The Battle Has Begun…

Earlier this year, I began crafting an idea for a book. For years, I banged half formed notions and thoughts around my head, trying to get something to stick. I was unable to give the ideas the attention they needed to grow, and they would always fade away. I was almost to the point where I was going to let writing fade in to the background of my life. Luckily, inspiration came along and turned things around.

My wife chasing her dreams kicked my writing habit back in to gear. I knew if I rested on my laurels any longer, I wouldn’t ever get started. 6 months later, I had a plot summary with 51 pages and 34,000 words. I pushed myself to make progress, and the ideas flowed like water.

I created a plot that I felt a personal sense of pride in. I built a story idea that I believed in, and that I knew could be the basis for a series of books. The only thing I was worried about was the opinion of others.

I sent my work out to a few people, so they could check the plot summary for the content it contained. I wanted to know if they felt it was a good story, and if it was worth moving forward with. The response I got back was favorable, and I was told that I was on the right track. I knew that I had something substantial to work on.

What I have is a fantasy tale. I won’t go in to details, because I’m not ready to share that with the world. I will say that it’s not overly fantastical or wild. I love the fantasy realm for the ability to build my own world, make my own rules, and not be bound by our reality. So here I am, with my plot summary and a path forward.

Now the battle begins. I have started the work on the actual story, and it will be a long and twisting path to the completion of the book. I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of books, blogs, articles, and works on how to go about writing a book. I’ve tried to prepare myself and figure out how to go about attacking this, but I have realized that nobody will be able to tell me how to best write my book. Only I will know how I can accomplish that. I found that out when I began my summary. I followed the steps of others, but my success came when I followed what came natural to me. Obviously, the advice and experience of others did give me some guidance, but when the ink went on the paper, I had to chart my own path. I feel like writing the book will be the same. I will have the mentors and guides to consult, but my hands will write the book, and I have to figure out the best way to do it. The process will be slow at first, but I know I will find my way. I can see the story in my head, but now I just have to figure out how to get it on to the page.

I feel like every day will be a learning experience, and some days will be incredibly frustrating. I will want to give up, and I will want to walk away. I will wonder why I ever decided to make writing a part of my life. After that, I will sit back down, and lay siege to the story and not quit until it is finished. I want it too bad, and I want to write for a living. If I can pass this test, then I can make it my life.

So, today I announce that my story, currently titled Mage’s Fire, is in work. I am proud of the fact that I can say this, and that I can actually share it. I’m hoping to have it done within a year. Josh, hold me to that. In fact, everyone hold me to that, so I can set myself a real deadline.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this venture. Also, thank you to the people who have always supported my writing habit. Without the guidance and kicks in the ass, I would not be this far along. Keep guiding and kicking.

Now I am off to put more words in to my story. I hope that it will be as good in your eyes as it looks in mine.

Writing Tips With Josh Davis

Today, I would like to welcome Josh Davis to The Town’s End Tribune! He is a very experienced writer with loads of knowledge, and I’m hoping to share his thoughts on a regular basis. So, without further ado… Here’s Josh!


000 josh writing picI’ve been writing professionally off and on for over ten years now. It all started with a gig as a sportswriter for a local weekly newspaper in my hometown of Appomattox, Virginia. Then, I served as a contributor (and later as the general editor) of a Mixed Martial Arts news website. While I was editor, web traffic was increased by over 1600%, unique page views per month increased by nearly 600%, and we won numerous awards for our content. During that time, I was also winning awards for my poetry, and working on my own blog, the (now defunct) Laymen’s Theology blog, and working on novels. Since January of 2015, I have been writing full time, achieving the dream of writing for a living as a freelance ghostwriter and editor while I keep working on my own things, earning nearly $30,000 as a writer last year.

In March of this year, my wife (Patricia) and I started a publishing company together, and our first release achieved #1 on no less than six best-seller lists on Amazon.com.

I say all this, not to brag, but to illustrate the simple fact that I know what I’m talking about. If I give out tips or information, it’s because I know that it works and will increase the overall quality of your writing. So, drawing on my over ten years of experience as a pro, I started my #WritingTipsWithJosh series of videos on my YouTube channel. I try to post a writing tip video every Thursday, to help the aspiring writer to improve as a writer. After all, my personal motto is, “never stop learning.”

And it is with that intention in mind that I illustrate the key points of my video from this week, regarding introductions and prologues in fictional stories.

Introductions, while pivotal in non-fiction books and articles because they introduce the reader to the material, are one of the worst things that you can put in a fictional story. They serve only to ruin the story itself, because readers do not want you to tell them what they are going to read, they want to read it. More importantly, the information in an introduction is often simply a repeat of the information they’ve already digested in the book description. After all, any discerning reader will read reviews and book descriptions to determine if the story is one that will interest them. So, never include an introduction in fictional stories.

As to prologues, they are a slightly trickier animal. It would be very easy to say “don’t include prologues either,” but the fact is, prologues can actually serve a purpose if handled with care. The trick is to make the prologue matter.

For example, let’s look at one of the best-selling fictional stories ever written: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone serves as the prologue to the story. Rowling masterfully sets the stage with information that matters to the story. Hagrid mentions that he borrowed the motorcycle that he delivered Harry with from “young Sirius Black.” Black, of course, is not mentioned again until the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We see Professor Dumbledore leave a letter with the infant Harry’s sleeping form. We never know the contents of that letter until the fifth book in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

More immediately, we read that Harry’s cousin, Dudley, pokes and prods at Harry for the next few weeks, foreshadowing the abuse that the Dursley’s put young Harry through until his eleventh birthday.

