Historical maps for writers

I stumbled across this helpful web site and wanted to share it: Old Maps Online, www.oldmapsonline.org/

It’s a searchable index of old maps available for free online, with links that take you to the maps. Most are available from museum and library web sites, but it’s useful to have them cataloged and searchable in one place. The majority of the maps are from the nineteenth century, but some are older or newer. They range from world maps to detailed maps of cities. Just playing around on the site, I looked at Civil-War era maps of the military defenses of Charleston, South Carolina; maps of the West Indies during the height of the sugar plantation era; street maps of cities my ancestors lived in; and a detailed map of colonial-era Calcutta.

This is a great resource for writers of historical fiction, family historians, historians of a particular locations, and anyone who likes old maps.

How I met my agent

I’m super excited to announce that I’m now represented by the wonderful Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary! I’m really looking forward to working with her to shine up my manuscripts and find them great homes, and I’m already hard at work on the first round of revisions.

Now, for the traditional, “How I met my agent” story. I found Abi (or, she found me), in #PitchMas, a pre-Christmas Twitter pitch party where authors tweet a short pitch and agents can favorite it if they’d like to see more. My Twitter pitch was, “Ballgowns. Calling cards. Hellhounds. It’s shockingly difficult to be a proper Victorian lady when the monsters are real. #PitchMas #YA.” I sent my query and first three chapters, and she requested the full manuscript a couple of weeks later. A couple of weeks after that, she emailed me about some revisions she wanted to see. As we talked about the changes and the manuscript, she decided she would like to represent it. Given her enthusiasm about the story, her great suggestions for strengthening it, and how well we clicked, saying yes was a no-brainer. 🙂

For my author friends, I want to add that this is a manuscript I spent a couple of years writing and revising (learning a lot along the way), and I was querying and refining it for a year before Abi picked it up. It gets discouraging at times, but keep working and learning and trying! Never give up, never surrender!

Cool Scrivener trick: setting the scene with a background image

Scrivener is a word processing program designed specifically for writers, and it has some really useful tools, like notecards for keeping track of research, and scene sections that are easy to move around. I am by no means a Scrivener expert. I love it for sketching out ideas and creating the rough draft, but I tend to switch to Open Office or Word when I get into editing mode because I feel more in control. One of my writing buddies showed me this Scrivener trick, though, and I have to share it because I’m finding it an awesome writing aid (Thanks, Lauren!).

Scrivener has a full screen option, which is nice by itself since it reduces the temptation to distract yourself from writing by checking social media or surfing the net. Scrivener takes things to the next level by letting you set your background image. You can choose a picture that matches the setting or mood of the piece you’re working on, and it shows up framing your writing space. I’m finding it surprisingly helpful for keeping my mind in the scene (especially since I’m still getting back in the groove after the holidays).

So, my workspace currently looks like this:


I feel like I’m looking out my window at the scene while I write.

It’s really easy to set up, too. While not in full screen mode, you click on “View” on the toolbar at the top. One of the options is “Full Screen Backdrop.” When you hover over it, you have the option to “Choose.” Click on it and select an image from the files on your computer. Then, also from the View drop drown menu, select “Enter Full Screen.” To get out of this mode, just hit the escape key.

If you use Scrivener, I hope you find this trick helpful. Happy writing in 2015!