23 November 2021

Mirror, Mirror - A New Website While Still Making Here


Against a backdrop image of pine trees silhouetted against a starry night sky are 4 rectangular images: top box text reads "J.A. Jablonski Writer." Three same sized boxes below are identified as "Writings - Professional" "Writings - Mystery" and "Writings - SF & Magical Realism." The website URL is posted at the bottom: jajablonski.com

Today I launched my author website. It's been a very long time in the making. Not the website specifically, though that was it's own adventure. I speak of my latest incarnation as an author.

The bulk of my writing has been professional, much of it in-house or published under institutional or organizational bylines.

While my doctoral dissertation and this artist blog, Dante’s Wardrobe have my name on it, many other publications do not. I was the co-lead and major content provider for Writing@APUS, the author of user manuals and technical presentation guides for a major professional and scientific organization and several universities, the promotional writer and designer for an alternative health care provider and a singer-songwriter, a guest blogger for an academic marketing site, and the creator of scholarly book and journal indexes. And I have taught in both the humanities and social sciences, having written the syllabi, lectures, video tutorials and text-based instructionals for undergrad, master's, and doctoral courses in professional and academic writing, science fiction and fantasy literature, information organization, and database indexing.

But I've been a storyteller/maker for as long as I can remember. Telling and making go hand-in-hand; in part, because my family are all natural storytellers who are also creatively talented, e.g., fine artists, wood crafters, writers, urban planners, calligraphers, automotive repair and paint artists, photographers, and clothing, costume, theater set designers. I myself have been a graphic designer, award-winning display window and exhibits designer, fictional letter writer, live-action role playing actor, theater designer and seamstress/sewist.

I am currently writing in three different genres (mystery, speculative SF, and magical realism) while trying to still keep one foot in the academic scene by researching material culture in utopian fiction. My pronouns are she/her/them/they; my honorifics are Dr/Ms/Mx.

Going forward, I will use this blog to report on my artistic work and interests. The Cool Books series will transfer to my author blog under the new title of Book Thoughts

I am so excited to be launching into this new work and thinking space. I hope you will visit me in both. 




01 July 2021

Cool Book: Subtle Blood by K.J. Charles


Cover art for the Will Darling Adventures trilogy by K.J. Charles 
The Will Darling Adventures by K.J. Charles
Cover Art by Tiferet Design
My review of KJ Charles' Will Darling Adventures has been updated and moved to my author website: J.A. Jablonski. You can link to it here:

15 April 2021

Style Guides & Nonfiction Writers | Part 1 of 3


 Writer Resource Series


Herring boats Fish Quay North Shields c.1890 

A quick online search about nonfiction writers and style guides brings back a boatload of hits. [1] Many of the articles retrieved discuss how to write a nonfiction book and much of the info provided is useful. But if you are not familiar with style guides--except perhaps from your college paper-writing days where you were graded down because you misplaced a comma in a citation, or worse, were accused of plagiarism--you might be wondering why style guides matter and how to use them successfully.

One bit of advice I've read on some of these sites is to "pick a style." Or you get a checklist of how to write nonfiction and way down in the checklist it says "choose your style guide." How do you do that? And how do you know which one to use?

Depending on who publishes your work, it is very likely a specific style guide will be used. So it helps if you find that out before you start writing. Ask! It may happen that it doesn't matter, in which case you want to use a guide that best matches your subject matter.

 Covers of the 9th edition of the MLA Style Guide, the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, and the 7th edition of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Here are where the main three tend to be used.

  • APA Style
    (aka The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association)
    • Social sciences
    • Humanities
    • Health care
    • some natural sciences
  • Chicago
    (aka The Chicago Manual of Style; CMOS)
    • Preferred by fiction and nonfiction publishers
    • Humanities  
    • Book authors (CMOS was originally a guide for scholarly authors)
  • MLA
    (aka MLA Handbook)
    • Humanities
    • Language Studies 
    • Literary Criticism

So what exactly is a style guide? A style guide (or style manual) is a writing tool. Just that, no more no less. It's not a sacred text. It's just that, a guide.

