Introducing Nooks and Crannies, a writer’s blog focusing on indie authors and publishing. We’ve got a few older entries on EDBOK, and we’ll have some in the future as well.
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Today we’re starting another new blog, this one on Education and Technology. Ed tech is my background field, and I’m still passionate about it. I do try to tweet about the topic on a regular basis, and this blog will allow me to sort past entries with future ones.
I believe digital books are an important part of the future of education, and combined with tablets and other technologies offer an exciting venue for students. Stay tuned as we focus on Educational Digital Books and other exciting developments in educational technology.
Thanks to Dan Brown, the Middle Ages are more popular than ever. Many institutions that authors enjoy incorporating in their works have a genesis during these times, including the Freemasons and Knights Templar. Banking as we know it also has a beginning story from this time period.
The Catholic Church, which maintained tremendous sway over affairs of state in those days, generally frowned upon usury (charging high interest for loans). Jews were not under the purview of the church, and so were free to engage in banking activities and setting interest rates as they desired. Catholics were not so privileged.
Nonetheless, a vacuum existed, especially for travelers wishing to maintain their wealth while abroad. The Knights Templar, whose aristocratic members donated their land and money to the order upon joining, were among early Catholic bankers those days. Their castles became de facto bank buildings.
Most intriguingly, the Templars developed a deposit system that formed a sort of early “promissory note.” A pilgrim wishing to travel from Paris to Jerusalem, for instance, could deposit a sum of money into a local Templar bank, and be given an encrypted receipt for the amount. Facing potential robbery, shipwreck and other depredations in the long and perilous journey, the money would remain virtually safe no matter what hardships the traveler personally faced. Upon arrival in the Holy Land, the pilgrim would present the encrypted receipt to local Templars and receive their full amount, minus a reasonable charge for the trouble.
This innovation suffered a setback when the Templars refused to loan money to an over-extended French king, Philip IV, in 1307. He led a campaign against the Templars and helped wipe them out as an order, executing members and leaders.
Unfortunately the Templars are surrounded in myth, and much of what you can find on the Internet about them is mixed in with the fantastical. However, the following links provide a quick background to the subject.
Whether you’re writing a murder mystery, a western, a Depression-era detective story, a World War drama, or some other work involving vintage or antique guns, it pays to understand a bit about their history and some of the characteristics associated with old firearms.
The first recorded assassination by firearm occurred in 1570 when James Stewart, the first Earl of Moray, Regent of Scotland was shot by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh and Woodhouselee, a supporter of “Bloody Mary.” Hamilton used a matchlock carbine from a window as the regent passed below on horseback.
The first known political assassination by handgun occurred about a decade and a half later, when William I of the Netherlands was shot at close range by a Frenchman, Balthasar Gérard, in 1584.
Early rifles and handguns were handmade and usually were reserved for the wealthy due to their expense. With the introduction of black powder to Europe, early firearms were little more than portable cannons. Firing early models usually involved a matchlock, which used a fuse (match) near the touchhole at the rear of the barrel in order to ignite the powder.
The wheellock, allegedly invented by Leonardo da Vinci, was superior to the matchlock since a live spark was not necessary to maintain near the powder. It operated similar to modern cigarette lighters, producing a spark via flint when the trigger was pulled. The flintlock was an innovative take on this design, resulting in less complexity and more reliability.
Percussion caps were the stepping stone between flintlock designs and modern ammunition cartridges as we know them today. They contained the primer in a separate cap that was loaded between the touchhole and the hammer in a slight depression at the breech of the barrel. When the hammer struck the primer caps, the caps exploded, and the gunpowder ignited firing the gun. The major advantage in primer caps was their resistance to dampness, allowing guns to be fired in the rain.
A few short-lived innovations around the time of the American Civil War before modern cartridges were widespread included the needle gun, which fired its percussion caps by jamming a needle through paper cartridges, and the pinfire cartridge, which had a pin jutting out the back and was ignited by the hammer striking the pin.
Modern ammunition has the primer as part of the cartridge, along with powder and bullet. Usually the shell is in brass (cheap ammo might use steel), and the bullet is lead, although exceptions exist.
Muskets were smoothbore, meaning like early cannons the inside of the barrel was smooth. Shot was round and propelled outward without a spin, so accuracy was not guaranteed. This necessitated waiting for enemy soldiers to be within close range and bunched together, raising the probability of hitting somebody.
Rifled barrels were invented by the Germans in the early 1500s, adopted by some early American gun makers and used in the American Revolution, then found widespread acceptance as better understanding of ballistics developed in the 19th century.
