Genealogy: Taking Steps to Build a Family Tree

One of the new directions this website will be going, is Genealogy. A new tab will be added to the navigation bar at the top of the page, as well as a new category added to the sidebar.

I first became interested in my ancestors when my children were born about 20 years ago. Prior to that there was just me and my immediate family. There were no grand parents, aunts and uncles or cousins, let alone distant relatives. Of course, I had all these relatives, but the closest lived 3,000 kilometres away. I always considered myself from a very small family and when my sons were born, I suddenly developed an itch to know where we had come from.

Hence, the questions started. Back in those days, there wasn’t the convenience of the internet. Everything was done by post and everything took months before I started seeing results. I questioned my grandmother and her sister-in-law until they probably cringed every time they saw an envelope with my hand writing on it. But they were fantastic and patient, and provided me with a firm family tree foundation.

Later, many years later in fact, the internet popped up and after a while I restarted my search as I found new sites generating databases filled with valuable information. In the few years that followed my discovery of the internet, my family tree went from 200 or so people to over 6,500 people. Every name I found, spurred me to look some more. More importantly, I connected with other family members who were researching the same family names. These people were complete strangers, even though they were distant cousins, and now they are friends.

However, during those early years of research I made a terrible mistake. I didn’t “source” my information, which means that my family tree is virtually useless in genealogy circles. By the time I realised my mistake, I had gone too far to turn back…or so I thought.

Recently, only two weeks ago, I purchased a new version of the genealogy program I’ve been using for a couple of years. With that new version came the urge to record my tree correctly. Yes, it’s going to be a huge job, but in the long term, it will be worth my time and effort. I look at it like this…I am making an investment for my descentants. When someone looks at me as their ancestor, I want them to be grateful that I put a lot of time into building a tree that will make their life a lot easier. And to do that, it must be properly sourced.

That mammoth job will begin soon…and it will be recorded on this website.

Book Review: The Storm Weaver and the Sand

The Storm Weaver and the Sand : Bk 3. of the Change.

The Storm Weaver and the Sand by Sean Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Thursday I finished reading The Storm Weaver and the Sand by Sean Williams. It’s the last book of The Change Trilogy.

This book was rivetting from the first page. I found that I didn’t want to put it down and, when I had no choice but to do so, I was eager to return to the story. Being the last book in the set, the pace was a lot faster and all the loose ends were woven in soundly. By the time I got to the end of the book I was feeling upset as I knew the story was soon to end and I honestly didn’t want it to.

Just quickly, as in the other two books, the characters, setting and plot were exceptional. I especially liked the author’s “voice” as I find it easy to read and understand, which means it wasn’t distracting in any way. And I liked the messages the books put over too, and (in my opinion) the trilogy has several, but more on that in a minute.

As a writer, I found that I put this last book down and stared out the train’s window for the longest time as I thought about the manner in which the author put the trilogy together. It would be wonderful to sit with Sean Williams and talk about the planning of a project like this because to produce series of books would so well put together would be wonderful. Anyway, I feel I’d learn a lot from a conversation like this. Unfortunately for me, I interviewed Sean prior to finishing the trilogy (the interview is scheduled for tomorrow) and I now wish I could reinterview him so that I could focus on the planning of this trilogy alone.

So what did I really like?

I was impressed by how smoothly the ends were tied together (or woven in, as I prefer to think of it). There are no seams and everything fit together so naturally. It really was impressive.

I loved the depth of the characters. Whilst there were basic descriptions, I didn’t have to endure long, tiresome descriptions that lasted pages and pages (which is something I hate). Yet I had a vivid image of each character in my mind. I’m certain my image would be quite different to the images of other readers (and even the author’s own impressions), but that doesn’t matter. Readers create characters they can relate to in order to enjoy the story presented, I’ve always been aware of that.

The conflicts were realistic and easily related to. The author was clever in using everyday problems and showing growth through experience. As this is a young adult trilogy, I think those lessons are well presented.

I can’t forget the messages…and I mean that quite literally. I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for anyone else so I won’t go into them here, but I learned a lot from one of the stories within the story. It left a lasting impression on me and I am certain that I will remember the message of that story for ever more. I also liked the message given that our future is not set in stone and that it is within our power to change the future with every decision we make. A message like this gives hope to the reader and we all need hope, no matter what our age.