While not a true prologue, the first chapter of the series demonstrates all the qualities that we look for in a prologue. It is filled with plot points and conflicts that never fully come to fruition until later (and sometimes, much later) in the series. The motorcycle, for example, is used in the third book to illustrate Sirius’s hand in the death of Harry’s parents. The fact that Professor McGonagall is able to shape shift into a cat sparks Hermione’s search for incriminating forms of bugging in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the fifth book, we learn that Professor Dumbledore told the Dursley’s that Harry’s life would be in extreme danger if they ever turned him out, resulting in his being allowed to stay in the house in Order of the Phoenix.

These are the qualities that we look for in great prologues…setting up plot points that matter. The key is to avoid dumping information onto the readers, immediately turning them off from the characters that we have spent so much time getting to know and falling in love with ourselves. After all, if we don’t love our characters, the reader won’t either.

Writing compelling stories is less like The Notebook and more like Saving Private Ryan. We have to fight to earn the privilege of having readers read even one more word. Speaking from experience, there is no greater feeling that seeing our words have the desired impact on the reader. We want readers to cry with our characters, laugh with them, rejoice with them, and leave the worlds that spring forth from our minds feeling as if there is something missing. We want them to become so immersed in the story that they are compelled to turn the page, simply to find out what happens next.

Do you really want to turn them off just because you couldn’t restrain yourself from dumping all the information you can into a few pages at the front of your brilliantly composed novel? If your answer is “no”, then avoid prologues as much as possible, and never use an introduction to your fictional story. If your answer is anything other than “no”, you need to find a new line of work.

Seriously.


Josh Davis is a writer, editor, and publisher in his hometown of Appomattox, Virginia. He has been married to his high-school sweetheart, Patricia, for almost eight years and the couple has three children, Ivy (7), Nathaniel (6), and Christine (2). He is an avid fisherman and golfer, and loves to watch his favorite football team, the Tennessee Titans in the fall.

He currently has one novel and one biopic in the works, Stockholm Syndrome and Power of One, respectively. You can learn more about his work as a writer at Josh Davis, Writer. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about his company, you can visit the Davis Publishing Company Facebook page and website.

For more writing tips and tricks, subscribe to his YouTube channel. To have your questions answered, use the #WritingTipsWithJosh hashtag on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Q&A Series: KM Weiland

Today, I am pleased to continue my Author Q&A Series with an amazing writer and mentor, KM Weiland.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

KM has been a heavy influence on my return to writing, and her role as mentor has helped my abilities as an aspiring author blossom. Getting the chance to interview her was truly a blessing, and I am excited to share it with you.

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  1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

  1. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.

  1. What drew you to the genres you write in? 

First answer is: blood and thunder stories. I’m kind of all over the board on genres (although everything I write does stay confined under the giant umbrellas of either historical or fantasy), but all of my stories are what I like to call “blood and thunder.” They’re usually action-packed, a little bit on the adventurous side, but also gritty.

  1. How and where did you learn your vast repertoire or knowledge on writing? 

Writing books, magazines, blogs—and lots and lots of study and practice of real stories!

  1. How did you get involved in helping other writers?

It was all an accident, believe me! I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!

Really, I think the site has been as much of a blessing to me as it has been to anyone. Other than the marvelous writer folk I’ve gotten to meet, I’ve also learned so much by writing about writing.

  1. You have published 6 writing craft books, you have a podcast with more than 300 episodes, and your website has a wealth of resources and information. How has sharing this with others helped you grow as a mentor and a writer?

I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.

  1. When you are mentoring someone, what are some of the most common mistakes you see when they are learning the craft? 

#1: Fail to properly structure the story.

#2: Fail to create an engaging character with an engaging voice.

#3: Fail to show more than is told.

  1. As a writer, what has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome? What about as a mentor?

Every book is its own adventure. Something that’s easy in one book can end up being surprisingly difficult in another. Major rewrites, when they’re necessary, are probably my least favorite part—but they offer their own rewards too. Honestly, I enjoy aspects of every part of the process.

  1. We know that imagination cannot be taught, but what do you think is the single most important thing to writing a successful novel?

Proper structure is vital in creating powerful and memorable fiction. Story structure is instinctual to most people. It’s embedded deep in the human psyche. It’s certainly not an arbitrary set of guidelines, and it’s also not something exclusive to our era. We find the classic three-act structure across centuries and continents.

That being so, we have to ask ourselves, Why? The answer, of course, is that structure creates stories that not only balance the rise and fall of action, but also time the important turning points, so that they have the best chance of impacting and resonating with readers.

What writer doesn’t want to do that? A conscious understanding of structure allows us to understanding the theory behind story, which then allows us to discover why certain stories work and others don’t—and how to make sure our stories land in the former group.

  1. What can your fans and apprentices expect to see from you in the near future?

Within just a few weeks, I have an online writing course coming out called How to Write Amazing Character Arcs That Sell Novels. Before the year is out, I also hope to put out a book and workbook on character arcs. I’m also in the process of editing my latest novel—a historical superhero adventure called Wayfarer.

