Mom and Dad May be Gone but they Live On in My Series

Vintage Daze (2)

Author Lindsay Downs joins us today to celebrate National Family History Month. He shares how he uses family names and some traits from loved ones that have passed as a tribute to the footsteps they took in life. Join us as Lindsay shares this fun tale of using family names with a bit of a twist.

 

Mom and Dad May be Gone but they Live On in My Series

Lindsay Downs

I have been writing since 2006 and published starting in 2008. From then until the summer of 2017 I never wrote a genre where two important names, to me, would fit in comfortably. That happened last year when I decided to branch out and write historical murder mystery.

Lindsay2With the year and location selected—Los Angeles, CA in 1940 I had the perfect venue to use the names. An homage to my parents. Norton and Marguerite. Very rarely do I use her full name but call her Maggie instead.

In the past when I started writing a book I usually developed my main characters as I went along. This time was different. Relying on my memory to an extent I used many traits of my parents to create the fictional Norton and Maggie.

I also needed to give them an occupation. In real life my dad was a full professor in Medieval History but I wanted something more exciting. I made Norton a private detective, with a working relationship with the LAPD and FBI.

Mom had been a housewife, mother and nurse. For Maggie I made her Norton’s gal Friday who he, spoiler alert-marries in the first book, The Case of the Boarding House Murder.

Lindsay1Dad smoked so does Norton. Even though mom didn’t smoke I have Maggie enjoy the occasional cigarette.

My parents rarely partook of liquor so do Norton and Maggie. They prefer tonic water instead when they visit The Domino Club to listen to jazz, while mom and dad enjoyed classical music.

Over time I added more characters. These are secondary but equally important. However, their names were just that, names. In Book Two, The Case of the Missing Jewelry, I bring in another important name. Alicel. The “Alice” part is my grandmother’s first name and the “l” is the middle initial of my sister.

At the end of Book Five, Thee Case of the False Arrest, Maggie gives birth to the first of four children. This one is named Edward, which is my grandfather and step-uncle name.

Okay, let’s jump ahead a little over forty (40) years. For you writers out there when you have a story line churning around in your mind, and won’t go away, that’s when you have to sit your butt in the chair and start writing. That’s what happened with me.

In The Case of the Unknown Shooter, set in 1983, all four Upson children are grown, and have graduated college. Two sons, Edward and Thomas, which is a variation of my brother’s middle name Thompson, had served in the military. Edward in the Army, my mother was in the Army Nurse Corps in World War 2 and Thomas in the Navy, like my father who was an officer in World War 2. Unlike them Edward flew helicopters, Huey, and Thomas the F4 Phantom. They both served in Vietnam. Alice, the second and named for my sister and grandmother, worked for the State Department before opening the European branch of Upson & Upson Detective Agency in England.

Norton Upson, Jr., named after my father and his, never served. Not that he didn’t want to but he was given a 4F classification because of a medical problem. Eventually he earned a PhD in American History.

Having the two primary characters named after my parents helps bring the fictional ones to life.

 

Lindsay3I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.

My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favorite was regency followed closely by mystery. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.

Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America.

Where you can find me-

Facebook- https://tinyurl.com/y7z4mpda

Facebook page- https://tinyurl.com/y74mky2b

Amazon Author Page- https://tinyurl.com/ya2hyvas

 

Advertisements

On Memory – Writing Your Family Stories

Vintage Daze (2)

On Memory

Whether we’re writing memoir, historic documentation of a family history, or creating a fictional tale based on true beginnings, we rely heavily on memory – which has been proven to be imperfect.

Our own memories, even though we think we have perfect recall, may err drastically from what actually happened. The family members that we interview may be spot on in the memories they think of to tell you. Or, those moments may have been distorted by the passage of time and the many experiences that have occurred since.

A lot may vary just because of our own individual perceptions of an event. I was talking to a co-worker about this subject one day. There were three of us in the room discussing some now-forgotten work drama and how another employee’s version of what happened differed so drastically from theirs.

I commented that even if someone came in immediately after our conversation and recorded details about what happened – they’d get three different stories. There may be much in common, but we all pay attention to different details. One will recall the conversation with more accuracy. Another may not remember much at all because their mind was far away, dwelling on one of their own problems and they weren’t paying attention. Another may remember the clothing that was worn, or the perfume that filled the room, while with someone else the clothing or its color may not have even registered.

Next, add ten, twenty, or sixty years to the timeline. How accurate is that memory going to be?

In Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorbach tells a story that his sister likes to frequently re-tell. It involves a younger brother, sucking on a blue toy bolt until it stuck to his lip. The sister finally wrestled it off and when it came loose the younger brother’s lip swelled to tremendous proportions and everyone freaked.

Except…the author claims that his sister wasn’t there. He was. The bolt was yellow, not blue. And he and his mother both laughed about it. He writes,

“Memory is faulty. That’s one of the tenets of memory. And the reader comes to memoir understanding that memory is faulty, that the writer is going to challenge the limits of memory, which is quite different from lying.”

He also writes,

“Even facts distort: What’ remembered, recorded, is never the event itself, no matter how precise the measurement…”

Just be aware that our individual perceptions and the passage of time may alter what we try to convey as historical fact. Sometimes a bit of a disclaimer worked into the narrative may help smooth over some of the possible differences in account.

  • As far as I recollect…
  • The conversation went something like…
  • My ex – let’s call him Doofus James…
  • The story of how he got his first job bootlegging may be lost, but one can assume…
  • Though the details have been lost through the years, it most likely…

All in all, since we’re most likely not out looking for journalistic awards for this work, the important thing to know is that recording our family’s legacy is what’s important. As Carol Lachappelle, in Finding Your Voice Telling Your Stories, shares: The poet Anne Sexton wrote, “It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.”

Amana Rag Balls #10

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘green.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

amana2

Not used to working so studiously at a new task, Elsie’s stomach protested with annoying rumblings. She glanced furtively at Karin and Bridgett and was relieved to see that they wove away without seeming to notice. She was happy to have a piece of bread and a cookie tucked in her pocket. A nibble here and there pacified her angry tummy and soon only crumbs were left.

When Fraulein Helga called out for them to take a break, Elsie stretched and looked to her new friends.

They rose from their stools in unison. Karin flexed her fingers, shook her hands then motioned for Elsie to follow her. “Come Mausi – little mouse. We go eat.”

Bridgett stepped up beside them. “We’re lucky, working here with Fraeulein. Main Amana’s best community kitchen is just down the street.”

They strode down the meandering dirt lane. Elsie brushed her fingers along the brilliant colored hollyhocks lining the side of Fraeulein’s weaving hut. “I sure am glad I got to come work here. I was afraid I’d have to go work in one of the kitchens. I detest cooking. I would have hated to have to do that all day long.”

“Is this your first assignment?” Karin asked.

“Yes. My very first one. I told my dad I wanted to work in the wool mill with him, or the calico factory instead of being stuck in a kitchen.”

Karin shook her head in protest. “Ach, Liebling. No, you wouldn’t want to do that. Our Oma worked in the mill in Middle Amana. She was working there when it caught on fire. We were still little, but I remember how scared everyone was. They had to rebuild, so she started working here with Fraeulein Helga and worked here until her vision got so poor she couldn’t see well enough to continue. She always told us that this assignment was more pleasant.”

The road veered to the left and a cozy cottage appeared in Elsie’s view. As most of the buildings in the original village of Main Amana had, a riot of color exploded from mass of greenery in the flower beds surrounding the small brick building. The girls entered and found three empty seats together at one of the long tables lining the large common room. Elsie had a hard time deciding on what tempting goodies to put on her plate. As they ate, they chatted, getting to know one another.

The talk got back around to weaving and Bridgett spoke up. “If you do your work here well and Fraeulein’s happy with you, then you’ll probably be with us for a good long while. Why, we’ve been here almost four years now, haven’t we Karin?”

“Ja. Four years next month, on our 18th birthday.”

Elsie’s head swiveled, looking back and forth between the two girls. “You started together? Your birthday’s are in the same month?”

The girls grinned at each other and giggled.

Karin broke down first and offered an explanation. “Not only the same month. The same day.”

Elsie was still confused. “How funny. That’s unusual for two friends to have the same birthday.”

Bridgett leaned into Karin’s side and nudged her. “Not friends. Sisters. We’re twins.”

“You two are twins?” Elsie leaned back on her stool and furrowed her eyes, trying to see the resemblance.

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Just Start

Vintage Daze (2)Just start. Words that are often times easier to say than to do.

Do it now. This is I think one of the most important. Oh, how I wish I could go back in time fifteen or twenty years and listen to more stories from Grandma. I’d listen more intently, not with just half my attention. And I’d take notes. And record her! We think we’ll have time. Next month. Next summer. When I’m not so busy. And then – it’s too late. So do it now.

Just start echoes the thoughts of ‘Do it Now’, yet it’s slightly different too.

Sometimes we procrastinate and never get projects off the back burner because we’re waiting for everything to be perfect. We need the time. We need the resources. It’s like we’re waiting for all the planets to align and be in perfect position before we move. Excuse another cliche, but we spend so much time ‘getting our ducks in a row’ that we never make any progress on our project.

And another cliche, which we’re not supposed to use in our writing, but hey, when we’re on a roll…me telling you this is like the pot calling the kettle black. When I moved to Texas, naturally visiting a lot of the local historic cemeteries was on the agenda. At one I discovered a young girl, Mittie Ann Medlin, who was the first one buried in Medlin Cemetery, just a few miles from our house. She died young, in childbirth, not an uncommon occurrence in the mid 1850’s. She’s not a blood family relation, but I felt drawn to her and wanted to tell her tale. I researched a lot of Medlin family history and found out quite a bit about her. I wrote a few short pieces for guest blogs and two pieces in the local town publication. But I didn’t start her story yet – because I wasn’t ready. I wanted to be able to tell her story and do it well. I knew my writing wasn’t at a point that was ‘good enough’ yet.

So what happened?

The notebooks still sit on my shelf. Her tale still lives in my heart. Yet, it’s now almost ten years later and not a word has been written.

Just start.

You’ll probably never be done researching. There will always be more tidbits to discover, more facts to glean, more historical data to gather. Just start. Start gathering what you need. Start writing the words. With today’s new-fangled computers it’s so easy to add and revise. It’s not like we need to rip that paper out of the typewriter and start all over from the first word.

Just start.

gma_gpa2

Bea and Casey Jones – Grandma and Grandpa

What’s Stopping You?

Vintage Daze (2)

What’s stopping you from writing your family stories?

There are so many possible roadblocks that have the potential to bring a screeching halt to the writing world we envision. Some of them keep us mired in the land of “Someday I want to…’ and we never even leave that land to begin the project that dwells in our heart. Here are a few things that threaten to keep us stalled and not writing the family stories that we long to.

Lack of time: Lack of time is possibly one of the most common excuses I hear from many writers. Yes, it exists. Time is limited. And when it’s taken up by a job, a family, a house that needs cleaned and maintained, it doesn’t always leave a lot of writing time. Yet, I’ve discovered that on the days when I have a large chunk of time that I think I can make some major progress on a project, I end up frittering the afternoon away and I actually get less done than when I have less time available to write.

Can you get up 30 minutes or an hour earlier and use this time for writing? Can you enlist the aid of the family and ask for an hour of uninterrupted time in the evening so you can work on your project? Are there pieces you can take with you to work – notes or an outline you can make on a break, editing you can do while you eat your lunch? Is it possible to set aside one day, or one afternoon a month that you can devote to your family stories?

Not knowing where we’re going: I find that I make better progress when I have at least a vague idea of where I’m headed with a story or a project. If I know that in the next scene I want to work on a certain story – or the next chapter will deal with a specific topic – I find that I dive in faster and get more accomplished. You probably won’t need every specific detail outlined ahead of time, but at least having a general idea of your next few steps alleviates a lot of the stalling.

Not having all the details we need: Sometimes what bogs down our progress is not having all the details we need. We either don’t have the pieces, so we avoid starting. Or, we’re missing pieces and stop writing to go look details up. I find that I accomplish more if I keep writing and use either ‘XXX’ or ‘_____’ as placeholders where I need to insert a specific detail – be it a date, name, number or other item that I need to look up or research. Then when I’m done with the scene or essay, then I stop and research the items I need to fill in later.

We won’t think anyone will want to read what we write: A lack of self-confidence can pervade our souls and keep us from writing if we don’t think anyone will want to read what we write. Keep writing anyway. Tell that little devil that’s whispering in your ear to go away. Don’t worry about whether anyone else will want to read your words or not. Write for you. Write for the desire that fills your heart.

Procrastination: Ugh! I’m certainly not one to lecture about this. I’m not just your run of the mill procrastinator. I’m a Master Procrastinator. I can have a list on my desk of what I want to accomplish that afternoon. And I check Facebook. I check email. I make sure all the cat bowls are filled with crunchies. I double-check the pot of sunflowers out front and make sure they don’t need water. I run out to the mail box – for the third time – to see if the mails run yet. Yes, I can compete in the procrastination marathon with the best of them. But then at the end of the day I still don’t have a thing crossed off my list.

For myself, when I find myself starting to fall into this routine, I do best by forcing myself to choose one item on the list at a time. Okay – finish this ‘R’ blog…then I can go check the mail. Finish the draft of the Chicken Soup essay…then I’ll fill up the cat’s bowls. Add one scene to the family story…then I’ll go take the chicken out of the freezer.

I know there are other tricks that help combat the procrastination bug, but this is what works best for me.

Fear: Fears are very real and can derail our writing faster than anything. We don’t think we’re good enough. We don’t think our stories are exciting. We don’t think anyone will like our work. We think we’re horrible writers. We think…

There’s a bazillion things we’re afraid of. (Yes, bazillion is an actual number, and well documented I’m sure.) But we can’t let that stop us. Just keep writing. Acknowledge the fears. They’re not imagined. They are real and they are powerful. But try to banish them and jump into the writing water anyway, despite the fears.

Perfectionism: This is another very real problem that can stop our writing before we even get started. And it gets worse when we read something that’s written very well. (At least it does for me.) I’ll read a piece that is simply wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s lyrical. The words move the reader and read like a delightful sonnet. And I think…Oh, I can’t write like that! Somehow we expect that every word is going to flow straight from our hearts and minds, to our finger on the keyboard, and spill out onto the screen in front of us in absolute perfection. And if it doesn’t happen like that…then we’re just no good.

Rubbish! Even the best of the writers write, edit, cross out, revise again, and polish. I daresay that even Stephen King edits and changes from what he initially writes. Now, something he writes on a second or third draft may be a thousand times better than what I have on draft 100. We’re all learning and growing with our writing. I look back at something I wrote five years ago – something that I thought then was nicely done. I read it years later and think…Ugh! I wrote that trash?

Don’t let these roadblocks stop you or slow you down. In the words of a great many writing gurus…JUST WRITE!

A Tale of Two Sisters

Vintage Daze (2)

October is FAMILY HISTORY MONTH. To celebrate, we’ve lined up some special posts to commemorate family history.

Today, author Jillian Chantal, is a guest today, writing about a special family memory of her two great-aunts. How exciting it is to discover fun family tales like this – and it’s even more special when we get the chance to share them with others, keeping our families memories alive.

Welcome Jillian! Vintage Daze is honored to have you as a special guest today.

A Tale of Two Sisters

Jillian Chantal

Thanks to Trisha for allowing me to pop in and tell a little tale about my family and how important the past is to my work. I’ve long been a history buff as well as a lineage hound. When I first decided to make my foray into writing historical fiction, I was a bit daunted even though I’ve always been totally into history and had a lot of books and information at my disposal, I was terrified I’d get some fact wrong and the historical police would come and haul me off. Luckily, I got brave and found out I love going back in time to write characters who are on a quest for a happy life.

As to the lineage part of my love of history, we have a couple of our branches traced back pretty far. One in Scotland from the MacDonald clan and one from England where we were Greshams for many, many years. In fact, one of my Gresham ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. He was only fifteen when he enlisted. Which I think is pretty amazing.

Another one of our Gresham ancestors was Sir Thomas Gresham. He did a lot for his home country, including founding a university, the Bourse in London (where his golden grasshopper emblem is till atop the building), and he was the creator of Gresham’s law in economics. I’d encourage you to look him up. A fascinating man.

Family lore is a wonderful thing and I’ve drawn on it for some of my writing of historical tales. I used my great grandparents’ names and my great grandfather’s love of the Model T in one story called Carver’s Fall.  His first name was Carver and he was a wood worker. I fit that into the story as well as his wife’s real life name and sassy personality. I was lucky enough to know them both.

Jillians aunts.jpgToday, I thought I’d share a story about two of their daughters—sisters of my paternal grandfather—named Lydia Marie (called Lit by the family) and Louise (called Hoovey).

The two girls were very close in age. Hoovey was always pretty sickly and passed away way too young. Lit lived a very long time and I knew her as well.

Anyway, the family didn’t have a ton of money and the girls shared many things. One of the best pictures we have of them shows them dressed up in their finery. The only problem? They didn’t have two pairs of fancy shoes. They each wore one and posed the photo in such a way that it seems as if they were both wearing a full pair.

The part that’s lost to history was who got to wear them out that night to the dance they were attending and who had to settle for the not so nice shoes. I like to think they each wore them for half the night. Seems like the sisterly thing to do, right?

Do you have any fun historical tales from your own family? Comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of my new release, Lady Soldier.

Jill-ebook (2).jpg

 

BIO: Jillian Chantal is multi-published in the romance genre. She’s a lawyer by day and writer, amateur photographer and history buff by night. Jillian lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Florida and loves her little slice of paradise. But not too much to enjoy world-wide travel every chance she gets. After all, a writer and photographer needs new and exciting places to go and capture in order to stay fresh, right? And there’s nothing quite like seeing historical places in person, is there?

BUY LINK FOR LADY SOLDIER

Jillian loves to hear from readers. She can be found at her website www.JillianChantal.com or  http://www.facebook.com/jillian.chantal or

https://twitter.com/JillianChantal

Her books are available at http://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Chantal

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/jillian-chantal?store=allproducts&keyword=jillian+chantal

Amana Rag Balls #9

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls

Elsie thought how she was used to spending her afternoons in the outdoors, not sitting in a room working. She wondered how she would feel after endless days of this repetitive activity. As her mind wandered, her fingers proved that they weren’t accustomed to this new routine yet. Wrapping a strip, she fumbled and dropped the rag ball which went rolling across the floor, under a massive barn loom, leaving a ragged blue trail of denim colored strip.

Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment and her eyes darted around the room to see if anyone else had noticed. The heat deepened when she heard the two girls on the looms behind her chuckling. She bent to retrieve the run-away ball and when she stood, wiped at the corner of her eye, trying to hide the evidence of pooled tears.

One of the girls spoke in a soft voice. “New one, don’t fret. We shouldn’t have laughed. It’s just that you have no idea how many times we’ve each done the same.”

Elsie looked up and saw the kindness expressed in the girl’s eyes, ringed by a golden halo of braid wrapped around her head. “You have? Honest?”

The other girl with dark brunette braids, who looked to be the eldest of the three, joined in. “Cross our hearts. Why, to this day we still drop them, and we’ve been weaving for several years. I’m Karin, by the way.”

The first girl who spoken added, “I’m Bridgett.”

Elsie dropped her voice to a whisper. “How long am I to wind these balls before I learn to weave?”

Bridgett answered. “It won’t be long. Soon you’ll be at that empty loom instead of winding and winding. Although there’s still days that we wrap balls still. After all, we can’t weave a rug without all the supplies.”

Karin nodded in agreement. “Soon you’ll be weaving right alongside of us. They just don’t let you debut on a loom your first day here. You have to get a feel for the fibers first.”

Holding up her shuttle, Bridgett laughed. “Soon you’ll feel like you have one of these attached to the end of your arm. But before you get there, you’ll learn all about weft and warp and…”

“Are we working?” Fraulein Helga’s stern voice echoed back through the room.

The three girls quieted and Elsie returned to the table, clutching the errant blue run-away.

“Yes, ma’am,” Karin answered. “Just getting acquainted a bit.”

“Mind it doesn’t interfere with your duties.”

Elsie spoke up quickly. “No, ma’am, it won’t. They were simply reassuring me after I’d dropped a ball and was feeling clumsy.”

The three returned to their tasks and after a few minutes, a not-so-soft ‘Pssst’ sounded from the corner. Elsie looked up to see Karin looking in her direction. “When we break for lunch, come with Bridgett and I. We’ll eat together and fill you in on what you need to know.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website