When I write reviews I always try to show the good and bad sides of the book. Sometimes, even the bad parts are nothing major, but with The Change Trilogy I have trouble coming up with anything negative to say. It really is a great reading experience and I’m glad I finally got around to reading these books (I had the first two on my book shelf for several years).

Highly recommended.

Scribe’s Writing Desk to Change Direction

Recently, I announced that I am shutting down Scribe’s Message Board. That closure will occur on Monday, 31 August 2009. The reason for the closure is mainly because I’m “all posted out”. Over the last eight years, I have talked about every aspect of writing. I doubt I wrote about every aspect of the publishing industry too, but I can’t write about something I haven’t experienced. It seems wrong somehow.

Anyway, that “all posted out” feeling extends to this website too. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve said everything there is for me to say, leaving little else to prattle on about. Yet I don’t feel ready to throw this site away (meaning I don’t want to delete it). So I’ve been thinking about the direction this website will take from here and I’ve decided to go back on something I said once before regarding personal posts.

There was a time when I was experiencing “attacks” through this website. Mostly the attacks were from people who disagreed with what I had written about and, in their (lack of) wisdom, they decided being nasty would force me to change my mind. Well, what can I say, being nasty never forces anyone to do anything, in fact, it will make them dig in their heels even more…it certainly doesn’t encourage the other person to listen to what is being said – those attacks were promptly deleted. However, some attacks were much worse…! I’ll say no more about those ones.

Yet, this is my web space and I think it’s up to me what appears here. If a visitor doesn’t like what they see or read, then they are free to leave and never return. With this in mind, I think I’ll expand into different topics – things that interest me, things I can write about. I will still give writing updates, but I think regular visitors will see an improvement in their quality as, at the moment, I feel I have a habit of droning on and on due to not having anything else to say.

I might even change the title of the site. It seems only fitting because it won’t technically be a writing desk anymore. I’ll give this a bit more thought, but feel free to offer suggestions if anything instantly comes to mind when you read this.

How Many Viewpoints are Acceptable?

Whist the homefront is relatively unchanged, no worse or better, I do feel easier within myself and find my focus is once again turning towards my writing projects. For one reason or another, I’ve had a couple of weeks break from writing and now I feel it’s time to get back into it.

Due to “life” I’m not sure if working on “Mirror Image” is a good idea. It’s a dark story based on real life events and emotions and I don’t think I would be able to handle the topic at the moment. Having said that, new ideas for improving the story have been flooding in. Ideas that cannot be ignored. I guess planning the rewrite won’t be as bad as actually doing the rewrite, so I’m going with the flow for the time being.

Putting the story aside, I want to talk about how the manuscript is arranged. There are three major points to consider here:

1. The current version of the story is written from six points of view.
2. Chapters are arranged on a daily basis – this means that some chapters are quite long and others are very short.
3. The scenes within the chapters are short – swapping between point of view characters often – allowing the reader to progress through the day with all the characters.

First off, I asked myself why do I have six points of view. Can they be justified? My reply is yes they can. Three points of view are told from within the problem and three are told from outsiders looking in. It is essential to the theme to get both points of view told as that is the only way to get “the message” across; and, as most readers will relate to the outsiders points of view better than the insiders points of view, it was important to me to show those people “the other side”.

But do I really need three points of view on each side? My original intent was to show that the topic is complex and no two people react the same way – and that is the case to both the insiders and outsiders. So while the readers are looking through the eyes of the three insiders and experiencing the topic first hand (but in three different ways), they are also experiencing the outsiders reaction to what is happening (also in three different ways). With all this information offered to them in one story, I am hoping the reader will approach real life situations in a different, more informed way. And, as the writer of this story, it was important to me to get this information across to the reader because I felt it is the only way to get the whole message across.