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A big thank you goes to KM for taking the time to be a part of the Author Q&A Series. I hope that any aspiring authors or writers found some good advice in her answers. Don’t forget that you can find so much more of her incredible insight on her website Helping Writers Become Authors and in her books.

A special thanks also goes out to the Wordplayers. Thank you for the feedback and input for the series.

Thanks for reading!

WTF Is The FDA Smoking?

So… the FDA is “protecting” Americans by throwing the hammer down on e-cigarettes, but never mind the fact that cigarettes are still killing around 480,000 people a year in the US. They want to know exactly what goes in to the vaporizers and e-liquid, but does anyone have a clue what goes in to cigarettes?

Proponents of the new regulations say that this is all about protecting our youth and keeping “tobacco products” out of the hands of minors. I understand and support that. If the regulations stated simply that and they were going to work with the current vaping industry to build guidelines, I would be on board. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and I am disgusted with the draconian way that they have tried to crush the start up industry.

The FDA says it will take $1-2 million for research and testing on EACH product for government approval. So for a company that sells 10 different e-liquids, it could cost them $10-20 million to continue business. AREYOUFUCKINGKIDDINGME?! Let us not forget that our friends over at BIG TOBACCO have gotten in to the vaping market, and are pretty much the only ones who could afford this ludicrous cost. Tell me you see a pattern here. (I’ll give you a hint: the pattern is the FDA is getting money from big tobacco.)

Keeping this stuff out of the hands of minors should have been the biggest concern. Requiring ID checks is a must, but ultimately, we know that people still manage to buy alcohol and cigarettes underage. There are ways to put age verification on websites, and e-cigarette sites are beginning to incorporate them. I absolutely think the checks and balances should be there for this requirement, but to try and shut down an entire industry by bludgeoning it with outrageous regulations is a big steaming pile of bullshit.

Speaking of bullshit, let’s get past the myth that people don’t know what is in e-cigarettes. If you want to talk about a self-policing industry, look to vaping. The e-liquid isn’t some mystery concoction. Websites that sell it list the ingredients. There are more companies that list the ingredients on their bottles than ones that don’t. The liquids have the nicotine content on the bottle. If that wasn’t enough for you, I make my own liquid, so I know what goes in to the flavoring as well. The doors and windows are wide open in this industry because they WANT to be accepted. You go ask a cigarette company to list their ingredients on the boxes, and see what they say. The industry is willing to work with the FDA to get approval, but no small vape company can afford the cost the FDA is charging.

Look, if you are of legal age to purchase “tobacco” products, no matter what your pleasure, then I say that is your choice. I’m not going to tell you that you’re a better person for vaping, or you suck at life for smoking cigarettes. If you’re a non-smoker, that’s your choice too. All I am saying is that the FDA is stomping all over the vaping community to “protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth”(Sylvia Burwell, HHS Secretary). Don’t worry about those kids still buying cigarettes underage. Let’s not worry about those annual 480,000 people who might like to have known what cigarette companies were putting in their products. Never mind that research is beginning to show that e-cigarettes are a less unhealthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. (Yes, they aren’t as good as not smoking at all. I’m not going in to that argument.) I could go on, and on, but I digress…

I hope that the bills going through Congress and the Senate right now will curb the FDA’s lunacy on these regulations. I hope that people do come to their senses. I don’t mind that vaping isn’t allowed in the same places that smoking is banned. I’m OK with the fact that vaping gets its fair share of shit for being the new douche bag trend. It is what it is, but what I am not OK with is people being contrary and hypocritical. Don’t feed us a big pile of bullshit and tell us it’s all for the kid’s sake. We know you’re so full of shit it’s coming out of your eyes. Why don’t you guys go do something worthwhile like figure out how to regulate and legalize marijuana so that the draconian agenda surrounding that can go away? Oh right… the kids.

Thanks for reading folks. If you’re a vaper, we have 2 years, folks. Hopefully people come to their senses before then. And, yes… I used draconian twice. Look it up. It has a fun history.

Anxiety!

Hi folks. As you can tell, we will be talking about anxiety. This month is, amongst many other things, Mental Health Awareness Month. There are so many disorders and mental diseases that are out there, but anxiety is one that I am very familiar with. This is my own personal take on the subject, from the life experiences I’ve had. I’m not going to go in to terms and definitions or get scientific on you. I want to give you my real world view.

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Now, let’s debunk some myths I used to believe about anxiety.

MYTH: Anxiety causes people to be nervous wrecks all the time.

REAL LIFE: Anxiety is not defined as someone who suffers from constant worry or fear. It is definitely a part of suffering from anxiety, but you aren’t in constant Chicken Little mode. There are times where the sky is indeed falling. Other times, you are a completely functional human being. Two years ago, if you would have told me that I have an anxiety disorder, I would have told YOU to get your head checked. The effects of anxiety are wide ranging, but most people who suffer from anxiety go through phases of anxiety highs and lows, and will have anxiety or panic attacks.

MYTH: I thought having anxiety meant you were crazy.

REAL LIFE: Well, you are crazy, but everyone is crazy, including me. Anxiety is a normal response to certain situations. Some people suffer from an overabundance of it. It can be mild or severe, but most people with an anxiety disorder fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Anxiety can also be associated with other disorders such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being “crazy” is subjective. We all go off the rails from time to time. It is important to know when you are going off the rails too much.

