Tag Archives: genealogy

Maybe Outlines are Good?

I’m still working on coming up with a plot line for my Salem Witch Trial book.  I’m getting somewhere though…Faith, my character, is starting to come together a little bit.  I’m seeing a bit of her family dynamic, and how it is that she stumbles into the past.  I guess you could say I’m writing a bit of an…OUTLINE! Ugh! I’m really not an outline writer…I don’t want to have too much planned out because I like to let the story flow whatever direction it needs to go in and if I have an outline, I’ll be worrying about trying to fix a square peg into a round hole (if you will). I think that was a little of my problem with my first book.  Like, I knew one of my characters had to return to the story to meet his destiny, but I struggled for a long while trying to figure out how that was going to happen, after he walked out of the story earlier.

Before I go any further with anything even resembling an outline, I think I just need to start writing Faith’s story and let the characters lead the way.

But, I’m also still researching…I have a book called Writer’s Guide to Places, so I can get a little information about Salem. Certainly I can do internet research as well. I’m writing about a place I’ve never been, so I want to have a little information before I begin.

In other writing news

Well, maybe not writing news, but I’ve started doing book reviews for IndieReader. It might be a good resource for my first book, if I decide to go the self-publishing route. In the meantime, I’m helping fellow writers promote their books with reviews. It’s fun and I’m reading some books I wouldn’t necessarily seek out on my own. This is good for broadening my horizons as well as adding some publicity to other authors. My last review was a children’s book. I’ve always thought I might like to write children’s books, but I know I don’t have the skills to illustrate it, so I’ve never given it much more thought than that. Never say never!

Writers should read

“They” always say that writers should be voracious readers. I’ve been taking that to heart lately.  Right now, I’ve got four books I’m reading (in addition to the one I’m reviewing):

We Are Charleston – written about the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church Tragedy here in Charleston.

Who Do You Think You Are? – for the budding Genealogist that I am. I had no idea that census records had to wait so long (75 years!) before they can be made public.  I never thought about the privacy issue. Now, like other long time genealogists, I’m not so patiently waiting for 2025 for the release of the 1950 census. I’ve sadly realized that the information I’m looking for about my grandmother might not be reflected in the census record.  She was 14 in 1940 and will be 24 in 1950…already married with children. I was hoping to document her time spent living with a family as a teen because she and her father didn’t see eye to eye. The census records will completely miss this.

Memoir Your Way  – in the same vein, I’m hoping this book can give me a head start on preserving some of the family stories and organizing photos.  It hasn’t been helpful for the latter, but I’m just getting to the chapters about writing the stories.

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank – a book of short, humorous essays written about life in the south. These are perfect little bits to read during my lunch half-hour.

Meanwhile…

This is the look Ralphie is giving me because, dang it mom, we should be playing right now, not blogging!

bored Ralphie

He couldn’t care less that I’ve got self-imposed deadlines to keep! If he can guilt me out of my desk chair, he will happily do it. Do I look pitiful enough yet? No? Let me try again…you look away from me and back again and I’ll have something even better!

I better get to work before he DOES come up with something better. Poor little guy!

 

 

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The Search for Beta Readers

I think I’ve found a couple of people to be Beta Readers for my book. In my last post, I mentioned the Beta Reader website I found. Today I got an email from them that someone requested to read my book.

I also belong to City-Data where I can participate in various forums of interest. In one of the writing threads, someone said they would be happy to beta read for me.

Tonight I’ll reach out to both of them and we’ll get the ball rolling.  Which is exciting because I really want this book to see the light of day and I know it takes a lot of work for that to happen.  Hopefully, this will be a successful next step in getting onto bookstore shelves.

New Book

My new book isn’t much further than it was last time. I’ve done a little free-writing, but I need to work on coming up with more of a plot.

Genealogy

In other news, I was finally able to get a positive ID on a photo from my Grandma’s house. It felt like there was some kind of significance to the church, since they had it matted and framed.

Now that I’ve identified it, hopefully it will help me to find out what was so important to my family that they kept a framed picture of it all of these years.

After living in Charleston, SC all this time, you would think I was used to seeing buildings in almost the same condition they were in over 100 years ago. It never ceases to amaze me, though. After all the years that pass…weather events, wars, fire, and all other manner of natural disaster, some of these buildings manage to live through it all. It’s buildings like this that you can feel the history breathing in the walls. It’s almost like you can touch a window and touch the hand of someone else from an earlier time.

I love that connection to the past.

