Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Of Crescents and Moonsets

Callihoo Publishing author Brook West gives us a fascinating and informative article about phases of the Earth's Moon--or any moon throughout space.


"As the thin, pre-dawn crescent moon sets, the old man returns to the lighthouse."

I recently ran across this sentence opening a story. Seems nicely evocative and all, but there's something wrong with it. Crescent moons do not set at dawn, they rise.

Why do moons show crescents? It's because we are looking mostly at the dark side of the moon. The bright side of the Moon is bright because, duh, it is facing the Sun. The dark side is in shadow because it is facing away from the sun.

Note that there is a difference between "dark side" and "far side." Because our Moon is tide-locked to the Earth, we always see one side of it, the near side, and never see the far side. The light and dark sides, on the other hand, progress around the Moon. When we see the dark side, we are looking at lunar night on the near side of the Moon.  Each day our Moon rises about an hour later than the day before (actually about 50 minutes) so the phase of the moon changes a little with each day.

So during a full moon, and on either side of full, when the Moon is gibbous (i.e. mostly full, with a thin dark crescent along one edge) the Moon will be more or less opposite the Sun in the sky--sunrise and moonset happen more or less together, as do moonrise and sunset.

On the other hand, when the Moon is in the same part of the sky as the Sun, we will see mostly the dark side of the Moon.

When the Moon is nearest to the Sun in our sky, we are seeing just the dark side--that is a new moon, and it rises and sets with the Sun. As the Moon approaches the Sun we see less and less of the light side, so the crescent we see wanes--that is, it gets thinner and thinner until new moon. After new moon, the thin crescent again appears and slowly waxes or thickens. Before new moon, the Moon rises before the Sun does; after new moon, the Moon follows the Sun, rising after sunrise. See figure 1.

Figure 1

The crescent of light will always face the Sun because that's what is illuminating it. The horns of a crescent will always point away from the Sun.

Twice in each lunar month, midway between new and full moons,  we will see a half moon rising and setting about half a day before or after the sun. Again, the light side will always face the sun.

All this is illustrated in figure 2, which shows the various phases of the Moon, both in the Moon's relation to the Sun and the Earth, and as we see the Moon in each phase. Note that what is changing is our point of view.

Figure 2

Even when we can't see the Sun, at night, the Moon is not in the Earth's shadow, so the bright side is illuminated by the Sun. The only exception to this is during a lunar eclipse, which can only occur at a full moon, on those rare occasions when the Moon actually passes through the Earth's shadow. Solar eclipses happen at new moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun.

Since the Moon's orbit is tilted in relation to the plane of the earth's orbit, we only get an eclipse when the Moon's orbit crosses that plane during a new or full moon. If the Moon crosses just a bit to one side or the other, we get a partial eclipse of the Moon or the Sun. Otherwise the Moon passes completely to one side or the other of the Sun or of the Earth's shadow and there is no eclipse.

The same principles will hold true for any star/planet/moons situation in the universe. The bright side of a moon always faces the star and the phase of each moon as seen from the planet will depend on where that moon is in its orbit. See figure 3.

Figure 3

In a stellar system consisting of binary stars, each moon will be illuminated from two directions. In that case, you will have shadow where neither star is illuminating the moon, bright areas where one or the other of the stars is illuminating the moon, and an even brighter area where both stars are illuminating the moon. See figure 4.

Figure 4

So, circling back to the beginning, to be correct the above sentence should read: "As the thin, pre-dawn crescent moon rises, the old man returns to the lighthouse."


((Paragraph 9 and Figure 4 corrected))

All illustrations created by, and copyright by, Brook West, 2014.

Brook's story "A Portion for Foxes," and his collaborations with Julia West, "The Peachwood Flute" and "Weeds," are available from Callihoo Publishing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Naming Your Characters

The information below was presented as a handout at Life, the Universe, and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium 32, at the panel on Naming Your Characters, held on 13 February 2014.  Compiled by Julia H. West.  Although a link to the text file of this handout is available on the Callihoo Publishing website, this might be an easier format to use, with links to the various URLs.


There are, of course, hundreds of "name your baby" sites on the internet, some better than others.  I have a tendency to either want painfully accurate names, or random fantasy or science fiction names.  So these are a few of my favorite name sites.

Random Word Generator:
Want names (or other words) with the 'flavor' of a certain language, without using names from that language?  See if there's already a list for that language, or create your own!  This generator takes words from 'seed word' lists and creates new words from them.  I, for instance, added a list of Irish girls' names.  (Warning: since anyone can add lists, there is a lot of noise to signal in the list of seed word sets.)