Technically, a style guide is a formal set of standards use for the writing of documents, usually nonfiction, scholarly or academic, or the like. These guides are created by publishers and professional associations for the material they publish under their name or organizational auspices. Style guides typically cover two areas: editorial style and citation and documentation style. And while not all, many of the most often used guides (MLA, Chicago, and APA) also include solid info on how to write. All three areas are a real goldmine for the nonfiction writer.

Image of an old time woodcut of a newspaper writer or editor wearing a visor cap while writing on sheets of paper with a dip pen. A hanging lamo lights the surface. A young copy boy stands in the background.

Editorial style
covers spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, the selection of headings, and the use of numbers. Good editorial style means you are being consistent with all of these throughout your work. FYI: Editorial style is also referred to as editorial guidelines or simply conventions (because they represent a conventional presentation used in publishing by a particular group (i.e., publisher, association, etc.)

For any writer, but especially nonfiction writers, avoiding plagiarism is key. A good writer, of any stripe, is an ethical writer. Using someone else's ideas or words ethically means you do it correctly and you cite the source. This shows you not only are honoring the copyright, you are honoring the other person's intellectual and creative work.

In a sense, when you use someone's ideas or words you are conversing with them. And by sharing that with your readers, you are welcoming them into the conversation as well. This is where Citation and Documentation Style comes into play. These guidelines help you consistently format the information about the people you are talking with or about (i.e., your sources). You note them in the text and then your provide a list of sources at the end of your work.

Image of different media sources along side a sample paragraph with an arrow that shows an in-text citation within the text.

Here's where a lot of writers get anxious--probably because they got negative feedback somewhere along the way for "getting it wrong." It might help if we understand why citation matters, beyond that crucial ethical and professional concern of honoring the work of others. It's a logistical thing. You want your readers to be able to find the source you are talking about. A correctly formatted citation means they can.

The purpose of any style guide is to provide uniformity in your writing, in your citations, and in formatting your final document. The goal is make sure your paper is professional and readable.

Three style guides often used--MLA, APA, and Chicago--provide sample template pages so you don't have to figure it out on your own.

By the way, if you are asked to provide a list of your sources for your nonfiction work, Microsoft Word has this support page that states:"Word automatically generates a bibliography from the sources you used. . . ." It covers MLA, Chicago, and APA style and shows you how to set that up.

Part 2 (coming soon): Understanding How a Style Guide Works

Part 3 (coming soon): Using the Writing Advice in Style Guides


Writer Resource Series is my new column for writers of fiction and nonfiction. I'll be drawing on my background as a writing instructor, English teacher, academic librarian, and educational technology consultant to provide general information, insights, and DIY writing fixes.

[1] Here is the search statement I tried (in Google): (non-fiction OR "non fiction") AND "Style guide*"  If you try it, type it exactly this way!

18 February 2021

Sequestering Arts - The Wind Chill Edition


My sidewalk after only the first snowstorm!

Sequestering Arts | About this intermittent series

With the world in lockdown due to Covid-19 (<-- link to the CDC info site), many people are struggling, practically, emotionally, and creatively. As a long-time creative & librarian I thought I might be able to help by doing what I do best: finding/sharing information. My goal is to provide links to interesting, comforting, & creative online resources that you can explore & enjoy while home- or place-bound. For other posts in this series, click here.

* * * * * * * * *

After 3 snowstorms in a week followed by subzero wind chill temps here in the Upper Midwest & the other winter storms around the U.S. causing much difficulty & stress, well I wondered if we might all need some cheering and comfort. Here are some links to various things.

Be good, be kind, and stay warm!

