Friday, September 12, 2014

Family Tree

When I was in grammar school, one of our assignments was to create a family tree. I don't remember if the assignment was in Social Studies or Geography, but I do remember making the chart of my grandparents, their children, and my immediate family. Many of my classmates had larger charts, but mine was short generation-wise and large family-wise.

Family trees and the importance of knowing family history popped up here and there in many of the books I read when I was young. Little Women followed by Little Men, Eight Cousins, and even Freckles, which had a side plot of tracking down a child left at an orphanage. Several series of horse and dog books emphasized lineage and traits passed down from parent to child. And then came Lord of the Rings with its various family lines of elf, dwarf, hobbit and humans all looking back to an important ancestor or down to a descendant destined for impressive deeds.

Sometime after college I decided to do some research into my family tree. According to my father, his father cut himself off from his family, which was why that side of the family only seemed to start with my grandfather. I contacted my father’s oldest sister and fortunately she was able to remember more about both my grandparents on that side, including names of great-grandparents.

My mother's side presented some difficulties, as my mother was an only child. Although my mother had died while I was in college, her aunt was still alive and could give details on my mother's father's side of the family back several generations. But not the maternal side. My mother's mother had been raised by her cousins. I still can't find out what happened to the parents.

It’s been interesting to watch the improvements and accessibility in doing family research. Back in 1979 I had to hire a researcher in Pennsylvania who could check courthouse and graveyard records for my Irish/English/German (my father's) side of the family. I could request census records on microfilm through interlibrary loan and spend evenings scanning street addresses to find households. Nowadays sites such as FamilySearch.org can let you look through those records for free and membership sites like Ancestry.com have even more records.

When I first started my family tree I hand drew charts listing and linking families. Over the years several companies sprang up with charts you could fill in and share online or print for relatives. Ancestry.com is what I use now. I've been contacted by relatives I never knew existed and it's great to see how the trees match. Research on my German side got a big boost after I heard from a previously unknown cousin on that side who was looking up baptismal records.

If you decide to research your family tree, don't be surprised at the reactions you might get from some family members. Back when I started, I'd send copies of the hand drawn charts out to my cousins, and while some were enthusiastic, I never got any details to add to the tree back from them. Not even about their children.

Some people are reluctant to share details about their trees because there are some "researchers" that add people to their trees without stopping to figure out dates and places. I've had three people add my great-grandparents to their trees and attach a marriage certificate from 1884 in West Derby, England, to them. However, in 1884 my great-grandparents had already had four kids and were in America. Somehow I doubt they would have made the trip back to England to get married.

Television shows like Who Do You Think You Are are great at drumming up interest in genealogical research, but present a false image of how difficult family research can be. I would love to have been able to walk into the National Archives in Dublin and have them present me with a list of my Irish ancestors. They do have access to a lot of paper records, but, as I learned last week, they start off the search with a number of the free databases accessible to anyone worldwide, such as FreeBMD, which is the birth/marriage/death index for England and Wales, 1837-1915; or Irish Genealogy.ie. There are also Facebook groups on genealogy in general and genealogy in specific areas.

There are several gaps difficult to fill. My problem with my mother's maternal line isn't helped by the fact that the records for the 1890 census for the U.S. were destroyed in a 1921 fire. Irish records have a similar problem in that a number of archives in Ireland for records before 1922 were destroyed by a fire there in 1922.

Still, genealogical research is fascinating in many ways. And it can be fun to turn that to the development of characters for fiction across several genres, not just family sagas. I'm currently working on a YA science fiction story about a girl who wants to be an explorer like her grandmother. Plotting out her family is important.

The Lord of the Rings and its companion books aren't the only books I've read with large family trees. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe is so extensive that there is a wiki to help keep track of the clan and its members. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series and Elizabeth Moon's Serrano series also stretch over several generations. C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series has important relationships between families determining the leadership of a planet.

Have you done any genealogical research? Do you enjoy fantasy stories with extensive family trees? Or family sagas?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RAMBLING BEV

You've heard of Rambling Rose and Rambling Man. Well, today I'm Rambling Bev. I can't concentrate this week. It's a week of birthdays and a week of deaths. It's also a week of good news. My MG/Tween novel that was due out in June of 2013, is going through the final proof before it's sent to the printer. I've waited a long time for this one. It was with another publisher for three years and then they went out of business. I'm so thankful I found another great publisher that liked the story and editors that caught all of my mistakes, and there were quite a few. So, very soon, you'll see STAR OF THE TEAM out in the world. Here's the cover, illustrated by the fabulous Aidana WillowRaven, published by 4RV Publishing.
 
