Writing Resources

October has become “Nano Prep” month for me for many years.  I’ve been participating since I graduated from high school (which is longer then I remember, surprising myself each time I actually do figure out how long its been).  So I’ve decided to make a post for some of the places I get help in my writing endeavours for anyone participating in Nano.

I’m including various websites and tools, some of which I use frequently, and some of which I have used in the past and no longer do for one reason or another (in the case of one, I forgot my password).

NanoWrimo.Org

We should always start with the Nano page.  The Original NanoWrimo occurs every November, and its goal is 50k in a month.  NanoWrimo.org also offers helpful links, a forum, as well as offline events as well such as write-ins and community meet-ups.  It also does a yearly fundraiser for Libraries in areas that are too poor to fund one.

(there are also some great coupons if you win for writing services and programs).

Writing Sites:

750words.com

This website gives you online space to help keep up sprints, and daily writing.  The goal is to write 750 words daily.  The longer you go, the more points you get.  You get target rewards each time you meet the criteria.  It also gives stats on word usage and tone which can be useful.

4thewords.com

This is another example of a writing habit creator.  In this particular one, its a subscription service, but only four dollars for what accounts for a month.  You can pay by month, or pay ahead if you want to.  However, it is very fun and so far worth it in my opinon.  However, it doesn’t work for everyone, so the month trial should give you some time to find out.

The basics of it is that you are playing a game.  To fight the monsters that come across your path, you write.  Each monster has a word count goal and a time limit.  You can choose which monster you want to fight.  When you complete the battle successfully you get rewards which go towards accomplishing the Quest goals.  Then you can move on to another part of the valley where there are new monsters to fight against.  It also does periodic special runs of events (particularly during Nano events).

Hemingway Editor

THis is a online editing software (although it does have a desktop app) that allows you to check your grammar and writing as you write, helping you improve as you go along.  I like to sometimes copy/paste my writing into it to see what it says and strengthen the weak spots, but you can just get typing in there.  It has some basic formatting features as well, and a readability monitor to tell you if you are writing for the right age level.  (this is especially important if you are writing for kids. ).

Writer

This is for those who don’t need anything to distract them.  All they need is a plan screen.  If you need the least amount of distractions and just want to write, this may be good for you.

CharaHub

This website is designed to help you with your character building, keeping an online character report for you instead of half a dozen tabs or folders on your computer.  I haven’t used this, but I have been told its quite helpful.  (If you have used this, let me know what you think.)  Its been sitting in my “Writing – Tools” bookmark folder for awhile now.

Word Counter

DOn’t have a word counter built into your word processor?  This site is helpful in that it allows you to check your word count.  Also pretty good for challenges where you have a word goal and/or limit.

I have a whole folder for writing resources, but not all of them are useful as broad tools, and I limited mine to what appeared to at least give a free preview of the service.  I have a selection of generators that are sometimes fun to play around with when you have writers block, and there are millions out there that can partition to your chosen topic/genre.  Also, don’t be afraid to use the same resources you may have used in school to write those papers.  Some of them can be quite helpful when writing fiction (and really helpful if you are writing non-fiction).

If you have any websites/tools you would like to suggest, feel free to mention them in the comments.  I’m always open to finding new things.

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TV Review: The Six Wives of Henry XIII (2 of 4)

Title: The Six Wives of Henry XIII (Via Amazon Prime)
Episode Title:  Anne Boleyn (2 of 4)
Release date 2001

This episode was rather odd for me, because it was not very sympathetic towards Anne, and describes her as pretty much someone who manipulated Henry to get power.   Given how the first episode seemed sympathetic towards Catherine I was surprised, expected this to be the same for the second Queen, who, from all accounts I know of, was falsely accused because of her inability to give Henry a son.

I also wonder that they had no mention that one of Anne’s miscarriages was around the same time Henry had an accident.  Perhaps that was not a widely accepted connection.  I also feel that this episode didn’t really go much into Anne but those around her being mad that she was Queen, or being happy for the same reason.  Perhaps it is because Anne is often the most known of the Queens in pop culture due to her death, and the fact that she was Queen Elizabeth’s mother.

This episode gets a C, as it felt rather unbalanced in its reporting of Anne, but the overall series still gets an A.

Women of History: Emmeline Pankhurst

Today’s Woman of history topic is one that was requested, and I actually was not aware of till it was mentioned.  I found out quite a bit from my minor looking into her life. Emmeline Pankhurst was an early 19th century political activist in Great Britain. In particular she is known for her strong militant ways of promoting her cause and for helping bring along the vote for women in the UK as well as improve various other social problems she discovered through out her life.

Emmeline was born Emmeline Goulden on July 15, 1858 (according to her birth certificate, she always claimed the 14th) in a Manchester suburb. She was born into a family familiar with political activism for several generations. Her parents were active in their community and passed that down to their children. This included their interest in woman’s suffrage.