MYTH: You can tell when someone has anxiety.

REAL LIFE: The truth is that people are exceedingly good at putting on brave faces for others. I know this because I’ve done it for a long time. I’m not going to go in to details about my life, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness. I began hiding behind a mask of sarcasm and ill temper a long time ago. I have a very short temper. I constantly think about how things aren’t going to work out. I function on a razor’s edge of knowing that my life is fine and I’m an idiot for worrying and complete nuclear meltdown. Hi, I have an anxiety disorder. It took a rather personal situation to put it in perspective for me. The world didn’t end, and I was relieved when I found out that there was a rational answer to my irrationality. The only thing I regret is not seeking out help sooner.

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Anxiety is a tough road to walk if you don’t know where you’re going or if you don’t even know what road you’re on. My personal experiences have taught me that the best thing that you can have is a support system. Get help and talk to someone if you feel like there is something in your life that you can’t control. If you know somebody who you think is suffering from anxiety, reach out and support them. Don’t be a short fused nervous time bomb like me. It’s ok to be a little crazy. We can all be crazy together.

For more detailed information on anxiety and associated disorders, visit the following links:

National Institute of Mental Health

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

 

Vaping: The Good, The Bad, and Some How-To

I vape. I’ve been doing it for about 2 ½ years now, and it was one of the better decisions I have made. I’ll be honest, I did it to quit smoking cigarettes, but I didn’t do it to give up nicotine. Please hold all judgments until the end of the presentation. The reason I wanted to give up cigarettes was my daughter, Madelyn. I didn’t want her to associate that awful smell with me, so I switched to e-cigarettes and never looked back.

I want to talk about the good and bad side of being a vaper, and I also want to pass along some things I have learned along the way. These may be good tips for someone looking to switch over to e-cigarettes or upgrading, or for someone looking to becoming more do-it-yourself in regards to building their e-cigarette or making e-liquids.

I’m going to start with the negative things first. I know everyone has heard the various reports of the ways that e-cigarettes are dangerous. Poisonings, batteries exploding, popcorn lung, metal poisoning, and the list goes on and on. Most of these reports have been debunked, and in some cases, it has been shown that the reports and studies were funded and purposely skewed by the major tobacco companies. Some of these were simply misleading, such as the poisoning report by the CDC, in which it wasn’t the actual smoking of e-cigarettes causing poisoning. Vapers were leaving their e-liquid unattended around small children, and the poisoning would occur after the child swallowed the e-liquid. This, of course, caused a huge spike in reported cases, because they had never tracked them before 2013. The battery explosion nonsense has been blown out of proportion (pun intended). If a battery is mishandled or mistreated, it can catch fire (not explode), which can be seen in phones, vehicles, hover boards, and numerous other electronic devices. Use and handle your batteries correctly, and they will almost never malfunction. As the industry has grown, the manufacturers are becoming more careful about what they use and how they create their products. When e-cigarettes first became popular, the main detractors were claiming that they were using antifreeze as an ingredient in the liquids. Propylene glycol, which is one of the bases of e-liquid, is a commonly used pharmaceutical and food product chemical that has nothing to do with antifreeze in that form. The main problem with the detractors of e-cigarettes is ignorance. Yes, they are obviously less healthy than not smoking, and they are still too new to the market to have been fully studied. I fully accept the fact that I am continuing an addictive habit by vaping, but I would rather deal with materials and liquids that list all the ingredients they use. When you smoke a cigarette, you have no idea what is in it, and we all know the deadly history of smoking.

So, if I knew smoking would kill me, why did I start smoking in the first place? I started smoking because it was the only way you could get a break. When I was younger, I used to give my dad and sister a ton of shit for smoking. I would always say I didn’t want to smoke. I kept that strong until I was 25. When I joined the Navy, you really didn’t get many breaks as an airman. To get a break at work, I would go out to the smoking area because you would get yelled at if you were sitting around the shop. At first, I didn’t smoke out there, but eventually I did because I couldn’t be out there if I wasn’t smoking. Thank You Navy! So, that’s what got me in to smoking, and that’s what brought me around to vaping. I don’t do it to be cool or because it feels good. I know there is a lot of rhetoric about why people start smoking, and there are a lot of reasons, but you get addicted, and it is hard to break bad habits. I quit for 6 months at one point, but started again during a stressful stretch at work. I’m not looking for pity, sympathy, or making excuses. It’s not the best thing in the world for me, but I think it’s better than me smoking cigarettes. I’m really not going to get in to the whole social connotations of vaping. Every group of people has their assholes and douche-bags. Just because some vapers are disrespectful of other people doesn’t mean we all are.

Vaping isn’t for everyone, and some people would rather just stick with cigarettes. Me condemning them would be hypocritical, so I won’t. I chose to vape, and now I want to talk about some of the good things I’ve found along the way. I will tell you that I feel better than I did when I smoked cigarettes. There is something about not inhaling large amounts of tar and other crap anymore that my lungs thank me for. My wallet also thanks me, since vaping is significantly cheaper. I was spending roughly $150 a month on cigarettes, and that was over 2 years ago. It would probably be more nowadays. Vaping usually costs me about $40-50 a month in liquid and sometimes I have to buy new equipment or materials to rebuild my e-cigarette. Recently, I got in to making my own liquid, which I will talk more about later, which will lower my monthly cost even more.

