An Unconventional Author

September 9, 2006

Working the Web

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 1:18 pm

How to find what you need – now.


As you probably know, the Web abounds in search engines.  Each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses.  However, only one seems designed for historical research: Excite!


Excite’s “More like this” feature allows you to improve your chances of finding useful information in less time than possible using other search engines.  Responses are rated by percentage of accuracy to your request and, if it looks like you are almost where you want to be, click on the More like this link to add probably helpful sites to your list.


BUT, if you are searching for background information in a popular area/era, Excite has another feature that many people do not notice.


Just below the search entry line, Excite gives you a choice of words to add to your search pattern.  Excite gets these words from the first batch of responses to your original request.  Each time you add any of these words to your search pattern, Excite narrows your responses and generates a new list of selectable words.  In this way, you can cut 2,000 responses down to a manageable selection that is precisely what you are looking for.


For example, say you are searching medieval France.  Can you imagine how many hits you’d get with that one?  In this case, More like this is just going to cause you more problems and cost you more time.  Using choice words is essential.  In searching through the long first set of responses, Excite might suggest that you add such words as clothing, food, habits, Paris, battles, etc.   You click on those that come closest to what you want to know and search again.  Excite will generate a new list.  This time they might suggest that you add armor, cooking, customs, weapons etc.  And so it goes, each search coming closer to the precise information you are seeking.


Going about your research in this fashion will, admittedly, take a long time – the first time.  However, after that first session, you will have eliminated hundreds of useless pages and be left with a long list of useful research sites.  Rather than having to go through the entire process of elimination every time you venture out onto the Web.


Additionally, you can save your final Excite search page and go back to that point in your search when you have exhausted/absorbed the material already collected.


I suggest that you save the bookmarks from research sessions in a separate file and just to be safe, copy that file to a floppy along with your other current project files.  None of us like to think about it but Hard Drives do foul up and Web Browsers do lose bookmarks.


September 3, 2006


Filed under: New Poetry,Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 6:51 pm

In this crowded lonely place,

Searching vainly for your face,

I wonder, Darling, how could this be?

How could there be an end to you and me?

Soulmates we were just yesterday;

Heartmates forever didn’t we say?

Where are you now?  I wish I knew.

Reincarnated?  Witch’s brew?

You did not die.  I know that now.

I’ll find you again.  Just tell me how.

Tomorrow?  Today?  When will it be?

You and me.  The eternal two.

There is no me if there’s no you.

© 2006, Peggy Ullman Bell

Time off for good behavior

Filed under: On Writing,Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 4:07 pm

You’ve diligently worked your fingers, and your brain, for fifty weeks and now it’s time to rest.  You’ve packed your leisure duds, your camera, your scuba gear, hiking boots, bicycling togs, whatever, and you’re ready to take off. 

Did you unplug the computer?  A surge protector protects for only one surge and you aren’t going to be around to put in a new fuse.  Did you pack all essential gear?  Are you sure? 

How about those pocket notepads?  Pens?  Charcoal?  A sketch pad?  Tracing paper?  Hey!  This is a vacation! 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, (depending on your POV – Point Of View) your mind does not go on vacation.  Your memory does, however – and often.  Every experience a writer has is grist for their personal story mill.  No photograph can capture the ‘feel’ of sunrise over Nantucket or the sunset over Catalina.  You cannot photograph the whispers of the gods that may come to you within the cloud-shroud on top of Old Smokey, or the twitter of mermaids in the Costa Rican twilight. 

Ghosts reside in most National Parks.  Can you hear them?  Will you remember what they said on that distant day when you need them for your current story? 

That dilapidated cabin over there might be a perfect setting for a someday story but, unless you make a rough sketch, unless you jot down your inner impressions, you will not be able to call it to mind. 

Years from now, when you dust off a box from your attic and look at your ‘essential’ vacation photos, how will you remember exactly why you took them if you don’t have notes to copy only the back of them after they’re processed? 

OK – now you have the hang of it.  “But, why tracing paper?” you say. 

For historical writers, the tracing paper is an essential piece of equipment.  Natural historians, and that is what most of us are, spend a lot of time prowling old cemeteries and museums – vacation or no.  There will come a time when your tracings of interesting epitaphs and monument inscriptions will be invaluable to you. 

You simply cannot catch the essence of an old tombstone by jotting the epitaph down.  The style of lettering alone may provide needed inspiration for a story.  A reproduction of a tracing may be what sells an editor on your story.  “Here lies Jim Smith.  He called Joe Barnes a liar.” loses its punch without the crocked, hand-carved, misspelled lettering. 

The uniqueness of the inscription on a nineteenth century monument, in some-town, south-somewhere, does not come across without the endlessly curled letters and minute, carved art of the original.  And, a twenty-first (almost) photograph will not do its heights and shadows justice.  For that you need charcoal and tracing paper. 

Now that I’ve turned your vacation into work, I’ll take mine – right here – at my keyboard – working for travel money so I can soon follow my own advice.

From a grateful author

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 3:05 pm

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for email and for your reviews.  The kind ones cheer me. The not so kind ones will help me improve my writing.

For the contributor of the most scathing review of PSAPPHA on I send a quote borrowed from the forward of a much loved book by Rita Mae Brown.

“If you don’t like my book, write your own. If you don’t think I can write a novel, that ought to tell you something. If you think you can, do. No excuses. If you still don’t like my novels, find a book you do like. Life is too short to be miserable. If you like my novels, I commend your good taste.”

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Filed under: Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 2:59 pm

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