SCA College of Arms - Name Articles:
The Society for Creative Anachronism has gathered a great deal of research on real medieval names from many cultures.  A treasure trove if you want realistic names of medieval Earth cultures in your stories.

Medieval Names Archive:
Another compilation of links to articles on medieval names from many cultures.

American names, Popularity by Decade:
The Social Security Administration has gathered names of new babies, by decade from the 1880s, and lists them by popularity.  So if you are, for instance, writing a story set in the 1950s, and your protagonist is 20 at the time, check the 1930s list.  (Robert is the most popular boy's name, and Mary the most popular girl's name of the 1930s.)

British Baby Names:
Not just a "baby name" site, but has some interesting research and stories about unusual names.

Seventh Sanctum Random Name Generators:
This site has many more generators than merely for names, but under the "Names and Naming" tab are generators for such names as Extreme Fantasy (names like Nemesis Magecaster or Tempest Chaoseternity), Greek-Sounding (such as Onisiari or Bronedondo), and Dark Elf Names (such as Ibixil or Yrakoha Lockwarper).

Chaotic Shiny:
This site, like Seventh Sanctum, has many random generators.  (I use both sites a great deal for generating all sorts of things.)  The name generators are Fantasy-Style Names, Modern Names, Name Jumbler, Name Mixer (great fun: I input my name and got Jireo Waks, Jeloau Wuss, Jir'ae Wotk, and more!), and Place Names (something I haven't gone into at all for this handout, but this is quite useful).

Android apps (Sorry if you have an iPhone.  My family all own Androids, so I don't know what's available in the App Store)

Name Generator by Tofferj (free)
When I'm doing a writing exercise or just want a quick name to drop into a story, this is very useful.  I can pull out my phone, decide on nationality (Austrian, Brazilian, Canadian, Chinese, Danish down to Vietnamese), and get a list of given names and surnames, my choice of male or female.  For Vietnamese Female, I got Lac Thi An, Chu Thi Le, Dao Thi Linh, and seven more (it will generate 1-100 names at a time, your choice).

Name Dice by Thinkamingo (free)
Two dice come up on a faux wood background.  When you click on the screen, the dice change (with proper rattling dice noise).  I got Wayne Olsen, Jakob Oconnor, and Lauryn Snow.  Fun to play with, if nothing else.

Check out my website at
My stories are available through Callihoo Publishing,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daily Life in Victorian England--As Gleaned from Handbooks of the Era

For years, I have been interested in books that describe the everyday life of the common people.  I own many, describing people from the Aztecs to Viking-age Scandinavia.  But these books, of necessity, are filtered through the author's ability to find information and what they found interesting or important.  Sometimes that odd piece of information you're seeking just isn't in that "Everyday Life" book.

But for the Victorian era, there are books published during the time period that describe all kinds of fascinating daily minutiae.  You can be your own filter for deciding what's interesting or important.  Of course the compilers of these volumes also had their own opinions, colored by their culture, but even these can be useful and interesting.

Cassell's Household Guide, Being a Complete Encyclopaedia of Domestic and Social Economy and Forming a Guide to Every Department of Practical Life (Three volumes, 1869)

Vol 1
Vol 2
Vol 3

These volumes contain a great deal of eclectic information--on cooking, making children's clothing, furniture, "Domestic Surgery" (which is a bit like first aid), home gardening, "The Household Mechanic" (an on-going series of tips on tools and how to use them), and much more.  The real danger when reading these books is that you will spend hours fascinated by the information, instead of finding what you were researching for your writing.  Thankfully, they are indexed.

The A's for volume 1: "Abscess, Treatment of; Acted Charades; Ague, Treatment of; Alum Baskets, How to Make; Animals Kept for Pleasure; Animals Kept for Profit; Apoplexy, Treatment of; Aquarium, The; Arable Husbandry; and Asthma, Treatment of" give a small sample of the wide range of subjects discussed.

A few examples of the contents, chosen because they're things I'm researching currently.

Vol 1, p. 102 Domestic Servants and their Duties

While not particularly useful if you need to know exactly what a mistress should do to engage a servant, or what each servant's duties ought to be (the writer seemed to think that anyone reading this would already know that), this did give the rather delightful instructions: "The best plan is to have the order of work and rules for the in-coming and out-going of the servants legibly and tersely written, and pasted on the walls of the kitchen. A little ornamental bordering and varnish makes the placard appear both pleasing and permanent. Any express duty required of the servant should be particularised thereon.

"In order to carry out the above plan successfully, the mistress should have a corresponding table at hand for her own reference, so as not to give contrary orders inadvertently, and thereby nullify the rules."