 

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Book Edits and Other Distractions

As I mentioned, I went back home to Wisconsin in September to help Mom after her knee replacement surgery.  This was the second knee, so hopefully I’m done making caretaker visits for a while. This time around, it seemed more stressful for me.  This is becoming old hat for Mom, but there was a new wrinkle this time – her Greyhound, Stella, had a bad leg.  And when I say “bad leg” it’s the she’s-holding-it-up-in-the-air-refusing-to-use-it-even-to-balance-herself-when-she-pees variety of a bad leg. The first time I had to pick the 65 pound dog up off the kitchen floor because she slipped and couldn’t get back up, I got more intimately involved in her health care. No way am I going to just let this be when Mom is currently in no shape to pick her shoes up off the floor, let alone a tall, gangly, retired racing dog. (My bad knees weren’t happy about doing it, but she for sure couldn’t have.)  There was a Vet visit while I was there and then I encouraged a follow-up visit with an Orthopedic Vet. (We’ve since found out that Stella has bone cancer.)

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The above pic is Stella in healthier days, hogging the bed.

And naturally, while all of this was going on, Hurricane Florence was brewing in the Atlantic, scheduled to make landfall halfway through my visit. I was safe, but my husband and my fur babies were still in South Carolina and I was stressed and distracted (and short-tempered) because I felt guilty about not being there to help my husband prepare for the storm and evacuate if it had come to that. Fortunately, Charleston was spared, but it was hit or miss for the better part of a week.

I spent a fair amount of time comforting myself with food:

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The above gem is a Ponza Rotta from Jimmy’s Grotto. They are a-mazing! How can you not love pizza toppings inside a deep fried crust?!?!  Mom’s hand there almost doesn’t do it justice…it might be as long as her hand, but it’s puffed up full of deliciously greasy toppings.  I have a list of places I need to eat and things I need to get while I’m in Wisconsin because I can’t get them in South Carolina.  The Ponza is one of them. I also must get cheese curds (real, good, “squeeky cheese” curds), a kringle, Taco John’s, and Culver’s frozen custard (preferrably Bonfire Smores). Culvers will soon be opening a location near me, so soon I can feed that craving whenever I want.

So, yeah, I fed my stressed out self really well….

Genealogy 

On the plus side, my aunt, cousin and I were able to go visit with my aunt’s cousin (my second cousin?) where we learned more about our family tree.  There was a lot of information I already knew, but there was some very interesting new information as well.

Apparently, you can have a DNA test done by National Geographic. Their website states:

Discover the complete story of your ancestors’ journey from 200,000 years ago to today with National Geographic’s Genographic Project and our Ancestry DNA kit, Geno 2.0. 

National Geographic’s Genographic Project uses DNA analysis and cutting-edge technology to answer fundamental questions about where we originated and how our ancestors came to populate the Earth. 

To the best of what I understand (I’ll admit, I haven’t dug too far into it since I’ve been back home, although I plan to) this DNA test will show you where your DNA line comes from and they lead you through the earliest progression of your ancestors’ migration.  They will also tell you names of famous people in history that you share DNA with.  This is the most interesting part, because we share DNA with, among others, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Ben Franklin, Napoleon, King Richard III and Jesse James (this thrills me to no end, because I’ve always had a fascination with gangsters).

Book Edits, Round One ~ Done

And, as promised, I got the edits back from my friend so I can get back to work on the next draft of my book.

Of course, I haven’t started yet.

But I have another work event coming up next week and I expect I’ll have some downtime to start digging in.

My Old Person Knees

My physical therapy and chiropractic care for my knees continues. The treatment goes till the first week of December, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I go three times a week, so it commands a decent amount of my time. Slowly but surely, I am noticing my knees are feeling a little better, which is encouraging.

Fall TV Time!

And, of course, Fall TV is back from summer hiatus. The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Modern Family….oh, how I’ve missed you all! And I picked up a few new shows, like The Cool Kids and God Friended Me.

And now Hurricane Michael is churning in the Gulf….

 

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First Round of Edits

Well, I finally made it through my first round of edits.  I think I might have more work to do.  We’ll see what my friend thinks next month when we get together to go over it, but I believe I have some beefing up to do.  I’m not sure what parts of the story or what exactly to add, but hopefully she will have some ideas.  Maybe just spots where the story obviously trips over a metaphorical rock that, being too close to the story, I have missed. I still think I want to end it in the same place though. Taking the story on further will mean moving it into probably double the length.  Because once it heads in the direction it is going, it would need to keep going, I feel, through the complete next stage of her life.

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This is also why editing goes slowly…Jack helping.

To be frank, going double the length wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen…right now, I’ve estimated that my book is less than 200 pages long.  That seems like a bit of a let down after all the work that has gone into it. Certainly beefing up other parts of the story will add pages too though.

I’m rambling just a little, I think.  haha.  It’s 6:30am on a Saturday (!!) and my cats woke me up, looking to be fed.  In their defense, the pain in my lower back made their task far easier to accomplish.