Early models were muzzle-loaded, meaning powder and ammo were loaded from the front end of the barrel. Breech-loading, or loading from the rear of the barrel, was an innovation gaining wide acceptance around the time of the American Civil War. One of the major advantages of breech-loading in battle: soldiers could remain in the prone position while reloading, thus offering less exposure to enemy fire.
A variety of breech-loading methods were experimented with during and shortly after the Civil War period. Among the more famous: the drop block design seen in the Sharps rifle, renowned for its accuracy; the Spencer repeating rifle, which was tube-fed and lever actuated; the trap-door design seen in the British Martini-Henry; and the Model 1873 Springfield, a trap-door design adopted by the US Military after the Civil War. Note also that many muzzle-loaded models owned by the US prior to the Civil War were modified to become breech-loaders during the conflict.
Using factory interchangeable parts was an American innovation, popularly credited to Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame who produced muskets under contract for the young American government. At a famous Hyde Park exhibit in 1851, Samuel Colt showed an astonished British crowd how ten separate handguns from his factory could be disassembled and put back together with different parts, and still shoot.
The biggest innovation in firearms came at the end of the 19th century when smokeless black powder was introduced to the market en masse. The cutoff manufacturing date for a gun to be considered “antique” in the US is consequently 1900.
Revolvers, popularized by Colt, and magazines which could be quickly swapped out, led to rapid fire innovations. Clips hold cartridges together and are typically dropped into a fixed magazine. Magazines are containers holding cartridges, and empty detachable magazines can be quickly swapped out for new ones. People who know guns know the difference, and tend to mock those who do not, so be careful and do your research before writing. Don’t call a clip a magazine, or vice-versa.
Rounds refers to number of ammunition cartridges. So, the great clip-fed battle rifles of World Wars I and II, such as the German Gewehr 98 and the American M1 Garand, were speed loaded by five round or eight round clips inserted into their fixed magazines.
Carbine refers to a shortened rifle. At first they were intended for cavalry use, because longer rifles were cumbersome on horseback. Later, as efficient manufacturing needs manifested in the World Wars, and as the benefits of shorter rifles on the battlefield became more apparent, carbines grew in popularity among various armies for infantry use.
Bolt action rifles, like the Gewehr, indicates the shooter manually cycles the bolt to load another round from the clip or magazine. Semi-auto means the gun will cycle itself to load the cartridge, using spent energy from the fired round to cycle the action. Semi-auto also means one trigger pull, one shot.
Full-auto means the firearm is a machinegun, and will continue firing automatically for as long as the trigger is pulled. A true machinegun uses a bigger rifle cartridge, and is often belt-fed, meaning each round is lined up in a belt that quickly cycles through the gun at so many rounds per minute. They are often heavy, requiring at least two soldiers to set up and operate. A sub-machinegun typically fires a pistol cartridge and can be easily carried around by an individual soldier. It is usually cartridge fed, and the cartridges are quickly depleted due to the gun’s rapid rate of fire.
There’s a lot to know about guns before introducing them into your books from a position of knowledge. Particularly if you’re dealing with a period piece, you don’t want to commit a faux pas by inserting an anachronism that diligent readers who know guns will easily uncover. Take some time and learn more about the subject.
I have a little book on Amazon called Collecting Firearms for Fun and Profit. Although aimed at hobbyists, the book provides an excellent introduction to vintage guns that goes into much greater detail than this blog entry.
In all the literature on money, one of the most successful authors today is Dave Ramsey. Ramsey has made a career out of counseling against consumer debt, and has helped countless people become debt free with a simple plan called the “Seven Baby Steps.” He evangelizes a debt free approach to living in one of the country’s most successful talk radio programs, and he’s a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business Network, where he used to have a show synced to the radio program.
Ramsey’s breakout bestseller is a book called The Total Money Makeover, where he outlines strategies for becoming and living debt free. He’s made many other products available. For instance, his “Financial Peace University” is a series of lectures and activities that cover his material over nine weeks. He’s popularized several sayings, like “Act your wage,” and “Debt is dumb, cash is king!” and “Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.”
As of this writing, he and his daughter Rachel Cruze have most recently published Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money. It instantly shot to the top spot on the New York Times Bestseller List.
As one of the most successful authors in the field of personal finance, no discussion (or blog) about money is complete without mentioning Dave Ramsey. It makes sense to start off the Literature of Money by discussing him.
I’m happy to start off a new blog today about money and personal finances. Specifically, I’m going to be looking at what authors have written about money. The title of this blog is “The Literature of Money.” Stay tuned for new entries.