Vol 2, p. 358 Animals kept for Pleasure and Profit--The Horse.
Stabling--Stable Accessories--Harness, etc.

This section contains information about the sorts of things that might be found in a well-appointed stable. "Buckets are essentials, costing four or five shillings a-piece; and you should have at least two for each horse. Pitchforks, brooms, shovels, manure-baskets, and other like things belong to every stable-yard, and are not expensive."

I was wondering when vaccinations became widespread.  In this volume, published in 1869, I found, "The law relating to the vaccination of infants is imperative in its tone, and commands the parent (or other person having the care, nurture, or custody) of every child born in England or Wales, to procure, within three months after the birth, the vaccination of the child by the medical officer or practitioner appointed for the purpose." (page 110).  Obviously, vaccinations were expected in 1869 in England.

Vol 3, p. 110 Society, Etiquette of Visiting, etc.

As well as a great deal of useful information (if you happen to be describing a character making a visit), there is this interesting observation: "Of late an attempt has been made to do away with the formal introduction of visitors to each other when the place of meeting happens to be under the roof of some mutual friend. But the new fashion has not become general; English people, especially, are not prone to make advances, even under the most auspicious circumstances, unless they are tolerably certain of their ground."

Enquire Within Upon Everything by Robert Kemp Philp

Another omnibus of interesting information useful to the household.  At the top of each page is an odd 'fact,' such as "London consumes yearly 240,000 bullocks" or "The musical scale was invented in 1022" or "There is no darkness so deep as that of the mind."  This book went through years worth of updates and changes; a few of them are available on the web for download. (1856)

Ever wondered about the card games played in Regency or later novels?  Paragraphs 2082 and following describe Whist, probably in more detail than you really want to know.

Paragraph 2816 has advice on taking a house, and 2821 on taking a shop or place of business.  This is quite useful information for one of my novels.  Even more useful, the book mentioned "The Shopkeeper's Guide," which I also found on Google books ( and downloaded.

Enquire Within Upon Everything: To which is Added Enquire Within Upon Fancy Needlework (37th edition, 1869)

A later edition of this book, and whoever scanned it left a lot of pictures of their fingers with the pages, especially in the later part of the book.  I don't see the "Fancy Needlework" part in the scan I have.

69th edition, 1884

Project Gutenberg has "Anonymous" as the author.  89th edition, 1894.

100th edition, 1903

The Practical Housewife, A Complete Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy and Family Medical Guide by Robert Kemp Philp (1860)

If ever you need a list of all sorts of Victorian household items, this is the place to find it!

On page 10, under what servants a household should have (or can afford) is this interesting advice: "Supposing now that we have our house, and it is furnished, the next thing to determine is how many servants can be afforded. Must we be content with one, a 'general servant;' or can we afford a cook and housemaid, or even aspire to the gentility of a man-servant or a page? Beware of this latter individual, young housekeepers, if you value your comfort; for if you chance to get a quick, clever lad, he will have more tricks than a monkey: and as for the stupid variety of the 'genus page,' it is a torment indeed."

Here, in Chapter V, is where I found details of what servants are expected to do.  I felt quite sorry for the poor servants, reading the day-long list of tasks.

Hints on Houses and House Furnishing, or Economics for Young Beginners (1861)

This book has hints for young couples just starting out on how to rent or lease a house, and then how to furnish it.  And 'furnishing' doesn't just mean putting in furniture.  Also described are such activities as whitewashing and wallpapering rooms.  Do you want to describe the interior of a house, or perhaps a desk in the parlour, or a bed in the bedroom?  There are line drawings in this book to help you out.  This might not be the best book if you're describing stately homes, because this is a book for young couples on a budget, but it has interesting discussions of setting up a household and is therefore worth a look if that is part of your research.

I am sure there are other available references for the kinds of details I'm seeking, but these are those I've found that are readily available and free online.  I would be very interested in links to other Victorian works that readers of this blog have discovered.

* * * * * *

Julia H. West writes science fiction and fantasy, and is currently working on a trilogy set in a fantasy milieu  based on Victorian England.  Ebooks of most of her published stories are available through Callihoo Publishing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Victorian Poor (especially in London)

Are you writing a novel set in Victorian times?  Do you like to dress in Steampunk clothing and pretend to own an Aether Flyer?  Are you writing a steampunk novel?  The internet certainly has a great deal of material for both the serious Victorian researcher and the steampunk enthusiast.

While most Steampunk cosplayers are playing people of means, often owning or crewing Aether Flyers and owning mechanicals of great complexity (some of which they have built themselves), they are hardly the norm in the Victorian society on which Steampunk is loosely based.  Many people may be familiar with the period because of reading novels depicting Georgian, Regency, or Victorian characters--most of which are set in High Society.

