West Timeline.

Have something that shoudl be added?  Leave me a comment!

 

1900

Hawaii is annexed as a U.S. territory

1904

-both the World’s Fair and the Summer Olympics are held in St. Louis

1908

Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell is published and will begin a tradition of Scouting around the world

1911

Ronald Reagan is born (Feb 6)

1919

Prohibition (the 18th amendment) was passed on Jan 16.  The country wouldn’t officially go dry until Jan 17, 1920

1929

Martin Luther King, Jr. is born (January 15)

1941

-the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Dec 7)

1957

Wham-O introduces the Frisbee (Jan 23)

1959

Hawaii becomes a state (August 21)

1963

Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) is published

1967

-the first Super Bowl is played (Jan 15)  (Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs in L.A.)

1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated (April 4)

1969

Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut) is published

1970

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is broadcast (until 1977)

1974

-Stephen King publishes Carrie, his debut novel (April 5)

1980

Ronald Reagan is elected President and is at that time the oldest person elected for the position

1997

Madeline Albright becomes the first female Secretary of State, the highest ranking female official in U.S. history the time (Jan 23)

 

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Jobs for Your Characters

As a writer, you want your characters to have some depth.  Maybe they need some interesting quirks, or maybe they just need a job.  I often find that when I’m cranking along on a story, it’s really helpful to look through a list of options when I need to make a decision about a character.  While it’s by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of common jobs for you to use in your creative process.  These are the kind of jobs you’d find in any typical town, so this list is particularly helpful if you’re working on cozy mysteries.  If you think of something that should be on this list, leave a comment and I’ll add it!

Looking for more posts like this?  Check out my Writers’ Resources page!


Accountant

Artist

Attorney

Baker

Banker

Barista

Bartender

Blogger

Bus driver

Busboy

Busker

Butcher

Cab driver

Car salesman

Carpenter

Chef

Cleaning lady (or cleaning gentleman?)

Computer tech

Cook

Daycare provider

Delivery driver

Discount store clerk

Doctor

Dog groomer

Drywall finisher

EMT/paramedic

Factory worker

Fashion designer

Fast food worker

Financial advisor

Firefighter

Florist

Gas station clerk

Hair stylist

HVAC tech

Insurance agent

Janitor

Jeweler

Landlord

Librarian

Mechanic

Musician

Nurse

Painter (of either homes or landscapes)

Paralegal

Paranormal investigator

Pet sitter

Photographer

Pilot

Plumber

Police dispatcher

Police officer

Printer

Real estate agent

Secretary

Security guard

Shoe salesperson

Stable owner

Teacher

Teacher’s aid

Veterinarian

Waitress

Warehouse foreman

Web designer

Welder

Writer/author

Youtuber

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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