Let’s leave that point for a moment and move on to the next one – chapter arrangement. When I wrote the first draft, there was only two chapters. The first chapter ended at the climax (consisting of approximately 450 pages) and the second chapter tied everything together (about 20 pages). I knew this wouldn’t really be acceptable to readers, but at the same time I felt the short scenes compensated for that. However, I thought better of leaving the manuscript as it was and set about finding a way of breaking the content into chapters. It was extremely hard to do until a regular reader of this website made a couple of suggestions. Hence, the daily basis chapters, which I feel work well…and in some ways could give the reader a feeling of a countdown, which would increase the tension.

Now for the third point – the scenes. For me, swapping points of view in short scenes and doing this often was perfect for keeping the reader interested and keeping the suspense at a premium. My readers of the early drafts have not complained about the short scenes or the constant swapping of point of views. There was no confusion reported either. As the writer, I felt it was an ideal way to keep the fluff out too. I realise that some readers would find this annoying though, but…being aware that I can’t please everyone, I’ll do what I think is right for the story.

That’s where the manuscript is at. Now, I must move forward. My readers didn’t complain about the format, but they did complain about other stuff which means I already know that I have to do a rewrite. Having given myself some distance from the project, I can see that what has been said is right and I’m fine with the thought of a rewrite. But I’m straying off topic.

Let’s go back to the number of points of view. Six is a lot. I thought they were necessary to get the message across, but now I’m having second thoughts. This morning, whilst thinking about the rewrite plan, I found my thoughts pondering the point of view situation again. Six points of view means six story lines. Is that two much? I think it is and it might even distract from the overall story and message, which is something I definitely don’t want.

Then I had to scold myself because I realised that I am resisting deleting some of the points of view characters because I’m attached to their storylines and the way I’ve written them. As a writer, that is a bad thing (very, very bad) and I should know better than to let this happen. Holding onto something, anything, for that reason could inevitably ruin the manuscript as a whole and I’d be a fool if I didn’t realise this. I’m lots of things, but I’m not a fool.

With this in mind, I must look at the manuscript through different eyes. What is the best thing to do? Am I bogging it down with too much happening at once? My readers tell me it’s so dark it’s depressing and I know that if I leave it this way then the message will be lost. I’m also aware that the manuscript, as it is now, was written totally for me. I needed to explore my own emotions, fears and feelings, and having done that I now need to adjust their levels to help the story flow and to help the message get through to the public. I can’t stress how important this is to me.

Now I’m thinking of dropping back to two points of view – one from the insiders viewpoint and one for the outsider. If I do it right, I’ll still be able to include the other people’s reactions, but it will be totally from a third person view point instead of first hand. My only concern with this is that the impact won’t be as strong; therefore, not allowing the reader to grasp the full message I’m trying to put across. I will not be happy with a half message. The whole reason for the story is to leave the reader knowing the facts.

I have to figure out what I’m going to do before I start planning the rewrite, because it will make a lot of difference to the characters and the plot. Only now do I realise that I’m no closer to making a decision. *sigh*

When it’s Time to Relax

[frame align=”left”]resident-evil-5[/frame]No one can write all the time. Everyone has to have other hobbies in their lives to ensure a heavy, happy existence. Or so I’ve been told.

Anyway, one of the things I like to do when I’m not writing…is play role playing games on the Playstation. Most people stop and gape at me when I say I’m a Resident Evil fan. How could such a prim and proper woman of my age want to kill zombies? What can I say…I love it!

Except for the first game (which I used to own but sold once I completed it as I knew I’d never play it again), I own and have finished every Resident Evil game. My two favourites are the second and third games. They were especially hard to get through (thank heavens for walkthroughs online), but I have easily played both these games a couple of dozen times each. The suspense throughout these games made my heart pound at times as I tried frantically to kill a “boss” that just wouldn’t die. They were games that took my total concentration and stole many hours each time I sat down. Having said that, I got so good at them that I could sit down and finish the entire game, without a single save, in a little over an hour in the end. And, please excuse my bragging, but none of my family could beat my times and I was the only one to unlock Tofu in RE2.

The games after Nemesis (RE3) weren’t as good, but I still enjoyed them immensely. I guess once a Resident Evil fan, always a Resident Evil fan. Having said that, the worst game (in my opinion) is Outbreak – if you took the RE name off the cover, no one would have known it was connected to the other games. It was just too ordinary and felt the same as many other games. Up ‘til then, RE games stood apart from the rest.

