Noodler’s Ink and Social Distancing

Noodler’s Ink and Social Distancing

Noodler’s Ink is my latest fountain pen dalliance.

noodler's ink

Noodler’s Ink

I enjoy writing with fountain pens. I like to keep three with me, one filled with black or blue ink, one with red, and a third with green or purple. Waterman ink works fine for me. A few weeks back, though, my friend Jeff mentioned buying some older pens at a show in Los Angeles. He also bought ink from a company I’d not heard of, Noodler’s. One of the inks he bought was “54th Massachusetts” blue.

My ears perked up, because Union uniforms at the time of the Southern Rebellion were a nice shade of blue. So, I bought a bottle.

noodler's ink

“54th Massachusetts” blue ink from Noodler’s.

The shade of blue is indeed nice!

The 54th Massachusetts

This regiment is the focus of the movie, “Glory.” The 1989 movie tells the story of the formation of the regiment, up through the Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the fortifications protecting the harbor at Charleston, SC. The 54th Massachusetts lost 270 of its approximately 600 members that day. So, I like the notion of thinking back on the sacrifices made by these men. I also think to the times I’ve stopped at the monument plaque on the wall of Boston Common that honors the regiment.

Social Distancing

noodler's ink

As a concept, working to flatten the curve on COVID-19 isn’t all that tough for me. Most of my teaching these days is via remote. So, I’m able to train up enterprise storage professionals without breathing on or touching them. My writing is usually a solo endeavor, with the exception of back-and-forth texting with Lady Duchess of the Red Pen. While I wouldn’t mind sharing a table with Lady Duchess, distance keeps me from breathing on her as well.

So, I’m doing my part here. I’ve never been big on crowds. Since I appreciate how much y’all will miss FQF, I’ll survive. Let’s hope keeping some distance between ourselves keeps us out of that overall two percent fatalities for this thing.


Door Pulls – #WatchCats 1

door pulls

#WatchCats (artist unknown)

Lydia scanned the neighborhood from their perch on the roof of a local apartment building, while Amadeus groomed himself. She froze as she spotted a man walking in the street, two blocks away. He was testing the door handles on parked cars as he walked. So far, none of his “door pulls,” as the police call these, bore fruit.

It was Lydia’s responsibility to spot trouble. Well, not all the time, of course. Cats need their haps! Right now, though, she dispatched the neighborhood WatchCats. She nudged Amadeus, who looked up from licking his paw. The grey tabby knew what the nudge meant. He looked up, scanning below. When his eyes spotted the walking thief, Lydia nudged him a second time.

Amadeus nodded and nuzzled his WatchCat partner. He walked over to the fire escape and cautiously jumped from their perch onto its step. Lydia yawned and scratched as he made his way down the stairs. Amadeus jumped to the sidewalk and trotted down the street. He let the man walk to him, but then changed plans, as one of the car doors he pulled popped open! The WatchCat crossed the street, positioning himself behind a garbage can. He waited for the man to lean into the car, then sprinted across the street.

The man wore sweatpants and running shoes, with no socks. Amadeus targeted his bare ankle, slashing it with his right paw as he dashed under the car.

“Fuck!” The man said, loudly. His complaint drew attention from two folks who lived in that block. One was a teen, just walking out her front door. She looked at the house next door as her neighbor yelled at the man.

“Get the hell out of here! Stop trying to steal from my friends!” the demand came from a woman in her late-40s, one of the stay-at-home moms on the block.

The thief flipped the thief off, turned, and walked back the way he came. Amadeus stuck his head out from the front of the car. He saw the thief’s feet as he retreated, then came out to verify his departure.

“Amadeus! I didn’t see you there. Did you stop that man?” the girl asked, walking over to the cat. Amadeus purred loudly as she scratched behind his ear.

“I knew it! Good kitty!” the girl said. Amadeus rubbed against her leg, then trotted off. A few minutes later, he was back on the perch. Lydia groomed his back, then left the perch. A Maine Coon named Penelope joined him, as he took over the spotter’s position.

