Monday, February 28, 2011

Researching The Fantasy Western

Here's an update about my latest writing project. As you know from my previous blog entries, I am currently contracted to produce a novel-length story for Hall Brothers Entertainment. This story will be run as an 8-part serial sometime later this year, and then be released in book format (possibly with some exciting extras from yours truly).

This "Fantasy Western," which blends the setting of a classic Western with the might and magic of Sword and Sorcery, is proving to be one of my more researched tales. I've done quite a bit of research in the past with other books, most notably to double check the science for my hard SF tales, and to keep things somewhat realistic, so I'm no stranger to fact-finding missions. However, it seems every time I turn around with this new book, I'm stopping to pick up a different reference text. Who knew writing "the old west the way it wasn't" would involve so much history?

There are two reasons I'm doing so much research with this project. The first is what I always do, to keep things realistic (which is very important, even when you have a warlock for a sheriff and a dwarf gunslinger amongst your cast of characters). The second and most involved factor is the commingling of history with fantasy.

Without giving too much away, several real-life individuals will make guest appearances in this story. To place them in the right context, and in order to make their appearance logical, I'm using actual events that took place, and rewriting them just a little to match the Fantasy theme of the tale. I've done my best to make these people act in a way that fits their true, historical backgrounds.

As a recreational aside, I've also been reading a few Louis L'Amour books recently, hoping to see how one of the greatest Western writers in history did it. They have been entertaining diversions. His writing style was certainly different than mine, and his attention to detail was phenomenal. He actually spent time visiting the physical locations where his books took place, and learned every last detail about the surroundings and how people lived in those locales. That sort of hands-on research is a bit beyond my monetary limits at the moment, so I'll just have to settle for written descriptions and let my imagination fill in the rest.

I expect all of this added work will pay off, and later this year you can all be the judges of that. The story will be displayed for free at Hall Brothers Entertainment, so even those who are impoverished or just too darn cheap can enjoy the fruits of my hard labor. Later on, if some of you like what you read, you might even consider buying the published book.

Who knows, this could be the beginning of a whole new sub-genre.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Might Be A Cousin, If...

As my family tree continues to grow, I'm beginning to see how many distant relatives I must have. Simply as a fun exercise, I have compiled a list of surnames for the last 12 generations of my family. Some of these are fairly common, and there is no guarantee that someone with the last name "Wilson" or "Smith" would be related to me, though there are others that are fairly uncommon. Just in case some of you are wondering, you might be a cousin if...

Here is a generational list, putting each surname where it first appears in my family tree. Counting myself as Generation 0, and my parents as generation 1, we have the following results:

1: Ingham*, Kirton

2: Counts, Forthman

3: Bailey, Littlefield, MacCain*, Nelson, Robinson

4: Ballinger, Carney, Gamble, Horner, Moore, Stark, Urech

5: Dillon, Doughty, Henderson, Lacay, Nixon, Silcox, Smith, Tucker, Wallwork, Wilson, Young

6: Austin, Guile (Guild), Hires (Hoyer), Hubbell, Hyler, Karper, Keeney, Kelly, Rogers, Sheppard, Waller, Wiley

7: Burch, Coleman, Cunningham, Davies, Garrison, Keeney2, Kennedy, Martin, Nelson2, Sockwell, Tucker2

8: Babcock, Beeman, Brown, Clark, Crosby, Davis, Davis2, Doxey, Kandel (Kandle), Lamb, Newcomb, Smith2, Whitaker

9: Belcher, Bowen, Brown2, Carmen, Forgison, Gates, Hitchner (Itchner), Hopkins, Ismond, Kinney, Maurer, McCarthy, Pineo, Scott, Thayer, Tracy, Waite, Warren, Webster, Wightman,

10: Babcock, Bangs, Bartels, Bradford, Brown3, Burt, Camp, Chapin, Church, Clark2, Colt, Cox, Culver, Daniel, Frazier, Gulliver, Hartshorn, Hills, Husted, Ismond2, Judd, Lottholtz, Lyon, Miner, Parish, Park, Pepper, Rich, Rogers2, Samson, Sheppard2, Wells, Westcott, Wheeler, Williams

11: Adams, Allen2, Allis, Avery, Babcock2, Baldwin, Barron, Bass, Belden, Billings, Brown4, Browne, Buell, Bushwell, Buswell, Camp2, Carpenter, Curtis, Denison, Elithorpe, Fellows, Fitch, Fuess, Gates2, Gates3, Geer, Geer2, Griswold, Hill, Hinchman, Holmes, Hopkins2, Jackson, Kellogg, Kingsley, Knight, Leonard, Lewis, Loomis, May, Mayo, Merrick, Morehouse, Neale, Newhall, Payson, Raymond, Roberts, Sheppard3, Sherwood, Sprague, Sprague2, Thayer2, Thurston, Tolman, Waldman, Walling, Wattell, Wise, Woodcock, Young2

