This home office inspriation image comes from “Desk Job,” This Old House magazine, December 2001.
This is not a fancy office with beautiful furniture and lovely windows to look out of. It is a compact desk in the middle of the kitchen. It is a place where you could pick out recipes from your favorite cooking program or work on a novel while overseeing what your family is doing. Some of us write better when we are surrounded by activity, be it at the local coffeehouse or surrounded by those we love. Is this an office set up that would work for you as a writer? Let me know in the comments.
Book Name:The Many-Coloured Land
Author: Julian May
First Published: 1981
Julian Clare May was born on July 10, 1931 to Matthew M. May and Julia Feilen May. She grew up in Elmwood Park in Illinois and was known as Judy May when she was young. She was the oldest child and had three younger siblings.
When she was in her late teens, she became interested in science fiction fandom and published the fanzine Interim Newsletter. In 1950, she sold her first professional short story Dune Roller to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. It was published along with her illustrations in 1951 and credited to “J. C. May”. Later that year, she met Ted Dikty at a science fiction convention in Ohio. They fell in love and got married in January 1953. May stopped writing science fiction after selling another short story, Star of Wonder, to Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1953.
May and her husband had three children, with the youngest one born in 1958. Beginning in 1954, she wrote thousands of science encyclopedia entries for Consolidated Book Publishers and two other encyclopedia publishers. In 1957, May and Dikty started Publication Associates, a production and editorial company catering to small publishers. From 1956 to 1981, May wrote at least 250 books for children and young adults, mostly non-fiction books about science, history, and short biographies of popular celebrities at the time. Her pen names for non-fiction work are Ian Thorne and Lee N. Falconer.
In 1972, May’s short story Dune Roller was adapted into film as The Cremators. Here, she was credited as “Judy Dikty”. She became interested again in fandom and in 1976 attended the science fiction convention, Westercon. She created a diamond-encrusted space suit costume for the event and got into thinking about the kind of character that would use that kind of suit. Soon, she began compiling ideas that would eventually be used for her Galactic Milieu Series. The Many-Coloured Land, the first book in the Saga of Pliocene Exile, was published in 1981.
“You have always been alone, always self-centered and fearful of opening yourself to other persons, for to do so is to risk rejection and pain. But it is a risk we are born to take, we humans.” -Julian May
Humans have been discovered by benevolent aliens and are now part of a seemingly utopian society called the Galactic Milieu. The different beings of the federation have different kinds of psychic powers and can do interstellar travel. The price to pay for being part of the Galactic Milieu is that humans have to follow strict rules and think within the thresholds. Humans who have not developed their powers yet are not happy and want a way out.
In France, a researcher has found a one-way portal to the Pliocene Era. Because it has no other use, the portal has become a way for misfits to escape the current society. So far there have been more than a hundred thousand people who have made the journey to the past.
Eight non-psychic humans prepare to go through the portal and they spend time getting to know each other before being sent through the gate. They are given survival training and a kit that will last for several years. Each one of them has his own reason for wanting to go: Aiken is a convicted felon who chooses exile over execution, Felice is a temperamental athlete who has been banned from the games, Bryan is an anthropologist looking for his lost love, the Roman Catholic nun Amerie has lost her faith, Elizabeth once had metapsychic abilities but lost them after a traumatic accident, Richard the xenophobe is being sued by an alien space crew for all his properties, Claude is a paleontologist, and Stein dreams of being a Viking.
Once in the Pliocene Era, however, the group discovers that Earth at that time is not the wilderness they expect but is already inhabited by two warring alien groups: the Tanu and the Firvulag. The Tanu have strong psychic powers and have turned almost all humans into slaves. The male humans are separated from the female and the women are used for breeding. The humans are then ranked according to their metapsychic abilities. The Tanu use collars called torcs in order to control the humans. The gold torcs that the Tanu wear control the silver and gray torcs worn by the slaves. Humans with strong latent powers are made to wear the silver torcs while those without latent powers but have other skills are given the gray ones. The first group, made up of Richard, Claude, Felice, and Amerie, devise a plan to escape.
When I first picked up this book at the bookstore, Julian May was unknown to me as an author. The book had been recommended to me by friends that loved science fiction and so I thought that I would give it a chance. It turned out to the be right choice. The Many-Coloured Land was the first novel by this author and it was the start to the Saga of Pliocene Exile series and of a fruitful writing career. A month or two after I picked up the book, I noticed that most of my friends were reading it as well. There was a buzz about it. Here we are 30 years later and the books still read well and is recognized by serious science fiction readers. Ms. May has gone to write several interesting series and is still publishing today. I feel that The Many-Coloured Land is a good introduction to her body of work, but it should not be the last novel of hers that you enjoy. I still own the first edition paperbacks to this series, a bit yellow with age, and continue give them a place in my library.