My first attempt at e-cigarettes was with the cig-a-like type, but I wasn’t too impressed with it. When I decided to go with vaping full time, I started out with a vape pen. Vape pens are a cheap starter device for someone looking in to trying vaping, but aren’t sold on it yet. I started out with Volcano e-cigs, but as I moved to an Advanced Personal Vaper (APV) I started trying other brands. Now there are a ton of brands out there for liquids and for devices, not to mention countless places to purchase them. My advice is to do your research in to anything you are interested in purchasing before you do buy it.

A breakdown of different types of vaping devices can be found here: http://www.cigbuyer.com/types-of-e-cigarettes/.

I’m sure you have seen many different brick and mortar vape shops around where you live, and for those times when you need something right now, they are great. The big problem with vape shops is the price mark ups and they often only sell things that they like. I know you have to make money, but I don’t really want to pay mark up on something that I can afford to wait a few days on. If you have the patience and do your research, look online for the best deal and be sure the read reviews. A great thing about the vaping industry is the companies are trying to be as transparent as possible with their products in an effort to attract more cigarette smokers to switch over.

Sidebar: This brings me to the attraction of underage smokers. Let’s get real folks, kids smoked cigarettes underage. You can try and lay the same blame on vaping as they did on cigarette advertising, but the only companies who can afford to advertise their vaping products like that are the tobacco companies who bought in after they decided to stop fighting against it. If kids are able to buy this stuff in stores, then the blame lies on the sellers who aren’t checking their IDs, and if they are getting it online then the blame is on the parents for not paying attention to what their kids are doing online. Age verification online only goes so far, and if they are buying e-cigarettes online, I’m sure they are looking up things worse than that. The key to keeping it out of the hands of minors is paying attention.

Anyways, back to the topic, vape shops are convenient, but a lot of them are predatory towards uneducated vapers. If they are the only shop in the area, they don’t have to be competitive, and the customer pays the price. Something that you can get online for $50 including shipping can cost you upwards of $100 in a vape shop. Liquid can be just as bad. To be fair, not every vape shop is like this. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, but be a smart shopper and check prices before you buy.

As a vaper, the more experienced you are, the more preferential you become. Some people go for cloud production, and some people go for nicotine content. People also usually stick to flavor groups as well: fruits, sweets, tobaccos, desserts, etc. I could sit here and beat you to death with stuff, but I think I have done that already so here are a few guides for those interested in looking deeper in to vaping.

Beginner’s Guide: http://onvaping.com/guides/beginners-guide-to-vaping/

Advanced Guides: https://www.planetofthevapes.co.uk/guides/advanced-vaping

You can also surf the Internet and YouTube for numerous other resources and information on vaping how-to. One of my favorite things was learning how to build coils for Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers (RDAs). Of course, I got lazy and started buying pre-made coils once I got in to the more complex coil builds, but I fully support anyone who has the time and inclination to do so. I have switched back and forth between sub-ohm tanks and RDAs, but some prefer one or the other.

Here are the sites that I frequent for equipment, parts, and e-liquid:

Mt Baker Vapor

Vapor Beast

Vape NW

The Vape Mall

Liquid Barn

The last thing I want to cover is making your own liquid. I guy I worked with started to make his own liquid last year, and he set about making an Orange Cream flavor, and asked my opinion. I had searched high and low for an Orange Cream flavor on the Internet, and had no luck. Anyways, after a couple of iterations, he made a version that was perfect, and I was sold. Last month, after he got transferred, I decided to start making my own liquid. I had done the research, it was cheaper to make my own juice, and I wanted to make the Orange Cream for myself. I needled and annoyed the recipe out of him (which I will never divulge or profit from because I’m not a dick), and got everything I needed to make 500 ml of it. I broke it down in to 100 ml bottles and each bottle ended up costing me about $13. To give you guys an insight of how cheap that is, to buy the run of the mill juice from vape shops or online retailers, 15-30 ml bottles can run you anywhere from $10-30 a piece. I made this stuff at home and made significantly more for substantially cheaper. It will only get cheaper as well, since I didn’t go with the cheapest options on bases the first time around. I can get my costs down around $3-4 per 100 ml if I do it right, which is definitely the only way to go if you have the time and you want to put in the effort. If you don’t want to put in the effort, there are sellers out there who make good liquid pretty cheap, and don’t charge you extra for the name on the bottle. I’m going to send some business my buddy’s way if that is the case: Adam Hesterley

To wrap this all up in a nice bow, I’m glad I made the decision to switch over to vaping. There are a lot of negative things out there about vaping, but I think most of it is due to misinformation. If you are looking to getting in to vaping, there are a lot of options, and if already are a vaper, there are a lot of ways to control your vaping like building your own atomizers and mixing your own liquid. I’m not advocating for anyone to do it, but I’m just putting this out there so people have the information. Do with it what you will.

Let the judgment commence!

The Painful War Between LGBT Pride and Religious Prejudice

Writer’s Note: this post is my opinion. You may or may not agree with me, and that’s fine. I wanted to share some thoughts and personal views, and here they are. I’m not sorry if I offend you, and I’m happy if I maybe shined a little light for those who’s struggles deserve to be recognized. Every little bit counts in bringing true equality to America. 