  • The Metropolitan Opera (NY)
    [From the TimeOut website] "The Metropolitan Opera has closed its doors though at least September 2021, but the great New York opera house continues to lift the spirits of opera lovers around the world with free nightly streams of complete productions from its archives. Most of the offerings were originally recorded with multiple cameras in high definition to be shown in movie theaters as part of the company's popular Live in HD series.Each opera goes live on the Met's website at 7:30pm EST (12:30am GMT) and remains there until 6:30pm EST the next evening. The operas can also be viewed with the Met Opera on Demand app on various devices."

  • Stars in the House
    [From the TimeOut website] "Daily 8pm EST / 1am GMT | Showtune savant and SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky (Disaster!) and his husband, producer James Wesley, are the animating forces behind this ambitious and very entertaining series, in which they play host to theater stars in live, chatty interviews interspersed with clips and songs. Dr. Jon LaPook, the chief medical correspondent for CBS News, provides periodic updates on public health, and surprise virtual visitors are common. Donations benefit the Actors Fund. You can find a schedule of guests here."

  • Disney Cruise Line's Frozen, a Musical Spectacular | The cruise hour-long version. | YouTube | RunTime 1:03.18
    [From video description] " This time we’re bringing the world of Arendelle into your homes with a virtual watch party of our Broadway-style stage production, “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.”"

  • Sadler's Wells Digital Stage (London)
    [From their website] "Sadler’s Wells presents a programme of full-length dance performances, films and workshops online, to keep you entertained and connected through dance, wherever you are in the world."

  • Good Dog (play) | Based on ArinzĂ© Kene's hit play | A new, shortened, screen version | YouTube | Runtime: 19:11
    [From YouTube description] " ‘good dog’ explores the everyday injustices, people and places that make us who we are. Set during the early noughties, ‘good dog’ chronicles growing up in a multicultural community and the everyday injustices that drive people to take back control... because even the most patient among us can’t wait forever. Adapted from a full length play, this film follows a grown-up Boy revisiting and observing events in his life, narrating the past from the present. Boy – performed by Anton Cross - speaks to camera as our guide and narrator, looking on his younger self and the community he lives in. ‘good dog’ is adapted from the play written by ArinzĂ© Kene. The film was directed by Andrew Gillman and Natalie Ibu. It was commissioned by The Space and supported by BBC and Arts Council England"

  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (London)
    • Richard II | via YouTube | Runtime 2:31:27
      [From video description] " Richard II - the Bard’s great Play of England. For your lockdown viewing pleasure - our film version of the critically acclaimed first all women of colour Shakespeare on a UK stage - from the 2019 Globe Season."
    • Romeo & Juliet | via YouTube | Runtime: 1:37:54 | Available until 31 March 2021

  • Dickens vs Tolstoy featuring Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton | via Intelligence Squared | YouTube | Runtime: 1:34:41
    [From video description] "The Battle Of The Great 19th-century Novelists with Professor John Mullan arguing for Dickens and historian Simon Schama arguing for Tolstoy. Bringing their arguments to life with readings we had Tom Hiddleston, star of Marvel's Thor and The Avengers, and Zawe Ashton, acclaimed for her roles in Fresh Meat and Wanderlust. The debate was chaired by Bonnie Greer. Dickens. Tolstoy. Their names and reputations shake the ground – and so do their books, if you drop one. They are the two greatest novelists from the century when novels were really great. Both captured their countries’ very souls and, as vastly influential social reformers, savagely criticised them as well. But whose legacy is more enduring? Whose vision truer and more relevant today? Should you embark on War and Peace or Our Mutual Friend?"

  • Manchester International Festival | Festival in My House and Yours | Shows, musical performances, talks, Q&As, and more | via YouTube
    General Playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8B4bP8Vi7PxF_icfmcUitH2EtqcCx9Xp
    Some specific shows:

    • A Woman's Place is in the Home | Runtime: 56:32
      [From video description] "Content warning: this video contains strong language, viewer discretion advised. Join Girl Gang Manchester on Thursday 17 December from 19:00 GMT to celebrate and subvert the political and emotional landscapes of domestic spaces for modern women. Curated by Girl Gang Manchester, a collective of artists, activists, academics and party instigators, A Woman’s Place Is in the Home is a celebration and critique of the weight that everyday items, acts and spaces can carry. At a time when so many of us have been stuck at home, we’ll find creativity in domestic drudgery and spirituality in the shower, create an ode to Black British hairdressing and bemoan gendered divisions in domestic labour. We’ll mourn what we miss, cherish what we have and dance it all out – because what’s it all worth without dancing?"