12: Allen3, Allyn, Allyn2, Ayer, Babcock3, Bailey2, Bassett, Batt, Bayly, Belden2, Brewer, Brigham, Bronson, Browne2, Buck, Burnham, Canfield, Chapin2, Chauncey, Cheever, Cheever2, Clark3, Crooke, Curtis2, Danforth, Darrell, Deeg, Eames, Edwards, Eliot, Fitch2, Foote, Freeman, Goodale, Goole, Greenaway, Greenslade, Griswold2, Hallet, Hansford, Harvey, Hawkins, Hayward, Hilton, Hobart, Hopkins3, Johnson, King, Knoell, Lamb2, Lambert, Leids, Leids2, Lumpkin, Lyman, Marsh, Mason, Meigs, Odell (O'Dell/Udell), Palmer, Pendleton, Phillips, Plummer, Post, Pray, Provoe, Putnam, Rathburn, Rawlins, Reeve, Richards, Riley, Sayles, Seaman, Smith3, Smith4, Stalham, Stephenson, Terry, Thompson, Thompson2, Tracy2, Treat, Turney, Updyke, Waring, Warren2, Weld, Welles, Welsz, Wheldon, Whalen, Whalen2, Wilbourne, Wilcox, Wise2, Wood, Wood2, Wood3, Wood4, Woodward, Woolhead, York, Young3

There you have it; all the surnames I have been able to trace through 12 generations thus far. There are some that go back even further, but I'll leave those for another day and another post.

Perhaps this gets a little carried away, but there it is. Sure, being a 12th cousin might be mostly academic, but it's still neat to be able to look back and see how the lines diverged. This is by far not a complete list, and there are still many lines I haven't been able to trace beyond a few generations. Still, it's already quite a list, as you can see.

See if you recognize any of the surnames listed, and resign yourself to the fact that we might be distantly related! If you have any questions, or want to work on finding any possible genealogical links, let me know.

*The Ingham genetic line extends only to Raymond W. Ingham (generation 2), who was adopted by his step-father, Edward "Ned" Ingham.  His genetic lineage actually comes from Raymond W. MacCain, Sr.  Therefore, any of the "adopted" Ingham genealogy has been excluded from this list.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


It's an old writer's trick to use a pseudonym for literary endeavors. Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) is the most notable example I can think of, though there have been numerous examples throughout the years. Many writers have used an alias to market their writing, though it is something I have never done. I pose you the question, is it a good idea?

The main item to consider is my real name. I've often wondered if Martin Ingham is such a useful moniker for the cover of a book. The big problem is obviously the last name. Who here knows how to pronounce "Ingham?" Say it aloud (go ahead, humor me). Now, I'm betting more than half of you got it wrong. Most people have the natural inclination to pronounce it "Ingram" with a "gram," rather than "um." Ing-um. Not really catchy, is it? Olde English at its best.

Is it wise to market books under a name that nobody can pronounce? Now, it's not like my name is long and hard, but it isn't exactly normal outside of England (I've found there are quite a few Inghams in the UK, and another Martin Ingham has a car dealership over there). This is one of the many points to consider.

So, if I were to use a pseudonym, which would I choose? A writer has so many invented names to select from, and there are any number of ways to go. Robert A. Heinlein had a few in his early pulp magazine days, most notably "Anson MacDonald" which was a combination of his middle name and his 2nd wife's maiden name. I've found many aliases often have some linking connection to the author like that. They still need a label with which they can identify.

Since I've been doing research on my genealogy, I have literally hundreds of names to choose from. Maybe "Richard Kirton" would be a good name (my 4x Great Grandfather), or how about "Charles Ballinger" (my 3x Great Grandfather). Or let's mix it up a bit, and use "Tobias MacCain?" Okay, maybe not, but you get the picture. So many fake names to choose from.

Yes, I know, it's a little late in the game to be considering a pseudonym. I already have 4 novels in print, and a growing fan-base under my real name, so this is probably all a waste of time. Then again, having achieved limited success thus far with my real name, it may be time to start out fresh. There is no doubt baggage that comes with my current career (editors who didn't like something I sent them, or think I'm old news and not liable to strike it big if I haven't already). A new name could be a way to come back, though I'm not sure I'd want to be known under a false label.

