o f f h i a t u s

writers help blog
Save Your Computer



I have the worst luck. I’ve broken five computers and four laptops but I’ve finally learnt my lesson. After losing my work so many times, I have been great at rewriting because I’d never backed anything up.

Take it from me:

  • Even if you backup your work in one external source from your computer, back it up online or in as many places as you can
  • Back up according to how much valuable work you have so if you save work/programs frequently, back up once every week
  • If you have a Windows computer, go onto Control Panel and search “back up”. Click on the first link and follow through from there
  • Do not wait until it’s too late

I may add more information on if I can think of any, but here are some useful links on some other ways to back up your computer:

Windows help to backing up files

How to Back Up a Computer (among other devices)

How to Back up Data

The absurdly simple guide to backing up your PC

Three Best Ways to Back Up Your Files

6 cheap ways to back up your files

8 Ways to Back up Your Computer Files

How to back up your data

Done a Computer Backup Lately?

Google Drive is a great resource to use for backing things up.

Let’s Talk About: Living in the Desert


Okay so personally, I do not live in the desert. But let’s say I’d like to write about someone who does one day… and lets say that I don’t have the time/money to go to the desert for a bit and feel out the environment.

What do I do? Scour the internet trying to put the pieces together. I have done this. And, picking out & putting together various sources of information (including forums) I have put this together to share. So please keep in mind, these are other people’s experiences and opinions on living in desert conditions (and also general facts/information). Thank you :)

I also figured we could use this information to apply to possible extraterrestrial desert-like environments.



—“All the plants seem to have stickers and poison and thorns. I’m injured by everything I touch.”

—“While in AZ the skin on my face actually began to crack in the winter.”

—“Not a drop of rain in the four months that I have lived here and back home they are getting rain and thunderstorms often. I miss the rain and thunderstorms and the green! Even when there is a breeze out here in the desert, it feels like a hair dryer blowing in your face. And the sandstorms suck, too.”

—“I’ve heard it described as 10 months of Paradise and 2 months of Hell (summer rainy season). It’s a great place to escape allergies and many people love it. Deserts can be cold (Gobi) or hot (Sahara). They do get rain (most do, anyway), some of it very heavy, and cars of the unwary can get swept away. The only thing they have in common is that they effectively get less than 10” of rain per year, on the average.”



"The temperature fluctuates enormously between the heat of the day and the coldness at night. Rainfall is low and water is found deep below ground. Small communities live in the area and life in the desert is slow and tough." [x]


In truth, the deserts are some of the most intact and biodiverse ecosystems North America has to offer. New desert species are discovered all the time, and our arid lands have suffered relatively little of the human disruption that has so thoroughly changed places dearer to the typical Green’s heart, like San Francisco Bay or Yosemite Valley. North America’s deserts are one of our last remaining large repositories of wild lands. So why the disdain? [x]


The burning sun, set in a cloudless sky, beats down relentlessly on a dreary expanse of sand, gravel and clay, broken only by the seared walls of barren desert ranges. The picture is made more weird and the way fraught with greater danger by the mirage-breeding alkali beds that warn the experienced traveller of impending danger; but hundreds of venturesome explorers, pushing on until crazed with thirst, have been overtaken by despair and death… [x]


10 Reasons To Live In The Desert

The Taklamakan Desert

Why Would Anyone Choose To Live In The Desert?

Tips For Living In The Desert

California Driving: Desert Driving


Most Common Desert Plants in Arizona

  • Saguaro cactus
    The saguaro cactus only grows in the Sonoran desert, and the blossom of this desert plant is the state flower of Arizona. Some of these plants grow for over 150 years. 
  • Burroweed
    It grows to around 3 feet tall and features grey and green leaves with a yellow flower. It contains a chemical called tremetol that makes this desert plant poisonous to horses, livestock and humans. Occasionally, humans become sick after drinking the milk made from a cow who fed on burroweed.
  • Creosote bush
    The young plants struggle to survive in any drought conditions, but mature plants thrive by stealing water from neighboring plants. You can find creosote bush growing in large clusters and rings throughout the Arizona desert. Recognize it by its small yellow flowers and distinctive aroma.
  • Velvet mesquite
    Because it is hardy and needs little water to thrive, it grows easily in the Sonoran desert. Arizona residents often choose it as an ornamental tree to grow in their yards because of its attractive appearance and simple maintenance. It drops mesquite pods from its branches, which can be toasted, dried and ground into mesquite flour for cooking and baking.