    • PAYING ATTENTION! An Online Queer Literature Festival with Roma Havers & Friends  | Runtime: 1:30:19
      [From video description] "Watch Paying Attention! Bringing together six of the best queer writers in Manchester, working across all forms from poetry to performance and from fiction to theatre. Teaming up in pairs poets Frankie Blaus and Roma Havers, writer-performers Mandla Rae and Ella Otomewo, and novelists Okechukwu Nzelu and Rosie Garland read from their work, discussing their practice, reflecting, reminiscing and attempting to answer a vital question: ‘Now that you have our attention, how would you like to be read?’ This broadcast may contain some adult themes - viewer discretion advised. Closed captions are available in the 'settings' icon on the video player."

  • Free Plays for Children (includes all age ranges | includes learning worksheets & distance learning resources

  • BAC Digital | Spring 2021 Season | Individual performances Feb-June 2021 | Free but registration required
    Upcoming Presentations page (incl links to past performances): https://bacnyc.org/performances/upcoming-performances
    What is BAC? [From website] " BAC is the realization of a long-held vision by Founder and Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov to build an arts center in New York City that serves as a gathering place for artists from all disciplines."

  • Dance Theatre of Harlem | Virtual Ballet Series | via YouTube & Facebook

  • The Chocolate Factory | via Vimeo
    [From description] " The Chocolate Factory Theater exists to encourage and support artists in their process of inquiry. We engage specifically with a community of artists who challenge themselves and, in doing so, challenge us. We believe that by supporting the labor of these artists, we contribute to elevating New York City as a thriving marketplace of ideas. The Chocolate Factory embraces artistic practice as an integral part of the artist’s whole life, an essential component of the life of our community and a key element of a larger national and international artistic dialog. As such, we host artists as our equal partners with shared autonomy, trust and appreciation. While we seek to make big ideas and extended relationships possible, we commit to working at a small, intimate and personal scale, with few artistic compromises or boundaries."

  • Hamburg Ballet | Videos via YouTube | Includes works in progress & young choreographers
    (Scroll down page to the section heading "The Program" for video titles, descriptions, & links)

  • Numeridanse
    [From website] " Numeridanse is a multimedia dance platform. It offers free access to a unique video base: filmed performances, documentaries, interviews, fictions, dance videos. Every single genre, style and form is showcased here: butoh, classical ballet, neo-classical ballet, baroque, Indian, African, flamenco, contemporary, traditional dances, hip-hop, tango, jazz, circus arts, performance, etc. Numeridanse is headed and coordinated by the Maison de la Danse, Lyon, and was imagined by the director Charles Picq. Since the outset, Numeridanse was created and has been developed hand-in-hand with the French National Centre for Dance (CND) and has been supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation and the French Ministry for Culture."

  • Pilobus | Gnomen | Via Vimeo | Runtime 18:21
    [From website] "For Pilobolus, the pain of a different pandemic resulted in the creation of what’s now considered a company classic, Gnomen (1997). This work was dedicated to the memory of our dear friend and company dancer Jim Blanc whose life was claimed by the AIDS pandemic.Gnomen reminds us that during hard times, we must lean on and uplift each other – that together, we can help each other rise to the moment."
    was created in 1997, choreographed by Robby Barnett and Jonathan Woken in collaboration with Matt Kent, Gaspard Louis, Trebien Pollard, and Mark Santillano. This performance of Gnomen from 2019 is performed by Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Zachary Eisenstat, Quincy Ellis, and Jacob Michael Warren.Original music by Paul Sullivan, throat singing by Matt Kent. Costumes by Eileen Thomas. Lighting by David M. Chapman"