The Many-Coloured Land (1981)
The Golden Torc (1982)
The Nonborn King (1983)
The Adversary (1984)
My love for fountain pens and typewriters caught up with me this week. Suddenly, I discovered several good articles on the subject in addition to my usual blend of articles about the writing process. They are a little unusual, but I hope you find them as interesting as I did.
Pen and paper is often overlooked as a method of communication. Most prefer to keyboard their written correspondence, then send it via social media, a text, or email. A pen and ink is out-dated and unneeded.
Young students do not learn to read or write cursive handwriting and make due with poor penmanship if they use paper at all. When a young student needs to learn a signature, he is often sent to an art class where the instructor teaches how to develop one.
Among adults, lack of using pens has stunted their penmanship skills. Many have forgotten how to write except for the most rudimentary of script. Cursive handwriting has become a lost art. Many people are at a loss at how it happened and wonder how they could return to having decent handwriting again.
I found myself numbered among these adults several years ago. I used my computer keyboard for most of my writing needs and seldom thought to use a pen and paper. As I returned to writing novels, I discovered that something was missing in my process. I did not retain my ideas and I had trouble brainstorming.
One day, I decided to use a workbook to help plot out book two of a trilogy. The author recommended getting a paper notebook and writing all the exercises by hand instead of using a keyboard. His method asked questions about the characters and I wrote a certain amount each day for a month. I bought my first composition book and pulled out a ballpoint and got to work. At first, the writer’s block was still with me. Within a week I realized that ideas for my book were coming quickly. When I looked back over what I had written, I could remember the details better than when I was writing on my computer. Within that month, the plot for my new novel sprang into being. I became hooked on using paper.
At that time, my handwriting was horrible. I could print, but my cursive had eroded to near unreadability. The long periods of time that I was brainstorming ideas were hard on my hand and I experienced finger cramping. I did not want to give up this new method of brainstorming on paper since it worked for me. Instead I began to explore pen options. That is when I discovered fountain pens.
Why Choose a Fountain Pen?
There are many benefits to writing with a fountain pen over a ballpoint. In writing with a ballpoint, you must exert constant pressure to the page and hold the pen at a low angle. This is what creates the hand cramping when you write for a long period of time. With a fountain pen, you use a more natural writing angle, around 45 degrees when you write. This wider angle is easier on your wrist. The fountain pen flows across the page with little resistance, no pressure needed to put ink on the page. This allows you to write for longer periods of time without cramping your hands. There are a variety of nibs to choose from to give more character to your handwriting.
Plain – This is most basic shape of a fountain pen nib. It gives a clean line in your choice of width, from very fine, fine, medium, broad, and double broad. Most people find that fine to medium will work best as a daily writer.
Italic – This is also known as a stub nib. The nib is a flat plain where it meets the page and it allows the writer to write thin and thick lines as he writes. It adds character to your handwriting with a little extra practice.
Flex – These are nibs allow their tines to widen when a small amount of pressure is applied to the nib. As the writer presses, a much wider line results.
Ink Me, Baby
Besides choosing a nib, there are around 600 different inks to choose from on the market. Some inks have unique colors, others shade between two or three colors, still others have a special shimmer that is known as “sheen”. Some inks are permanent and will last for hundreds of years without fading, others last in the sun for only a few weeks. There are even “invisible” inks that you need a UV light to see on the page. All the different brands of ink and their assortment of hues allows a writer to develop a certain look to their writing. It can make your notes distinctive unto themselves.
For me, discovering the fountain pen has aided my skills as a writer. I now create all my brainstorming notes, character sketches, and plot outlines on paper with a fountain pen. What I write never moves on the page, as it would on my computer screen, and it gives my ideas a more solid presence in my mind. For the actual writing of the drafts and editing, I move to the computer, but with far better results than I had in the past. One extra benefit to this new method is that my handwriting skills have returned with practice. I can write legible cursive and my printing is small and neat. Due to this, I’ve been gradually moving to smaller nib sizes so I can fill my pages with more notes.
Writing with a fountain pen is sheer joy. If you have not tried it for yourself, I recommending buying an inexpensive starter fountain pen. See how it might improve your own writing process.