Her education was not as involved as her brothers, as at the time it was felt it was better she learn to be an attractive prospect as a wife rather than be educated on the scale of her brothers. However, she was an avid reader, and her time at Ecole Nomale de Neuilly helped her expand her influences and knowledge base. Continue reading

Women of History: Ching Shih

Today’s Women of History topic takes us on a walk on the wild side.  Ching Shih was a pirate, a highly successful one.  She even got to retire, which is not a common occurrence for people in this line of work.  She was also one of the few well known female pirates (There are more than you would think given the popular culture).

Ching Shih was born Shi Vianggu in 1775 in Guangdong, China. The name of this town was originally latinized as Canton, hence the term Cantonese.  It is located in the lower part of China, bordering the China sea, and north of Hong Kong.  She spent some time as a prostitute within the province before she was captured by pirates sometime before 1801.  She ended up marrying the leader of those pirates, a man named Cheng I.  Cheng I came from a long line of pirates, so it was a family business.  It was as his wife that her successful career as a Pirate began, as she was involved with his activities and knew who supported her husband, and who needed other means to support her later in life.  He also began consolidating the pirates in the area, eventually becoming the ‘Red Flag Fleet’, one of the most powerful pirating fleets in Asia at the time.

Continue reading

Women of History: Admiral Grace Hopper

For this week’s edition of Historical Women, we travel a bit closer to our own time.  Our subject today is Grace Hopper, an American Admiral and computer scientist.  I have talked about her before, as she is one of those people I’ve always wanted to know more about.  She is one of the pioneers in computer engineering, and is the one said to have coined the term “Bug” for a computer problem.

She was born Grace Brewster Murray on December 9, 1906 in New York City, the eldest daughter of Walter & Mary Murray.  She was known for having an early interest in how things worked, taking apart things and putting them back together.  This followed her into her career.   Continue reading

Women of History: Boudica

When I decided to start a blog series about women from history, Boudica jumped out at me.  Not because she was my favorite historical woman, or because she had some major play in history.  She just did.  So for no reason whatsoever other than ‘because’, she’ll be my first post subject.

Boudica was a British Queen, back during the Roman Empire.  At that point England (And Great Britian as a whole) was made up of different tribes.  She was part of the Iceni Tribe which lived in what is now modern day Norfolk.

Boudica (also spelled Boadicea, Boudicea, and called Budding in Welsh) was born around 25 AD  She was married to Prasutagus, who was the elected ruler or King of the Iceni.  Prasutagus had a agreeable relationship with the Roman Empire, enough so that when he died he left his kingdom to both his daughters and the Empire.  This of course caused problems.

The Romans had left the Iceni and the other British tribes for the most part alone since Ceaser visited a century before.  However, around 43 AD, Emperor Claudius decided to invade, and this time take control.  The Tribes eventually had to submit, but instead of leaving them alone for the most part, Claudius left behind his soldiers on the island.  Some of the native population continued to rebel, but successive governors of the island sent by rome made things more and more difficult for the Iceni and their neighbors. At one point they no longer had the ability to have any weapons that could be used for rebellion (hunting weapons were still allowed to a point).  When Claudius died, his successor Nero had them build a temple in Camulodunum for him, which required the Celtic Icenic to worship their invader. They were also forced to pay for it.  Not having the funds to do so, they ended up borrowing money from rich Romans.  

Boudica’s eventual rebellion was motivated by different things, depending on what source you were told.  Most of the tales of Boudica were Roman, as there was no written celtic history at the time.  However, the Romans who wrote about the Queen of the Iceni had different ideas of what motivated her.  According to some, her motivations were due to oppression.  The Romans, such as Seneca, who had leant money to the Britions called those loans in with force. The Governers took more and more of the freedoms the Celtic populations enjoyed to keep them under control.  THis included destruction of their holy lands, which sadly would not be the last time this would happen in history. This got worse when her husband, who had on friendly terms with the Roman Empire, died.  Rome decided to take complete control rather then share with the man’s daughters.

Other accounts have more dramatic reasons.  According to Tacitus, Boudica was flogged for resisting her estate being taken over by the local leader and her daughters raped.  Given that there is no account from the side of the Celtics, or Boudica herself, its hard to know for sure what really happened to her or her people that caused her to decide to seize leadership and rebel.

In around 60-61 AD, Boudica lead Celtic rebels in full rebellion against the Roman invaders.  She attacked, and destroyed several cities.  One of which was the City of London, which still bears traces of the attack where Boudica’s army burned the city down. Other cities included Verulamium, and Camulodunum (Colchester). According to Dio, she was vicious in her retribution, killing those who remained in the cities.  She had a larger army, with an estimate of 230 thousand.   However in the end the Roman leader Suetonius was victorious and returned Britain to Roman control.  His troops were better trained and better armed, and in the end that seemed to win the day.