  • Live Stream Concerts

  • Joe Powers | Harmonica Player
    Powers' website: https://www.joepowers.com/
    Album playlist for Apasionado (via YouTube): https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lf99mkR8-XVhHpQLXftT30b7hObRswh3s
    [From Wikipedia] "Joe Powers is an internationally acclaimed harmonica player, composer, and recording artist. He performs many music genres, such as classical, blues, jazz-fusion, and world traditions, and specializes in playing Argentine Tango music."

  • Brandon Acker | Classical guitarist and specialist on early plucked instruments such as the lute, baroque guitar and theorbo
    Acker's website: http://brandonackerguitar.com/
    Acker's YouTube Playlists: https://www.youtube.com/user/brandonacker/playlists

  • Andrew Oliver - Pianist
    Oliver's website: https://andrewoliver.net/
    Oliver's YouTube Playlists: https://www.youtube.com/user/andrewoliver1/playlists
    [From website] "Andrew Oliver is a pianist from Portland, Oregon, specializing in stride piano, 1920s jazz and blues, ragtime, and tango.  His playing is energetic and authentic, drawing on the styles of pianists such as Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, and Earl Hines to deliver a stomping style which emphasizes the exciting groove that brought jazz to the forefront of popular music in the 20th century.

    A specialist in the music of the great New Orleans pioneering pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton, Andrew has recorded all of Jelly’s known compositions on the “Complete Morton Project” YouTube Channel with clarinetist David Horniblow.  Their duo album of Morton’s tunes on Lejazzetal was selected as one of the 10 best jazz albums of 2019 by the Times (London).  Andrew lived in London from 2013-2020, performing in the UK and Europe with a number of acclaimed groups including the Dime Notes and Vitality Five.

    Andrew is the founder of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, a 2012 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works recipient, and an Oregon Arts Commission fellow.  He also performs and composes a wide variety of music ranging from Argentine tango to modern jazz but with a strong focus on 1920s jazz and classic tango styles."

  • Mary Pappert School of Music | Duquesne University

  • Jonathan Pinnock | It's Lit But Is It Funny?

  • Song Exploder
    [From their About] "Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode is produced and edited by host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway in Los Angeles. Using the isolated, individual tracks from a recording, Hrishikesh asks artists to delve into the specific decisions that went into creating their work. Hrishikesh edits the interviews, removing his side of the conversation and condensing the story to be tightly focused on how the artists brought their songs to life"

  • Every Little Thing | Via Gimlet Media
    [From description] "Why do we cry? Did cavemen really carry clubs? Can swearing make you stronger? On ELT, you call with a question, we find you an answer."

  • This American Life
    https://www.thisamericanlife.org/ | How to Listen: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/listen
    [From website] "This American Life is a weekly public radio program and podcast. Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. Mostly we do journalism, but an entertaining kind of journalism that’s built around plot. In other words, stories! Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas. Like little movies for radio."

FOOD STUFF - The Comfort Food Edition

  • Body Mind Zone | Via YouTube
    Playlists: https://www.youtube.com/c/BodyMindZone/playlists
    [From description] "Body Mind Zone is home to the most effective Relaxing Music. We have music playlists for Meditation Music, Sleep Music, Study Music, Healing & Wellness Music, and Reiki & Zen Music. Body Mind Zone’s sleep music is specially created to help you fall asleep. Whether you want peaceful music for a power nap or calming sleep meditation music, Body Mind Zone’s sleep relaxation music will help you go to sleep. To fall asleep fast, our music for insomnia with its embedded delta waves is essential deep sleep music. Feeling sleepy? Use this sleeping music in the background for soothing relaxation or as meditation music after a busy day at work. Our beautiful music for sleeping is ideal relaxation music for stress relief."