Jane Austen's Georgian novels describe life in relatively well-to-do but not noble families.  Many a Regency romance follows the young woman forced by circumstances to become a governess, but by far the most details are those of the well-to-do.  None of these novels delve very far into the lives of the poor.

Perhaps the best-known Victorian novels, those written by Charles Dickens, describe a great deal of the lives of the poor and criminal element.  You can get modern ebooks, as pdfs, of 54 of Dickens' works at, or scans of illustrated 1910 editions of his books:
v. 1. David Copperfield
v. 2. Martin Chuzzlewit
v. 3. A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, American Notes
v. 4. Great Expectations
v. 5. Oliver Twist
v. 6. A Tale of Two Cities
v. 7. The Pickwick Papers
v. 8. Edwin Drood, The Old Curiosity Shop
v. 9. Nicholas Nickleby
v. 10. Little Dorrit; parts one and two
v. 11. Sketches by Boz
v. 12. Hard Times for These Times, Pictures from Italy, Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings, Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy
v. 13. Bleak House
v. 14. Dombey and Son (for some reason I couldn't find this edition on
v. 15. A Child's History of England
v. 16. The Uncommercial Traveller, The Haunted House
v. 17. Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey's Clock, Mugby Junction
v. 18. Our Mutual Friend
v. 19. Christmas Stories and Other Stories
v. 20. The life of Charles Dickens and favorite storie

But I've managed to distract myself from what I want to list here, which is period nonfiction books about the poor people who crowded the streets of London in Victorian times.  The population of London grew from 1 million at the beginning of the 19th century to 6.7 million at the end of the century, and all those people had to live somewhere.  Many were immigrants--from the English countryside, Ireland, Europe and even Asia.  Some came for reasons like the potato famine in Ireland, others to work in the factories that were being built. The squalor and over-crowding created by so many people in a limited area became the focus of many charitable and social movements run by people who wanted to better the lives of the very poorest.

There are many interesting websites about the poor of Victorian London, including a discussion of slums (and slumming) and site about poverty and families in Victorian London.  But as I said in the first article in this series, modern books and websites are a good place to start research, but I want to go to works published during the era I am learning about.

London Labour and the London Poor

The best books I've found, which are referenced by many other people in the Victorian era and since, are the four-volume set London Labour and the London Poor (The subtitle is "A Cyclopaedia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work") by Henry Mayhew.  When I first began writing pseudo-Victorian fiction, these were only available as rather badly-proofread scans on a website.  But now, pdf versions of scans of the actual books are available online.

In the mid 1800s Henry Mayhew interviewed people all over London's streets, and recorded their conversations in their own idiom.  Of course we can't be certain he didn't add, subtract and/or change some of this information, but reading these interviews can be very interesting.  He also liked to collect data and make charts.  Unless I really need some of that information, I usually skip those parts.

Volume 1: The London Street-Folk (1861)

Discusses street sellers of all kind.  As Mr. Mayhew says in his preface, "The history of a people, from the lips of the people themselves--giving a literal description of their labour, their earnings, their trials, and their sufferings, in their own "unvarnished" language; and to pourtray [sic] the conditions of their homes and their families by personal observation of the places, and direct communion with the individuals."

"My earnest hope is that the book may serve to give the rich a more intimate knowledge of the sufferings, and the frequent heroism under those sufferings, of the poor. . . ."

The street folk described in this volume are Wandering Tribes in General, Wandering Tribes in the Country, the London Street-Folk, Costermongers, Street Sellers of Fish, Street Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables, Stationary Street Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables, The Street Irish, Street Sellers of Game, Poultry, Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs, Street Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers, Roots, Seeds, and Branches, Street Sellers of Green Stuff, Street Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables, Street Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts, Street Sellers of Manufactured Articles, The Women Street Sellers, and the Children Street Sellers.

Nearly 500 pages of small print, but full of fascinating details.  The links below are to pages at Google Books or where the books can be read or downloaded.  The file size is for the pdf version.

39.3 M, Google
51.5 M, Google
54.7 M,

Volume 2: The Street-Folk, Part 2

This volume covers The Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles, Live Animals, Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities; The Street-Buyers, The Street-Jews, Street Finders or Collectors, The Streets of London, Chimney-Sweepers, and Crossing-Sweepers.