It's just a possibility...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don't Be Afraid to Share

I always find it uplifting to hear from my readers, particularly when they sing the praises of my work. It is unusual that I encounter someone who has read one of my books and not enjoyed it, and the accolades often come from people I have never personally met. This lets me know I'm doing something right, and that my goal of creating entertaining stories is being achieved.

With that said, my readership in recent months has begun to stagnate.

As I previously wrote, silence is death, and without new readers, a writer cannot survive. I need word of mouth to promote my works, and there is only so much I can do on my own.

If you read one of my books, tell your friends and neighbors about it and encourage them to read what you are reading! If you truly like my work, don't be afraid to share. Also, speak up if you think my work is no good. Waste a few minutes explaining why you don't like it, and maybe other people will be curious enough to see if you're right. Either way, I ask that you share my work.

I sometimes get the feeling that people view my writing as a "guilty pleasure." I envision them like teenage boys with a playboy magazine, stuffing it under the bed when there's a knock at the door. "Oh, my, I can't let them know I'm reading this garbage!" Okay, it's probably not as dramatic as that, but the end result is equivalent. People aren't talking about my books, for whatever reason.

In this modern age of mass media, the book market is flooded with all sorts of small-time, independent authors, many of whom are good, and many of whom can't string a coherent sentence together. This makes it incredibly difficult for undiscovered writers to break out of the pack and get noticed. The only ones who manage to do that have the help of friends and fans, who get them noticed through their support.

If you speak up for my writing and encourage others to do the same, then you can rest assured that more fantastic stories will be on the way. However, if nobody speaks up, I will inevitably fade away. Without success, there will be fewer stories in the future, for less success equals less incentive to create new work. Not only will I have less time to write (for I'll be too busy working other jobs to make money), but the ego factor will be a hindrance (I'm not an acid freak, so I have an ego, forgive me).

Just think, if nobody's going to read a book, is it worth writing? That question weighs heavily on every writer's mind. There's also the pain of getting a book published that detracts from the enjoyment of the creation process, for rejections often seem to spit on your very soul. There has to be some reward in the end, and having readers enjoy what I produce is good enough for me, but volume is a necessary element.

A handful of devoted fans can be the basis for a great success story, so don't be afraid to share.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I have a startling confession to make. I am not technically an Ingham. Now, that isn't to say my real surname isn't Ingham, but genetically my lineage does not appear to extend back to anyone of that name.

My grandfather took his stepfather's last name, which was obviously Ingham. However, my great-grandfather by blood was Raymond W. MacCain. Now, I haven't been able to find out much about the MacCain line. Other than a few names and places, all that I really know is that my great-grandmother Effie divorced Raymond sometime in the early 1920's, for what reasons I can only imagine.

Both my father and grandfather were alcoholics, and my grandfather was very much a womanizer in his youth. I must wonder if Raymond W. MacCain, Sr. was much different than Ray Junior. If so, I must consider that MacCain men may have a predisposition toward being drunken whore-chasers. If there is a genetic link to such behavior, my own blood has been sufficiently thinned to avoid such predilections (or maybe I'm just a rebel at heart). I currently don't have enough background on the MacCains to tell.

I've written to a few MacCain cousins that I've been able to identify through my research, though none have gotten back to me. Obviously, 2nd and 3rd cousins aren't much to speak of, and I can understand their desire to remove themselves from the extended family line. There's no telling what kind of weirdoes your relatives might be. Why, they might even turn out to be me!

Despite being a MacCain by blood, I still consider myself to be an Ingham. My great grandfather was very much a true relative, if not by blood, then by spirit. I only had the chance to meet Great-Grandpa Ned once, when I was 5 years old, but what I remember of the man is someone who was every bit family as any genetic progenitor.

Who knows, maybe I'll find an Ingham somewhere in my bloodline. There are still many branches that remain unmapped.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Quandary of Cousins

It has been far too long since last I blogged.  Those of you who deign to read my mad ramblings should not be forced to wait through such prolonged spells of inactivity.  I shall henceforth resolve to post something to this blog at least twice a week.  Even if the posts are merely short status reports about my mundane existence, it will no doubt keep you in the loop.

While my writing projects continue to crawl along, I have made some amazing inroads with my family research.  The work, while time-consuming, is proving to be very entertaining.  It is the world's greatest puzzle, and each new piece sheds new light on my own existence.  I'll have to stop and give it a rest soon, or else I'll never get anything else done.

As my family tree continues to expand, a most curious question plagues me.  When does a cousin stop being a cousin?  By that I mean how far back does blood count?  It is not a simple question when you can trace your lineage back 10+ generations.  Would you consider a fifth cousin once removed to be family, or does the blood get too thin?  I am finding it hard to say.