[frame align=”center”]resident-evil-screenshot[/frame]

Anyway, earlier this year Resident Evil 5 was released. I had to get it and was lucky enough to get it at a bargain price (less than half price new) about a month ago. So Saturday night is now “kill the zombies” night and I’ll be heading off to do just that right after I’ve finished writing this post. RE5 is much better than Outbreak, but still lacks the old RE feel, which is a shame, but I’m still enjoying the game overall. As I said at the beginning of this post, I love to play role playing games on the Playstation. I have quite a few Playstation 2 games and my Playstation 3 collection is slowly growing. I have some great games, but Resident Evil is still my favourite. Closely followed by Silent Hill, which is get for creating atmosphere through fear (brilliantly done with the sound effects used).

My immediate family are used to the fact that I’m a killer on the weekends (a zombie killer that is). Other family and friends remain mind boggled over this fact, but it feels great to smash their “practical” image of me.

Everyone has an “evil” side, what’s yours?

The Foundation of Life

The last thing I want to discuss, in what seems to have become a series of posts about Life, is “personal independence”.

Before I get started, I’d like to share a link with you. The content relates well with this post – Personal Growth, Personal Independence: The Limit Is Me

If you followed the link, you may agree with the suggestion that the only person in charge of your life…is you. We can listen to other people, but in the end it is our choice when it comes to making a decision. If we allow another person to make decisions for us, that is also our own doing so we can’t complain. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but generally speaking the majority of us have control of our own lives.

I look around and see so many people unhealthily attached to someone else. They usually call this attachment…a relationship; meaning the person is their husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, or life partner – but they can’t see that they are dependent on that person.

Dependency on another person stifles a person’s growth. It affects their outlook and their confidence. It also affects the way they look at themselves. It makes them scared of things that shouldn’t even be thought of unless the thing actually happens. A person who is dependent on another is crushed to the point of believing that they cannot carry on when that person disappears from their life, ie divorce or death, whereas an independent person will still grieve, but they will be able to pick up the pieces…eventually.

My mother is dependent on my father. I know, without doubt, that should anything happen to my dad, my mum will give up on life altogether. I’ve seen it in her eyes and I’ve heard it in her voice when she thought she might loss him (medically; he’s fine now). However, if my mother goes before my father, he will be devastated but he’ll get through it. Neither of my parents planned for this to happen, it evolved over their 50 years of marriage and I doubt they are even fully aware that it occured.

In my own relationship, my partner refuses to let me become dependent on him. He wants me to be my own person and be strong for myself. He wants me to stand on my own two feet and face every obstacle head on. I could say he’s mean for doing that to me, but I know that he’s doing it because he loves me and cares about my future. If anything happened to him, he wants to know that I have the confidence to move through the grief and get on with my life (yes, he told me this).

In truth, no one should willingly give control of their life to someone else. No one should demand that of them. No one should willingly take it either. Anyone who does should have their motives questioned.

I believe that personal independence leads to the other important ingredients in life. This is what a happy life is built on. It makes for a firm foundation. And when something starts out strong there is more chance that it will survive the worst hurricane life can throw at it.

When you look in a mirror, do you like the person staring back at you?

Reaching Out for Happiness

This morning I was talking about Hope. This afternoon I want to talk about “happiness”. This is another complex topic that needs a lot of thought. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write about it effectively. But I’ll try.

To begin with, what is “happiness”?

Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness

I agree whole heartedly. When I’m feeling content, I’m usually happy. I sat back and thought about the people I know. Are they happy? Some are not, I know that without doubt. But others appear to be happy, yet I know they have a lot of problems, so are they really happy?

Thinking about this made me think about what these people have and if that makes a difference.

You might think that happy people have lots of money, are physically attractive, have great jobs, or own the latest gadgets. Or, you might just think happy people are plain lucky and are born that way.

Research suggests, however, that there are a number of variables that make a far greater contribution to happiness than external and superficial factors.

That doesn’t mean that if you have a lot of money you won’t be happy- or that having a lot of money is bad, it just means that other factors are more important in determining happiness. In fact, a strong positive relationship between job status/income/wealth and happiness only exists for those who live below the poverty line and/or who are unemployed.