36.7 M, Google
58.7 M,

Volume 3: The Street-Folk, Part 3

Includes The Destroyers of Vermin, Street-Exhibitors, Street-Musicians, Street-Vocalists, Exhibitors of Trained Animals, Skilled and Unskilled Labor, Garret-Masters, The Coal-Heavers, Ballast-Men, Lumpers, The Dock-Labourers, Cheap Lodging-Houses, The Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis, London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men, London Omnibus-Drivers and Conductors, London Cab-Drivers, London Cabmen and Porters, London Vagrants and Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men.

39.8 M, Google
57.0 M,

Volume 4: Those That Will Not Work

Comprising Prostitutes, Thieves, Swindlers, and Beggars.  A great deal of interesting information on how criminals from pickpockets to burglars operated.

66.4 M,

If you don't want to read four large books (however interesting they may be), there is Mayhew's London; Being Selections From 'London Labour and the London Poor' (which was first published in 1851) ( This book condenses Mayhew's large volumes, leaving out the tables and lists of data.

Another book, not specifically part of this four-volume set, but continuing it, is The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life, by Henry Mayhew and John Binny (1862).  As well as the the charts and data beloved of Mayhew, there are also fascinating woodcuts, diagrams, and descriptions of prison life.

32.7 M,

Life and Labour of the People in London

Another similar group of books, with data compiled later in the nineteenth century, is Life and Labour of the People, edited by Charles Booth.  (The title is changed in later volumes to Life and Labour of the People in London).  A two-volume set was published in 1889, followed by a 9-volume set published in 1892-1897, and finally a 17-volume set in 1902-3.

Charles Booth Online Archive

Go to this site to view the Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9, which go with the later volumes described here.  There are also scans of the original police notebooks from which Booth compiled much of his information, and an especially interesting section of "Snapshots of Victorian London from the police notebooks," where tidbits from the police reports are excerpted.  (Note: most of these are handwritten and may be rather difficult to decipher.  I was interested to note some typewritten notes, however.)

The volumes are discussed at, where it is noted that "Booth included in the published volumes only information that could be quantified, and which would not identify or embarrass any individual interviewee. For these reasons much of the vivid detail can only be traced through use of the original notebooks."  In this case, scans of original documents can be read to gain a true first-hand account of life in London in the late 19th century.

1889 edition (two volumes)

Vol. 1 covers part of the East End of London.  It begins with part of a census taken by the school board of school-age children, street by street, with notes about parents' occupations (or lack thereof).  Like Mayhew, Booth likes data and tables.  The discussion of social clubs that comes next is quite informative (at least for me, considering its usefulness in the novel I'm writing).  The larger part of the book discusses trades: The Docks, Tailoring, Boot-Making, The Furniture Trade, Tobacco Workers, Silk Manufacture, and Women's Work.

Vol. 2 - London, continued
This volume discusses first Central London, contrasts the data with that from the east side, and has interesting data about Covent Garden, Homeless Men, and Common Lodging Houses.  It then moves on to South and Outlying London, and concludes with London Children.

(scanned two pages at a time, as many of the tables span two pages)

Check for volumes of the 9-and 17-volume sets.

Some stand-alone volumes about the poor of London in the 19th century

Street Life in London by John Thomson (1877)

Photographer John Thomson took pictures of various scenes of London street life, which were described by journalist Adolphe Smith in this volume.  These pictures are often used to illustrate web pages on Victorian London; it's nice to have the book from which they came, and the full descriptions.  The pdf version of the book is available at

London Street Arabs by Mrs. H. M. Stanley (Dorothy Tennant) (1890)

This is a book of drawings of children--some street children, others not.  They were gathered from various periodicals which Dorothy Tennant illustrated.  The author begins by telling why she liked to draw street children, and how she got her models.  The rest of the book is her illustrations.  I wish she had included some description of these illustrations; they are interesting, but would be so much more useful if there was some provenance provided with them!
Google Books:

Once you as a researcher, whether building a steampunk 'persona' or writing historical or fantasy novels, have even skimmed these books, you should feel much more at home with the seamier side of the streets of Victorian London.


Julia H. West has published stories in Realms of Fantasy, Spider, and various anthologies including several volumes of Sword and Sorceress.  Most of these stories are now available as ebooks from Callihoo Publishing.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Steampunk or Victorian Research--Building a Library For No Cost

The present interest in Steampunk makes research into things Victorian quite popular.  There are quite a few websites about both Victorian and Steampunk topics.  But nearly every one I have found is quite generalized, pulling a few facts from various places, but not going into depth on the topics I'm the most interested in.  Since I want to know about the daily nitty-gritty of Victorian life, I started looking up the books these websites use as references, and was overjoyed to find that many of them are available, free, digitized on the internet.