The easiest answer (one no doubt a lot of you have already considered) is that cousins stop being "real" family when you can legally marry them.  However, this assumption would be horribly flawed, for it turns out that 25 States allow first cousins to marry.   As gross as that is, you can see the problem.  You can't cut your blood ties that close, now can you?

It's amazing how extended my extended family is getting.  In the upcoming weeks, I'll reveal more of my findings, including a shocking truth about my own surname.  Be forewarned; you just might be a cousin!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Ingham Line

In my genealogical research, I'm happy to report that I've succeeded in uncovering some data about Albert Ingham, my great-great-great grandfather.  Just in case anyone's interested in it, I'll post this data here.

Albert Ingham was the son of William Ingham and his third wife, Abby Dodge. William was the son of Erastus Ingham and Elizabeth Hutchinson. William was born in Connecticut, but moved with his parents to Massachusetts sometime after the Revolution.

William first married Betsey Smith on March 3, 1806 in Middlefield, Massachusetts. They moved away from Massachusetts sometime around 1815 with their two children, Betsy Maria and William Smith Ingham, and eventually settled in Cato, New York, where they both spent the rest of their lives.  They had at least 1 more daughter born in the early 1820, and several children who died very young.  They also had a son named Albert Hoyt Ingham (born in 1824), who died at approximately 3 years of age.  This Albert must not be confused with my ancestor, who was born after the fact and was obviously named after his dead brother.

Betsey died in 1826, after which William married Myrilla Phelps, who then died in 1827. Shortly thereafter, William married Abby Dodge, who gave birth to Albert Ingham on December 8, 1828.

William Ingham died in 1832. His widow, Abby, lived until 1883.

Albert's wife was Cynthia Van Wie. I had previously suspected this may be her last name, because one of her grandsons was Albert Van Wie Ingham. He was apparently named in honor of his grandparents.  Cynthia's parents may have been Abraham Van Wie and Lorinda Beebe, though I have yet to find conclusive evidence to that effect.  Records for upstate New York in the early 1800's can be hard to find.

The graves of Albert, Cynthia, William, Betsey, Abby, Myrilla, and William Smith Ingham can all be found in the Meridian Cemetary on the outskirts of Cato, New York.
Identifying William as Albert's father has opened up a larger family line, leading all the way back to Joseph Ingham who arrived in Saybrook, Connecticut sometime in the mid 1600's.  There is a lot of information to pick through, and I'm going to get back to it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Elements of Style

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to one of my favorite little books on writing. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White is not a large text, and it isn't something that'll tell you how to be the next big name author, but it is a nice collection of style pointers that every writer should know.

The book goes over a lot of commonly misused words, it explains the proper way to use a comma, and it also gives many pointers on basic writing composition. You'd be surprised how many "classes" these days are actually teaching things contrary to these classical elements of style, and I think it is a shame.

That being said, even I do not completely adhere to every rule given in this book. However, I do take note of them, and follow most of them most of the time. There are certain elements which I follow to the letter, such as the extra comma when separating 3 or more terms with a single conjunction (such as this, that, and another thing).

I recommend that anyone involved with the publishing industry (writers, editors, proofreaders, etc...) get a copy of this book and read it. Even if you don't follow all of the style elements, you should at least be aware of them, and recognize the value of traditional composition.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spread the Word!

Since I lowered the price of The Rogue Investigations (kindle version) to 99 cents, new readers have begun to trickle in. As things pick up for that title, I have decided to drop the price of Prisoner of Time (kindle version) to 99 cents, as well, hoping it will start to sell again. Additionally, I've reduced the price in the UK to 75p for both titles, which is as low as you can get according to Amazon's pricing scale. I hope that bargain price will catch a few readers overseas.

As good as a bargain price is, it's nothing if people don't know about it, and there is only so much one man can do. That is why I must ask for your help today. Please take the links in this post and share them. Post them on facebook, stick them on your blog, post them in online forums, or email them to friends. Any or all of this would be a great help, and it'll only take a moment of your time.

Word of mouth is a writer's single greatest advantage. If you spread the word, good things will happen, not just for me, but for everyone who reads Science Fiction and Fantasy. A greater fan-base means more activities. People will be able to discuss these books, and share insights about them, which will be fun for all.

With your help, we'll get the ball rolling, and my writings can be enjoyed by more people around the world.

The Rogue Investigations (kindle version)
Prisoner of Time (kindle version)

The Rogue Investigations (UK)
Prisoner of Time (UK)