 
Wait! I haven't finished rambling. Another MG/Tween contemporary novel, I LIVE IN A DOGHOUSE, is ready for line edits. Then a cover and I'm so happy about this one too. The e Book is due out in December from MuseItUp Publishing.
 
So this week has happy memories. It has sad memories. The past is past. The future is ahead.
 
Happy Reading!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall is coming, and the wheel turns again...

Hey all!
A week ago, more or less, was supposed to be the release date for A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON. The day came and went, and I guess I would have been sad, except that the closing of Strange Chemistry was not the end of my book.

I posted this on my blog, but I want to spread the word!


So not the end! Just a new beginning. Yay!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back To School - Back To Routine

It's back to school day in our house today. Can't say anyone is too happy about it. It's also a little bittersweet. This is my daughter's Senior year of high school. This is the last public school first day she's going to have.

And as much as I've enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of the summer (by which I mean specifically not having to make sure my 14-year-old is up at a specific time) I am looking forward to getting back to a writing routine.

August was particularly unproductive, largely because I spent a lot of time not home, between vacation and college visits. But now things will revert to routine and I can get productive again. I've got several projects to work on. My fourth Ali book is waiting a final read-through and edit before handing it in to my publisher. I have another book that needs to move beyond the first draft state and get gussied up in revisions, and right now I'm working on a first draft of another book. Routine will do me good.

In other news, and another reason to be happy about September, my third Ali book, HONESTLY, ALI will be available very soon. Saw a concept cover today and can't wait to share the final product. In HONESTLY, ALI, Ali finds herself dealing with a lot of academic and friend issues it's a perfect back to school read.

Hope you all have a productive September!
And as a bonus back-to-school picture from when the kids were still in elementary school.
How time flies! (My son is now a head taller than his sister)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fun News!

I'm really excited to share this news!

I'm going to be speaking on a panel at #Kidlitcon this October!

http://www.kidlitosphere.org/kidlitcon/


The theme of the Kidlitcon conference this year is diversity!

You all know how I feel about this topic:



Here's the schedule for the conference.  I'm speaking Friday at 10am with other bloggers:

Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?October 11 and 12, 2014  Tsakopoulos Library GalleriaSacramento, CA
(Link to Registration Form) (Link to KidLitCon Main Page)
Friday, October 11 
8:30-9:30 Registration
9:30-9:55  Welcome and Opening Remarks
10-10:50 A  Finding Your Voice, Finding Your Passion- Blogging With Conviction 
Charlotte Taylor Charlotte’s Library
Blogging is hard work, made easier by passion. Having an intense focus (such as a passion for some aspect of diversity, or some particular sub-genre) can both motivate the blogger and help the blog find its audience. But passion and conviction by themselves aren’t enough to make a blog a success for both its writer(s) and its readers—you have to be able to communicate them effectively. Topics in this session will include how to find the voice, or voices, that work for you, and how to use them to make a stronger, more powerful blog. 
10-10:50 B   Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA
Nathalie Mvondo Multiculturalism Rocks!Gayle Pitman The Active VoiceKim Baccellia Si, Se Puede- Yes, You Can! 
Many bloggers want to review more diverse books, but are uncertain about where to find the best ones, and are uncertain how to evaluate and promote them. This session, featuring three bloggers who focus on multicultural and LBGT books,  will help bloggers get diverse books onto their blogs and into the hand so young readers.  

I'm very excited!  


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Switching Hats

Like most of us on this list, I imagine, I have been writing since I was really little. Poems, stories, and later, novels. I have always been at work on something. This started in third grade and continued not only through high school and college, but also into my working life. I graduated with a degree I would never use and spent my life before the kids came along working at entry level jobs: clerk typist, receptionist, educational aide. I am not knocking these jobs or the people who do them. A lot of these positions require both juggling and mind-reading skills -especially depending on the manager- and I respect everyone who does this type of work.

My goal, though, was to find positions that paid well enough, but that would not accidentally spring-board me into a career. Entry level was my best bet. And I know I chose every job I ever had, even when I went back to the work force when my kids were old enough, for the conservation of mental energy. If I had had a career that demanded 100 percent of my attention 100 percent of the time, I would have nothing left for writing.

And writing has always been the thing for me, something always present, always at the back of my mind. I know you all understand what it's like to have characters living in your brain, to watch snippets of scenes in your mind, or catch a particularly brilliant line of dialogue running through your head. I needed my brain free enough to receive all of those wonderful creative impulses, so I took work that would not interfere with the signal.