As it has turned out, I haven’t blogged much this summer at all.  I’ve been preoccupied with knee pain. It hurts so much that I look like someone twenty years older trying to do stairs or sit down and stand back up again. If I don’t do something, I’m looking at a life of doing nothing but sitting and I cannot accept that.

Because I can’t really exercise, I’ve tried to find another way to get control of some of the excess weight that is putting stress on my joints.  I’m having warm sculpting done on my abdomen.  I’m halfway through a series of four visits and it would appear to be having some positive effects ~ when I was weighed at the doctor’s office, I was down ten pounds.  Not nearly enough weight lost yet, but certainly heading in the right direction.

On Facebook, I was seeing advertisements from a local health care facility that promises a more holistic solution to joint pain.  I had gone to a doctor in the spring who just wanted to slap a band-aid on my knees, in the form of cortisone shots. I’ve never been a “slap a band-aid on it” kind of girl (plus I hate needles) so I wanted to find a correction to the problem, not simply a mask for the pain.

So, now I’m preparing to begin my journey of recovery with a combination of chiropractic, physical therapy, and knee braces. Because, let me tell you, my skeleton is a hot mess.  One shoulder sits higher than the other, one hip is higher than the other and my knee caps are up and out from where they are supposed to be.  It’s painful to even look at that particular x-ray.  I’m all self-conscious now, like I resemble the hunchback of Notre Dame.  It’s truly not noticeable, but my head has turned it into this great big flashing neon orange spotlight.

On a more positive note, we had friends in town for a visit as well.  We went to Pounce Cat Cafe in downtown Charleston.  Oooo, let me tell you, if I wasn’t already four cats deep, there are two I would have adopted on the spot.  Look at how cute they are! The one on the right is Charlotte.  She was SO lovey dovey.  My husband and I sat and pet her for a long time. I don’t recall the name of the one on the left.  The shelter brought her there right before we left. So beautiful, though!

We wandered around on the Mt. Pleasant Fishing Pier, hoping to see a dolphin or two.  We didn’t see any, but we did get to watch a guy reel in someone else’s fishing rod from the depths of the Cooper River.  It made us laugh.  Apparently, someone had a bad day fishing and he decided the fishing rod was the problem.  Or perhaps he caught something he couldn’t land (a Bull Shark, perhaps?) and the rod was pulled out of his grasp?

We also made time for one of my favorite activities ~ a ghost tour. We took a tour I’ve 20180804_203258done before, but we had a different tour guide, so we literally got a different tour.  Certainly some of the information is the same, but I love it and I can listen to the tour guides talk about Charleston’s ghosts all day long.

And of course, genealogy is still taking up a fair amount of my time. My husband and I took a DNA test with Ancestry.com this summer and got our results back a few weeks ago.  Mine wasn’t really a surprise, with the research that I’ve already done, but my husband’s was interesting.  I’ve always believed he was half German and half Irish.  I suppose my brain remembered what it wanted to from way back when my husband and I were dating. He’s 56% German, which makes perfect sense (his mom was born in Germany), but he’s only 7% Irish.  I found it fascinating that I’m more Irish than he is.

I’ve also been digging into his Dad’s side of the family and finding pictures of his ancestors that have been posted by other people.  I can’t wait to show his family what I’ve found so they can affirm I’m on the right track or tell me I’m crazy.  haha.

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Slow Edits

I’ve started editing my first draft, but it’s been slow going.  First, I took a much deserved (I thought) break from the story.  I wanted to clear my mind of it so I could come back to it with fresh eyes.  I needed to think about whether it was really done, or if a book two was really in the cards, since I have a couple of new ideas percolating.  And, on my less confident days, I wondered whether or not the whole 44,000 words should be taken out to the fire pit and turned into ashes.

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Editing with my timeline

Now that I’ve taken a couple of weeks to get my head realigned, I’ve started to read  my story with an eye for making sure I have my details in order. I’m writing historical fiction and I have to make sure my characters are aging properly and things are falling in line with what’s going on in the world. So, I going through on this read, writing down dates in the margins, names of minor characters, in case they reappear and I’ve given them a different name.  (Because I did.)

Meanwhile my BFF, who also has a degree in professional writing, has a copy that she is also editing.  First reading the story to make sure everything rolls smoothly and then back for detail edits like grammar and what not.

I fully expect to get the pages back in September covered in red ink.  🙂

Wait, September?

Yep, you read that right.  I’ll be back in Wisconsin while my Mom has her second knee replaced the beginning of September, so my BFF and I are going to make a point of both having read and edited my draft and then will get together and discuss it.  I’m a little nervous.  I mean, she’s my friend, so she’s not gonna be cruel, but the words are still my babies and what if it is the worst bit of drivel she’s read ever in her life? Out to the fire pit with you!