—“I live in the upper Mojave desert. Low humidity most of the year. 347 days of sunshine a year. I had breakfast on my patio this morning, while admiring my swimming pool. The view from my front lawn, to the east, is one of Frenchman’s Peak and Sunrise Mountain. The view to the west is that of the Spring Mountains. To the north lies the Sheep Range.
Nevada is the state of basins and ranges. We have over 300 mountain ranges in the state. The most of any state in the Union.
About a week before Easter I will make my annual “pilgramage” south of Boulder City to the town of Nelson on the Colorado River. In the box canyons one can view an absolute riot of color from the desert wild flowers.
There is life in the desert and there is beauty. Wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”

—“I like the way the sunlight play’s on the Mountains, and you can see for miles and miles. I love the Sunsets against the Mountains also. I love the Cacti. And I love the open spaces that allow you to look up and see all the stars at night without any light from cities interfering . I love it during a lightning storm and you can watch the bolts flash across the sky. The high heat is a bummer, as are the dust storms But pretty neat otherwise. “

—“We spent about a month in Arizona when my daughter husband was in the service. I had never seen a real Cati and I truly enjoyed it. He also took us up on a mountain over Phoenix at Xmas time. It was so beautiful. Yes it was very dry but not humid. Loved everything about the visit but no I wouldn’t want to live there all the time.”



Characteristics of Deserts

  • There are different types of deserts ranging from hot and dry deserts to cold deserts. 
  • Deserts have wide variations of plant and animal life from desert to desert.
  • One of the main characteristics of a desert is that a desert receives very little precipitation throughout the year.
  • Deserts will often be extremely hot during the day and at night the temperature will fall 40 - 50 degrees or more. The reason for this is that there is little evaporation in the atmosphere to block sunlight during the day and at night allows heat to escape easily.


Images1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Videos (a couple of these are admittedly a little silly, but informative)


I hope this was somewhat informative and put a more ‘realistic’ perspective of what desert life is probably actually like, as opposed to looking at a bunch of charts and climate information sheets and trying to make it up from there! Happy writing!


Anonymous: Based on that ask about length of careers... would it be more plausible for a set of active palace guards to have a high turnover rate for "expiring"/getting killed, instead of having a high turnover rate having too many skilled guards? (this world has laws for how many guards/top talent each palace can have, to prevent revolt against the Emperor) 


Quick Note: This ask got lost in the draft folder; it was a follow up to this question about superheroes.

No. There’s a huge difference between someone standing post, and someone who jumps rooftop to rooftop every night, brawling with any petty criminals, and wandering supervillians, they come across.

In my opinion, for a royal guard, your looking for two things: excellent combatants, and almost more importantly, loyalty.

Because your royal guard will be elite forces, you can afford to outfit them with the best, or better than the best equipment. You can afford the most demanding training.

When these guys go toe to toe with an untrained mob, as a unit, they’ll wipe them out.

There are a lot of ways to engender loyalty, ideally, even guards who can no longer serve because of physical limitations should be at least cared for, if not kept around as security advisers and in other leadership capacities.

Now, I did say that was “in my opinion.” History has certainly showed enough cases where the palace guard were treated terribly and replaced constantly, to avoid letting them rise up in rebellion, or to become the true power behind the throne.

For every Secret Service, there’s a Praetorian Guard or cadre of Boyars, waiting to call the shots. So, this is a real danger. Rotating through the guard as viciously as possible is one way to handle that threat. From what I know, it’s not an effective way to prevent a palace coup, because you end up with a lower caliber of less motivated soldiers as a result. But, ultimately, that’s a world building question.