So let’s begin.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, the political firestorm surrounding the battle for LGBT rights has been one of the more divisive topics in our country’s history. Echoes of the struggles that minorities and women had to face to earn their rights are reverberating through this movement, but there is a different opponent fighting back: the religious community. Now, as a person without a dog in this fight, I do have an outsider’s viewpoint. I am neither religious nor am I a part of the LGBT community. I have friends and family members that are a part of both, so I do feel a personal connection to this difficult and troubling contest of wills. Let it be known that I am not attacking anyone. I firmly believe that religion has no place in our government, and they have no right in making decisions on the rights of others in this country. I also believe that people should have the freedom to follow whatever religion they want, and be able to practice the tenets of those beliefs as long as they are not at the expense of others or to do harm to others. So now that I have that out of the way, let me get to the details of the way I feel. 

This country is founded on the idea of freedom, and while the people who wrote those words were quite flawed themselves, their words and ideals were meant to grant those that followed a chance to pursue their freedoms as Americans. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Within that amendment, you find that the government should not put one religion above another, and also they are not to infringe on an American citizen’s right to follow their personal beliefs. This also includes the right for any American to choose to not follow any religion, or to believe whatever parts of religions they choose to. Thomas Jefferson spoke about the fact that the governments should be separated from religion, but unfortunately through the years since the country was founded, Christian religions have gained a foothold in American politics. This slant towards a sect of religions began to influence politics and allowed for favorable laws to be passed. Despite the First Amendment still being in effect, certain religious communities have faced persecution while others have been raised above the others. We all know that this isn’t fair. This is one of the many things in this country that is depressingly unequal, and a community that is built on such uneven ground as religion cannot be toppled as easily as others. The Christian religions dominate this country, and they benefit most from the leeway granted by the government’s favoritism. Until recently, the federal government’s viewpoint on marriage was based on a religious aspect of a union between only a man and a woman. Many Christian dates are national holidays in America, while no Jewish or Islamic holidays are nationally celebrated. We were not founded as a Christian nation, but over time, the First Amendment was ignored and we have become a de-facto Christian nation. 

Now that I have railed against Christianity for a bit, I will give a peace offering. Christianity, in its many forms, is not inherently evil or power hungry. I don’t think any religion is. I do believe there is a higher power that gave us life. I think that we can live a good life and treat others well, and when it is all said and done, we will be judged on that, and not what religion we followed. I don’t think that any religion has the right answer so I chose to not follow any of them. I think people have the right to believe what they want. I think that they have a right to be a part of this country, and they have the right to share their beliefs and practice them freely. No religion truly condones the awful violence and hatred carried out in their name, so condemning an entire religion for the horrible things done by the few psychopaths that claim the religion should not be representative of the whole. Every religion has the right to freely practice in this country, even the people who pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The point here is that no group should be above another in this country in any facet of life. No group in this country should be able to determine the rights and freedoms of another group either. In the same vein, the granted freedom and rights of one group should not infringe on the already present rights and freedoms of another group. LGBT Americans should have the same rights as everyone else. They should be as accepted as anyone else. If you have something against the LGBT community for no reason other than you are a hateful bigot, you have the right granted by the First Amendment to voice your opinion, but you are still a fucking asshole. If your religion precludes you from supporting the LGBT lifestyle, then that is your First Amendment right as well. Here comes the tricky part of this whole debate. What gives people the right to deny service, and why is it directly aimed at the LGBT community? The federal government woke up and did everything they could to open doors for this community, but some states are siding with religion and allowing discrimination based on being a part of the LGBT community. You want to talk about a double-edged sword? Here is the perfect example: approving these bills allows the continued persecution and discrimination based on unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment which a religion is held above another, and denying this bill will be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment in which the government is not allowing its people to freely practice their religion. Yes, either way you go, you are violating the First Amendment because this whole battle is unconstitutional. No religion should been granted so much power to have sway over the government, and no group should have to fight for the rights they should already have as Americans. 

My personal experiences with the battle for LGBT rights have come from watching the struggles of those around me. I have watched the past few years tear this country apart along so many dividing lines. Violence, hatred, racism, sexism, bigotry, and every other thing that could possibly plague a country as diverse as ours has reared its head. The ugliest thing is how hard people in this country fight against each other instead of for each other. As a member of the military, I have the privilege of serving this country and all who call it home. I didn’t join to serve in defense of one group or another, but for all. Men and women from every corner of this nation, and even people seeking citizenship joined up to do the same thing. It didn’t matter where you came from; all that mattered was that you were sacrificing for the country. Until recently, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the military’s way of dealing with homosexuality without really addressing it. The myth was if you made it public knowledge, you would be discharged, but you were fine if you kept it to yourself. While there are people in the military who are homophobic, there are vast majorities who don’t have a problem with it. I knew several people in the military who were openly gay before DADT was repealed, and there was never a threat of being discharged. DADT was officially repealed in late 2011, which was monumental, but what they didn’t tell you, was that they still wouldn’t be able to receive the same rights as straight military members in reference to marriage and benefits. Those things did not change until 2013 when the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down and the federal government recognized same sex marriages as legal. It took another two years for the Supreme Court to block states from denying marriage benefits to military members because certain states did not recognize same sex marriage. While the military world is not perfect, they have found a way to help the communities coexist better. The fight for women’s rights is still ongoing, but progress is being made. My time in the military isn’t going to last forever, and I have a feeling that it will come to a close sooner than later due to my back problems, but I can say I am proud to be a part of a military generation that is working towards equality across the board. 

