Britain’s Fourteenth American Colony

Before the American Revolution, Great Britain did not have thirteen colonies in what became the United States. Sounds kind of crazy coming from a former history teacher like me, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true. How many colonies, then? Several more, but my focus will be on what some historians call Britain’s “fourteenth colony”: Mobile.

Mobile, 1780. Taken from Alabama Department of Archives and History

Mobile is situated at the mouth of the Mobile River, which spills into a thirty-mile-long bay emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s considered New Orleans’s sister city, as both were founded by the French: the Le Moyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, naval officers who played a significant role in Canadian settlement too. In 1711, they founded Mobile and seven years later, in 1718, New Orleans.

The thirteen American colonies we’ve all heard about were Britain’s original colonies. The other colonies— such as St. Augustine, Pensacola, and Mobile—came under British rule by the Treaty of Paris (February 20, 1763) which ended the French and Indian War. Before this treaty, St. Augustine and Pensacola had been under Spain’s rule whereas Mobile had been under French governance.

British Dominions, Treaty of Paris, 1763

The British divided her new possession on the Gulf Coast into two regions: East Florida and West Florida. St. Augustine was East Florida’s capital, and Pensacola was West Florida’s. West Florida’s boundary was set at the 31st parallel, and later, at the 32nd parallel. On October 20, 1763, the British under the command of Major Robert Farmar assumed command of Mobile.

Another consequence of the French and Indian War: France had to pay off a war debt. To help do this, it turned over New Orleans to Spain in 1763, in a separate treaty, as well as a vast tract of land called Spanish Louisiana. Later, Spain would give this land back to France.

In 1780, General Bernardo Galvez, Spain’s governor of Louisiana, captured Mobile. For several decades the city was under Spanish rule, but it easily fell to American forces on April 13,1813.


John A. Garraty. The American Nation: A History of the United States to 1877. NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1975.

Lucille Griffith, Alabama: A Documentary History to 1900, University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1968.

Malcolm C. McMillan, The Land Called Alabama, Austin, Texas: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1968.

“Spanish Culture in New Orleans,”

When to Tell, When to Show

“No fiction can or should be all showing and no telling” Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers, by David Madden.

For those of us who’ve been writing professionally for a long time, we’ve heard this mantra repeated often: “show, don’t tell.” Although this is good advice, beginning writers often take this to an extreme and never “tell.” As novelist David Madden said in my quote, good fiction is a blend of showing and telling. If all we do is show, we wear down our readers. If all we do is tell, we bore our readers. So then, what’s the balance? Here are a few tips.

Tips on Telling

Use telling to do the following things:

  • To establish setting and background. This is especially good for historical fiction when events must be placed within a historical context. Historical fiction has more telling in it than other genres. Thus, readers who read this genre expect it. However, don’t use long paragraphs and numerous pages of description. All that’s necessary is the description of a few things to give readers a sense of time and place. Long paragraphs of exposition bog down our stories.
  • Summarize unimportant events. If characters are eating, just tell the readers. However, if what they’re eating and saying is important, then show it in some detail. If a character crosses the street, there’s no need to go into detail (unless it’s important), so just say Jane crossed the street.
  • To move quickly in time or from one setting to another in a story.
  • To avoid repeating the same events over and over, use a narrative summary. For example, if it’s a story about NASCAR racing, use narrative summary till you need to show the final, climatic NASCAR event.

When to Show

Always show a dramatic event. For example, don’t write: John fought off the robbers. Instead, write a scene where we see him fighting the robbers. Let readers see the fists flying, hear the screams, feel the knife blades sticking into flesh, etc.

Always show a character’s emotion. For example, don’t write: Jane got angry. This is telling the emotion. How does Jane show anger? Not everyone shows anger in the same way. I once had a roommate in college who chuckled when he got angry. So, be original when you show emotion. Use fresh metaphors and similes to help readers can visualize it.

Well, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful as you continue your writing journey. Till next week!


Browne, Renni and Dave King. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, Second Edition. New York, New York: William M orrow, 2004

Madden, David. Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers. New York and Scarborough, Ontario: New American Library, a Plume Book, 1988.

Spice Up Your Writing: Four More Ways to Do It

Photo by Marta Branco on


Hyperboles are a great way to emphasize a point or help readers experience a character’s feelings. Sometimes, they can even be funny. They’re also great to use in dialogue because they add authenticity to our characters. After all, people use these figures of speech all the time. So, what are they?


Rebecca McClanahan, in her excellent book Word Painting, calls hyperboles exaggerated metaphors or similes. They’re exaggerations, or over-exaggeration, that aren’t meant to be understood literally.


Doug lives like a dog.

Does Doug literally live like a dog? Of course not. This expression just means he has a hard life.

My golf bag weighs a ton.

Well, let’s hope my golf clubs aren’t that heavy. I’m using a hyperbole to show that I’m struggling to carry such an overloaded golf bag.


“Well, bless your heart.”


Euphemisms express politeness when the opposite is intended.


If an American Southerner ever says to you, “bless your heart,” don’t take it as sympathy or a compliment. Why? Because where I come from, it’s a euphemism meant as an insult.

Here’s another example: “I didn’t buy a used car. I bought a pre-owned car.”


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1963


Repetitions in writing, whether they’re repeated words, phrases, or clauses, aren’t always bad. It depends on why the writer did it. Some of history’s greatest writers and speakers used this technique, anaphora, to good effect.


So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania… (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream,” August 28, 1963)


Litotes are negative expressions that mean its opposite—something positive.


You’ll be sorry you didn’t eat my wife’s pound cake.

Meaning: You’ll regret you didn’t eat it because the cake was delicious.

This ends my series on figures of speech. I hope you’ll use them to spice up your writing.


McClanahan, Rebecca. Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 1999.

Spice Up Your Writing: Alliteration, Assonance, and Onomatopoeia

Poets often use alliteration and assonance, but prose writers use these figures of speech too. I enjoy using them so much that I have to watch myself because I tend to use them too much.

Definition of Alliteration

The repetition of a word’s initial consonant sound or syllable.


Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Definition of Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds in words.

There was a Young Lady of Niger

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

In this limerick, attributed to William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840-1901), the “I” sound is repeated.

Reasons For Using Alliteration and Assonance

  • To create rhythm and music in our prose.
  • To set the mood.

Example of Mood

Look at the first line of Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He repeats the “d” sound and the “h” sound.

It was a dark and soundless day near the end of the year, and clouds were hanging low in the  heavens.



Onomatopoeias imitate sounds to the things they refer to. Sometimes they’re called figures of sound instead of a figure of speech. They’re good to use as a sensory detail, which helps bring our prose to life.  


Buzz, hiss, chug, puff

The train puffed and chugged up the steep track.

The coffee kettle hissed.