© 2020, Edward J. Branley. All rights reserved.

Envisioning Editors – who they are and what are their roles

Envisioning editors: I’m starting to think I’ve got it wrong.

envisioning editors

Envisioning Editors

My understanding of editors took a turn over the last couple of days. I replied to a tweet from a writer. They said they were struggling with cutting down a piece to fit a publication’s 5K word limit. I suggested, maybe have a freelance editor look at it. After all, taking a chainsaw to our well-loved words is what editors do. The reply I received was that the piece had already been “workshopped” and an editor would not be necessary.

I try to empathize with people hitting a snag in their work. My Firstborn regularly calls me, using me as a sounding board. I don’t offer advice as much as an ear. So, when my suggestion was summarily rejected, part of me said, well, this writer has hit a snag, it’s not me. I couldn’t help saying, “yet here you are, editing,” when told an editor wasn’t necessary, though.

But the part about “workshopping” in the context of talking about editors struck me as odd. I thought about the different roles an editor performs.

My Editor

envisioning editors

Dara Rochlin, my editor. Connect with her at

Dara Rochlin keeps me going in the right direction. She functions as both a copy editor and developmental editor. She’s also a friend. Because of the friend part, she bounces ideas off of me. Look for a snippet based on an image she sent me shortly. Her long-suffering husband, Jeff, gave me the idea for a location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles for Dragon’s Discovery. The lovely and talented #flutegirl, Alyson Rochlin, has been my Dragons beta reader for a while now. Jason, Aly’s older brother, provides needed expertise for gaming. I also flip the role with him, reading and offering notes on his work. So, the family is part of the team.

That’s why maybe my perception of what an editor does for others is skewed. But here’s the thing, naturally I work with other editors. I’ve worked with acquisitons and developmental editors on nonfiction projects, from the Arcadia books and The History Press. Then there are all the editors for tech publications. So, It’s not like my exposure is to a single person.

Editors Edit

I had a time getting the Introduction to one of the Images of America books down to 1200 words. Dara got me there. She “workshops” my stuff. Editors offer suggestions. Sometimes, they insist on things. It’s part of the process.

What are your experiences with editors?

Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier litanies are common timing and coping mechanisms

soldier litanies

Soldier litanies

Timing mechanisms are useful for folks in many professions. Invoking the deity is quite common as well, particularly among military personnel in stressful situations. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to me when an ex-military character on “FBI Most Wanted” used “Mother of Sorrow” as a litany.

Hail Mary

If you were raised in a religious household, you may know one or more litanies connected to your family’s faith. Catholics in particular are able to recite numerous parts of the Mass that they said over and over and over as children, weekly, if not more often. That’s why following the Star Wars line, “May the Force be with you,” with, “And with Your Spirit,” strikes the Catholic funny bone.

Then there’s the Rosary. While kids attending Catholic school don’t pray the rosary as often as older generations, those that did have it stuck in their heads forever. A Catholic child got their first rosary beads when they made their First Communion in second grade or so. They prayed a decade (ten Hail Marys) before class in many schools. Say the Hail Mary that often, well, you get the idea. The rosary has potential for numerous soldier litanies.

Military Timing

The most memorable example of using a religious litany as a timing mechanism is in the book/movie, “A Bridge Too Far.” In the push by the US 82nd Airborne Divison to take the Waal River Bridge at Nijemegen, Netherlands, then-Captain Julian Cook led an assault to the far side of the bridge by boat. To keep timing while paddling, he said, over and over, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Soldier litanies help focus and keep those reciting them alive.

Prayer as timing assistant happens to this day.

Mother of Sorrows

One of the ways folks pray the rosary is to reflect on the “Mysteries” of Mary, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. They’re a great way to take a long, meditative prayer even longer. So, when a former Army sniper with mental health issues invoked “Mother of Sorrows” on the FBI show, it wasn’t a big surprise. He repeats “Mother of Sorrow” over and over, while loading rounds into a magazine. It’s a particularly dark reference. While non-religious and/or non-Catholic folks may roll their eyes, if you recited the rosary as a kid, it’s less odd than you think.