Boudica died soon afterwards, with even her death in dispute.  In some accounts she ended it by poison, others she died of an illness.  She was given a costly funeral by her tribesman.  Despite the loss, she was still greatly respected by most accounts.  I suppose in a way its amazing that she managed to not only gain the respect of her fellow celts, but enough respect from the Romans that they told stories about her.  They won, they could have told any story they wanted.  Made her out to be some demon, but they didn’t.

I suppose it confused them.  The Romans weren’t particularly equalitarian when it came to gender. Most of the heroines of their tales were either godesses or foriegn Queens.  Boudica, Dido, Cleopatra.    Women who defyed the Roman idea of Womanhood.

Today it doesn’t seem that far fetched that a group of fighters would go into battle for their Queen.  Its happened many times before.  Boudica left in imprint on the history of Great Britain, not just as a Queen.  She became a symbol of resistance.  She became a subject of Art, and inspiration during the Victorian Age.







Further Reading:

Boudica – Wikipedia

Boudica: Celtic War Queen who challenged Rome

Boudica:

The Hung Parliament

Yesterday, The United Kingdom held a general election for Parliament, called for by Prime Minister Theresa May.  With the results in for the most part (one seat remains in the ether apparently) it appears that there is a “hung parliament.”  For Americans (and non-parliamentarians) this may be a confusing phrase.  So I decided today to look into it and write about it.  If you happen to be british, and want to expand or correct something in my essay, feel free to leave a comment.  I’m always willing to learn, and I’m using primarily online sources right now, which can be a bit vague or misleading at times. If you are not British or American, I apologise for the americentric viewpoint of this essay.  I’m doing this from the viewpoint of an US citizen trying to understand British government. If you want to share how your government compares, I’m also interested in hearing it.

The UK is a democracy that works under a parliamentary model.  Which the US does as well, although we added our own twists on things.  There are some similarities between Parliament and Congress.  For example, its bicameral, although how representatives are elected to both houses is different.  Parliament’s two houses are the House of Lords and the House of Commons.  The House of Lords, as the title suggests is members of noble families and members of the clergy of the Church of England, and they are appointed, rather than elected.  The House of Commons on the other hand is an elected body.

Within the House of Commons, there are several parties.  Unlike in the US, the UK is not a two-party system in practice or theory.  There are several parties, and 650 seats.  A party with a majority of more than 50% of the vote is considered the head of the government.  However, when there is no sure majority the parliament is known as a “hung parliament”.  In this case, two or more parties will join together to form a coalition government.

This is different from the United States, which uses a simple Majority style.  The party with the most seats is head of the house in which they are in(currently the Republican Party).  They in turn elect the person who would hold the senior positions in the house (Speaker of the House; President Pro Tempore) In the UK, even if a party has more seats, it does not automatically give it power.  They have to have a strong majority, with over half of the votes.  Once that is settled (or a coalition/minority government is formed), the Queen will choose a Prime Minister from the party which holds the majority.

Its near impossible for the United States to have a similar situation.  If the Senate (with 100 members) was equally divided) they would still have the President of the Senate – the Vice President.  This would create a majority for one party or another.  The House has 435 members, which makes it hard to really have a 50/50 vote.  On the other hand the United States also has a hard-stuck two-party system which has denied many other views/parties into the mainstream campaigning.

Elections are held every five years as of 2011 in the UK unless a vote is taken to make a special election (as what happened this year) and receives a 2/3rd majority vote in the House of Commons. Prior to yesterday’s election, the Conservative party (sometimes known as Tories) had the majority, and thus their prime Minister was Theresa May.  The Prime Minister appoints the rest of the cabinet as well, which is the government formed.

With a hung Parliament we will have to see which parties will join to create the coalition government. Coalition governments usually come in two forms – a formal arrangement where the two parties join together to pass legislation and both hold roles in the cabinet/government, or an informal one where the smaller party agrees to support the larger parties agenda without a strong role in the government.  Reports so far seem to be Conservatives (who have 49% of the vote and still a technical majority) and the Democratic Union party (who has 1.5)  will be joining together to form an informal coalition of 50.5 percent of the vote.  An unlikely but also possible scenario is that a re-election in August might be made if the Conservatives can not form enough of a working majority to push for their agenda.

It should be interesting to see what happens in the coming months as Brexit negotiations begin and the new government formed by Minster May gets working.

It also shows an interesting look into what may happen in the future elections in the US.  The Conservative rule that seemed to be elected in the last few elections in various countries seems to be swinging to a more moderate stance.  This could affect the United States too as it comes to mid-term elections next year.

Wikipedia: Parliament of the United Kingdom

Wikipedia: General Election 2017 Results

Guardian:  What is a hung parliament

BBC: General Election what you need to know

CBS: What happens if the Senate splits 50-50