I'll begin by discussing good places to download copies of books that were actually published in the 1800s--absolutely free.  There are several sites I use constantly for finding real Victorian work on the internet.

Project Gutenberg (
This site makes public domain works of all sorts available either to read online or download in various formats (epub, mobi, etc.).  The books are digitized and the scans proofread by volunteers and then put up on the site, free for anyone who would like to download them.  As epubs are much smaller files than pdf files of scanned books, I'll occasionally download these to read on my tablet or smart phone.

But even the best proofread scan often has errors.  For research, I prefer to download pdfs of scans of the actual books.  There are two places to get many of these.

Internet Archive (
This amazing archive has huge amounts of material, not all of it (of course) Victorian.  For example, I filled up far too much hard drive space downloading old issues of early science fiction magazines from the Internet Archive.  But what I've found extremely useful are the books available in various formats.  I generally download the pdf, but they are usually available in epub and other formats as well.  The caveat I have for these is that often the other formats seem to be raw OCR of the scans, with errors introduced.  However, with a pdf copy of an actual scan of the book, unless something is wrong with it (missing pages, torn places, tight binding, etc.), you can read it just as it was printed, over 100 years ago.  I never click on the link for the pdf, for then it takes a long time to load megabytes of data as a pdf into my browser, and I'll just need to save it off from there once it downloads.  Instead, I right click on the link and click "save link as" on the menu that comes up.  When I save the pdf to my hard drive, I change the file's name to include the author, title, and usually the date it was published, as all that information is useful in my research.

Google Books (
The other place I can often find ebooks of old books is Google Books.  When you find a book that has been scanned by Google, hover over (don't click on) the orange box that says "EBOOK - FREE" on the upper left side of that book's web page.  When the menu comes up, under "Read the book for FREE" is the link for "Download PDF."  Click on this, enter the captcha, and you can download the pdf of the book to your hard drive.  I've found that the scanning quality of these is sometimes iffy.  One of my favorites is when the page is pulled away before it's completely scanned, so all you get is a blur.  Also, occasionally you'll find a place where a person has scanned their hand along with the pages.

Something to be aware of when checking a search engine for a book title.  Sometimes the book is available on more than one page for Google Books.  The first one you click on may say "No ebook available," while another one lower in the list may have the ebook.  So keep looking!

HathiTrust Digital Library (
Another place that occasionally has books that can't be found in one of the other places is the HathiTrust Digital Library.  When you click on Full View for a book, it loads the pdf and you can read it.  To download it, unfortunately, you must have a "partner login."

How do I discover books I want to download?  Often I'll read modern books or web pages discussing what I'm interested in.  If, in the text, a title and author is mentioned, I jump on that immediately.  For example, I was reading a modern book about Victorian housing, and found a mention of "The Plumber and Sanitary Houses" by Samuel Stevens Hellyer.  I instantly put that into my search engine, and found, to my delight, that Google Books had the entire volume scanned and ready for me to download.  (  It is also available on the Internet Archive (  If books are available in both Google Books and the Internet Archive, I sometimes download the book I'm interested from both places, to see which scan is best, or if they are different editions of the book.  (In this case, the Internet Archive scan is rather light, and the Google Books scan has someone's hands scanned on most of the pages, but between the two I could get the information I needed.)

In later articles I'll discuss (and include links for) other delightful books I have found, and how they are useful in research.  Reading books written in the period, steeping yourself in the way people thought and wrote, is great fun.  Getting little details (like I wanted when researching Victorian plumbing) can add a lot of verisimilitude to either Steampunk cosplay or writing.


Julia H. West's latest book is Mind Bridges, a collection of short fiction available as an ebook or in paperback from

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What StoryADay Has Taught Me

Welcome to Callihoo Publishing's blog!

We've been offline for a while, but are coming back with a blog from Julia West about her experiences with StoryADay.  Questions and comments are very welcome.


StoryADay is a creativity challenge.  It challenges people to write (and finish) a short story every day during May.  StoryADay was founded in early 2010 by Julie Duffy, a writer, blogger and entrepreneur.  Each May since then participants have tried, during the entire month, to write a story a day.  It doesn't matter how long or short the story is, but it should be a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end.

My daughter discovered StoryADay in 2011, and challenged me to do it with her.

At first, I thought it was an impossibility.  Write a story every day?  Me?  I'm the person who brainstorms a story for a week, then takes a month to write and polish it.  Then I send it through my writers' group, and rewrite it, taking another week to a month.  I can write novels faster than I write short stories!  And my stories all turn out long--9,000 to 15,000 words.  How could I do that in one day?