Of course, it doesn’t fit for a guy loading up a weapon of human destruction to reference the Joyful or Glorious items. Sorrows strike the dark chord. I got it immediately, but my memories of this particular visualization of Mary was fuzzy. I was always more of a positive/happy Catholic than a suffering Catholic. So, I needed to look back on Our Lady of Sorrows. This image is the first thing that hits you on Wikipedia:

soldier litanies

This is “Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary” in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain. It’s a particularly violent and dark image. When you stop and think about it, though, it’s reflective of the grief of a mother. Four of the seven sorrowful mysteries touch upon the Crucifixion of Christ, from his mother’s perspective. Women will tell you, many would rather suffer and die than see their children come to harm. All of a sudden, an incredibly violent statue of a woman being pierced by swords hits home.

I’m not sure how this will all fit into a story, but it may well. Catholic themes pop up at odd times for me as a writer.

Rail Travel Inspiration – 1950s New York

Rail travel inspiration offers fertile ground for writing ideas

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster for the 20th Century Limited, 1948.

Rail travel inspiration

I wrote an article for NOLA History Guy last week on “Hickory Creek,” a 1948-vintage railcar built for the New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” train. The car operates in charter service, pulled behind Amtrak trains. I saw it leaving New Orleans, behind the Amtrak Crescent. The Crescent travels from New Orleans to New York City. I included the poster above, as a bit of a flashback. It flashed to me, even if nobody else follows along!

Grand Central Terminal in the 1950s

My thoughts go back to 1950, but not necessarily to the New York Central. While Grand Central Terminal was A Big Deal to the railroad, their trains connected Chicago to New York, not the South. So, for the South, it’s Southern Railway and Louisville and Nashville. They brought the Crescent and other trains up from New Orleans. Replace the 20th Century Limited in that poster with the Crescent and it’s a New Orleans story! Additionally, a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single train trip.

The romance of train travel

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster featuring a streamlined 4-6-4 Hudson locomotive.

This New York Central poster shows a 4-6-4 “Hudson” steam engine, pulling the 20th Century Limited. While most steam locomotives presented a lot of exposed rods, gears, and machinery, the railroad covered all that up for their signature train. So, the streamline look of those engines increased the romance aspect of a trip to Chicago.

Switching to diesel continues rail travel inspiration

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster from the 1950s, featuring diesel engine and “streamline” passenger car.

The railroad switched the 20th Century Limited to diesel locomotives in 1945. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sold “E” units to the New York Central. The railroad ordered new cars, “trainsets” as well. Those entered service in 1948. That’s where Hickory Creek comes in.

Imagine a regular traveler on the 20th Century Limited, settling into a sleeping compartment in one of those new cars. Or, maybe a couple from Jersey, taking a trip to the Lake Michigan shore. While those visuals aren’t Southern, they’re still inspiring! So many possibilities!


USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 gets a new Navigator this week.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Fast-attack submarine USS Topeka, underway. (Photo from the Topeka’s Facebook Page)

USS Topeka SSN-754

LT Firstborn was home for the holidays, having completed the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) at Naval Submarine Base New London. We brought him to the airport this morning, and he’s off to Naval Base Guam, which is the home port of the USS Topeka SSN-754. The Topeka is a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine. These submarines formed the backbone of the US Navy’s attack submarine force for the last forty years. While some of the 688s (as they’re known) were upgraded to extend their service lives, the USS Virginia-class boats phase them out.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Insignia of the USS Topeka SSN-754 (US Navy drawing)

The USS Topeka SSN-754 entered service on 23-January-1988. That makes the boat six months older than LT Firstborn! The Lieutenant did his “junior officer” tour on the USS Alexandria SSN-757. So, it was logical for him to go back to sea on a 688.