What distinguishes happy people from the unhappy is their attitude – they have a different way of thinking about things and doing things. They interpret the world in a different way, and go about their lives in a different way.

Taken from http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/what-is-happiness

My friends who seem happy have huge mortgages, family issues and health issues. They have suffered loss and grief. One even talks about feeling isolated from her very elderly mother who is in her 90’s and who lives a very long way away. Yet when I’m around these people, they are always smiling and laughing. They are always cheerful and giving off the vibe that everything is good in the world. In their own way they are happy.

I know a person with absolutely nothing, except a few clothes, a bed to sleep in and the companionship of someone he loves. They don’t have what most households would call “essentials”, like a microwave oven or home beautifiers. They don’t own a car or have much money for extra (like holidays or Playstation games or dining out), but they are truly happy. Happiness radiates from this couple.

But what about me? What makes me happy?

It’s a really hard question to answer honestly. I think I would be truly happy if my worries and fears were taken away from me. That’s a pretty big ask and I look over what I’ve written and can see that my words make out that I’ve never been happy. That isn’t true. Happiness is just something that comes and goes, like the breeze through an open window or a summer shower.

I look back over my life and I believe I was truly happy as a child. I lived with my parents and brother. I’m aware now that my parents struggled financially, but they always took us out and about and although they never said the words, I knew I was loved. I never doubted it for a minute. Back then, I didn’t have to worry about mundane things like paying bills or how I was going to put food on the table. My biggest concern was whether or not the sun would be shining on the weekend, when we planned to go to the beach.

My father told me once that as a family we used to make the best of any situation. He would ensure we laughed … often. He would ensure we never wanted the expensive stuff because we were too exhausted from the active life he gave us to think about anything other than the next outing. Whilst other families were eating big meals in fancy restaurants, we were blackening bread over an open fire and calling it toast. Do you think the kids having that meal in the restaurant remember the meal they ate? No. But my brother and I remember that toast with fondness.

As an adult, happiness is harder to hold on to. But it’s all about the way we look at life, not the possessions we own. Feeling loved and secure has a lot to do with it, but isn’t a guarantee. Being happy is about making the most of the situations we find ourselves in. It’s about our attitude.

I’ve been through some tough times, but I’ve seen some good times too. I guess, in the end, we need the bad to appreciate the good. Happiness is achievable if we really want it. I believe we need to be realistic and be modest in our wants and then we’ll be able to reach out and take happiness in our hands. In my opinion, the key is to find ways to make us smile and laugh on a daily basis.

Have you laughed today? What would make you happy?

What “Hope” Means to Me

Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hopefulness is somewhat different from optimism in that hope is an emotional state, whereas optimism is a conclusion reached through a deliberate thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude.

– Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope

With recent happenings on the homefront, I find my mind is switching rapidly between writing issues and other issues. Yet, I think I need to suppress the writing urge for now and concentrate on the other stuff for a few days because my mind is running in wild circles.

For a reason unknown even to me I typed the word “hope” into a search engine today and the above quote is the first thing I read. This, in turn, got me thinking about what “hope” means to me and I’m going to share that with you.

At first, I thought the quote was entirely wrong but the longer I thought about it the more I realised that the definition is probably right. I’m not a person who wants the world. I’m not interested in new clothes every week; I’ll wear the same old stuff until they full off me (almost). I’m not interested in having wealth; although money does make life easier, I just want enough so that I don’t have to pinch from Paul to pay Peter (if you get my meaning). I’m not interested in being surrounded by expensive material things; almost everything I own is cheap and/or serves a purpose. All I’ve ever really asked for is peace and happiness. If I could have those two things, I’d be happy to not have anything else. Because, honestly, why would I need anything else.

To me, “hope” is not what I can get out of life, but knowing that the future will be brighter in some way. I think all our lives will be poorer without hope. Hope is something that I am trying to give my son at the moment. If he has hope, he’ll get through this terrible time he is enduring. It’s a shame it’s not something that I could purchase for himm because I would if I could – by the truck load!

Hope gives us a reason to get up in the morning and face another day. Without it, our minds turn to terrible, dark thoughts that can lead to nothing good.

What does “hope” mean to you?