I’m no fool. I know that this battle is something that will go on for a long time. Despite the progressive attitude that is starting to take hold in this country, we are still rooted deep in our past of being separated by our differences. I think the best thing that could happen from this is for people to push for the rights of everyone to be treated equally. I think we shouldn’t hold any religion over the other. I don’t think they should be involved in the lawmaking of this country or the states. I think the citizens of this country should be able to freely practice their religions, and I think any corporation or privately owned business that has a PUBLIC religious affiliation should be able to choose who they offer their business to. In that same line of thinking, those businesses and corporations should no longer receive tax breaks for their affiliations, and no religions should receive tax breaks or exemptions. No favoritism should be shown, and everyone should pay his or her dues. In reference to me saying that companies and businesses can choose whom they offer their business to, that is a slippery slope in and of itself. I think that most people would agree that you should be open and understanding with any customers/employees that you may have, and if you do have any codes of conduct, dress codes, or customer/employee requirements, they must be clearly stated and based in equality. People also have to learn to be respectful and treat people equally across all walks of life. We are all humans after all, and America is supposed to be the land of the free. I believe we can have religious freedom and equality along with LGBT freedom and equality. I think we can all be free and equal in this land, and all it takes is for us to realize that no matter what you believe, we have to work together to bring this country together again. 

 

If you have any thoughts on this post or the subject in general, I would love to hear it. This is just my opinion, and I am only so informed. I love hearing from other people, and educated discussion is always encouraged. Conversely, if you think I’m a fucking idiot but are just being hateful and close-minded, don’t bother adding your input. Thanks. 

Guest Writers Wanted

I haven’t been using my blog as much as I’ve wanted to lately. As a writer, I’ve gone through cycles of productivity, and this has been a lengthy down period. During this time I’ve considered the idea of having guest writers on my blog, and I think it’s time to broach the subject on here.

Seeing as I call this a tribune, I would love for my blog to become a place with several contributors. I think that it would add an interesting dynamic to the site and perhaps spark more creativity and bring more readers around.

Anyways, here are my requirements if anyone is interested in being a guest writer:

  1. I will not accept anything that goes against my moral code. I have no problem with things that I may generally disagree with, but anything that is hateful or abusive will not be published.
  2. No agendas. I don’t need anyone pushing any propaganda or hocking products on here. If you want to do reviews or things like that, that’s fine, but this site isn’t here to sell stuff. If there are any special causes or things that you want to bring attention to, speak to me about it first and we will discuss it, but that is a very limited basis.
  3. You must present something that has substance and will not require heavy editing. I want pieces that are more than a Facebook post.
  4. I do not require specific topics or ideas, but I do want the subject to be something you are passionate about. This blog has never held to a theme. I love sharing my passions and I want you to do the same.
  5. No plagiarizing. If you quote or reference something, please include where you got it from.

I’m sure I will come up with more requirements as time goes along, but that is it for now. I want this to be a platform for people to share with the world. Some people don’t want to start a blog, but they do want to write from time to time. I would love to be able to give them a space to do so. I hope to have people come in and add some great new facets to Town’s End Tribune.

If you are interested, contact me via Facebook or email me at townsend3284@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some interested writers!

NFL Free Agency Lies and Greed

I have some thoughts on my mind in relation to the start of free agency in the NFL yesterday. Any athlete of any sport who changes teams for more money and then says they loved playing for their old team but they had to “take care of their family” is full of shit. You are getting paid millions. Taking care of your family is no longer a problem. Now you’re just being vain and greedy.

Be honest and say you are out to make as much money as possible. Don’t lie to us and say you are taking care of your family. Justify it to yourself however you like, but don’t try and lie to the fans who make substantially less than you. Saying that you can’t take care of your family for less than… let’s say… $18 million a year is really fucking arrogant to throw in people’s faces. Most of the fanbase of major sports makes less than $100,000, so saying that $18 million is your bottom limit is comical. It’s not only comical, but it is also shameful and a damn lie.

Now, if you know me, you know I am a Denver Broncos fan. I’m sure if you looked, you could determine the culprit of the aggravating statement. Yes, I believe that mainstream entertainers and athletes are incredibly overpaid. I could go in to a huge philosophical rant about it, but that isn’t the point here. I love football, and I have been a Broncos fan since I was 10. Here’s proof:

IMG_3575 I root for guys that play a kid’s game and get paid ridiculous amounts. I got kinda choked up watching Peyton Manning’s retirement speech. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Denver prove everyone wrong and win the Super Bowl. Most of these guys are completely comfortable in their greed and avarice, and that’s good for them. That’s the miracle of capitalism for you. I would rather see unabashed admittance of the fact rather than some lame ass attempt at a justification. If you are the best player at your position, then it is justified that you be paid as such, no matter how outrageous the sum. There isn’t any reason to hide your money grubbing ways. I’m not going to stop being a fan of professional football just because the league is filled with more money than they know what to do with. In relation to the previously mentioned player with sub $18 million family care problems, the team he joined had to give him such a big contract… so they wouldn’t get fined for not spending enough money! Did you catch that? The NFL would have fined this team if they did not spend enough money on players. I love it.