USS Topeka SSN-754

USS Topeka entering the harbor at Naval Base Guam, December, 2019. (US Navy photo)

LT Firstborn surprised me by choosing Naval Base Guam as his home port. He opted for that base over a position as Engineer. He had several reasons for this choice. Because Guam is so forward (in relation to Pearl Harbor or San Diego), the boats there go out for a few weeks and then return to port. The boats assigned to US ports often go out for as long as six months as a time. By choosing Guam, he gets to sleep in his apartment more often.

His other motivation for Guam is travel. Hopefully things will remain stable enough that he’ll be able to visit places like Tokyo, Bangkok, and other interesting Asian destinations.

The path to Guam

us army CGSC

Arms of the US Army Command and General Staff College (Army image)

So, LT Firstborn was commissioned as an Ensign (O-1), after completing OCS. He received promotion to Lt. Junior Grade (O-2) while in the various schools required of a submarine officer. As a LTJG, he served on the Alexandria. He received promotion to Lieutenant while on that boat. Then came his three-year “shore tour.” He served at NSA Saratoga Springs in upstate New York for two years. Then came a year at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Next came SOAC, to get him and other O-3s ready to return to the fleet as senor officers.

Navigator of USS Topeka SSN-754

uss topeka ssn-754

Insignia for a Lieutenant (O-3), US Navy (Navy image)

Submarines such as the USS Topeka SSN-754 have a Captain and an Executive Officer, who hold the rank of Commander (O-5). Under them are three “department heads,” They command three departments, Engineering, Navigation, and Weapons. The Engineer is usually promoted to Lt. Commander (O-4) when assuming the job. The other two department heads are Lieutenants (O-3). They receive promotion during the tour. LT Firstborn joins Topeka as its Navigator. He’ll be responsible for 30-40 sailors, three or four Chiefs, and a couple of junior officers. He’ll be responsible for bringing the boat in and out of port, underway navigation, and ship’s communications. He will also stand watch as needed, as Officer of the Deck and as Engineering Duty Officer, as needed.


I am so proud of this young man! I do hope we’ll get to go out to Guam to visit. Better still, if the boat puts into Pearl Harbor at a time when we only have to go that far. It was so good to have him home for even a short time. Now I’m back to teaching and writing.

Personal Log 20191123

Personal Log 20191123

personal log 20191123

Arwen is getting SO BIG!

Personal Log 20191123

Taking a moment to catch my breath. It’s been a crazy week. I had a hardware class for HitachiVantara Global Learning on the schedule for some time, but then I was asked by Megan Holt of “One Book New Orleans” if I’d be interested in presenting a talk on “Personal Websites for Authors” at this year’s Words and Music New Orleans festival. I jumped on it! So, I planned the teaching week to get the lecture material for the course done by Thursday. Home on Southwest Thursday night, then out to the Ace Hotel for the festival yesterday morning.

Teaching Brits

Not a bad plan overall, but there’s often a complication. I got an email last week asking me to teach a class to a group of folks from the UK. It was a two-day class (Monday and Tuesday), via WebEx. So, it wasn’t a logistical conflict. I delivered the UK class from 0400 to 0830ish EST, from Columbus, OH, site of the hardware class. No problem, I thought, go to bed early on Sunday night, get up at 0330 Monday, do the deed. Rinse and repeat on Tuesday.

It wasted me. I’m not as young as I used to be, and spent most of Tuesday yawning. Fortunately, I was able to stay awake and coherent for the face-to-face class! I went to a pizza place down High Street from the hotel, had some beer, and a calzone, and went to bed early again. Wednesday, slept to the late hour of 0700! Anyway, I’m back on track by Saturday.

Websites for Authors

personal log 20191123

Reviewing the talk at the coffee shop, Friday morning.

The talk at Words and Music New Orleans went well, I think. This was the second time I’ve presented this material. The first was at the Jefferson Parish Library (Hi, Chris Smith!).  When I do a history talk, there’s a lot of interaction and audience feedback. Ooohs and Ahhhs on various old photos. Someone will chime in with an anectode or two.