Genealogy

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Grandma’s hand written tree and family notes.

But seriously, the long and the short of it is I have all summer to edit.  So, I’ve been focusing a little more energy on my genealogy.  I’ve got a couple of branches of the tree all the way back to the 1600s!  I’m pretty excited about it.  Ancestry.com is really the bomb when it comes to making the searching a little easier. I don’t have the finances to travel around the world, looking for stories like the stars do on Who Do You Think You Are? but I’ve got a few stories from my Grandma’s papers and a cassette tape with my Great Aunt Helen’s stories (that I better listen to one of these days, before cassette players are obsolete).

And there are all the stories I have yet to discover surrounding why different family members came to America.  To say nothing of the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and others.  My Dad was in Vietnam and the letters he wrote home to my mom are full of ideas for another story.  I’d like to follow him through his Air Force service and match up what he was doing (he was an aircraft mechanic, not on the front lines) with what was going on in Vietnam proper.

The family stories I’m not interested in publishing, necessarily, but in preserving them for my niece so that she has these family stories to share with her own children someday. I think it’s important to have an anchor…to know where you come from as much as you can.  All the history you read means little when it’s based on strangers.  When you find out your five-times great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, well, suddenly that part of United States history becomes more real.  You belong to that history now and you want to learn more.

But who knows…I might find a story buried somewhere in my family’s past that I can’t help but turn into the next Great American Novel. But first, back to my edits….

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If Genealogy was an Olympic event, I might be on the podium.

I’ve got to say, I was disappointed by the Olympics coverage by my local TV channel. I only watch figure skating during the winter Olympics.  I don’t have any interest in skiing, snow boarding, the luge or even speed skating.  Figure skating is all I want to see. Prime time coverage in my neck of the woods was largely everything BUT figure skating. I had to go to another channel, covering the Olympics 24/7 to catch it.

But that was enough to fill my entire evening for…what, two weeks?…a week and a half?  In fact, I still have the final skating exhibition to watch – I think I’ll hit my DVR next.

So, of course, no writing happened during this time. The U.S. didn’t fare well, and I got into the competition between the two Russian skaters, Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova. I was as outraged as everyone else when Zagitova all but stole (in my opinion) the gold from Medvedeva.

And, I say I have no interest in skiing, but I did watch Lindsey Vonn. I caught a little bit of snow boarding and saw Shaun White win gold again.

As you know, I came back from my Mom’s house with all those boxes of family history.  I still haven’t gone through the photos, but the documents I found, were amazing.  And most of them provided fewer answers than they caused more questions. I was as dedicated to going through these documents as if I was training for an Olympic competition.  That’s all I did for several weeks.  I would call my Mom every time I found something interesting and it got to the point where she stopped saying “Hello?”  And started answering the phone with, “What did you find now?”

Like, why would your great grandparents, who spent their whole lives in Wisconsin (as far as we knew) get married by a Justice of the Peace in Illinois? And why would your great grandma have joined a church in Chicago 4 years before the wedding?

This same great grandma kept a receipt from a drugstore for Diphtheria anti-toxin in 1931. Had she been sick? Had my grandfather been sick? I found it in her Bible and it seemed like a strange thing to keep all those years. And why was the mother on my great grandfather’s birth certificate crossed out and replaced with a different woman’s name? Was it just a clerical error or something else?

And this is just TWO people from a family tree that includes one known Civil War soldier and one Revolutionary War soldier (not the same side of the family, but you know what I mean). What other things will I find? It’s so exciting to think about!

My 2 times great grandma kept the baptism record for her baby boy who died at 6 months old in 1898. I know because I have the document hanging on the wall in my office. She was born in Germany and most of the documents I have for her are in German (the one for her son included). She came to this country with her parents when she was 8 years old. I’m so interested to learn more about her.

I love reading my grandma’s diary from 1947.  Each day, I’m reading that same day and thinking about what was going on in her life all those years ago. On the 4th of March, 1947, she and Grandpa had gone to see Easy Come, Easy Go and then went for a drive. I wish we had found more diaries.  I don’t know if this is the only one there was or if perhaps others of them just hadn’t survived.

So, I have started trying to do some research.  I started with my great-grandparents, figuring those records would be more current and perhaps easier to find.  So far, nothing about this whole Illinois phase. I wish I had unlimited resources and could do a So Who Do You Think You Are approach to learning my family history.  Traveling around…making appointments with historians and genealogists who do all the searching for you and hand you the documents when you arrive. How awesome would that be? Ah, if only money grew on trees!

Basically, I was so deep in the Olympics and the family records that I blinked and February was over.

 

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