  • Web Article: "22 of the Best Meditation Apps & Sites to Master Meditation Practice" (21 June 2019) | Includes info section on 10 different types of meditation

For other posts in this series, click here.


10 February 2021

The Marketing Matter: Writers, Book Blogging, & Social Media


Source: freepik

There’s been a recent conversation on Book Twitter of late (see this thread and replies via @ktzhaoauthor) re: the value and stress of authors doing DIY marketing, i.e., Social Media and Book Blogging. It’s an important discussion.

Book Blogging

I have an intermittent series on this blog titled Cool Books. Some posts are book reviews but others are simply essays, my thoughts on a specific book, author, or genre. Often the title isn’t the one just being published. This is because . . .

1) It may not be the first book in a series. I recently did an Amazon review for Edwin Hill's book Little Comfort (@EdwinHillauthor). His latest book Watch Her just came out. But it’s the third in his Hester Thursby series. I didn’t want to review the third without having read the first two. Here’s why.

It seems disconnected & discourteous somehow to do that. Authors write series for a reason. There is narrative flow, character development, world building in stages. I want to honor that. Plus, while I don’t mind spoilers, other folks do.

2) It may not be a current book. Authors looking for reviews in real time want and need that. Or the book may be fairly old. I recently and happily amassed some books from the late 19th and early 20th century about which I plan to natter. Book blogging at its most esoteric!

And there is the matter of time. I can only read so much and if it’s a choice of reading to review or writing, for personal and professional reasons I’ll usually choose writing. Life is short. Then again . . .

Time varies. I am currently reading Ken Harvey's (@kenharvey27) A Passionate Engagement. I’ve had to set it down twice. Not because it’s not a good book. It’s superb. But it moves me deeply, it makes me think about things, a lot of things, it is a quiet book. I need time to appreciate it.

Finally, re: Book Blogging. I don’t review something I don’t want to review (see “time”) or am not qualified to review. I will not review a book simply because I’ve been asked to. I want to be the author’s colleague and advocate when I review. If I can’t be, I won’t do it.

And I won’t post a truly bad review. I’ll be honest if I don’t like it, but I’ll say why and I’ll say it courteously. I’ve been a writing instructor and I’ve learned that kindness about what doesn’t work goes a far longer way than a slap down. Kindness matters. Ask Dr. Who.

Social Media and Authors

The issues are how much and why. The publishing industry is fraught right now. There are a bazillion agents getting kazillion queries from mondozillion authors. Everyone wants to publish a great book and be noticed for it. That means promotion.

The old-timey way was for the publisher (and perhaps agent) to do all the promoting. Now authors are being asked to join in the fun/work. It’s a circus out there when it comes to options: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc. What’s best, how many are best, should I even?

And everyone has their opinions. Just Google authors AND social media. Sixty seconds after typing that last sentence I did just that. There were 844,000,000 results. This doesn’t even touch the issue of creating a website which is a whole different kettle of kippers.

In the end (and IMHO only), I make the choice as to how much I will or can engage. If a matter of promotion, I do my research to see what social media type best suits my genre or project. Then I take the time to learn how to use it as technology and as a promotional tool.

If a matter of communication (which matters almost more than promotion as it is a human thing that, ideally, leads to promotion in an organic way), I still do my research to see where I want to be, who I want to be with, and how I can be collegial when I do it. Yes, collegial.

We’re together. I am a writer and a reader and much more. I am multitude. I have many interests and so do others. I want to connect and social media lets us do that. This idea that other writers are my competition is asinine. The universe of the imagination is vast. Let’s share it.

If you are still with me, a note: The idea that readers can makes demands of authors is asinine as well. If you like what they write, hooray! If not, read someone else or do what so many enjoy: fanfic. A writer’s imagination is beholden only to themselves and their visions.

Final Advice

If you write, write what you want to write and write it as well as you can. Use blogging and social media to share and connect. Both will let others get to know who you are and what you write and bring them to your door.

And don’t forget to be kind.


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