When I present on websites, the audience is quiet. They appear to be attentive, but they’re quiet. I’m good at reading classrooms and audiences, but even the computer nerds are more animated than these folks. The feedback after the talk at the library was solid. Folks came up and thanked me for the information. Others asked specific questions, one-on-one. During the talk? Silence.

I’m thinking this topic attracts writers who really don’t know much about the mechanics of website development. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I’m thinking this merits discussion and such here on my site.



Words and Music New Orleans Talk – Personal Websites for Authors

Words and Music New Orleans Talk – Personal Websites for Authors

Words and Music New Orleans

Words and Music New Orleans

Thanks to everyone attending today’s talk at the Ace Hotel! Click on the title graphic or here to get the PDF of the presentation.

Web Design and Consulting

In addition to my corporate training portfolio, and my alter ego, NOLA History Guy, I also do website work. If you’d like to discuss any of the ideas from today’s presentation further, please feel free to email me at


Upcoming Adventures – Talks and Signings

Upcoming Adventures – Talks and Signings

Upcoming adventures – Edward’s talks and signings.

Upcoming Adventures

A few engagements coming up, stop by and check them out!

Friday, November 22 (TOMORROW)

Personal Websites for Authors

Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, New Orleans

Workshop. $10. Ticket price includes continental breakfast.

Local writer and self-described computer nerd Edward Branley will guide writers through the fundamentals of building a website to increase their visibility and marketing. Topics include website content, writing bios for different platforms, and more!

A part of Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans.

More details here.

Tuesday, December 10th

The Golden Age of Canal Street

Reception – 6:30pm – 7pm
Talk begins at 7pm.

Nunez Community College- Auditorium
3710 Paris Road
Chalmette, LA 70043
I’ll have books for sale!

Friday, December, 13th

Book Signing at Walgreens

image courtesy Commons user “MusikAnimal”

Book Signing at Walgreens, 900 Canal Street, 3pm-5pm.
I’ll be signing New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, and New Orleans Jazz. There’s even a photo of this Walgreens, from 1939, in the streetcar book!
Mark your calendars!




Notebooks Fountain Pens and BuJo strategy

Notebooks fountain pens and updating my Bujo strategy

notebooks, fountain pens

My most expensive pen, a hundred-dollar Waterman, on top of my current BuJo notebook.

Notebooks, fountain pens

I was in Manhattan back in the spring, teaching a class for Hitachi Global Learning. When I’m on the road, I prefer taking my backpack rather than the messenger bag I take to coffee shops when I’m home. When packing for the trip, this desire adds a step, shifting stuff from the “home” bag to the “travel” bag. I’m usually pretty good about this, but this particular trip, I forgot something. I left my current Bullet Journal notebook (BuJo) in the messenger bag! Not to worry, there’s a Staples on 5th Avenue around 38th or 39th. So, I picked up a Moleskine and kept on going.

notebooks, fountain pens

My “around town” messenger bag.

I filled up that notebook this week. Therefore, I’m going back to the one I left at home. So, now I’m back to a Leuchturm1917 brand notebook. I forgot that I really like the quality of the Leuchturm1917 when compared to the Moleskine. Now, please understand, I’m not saying the Moleskine is bad, just that the Leuchturm1917 feels better.

Cheap vs. Pricey

There’s another complication/issue with the German notebooks. While the paper is good quality, it’s thinner than the Moleskine. My love of notebooks, fountain pens is the complication. Most of the inexpensive fountain pens I use have medium-point nibs. The ink flow is a bit heavy. This was more of an issue when all I used to write in the BuJo were the pens. Now that I make my weekly planner page and daily headers with my “adult coloring” set of Prismacolor pencils, all I write in ink is the detail stuff.

So, that means I have to do something I haven’t done regularly. I carry my most expensive fountain pen with me. It’s a Waterman I bought for about a hundred bucks a few years back. My other pens are under-$10 items I buy off eBay. If I wear them out or lose one, well, I don’t shed many tears. I still may leave the Waterman home when I travel and just let notebooks, fountain pens bleed in Ohio.