Anyways, in conjunction with that player leaving, another player, who only started in 7 games over 4 years, went and got himself a big fat contract from another team. Unlike the pervious player, he was not ashamed at all of being completely greedy. He made no excuses and he told no lies. He was all about getting all the money he could in a market that he exploited due to lack of other viable player options. On one hand, good for him. On the other hand, go fuck yourself for being a douche and walking away from the Broncos. Sorry, I’m bitter and petty. It happens.

Update: so the $18 million family man made the comment that the Broncos could have signed him, the greedy one, and another player for less than nothing. Besides the obvious stupidity of that statement, let’s check the facts here: the three contracts for the upcoming season alone total out to about $40 million and the lifetime total altogether is around $200 million. The Broncos have roughly $17 million to spend on players not under contract for next season. So you are telling me that these three guys who just signed the biggest contracts of their lives would have taken less than half of what they signed for? YEAH RIGHT! More lies and bullshit. Just say it with me… Show me the money!

So here’s to another free agency period of players lying to the fans and teams they are leaving behind and chasing those millions of dollars they need to feed their starving families. Either that or they are  just chasing those millions to be greeeeeeeeedy! I will leave you with my fondest memory of this past season. Enjoy!

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The Search For The Perfect Pen

When I first began writing, I used to do most of it by hand. There was always something special about the tactile feel of putting the words on to paper. Typing is always more efficient, but longhand is personal and unique. Everyone’s handwriting is different. While my handwriting is pretty messy, some people’s words can be downright artistic.

When my neck problems started, I began having issues with hand cramps and fatigue when I wrote for more than a few minutes. At first, I tried to deal with it, but the pain became unbearable. I stopped writing longhand unless I had to, and I felt my connection with writing start to wane. Writing my thoughts out free form helped me transfer ideas better than typing does, especially when taking notes. I accepted the fact that typing was going to be my main form of writing, but I still had a spot in my heart that dearly wanted to be able to be able to put ink to paper again.

When I began getting treatments for my back in the past few months, I started doing research in to how it could affect the nerves in my hand. The weakness and cramps were something that still bothered me, and I was hopeful that I could start writing by hand again. I was also looking for something to use to takes notes or write in, because I was beginning to have a lot of ideas and inspirations for stories, and I didn’t like taking notes on my phone. I decided to get a journal, and after much searching, I picked a journal from Earthworks Journals. Now, this wasn’t just a cheap journal, so I couldn’t use a regular pen. I began to look in to pens that were of a better quality, and it turns out that cheap pens can also contribute to hand cramps and fatigue. I started looking at pens that are best for people who have the same problems that I do, and the consensus answer was fountain pens.

Fountain pens have always interested me, but they have always seemed daunting. I always viewed them as potentially messy and a hassle to deal with. I really did not know much about them besides the fact that they were expensive. Boy, was I wrong about all of that. I started looking in to them seriously when I read that the major factor behind hand cramps and fatigue was the pressure you have push down with to use a ballpoint pen, and the grip you have to use to apply that pressure. A fountain pen can relieve that because the ink flows better, and does not require a hard grip if the pen is well balanced. I was sold on that part alone, but there were a lot of other things that make fountain pens appealing to everyday writers.

Fountain pens come in all shapes and sizes, and can range in price from a few bucks to ARE YOU F’N CRAZY?! If you aren’t sure if fountain pens are for you, there are disposable ones. Don’t like dealing with bottled ink? Most brands are capable of accepting ink cartridges. Most fountain pens are built to be low maintenance, and anyone can learn how to clean and repair their pen. You can also choose the nib or tip size to suit your needs, from extra fine, fine, medium, or broad. These pens aren’t just for the elite society or old world. They can be used in all parts of your daily life.

When I began searching for the right fountain pen, I ran through about 15 sites and at least 30 YouTube videos before I narrowed my choices to what I thought would suit me best. The site I chose was Goulet Pens, because they have the best selection and prices across the board. They also have in-depth knowledge that they share via their blog and YouTube videos. If you still have questions, their customer support teams will answer anything you need.

I waffled for two weeks between 3 pens, but I ultimately settled on the Lamy Al-Star Orange with a fine point nib. I could have debated for longer, but I knew this pen was the one I really wanted. I wasn’t sure about the nib size, but looking back, I am glad I chose fine over medium.

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This pen is awesome. I can write without my hand cramping or feeling tired. Normally I would have to shake out my hand or stop writing, but I don’t feel the need with this pen. I can write until my ideas or the pen dries up, which ever happens first. I went with cartridges at first, but I quickly switched to bottled ink and a converter. Bottled ink looks so much better, and the pen feels less scratchy. For anyone looking for good bottled ink, Noodler’s is the way to go. I am still waiting on my journal to arrive from England, but this pen makes writing a joy again.

Finding the perfect pen is a journey, and I feel like I will end up collecting more fountain pens. I am glad that I figured out that they are not as intimidating as they seemed. I have found that I enjoy tinkering with it, and I will become more and more comfortable with how a fountain pen works. If you suffer some of the same problems I do with your hand while writing, I urge you to explore fountain pens. They may help you out, and it may assist you in rediscovering an enjoyment in writing. Don’t take my word for it, though. Go explore for yourself, and you will see that fountain pens can be beautiful, useful, and can last a lifetime if you take care of them. Thanks for reading.