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I tried an online challenge called Dare to Be Bad (I talk about this at  In that challenge, a group got together and encouraged one another to write three stories in six days.  When my writer's group did it, we usually picked a holiday weekend when we'd have more time to write.  But never, in all the times I tried it, did I completely finished three stories in six days.  So what made me think I could write 30 stories in 30 days?

But my daughter talked me into StoryADay, and on May 1, 2011, I started writing.  I generated a random occurrence from a story generator (more about them in the next blog post), and began writing.  Much to my surprise, I was able to start--and finish!--a story that day.  It was fairly long--5682 words--and I didn't like it much once it was done, but I had started and finished a story in the same day!

Much heartened by this success, I continued the challenge.  On a few days, I wrote story poems (I had just come from a month of writing poetry for National Poetry Writing Month--NaPoWriMo).  Though shorter, story poems were almost more difficult than writing prose, because not only did there need to be a story, there also needed to be scansion, rhyme (because I usually write rhyming poems), and all those poem-y things.

That first time, I burned out about halfway through the month.  I was trying to write stories that were 5,000 to 6,000 words, every day.  That's a LOT of writing.  And to come up with an idea and write the story, all in one day--well, it was tough.

But even though I didn't write a story every day that month, I learned something about myself and about writing.  I learned that it was possible for me to write a story in a day.  Some of the stories were even pretty good.  Others (like the first one I wrote) I've never even shared with my writer's group.  Another thing I learned about my writing is that, since I've been writing for decades, and I'm used to looking at things, and banging ideas together to come up with something different, I could use that ability in these quick stories.  I learned to trust the storyteller inside of me to come up with a story on the fly, rather than brainstorming and outlining until the story started telling itself.  Without the weeks of brainstorming, some of the stories were a bit bare of bone, but that's easily taken care of afterward.  A maxim I learned years ago is, "If you don't write the story, you can't rewrite the story."  If I don't have anything to rewrite--however badly written, however scant on detail--I can't fix it.  Learning to trust my inner storyteller was the most valuable lesson I learned that first May.

My daughter likes to drag me into writing challenges.  I've done National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, since 2008, and "won" every time.  To win, according to the NaNoWriMo graph, one must simply write 50,000 words.  I write long, and it's usually pretty easy for me to come up with word count!  My challenge, for NaNoWriMo, is to FINISH the novel I start.  A novel for adults has to be considerably longer than 50,000 words, so I have usually written more than that--and haven't yet completed a novel in the month.

Several years ago, for NaNoWriMo, I learned to brainstorm for the next day's writing just before I go to bed.  With something fresh to mull over, with new ideas that my mind can work on as I sleep, it's much easier to pick up and continue writing the next day.  I was very seldom stuck, at a loss for what to write.  I discovered that worked so well that I decided to try it for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) in April and StoryADay in May.  Generate a prompt, brainstorm on that prompt, then go to bed.  Let my mind stew over what I'd come up with.  Often, by the time I started the story the next day, I'd have new, interesting things that hadn't come up in my brainstorming the night before.  This worked even better!

Another thing I tried was taking days off.  I scheduled days during May that I would finish a story I had started before but not finished, or to rewrite a story I had finished, and had critiqued in my writers' group, but not rewritten.  This way, my brain didn't have to come up with a whole new idea every day!  That worked fairly well.  Also, as some of my other writer friends do, I took Sunday off.  Having a day with no writing helped me be all the fresher when I opened my word processor up on Monday.

I started playing with story structure.  I had judged a Micro Short Short Story contest at the local science fiction convention for decades (, but had never written one.  After all, I write long!  How could I write a story that is only three (however long) sentences?  I analyzed how micro short short stories worked.  They're kind of like jokes, with a setup and a punchline.  I tried to get as much description, backstory, and characterization as possible in the first two sentences (which could be VERY long, with judicious punctuation), then give the payoff in the third sentence.  This actually worked quite well.  So, since there is absolutely no wordcount max or minimum in StoryADay (in fact, flash fiction is encouraged), I found I could write a story that was only 200-300 words!  That was very different from my usual "short" story being 6,000 words.  Always before, I'd approached story writing with the attitude that it should be a story I could fix up and attempt to sell.  Something I could finish, polish, and send off to a publisher.  This time, I was a bit more lackadaisical, a touch more whimsical, and it paid off.  I wrote several short short stories (some more than three sentences, but still only a page or two long).  How freeing that was!