To a larger extent, this also applies to your nation’s military as a whole. Do you want forces that are too fractured by internal strife to turn against you, or do you want a unified elite force to deploy against any foe, with the belief that they will love you.

It’s the cruelty versus mercy question from Machiavelli’s The Prince; is it better to be feared than loved? Which is more appropriate? Which suits your story, and your setting, better?


Let's Talk About: Creating Villains


A villain (also known in film and literature as the “antagonist,” “baddie”, “bad guy”, “heavy” or “black hat”) is an “evil” character in a story, whether a historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist (though can be the…

Writability: Thoughts from the Intern Slush Pile: Is Your Voice Up to Snuff?


As I’ve been going through the intern slush, I’ve noticed that many times, when I recommend a rejection, it’s largely because of voice. Voice, to me, is one of the most important elements in a novel, because if it’s wrong on the first page, it’s usually wrong throughout the whole manuscript.

Being that I read a lot of YA submissions, this post is largely centered on voice-related problems I frequently see with YA submissions. But many of these issues can also apply to NA by looking at the points with a slightly older cast in mind.

YA Voice Red Flags:

  • Lack of contractions. This can actually be a problem in any category, but it’s especially important in YA manuscripts—a voice without any contractions always sounds stiff. This is one of the easiest (and often one of the first) voice-related red flags I pick out. Why? Because we speak and think with contractions, so when they’re absent, the writing becomes stilted and loses a great deal of flow, making it extraordinarily easy to pick it out. “I am not feeling well so I can not go,” for example, doesn’t sound nearly as fluid as, “I’m not feeling well so I can’t go.” Agreed? Good.
  • Outdated slang. If you’re writing YA, you need to be current with the language—no exceptions. For examples, teenagers today don’t really say “talk to the hand” or “phat” or “what’s the 411” anymore. (Note: those weren’t taken from actual submissions, I’m just giving outdated examples). Outdated slang, to me, is an enormous red flag and tells me the writer isn’t reading enough YA. 
  • Forced (current) slang. This is an equally problematic, but harder to spot problem. Sometimes I see submissions that use current slang, but the waythey use it feels…off. This is a little harder to describe, but the easiest way to ferret them out of your manuscript is to have critique partners and/or beta readers who are up to date with the current slang read your manuscript. 
  • Corny curse substitutions. This is a biggie. While not all teenagers curse, many of them do—and when they don’t, they don’t often use corny substitutions. “Frickin’” for example, could work as a substitution for a particular four-letter word, but “french fries” probably won’t. 

    Note: UNLESS your character makes a point of being corny, or it fits with your voice. I won’t say this never works (because I’m sure there’s a book out there that can make it happen), but to be honest, I’ve yet to see it work successfully with exception to “D’Arvit” in Artemis Fowl, which mostly worked because it wasn’t corny—it was a made up gnomish word. 
  • Teenager stereotypes. This is huge. When I see teenager stereotypes blended into the voice or the characters, it almost always puts me off. Teenagers are not a sum of their stereotypes, and relying on them in your writing, quite frankly, is lazy. You can do better–and teenagers deserve better. 


  • Listen to teenagers talk. A lot. Don’t have a teenager in your life? That’s fine—watch YA-centered TV shows and movies. They tend to feature teenagers who are effortlessly up to date with current slang, references, etc. Or go to your local mall and do a little (subtle) eavesdropping. Yes, really. It’s research. 
  • Read YA. By and large, the YA that’s published today (especially if it’s relatively recent) have great examples of successful YA voices. Read them. Learn from them. Write your own. (This step by the way? Not optional if you’re writing YA). 
  • Get critique partners. This is so ridiculously important—make sure you have beta readers and critique partners look at your work. I personally recommend having several rounds of betas and CPs, so you can see if the changes you made in the first round, for example, were as effective as you hoped. 

Would you add anything to either list? Unmentioned problems? Solutions?