Now, however, the old brain (and I do mean one that is aging) is not quite as agile and versatile as it once was. I decided to try something new, went back to school, and now have a part-time position in the health-care field. Although my responsibilities do not entail a person's life or death, they do involve accuracy, precision, and hands-on patient care. In other words, my mind needs to be totally focused on my work. All of the time.

Because of that, I need to shut down the creative signal when I am on the job. This is the first time in my life I have ever done this, and it is playing havoc with my writing when I am at home in front of my keyboard. It's driving me crazy. Switching the writing flow on and off is not easy for me, and when I do a day at work, it is hard to settle back into my story when I have the next day off. And vice versa. I sometimes go into the office with my head crammed full of story details and it is the devil's own work to clear that out so I can pay attention to my professional tasks.

So I am asking, no, begging for help. How do all of you handle this constant switching? If you are not home earning a living through your writing, if you are still holding down a day job, how do you do it? I'd sure love some advice or some tips. In lieu of a split personality, I could use some serious coping skills!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Characters with Disabilities

A guest post by my friend Trish Wooldridge on how she came to write her new book, Silent Starsong.

***

I didn't write Silent Starsong for the purpose of being one of the few children's books that feature characters with disabilities. In fact, during my drafting and research, I was actually pretty scared and unsure...looking for an excuse not to write the story. I even tried to put the characters up for adoption to my writers group. “This is not my story to tell!”

But, of course, it was. My writers group told me to writer-up and glue my butt to the chair in Kyra’s and Marne’s names. That’s why the characters popped into my head. That’s why they wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote and wrote and wrote.

You see, I’ve never been deaf. And Kyra is. She and Marne explained this to me within seconds of appearing in my head and demanding my attention. I have family members who have gone deaf. And blind. Some have many other disabilities, most invisible, actually. But what if I got something wrong? What if I offended people? What right did I, someone who can hear rather well, have to pen this story?

So, I did what (I’d hope) any socially conscious writer would do. I researched. I spoke with people who were deaf. I went to a friend who was teaching music for the deaf for several interviews.

Did I screw up? Not that any of my readers have told me, but not everyone’s journey is the same. And there are still reviews coming in. One hearing impaired person’s experience is not the same as any other; not every individual person’s life, hardship, and triumph is the same. None of us can assume one story is representative of any category, no matter how we slice it.

But Kyra was sure of her story. And so was Marne. I’m not a little pink alien with telepathy or telekinesis either... but those of us who write science fiction and fantasy tend to feel fairly comfortable with representing aliens or faerie or more fantastic creatures; we haven’t yet met ones who we could actually offend yet.

So I wrote. And researched. And wrote. Kyra and Marne lived and breathed on the page. I had to think about writing with only four senses for Kyra’s point of view, a hard-to-break habit after years of being told, “show all five senses.” I had to consider the difficulties in lip-reading, how she’d feel about telepathy, how other languages, how she would interpret the feel of sounds. How people would treat her.

I didn’t intend to write about a character with a disability, and really, that’s still not what I think the story is about. The story is about two outcasts, two young persons that “don’t fit in” and have to overcome difficulties and grow and be heroes and friends for each other. It’s a story I hope any child can relate to. I hope Kyra and Marne can be the friends and heroes for the many children who get picked on, who are left out, who want to change the world and make it more accepting. I want them to be “people” readers can relate to.

Maybe, though, for the children who don’t fit in or get picked on because they have a disability, Kyra can be a special hero and friend for them.

About the book:

Order Silent Starsong on Amazon
Order Silent Starsong on Barnes & Noble
ISBN: 978-1-939392-93-0
ISBN ebook: 978-1-939392-94-7
Price: $7.95
Appropriate for ages 10 & up







About the Author:

T.J. Wooldridge is the child-friendly persona of Trisha J. Wooldridge, who reviews dining establishments in Faerie for her local Worcester-area paper (much to all the natives' confusion) and writes grown-up horror short stories that occasionally win awards (EPIC 2008, 2009 for anthologies Bad-A$$ Faeries 2 and Bad-A$$ Faeries 3). The Spencer Hill Press anthologies UnCONventional (January 2012) and Doorways to Extra Time (August 2013) are both her "babies." Her novels include The Kelpie (December 2013) and The Earl's Childe (2015) in the MacArthur Family Chronicles series, and Silent Starsong (July 2014) in the Adventures of Kyra Starbard series. Find out more at www.anovelfriend.com