So, what has StoryADay taught me?  It has taught me that I can write short.  I learned that I can get an idea, brainstorm a story, and write that story in one day.  I learned to trust my inner storyteller.  I learned that, with the proper polish, I can sell a story I wrote in one day.  Yes, one of the stories I wrote in May 2011 sold exactly a year later, to the day, to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXVII. (  I learned (when I handed out some of the stories I'd written that I thought were pretty bad, and found that people actually liked them) that I shouldn't trust my own inner critic.  I should let others read the stories I have written and make the decision as to whether they are worth putting more work into.

Taking the StoryADay challenge four times now has given me a large file of story rough drafts.  All I need to do with them is re-read each one, grind some of the rough edges down, and send it through my critique group.  Before I started the challenge, every story I wrote was a months-long process, and I often felt I had too much invested in them to be able to say, "Oh well, this one just didn't work out."  I can do that with the StoryADay stories.  I can gut the really bad stories for ideas that worked, even if the stories themselves weren't good enough to keep.  I allow myself to do that that because of the sheer number of stories I've generated.  Even though I've burned out about halfway through the month each time, that still gives me about 50 stories that I didn't have before.  Amazing!

I would encourage others to at least try StoryADay.  Read the encouragement emails that Julie Duffy sends out, brainstorm beforehand, work up to it if you must--but at least try it.  If you only get ONE story out of the experience . . . fantastic!  It's one more story than you had before.


Julia H. West has been writing science fiction and fantasy for years, and many of her stories, which have been published in various magazines and anthologies, are available as ebooks through Callihoo Publishing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Meet Emily and Dave Butler

Once again, Callihoo Publishing is very pleased to have a guest blog.  This time it's the husband-and-wife writing team of Emily and Dave Butler.  They don't publish through Callihoo Publishing, but have written some rather amazing novels which we at Callihoo Publishing enjoy, so we asked them to introduce themselves on our blog.  We're sure you'll be seeing more of these names out there in the big world of publishing soon!

Hello, Callihoo Publishing!

We write.

What do we write?  Between us, a surprisingly broad range.

We've co-written a YA novel, an adventure romance about time traveling art thieves, fallen angels, John Dee, and the fabled Crown of Adam.  You can't read this book yet, but you'll be able to soon--we've recently acquired literary representation for the series, and it should be going to editors' desks in September.

We have more YA and middle reader stories already in the hopper behind this one.  By "in the hopper" we mean, already written, ready to polish and send out.  If our agent likes them, we'll get them out to editors in due time.  And if he doesn't, this year Dave has learned how to self-publish, so, sooner or later, they'll be coming your way.

Our self-publishing odd-yssey began with Rock Band Fights Evil, a pulp fiction action horror serial about a band of damned men fighting to recover their souls.  As of this writing, there are five RBFE stories available as ebooks from all the usual outlets.  The first three--Hellhound on My Trail, Snake Handlin' Man, and Crow Jane--are also available in a paperback omnibus called Rock Band Fights Evil Volume One.  More soon.

Our other serial is City of the Saints, a gonzo action steampunk adventure tale set in the Kingdom of Deseret in the year 1859.  Can Sam Clemens of the U.S. Army get Brigham Young and his air-ships to enter the looming war on the side of the northern states?  Will Richard Burton, special envoy of Queen Victoria, sabotage Sam's amphibious steam-truck the Jim Smiley and stop him?  And where is the agent of the clandestine confederate leadership, the master of disguise Edgar Allan Poe?  The four parts of CotS are Liahona, Deseret, Timpanogos, and Teancum; the entire thing will be published as a paperback this fall.

That's not all: Dave writes filk songs.  Last year he timidly offered his homage to Robert E. Howard, "The Gift of Solomon Kane," at CONduit, and was pleasantly surprised that no one laughed at him.  He now has a YouTube channel where he posts good recordings when he has them, and makes it a point to play at every con he attends.

That's still not all.  As D. John Butler, Dave has even written a radical non-fiction essay on The Book of Mormon.  It's called Plain and Precious Things: The Temple Religion of the Book of Mormon's Visionary Men.  In a nutshell, Dave argues that The Book of Mormon is the record of religious visionaries whose practices were all rooted in the temple, and recorded, in visionary form, in their book.  More soon on this front, too!

We have war stories to share, and maybe even wisdom to impart, and since we're in the thick of it, we expect to have more over time.  In addition to the links below, City of the Saints, Rock Band Fights Evil, and Plain and Precious Things each has a Facebook page you can like and follow for developments.  Also, look for us on Amazon, Smashwords, at your local convention, and, hopefully soon, your local bookstore.

Thanks again,

Emily and Dave (D.J.) Butler

A Few Links:

Emily's site:

Dave's site (see the right margin for links to Rock Band Fights Evil and City of the Saints books):

Plain and Precious Things

The Gift of Solomon Kane: