Thanksgiving …. And all I’m thankful for

This Thanksgiving is going to be quiet. No one but me and my boyfriend, 6 1/2 cats, four dogs, a couple of the neighbors chickens, and a Red bird that sits down at the garden. It’s been a year. We’ve managed to eek around several car accidents without too much expense, we’ve had parents, children, and other family visit over the summer, couple of home repairs, and lots of school work as I wind down to the last six months of Masters grad work. The most important event to me is the final rewrite and publishing of the first book in the Green Isle series. I’m very thankful for the steadfast support of my family and friends through the whole process of reinventing myself during middle age. At 50, I stand out in the grad office with the younger crew. And while I’ve got years of life experience over them, I’m thankful to be within this crowd, for they have taught me much in the past two years. Tomorrow is a day of feasting, and yet, it is also a day of reflection. What has the past year brought? Where do we want to go from here? How do we proceed with changes? And who do we want with us as we change to the next year? I’m also thankful for you, the reader and followers of this blog. It’s been a good journey thus far…and it’s only going to get better.

Happy Thanksgiving! And happy writing…. 


Some days are better than others….

Its been awhile since I’ve written on my blog. I think life was getting in the way of being able to divest time in ‘free’ writing. I’m sure you are probably asking what I mean by that. When you are a graduate student, there is never time to write freely. Your computer is only allowed history papers or chapters of your thesis. So, what that being said, finishing up the rewrite and editing of The first book in Legends of Green Isle series was done burning the extra midnight candle after the first one burnt out. I even managed to get a good first draft done of book two and the intro to book three. 

I have to thank my wonderful editor Lisanne, who kept me on the right track. Without her honesty, I don’t think it would have turned out well. Thus, I can say today, when Kitty (publisher) sent me the links, it was a good day. You’ll be hearing more from me, as graduation day is looming in about six months. 

Ahhhh….then I’ll begin the hard work. Digital Humanities PhD. 


The History Manifesto and Big Data


Some interesting thoughts on digital methods in History and research.

Originally posted on Stumbling Through the Past:

Book cover of The History Manifesto The History Manifesto by Jo Guldi and David Armitage, (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

In my last post I reviewed the provocative book, The History Manifesto. Written by history academics Jo Guldi (Brown University) and David Armitage (Harvard), it is a call to historians to turn their work towards investigating long periods of history (the longue-durée) in order to address the big issues affecting humanity such as inequality and climate change. I set aside one chapter in that review for special attention. In this post I consider chapter four, ‘Big questions, big data’.

There are many ways that technology can be used by the historian The ‘Big Data’ chapter in The History Manifesto discusses the use of topic modelling tools to highlight the type of language most often used and the topics most widely discussed in the past. Guldi and Armitage also recognise the potential for digital tools to uncover…

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Women vs Men: Who writes better?

Creativity defianceFor those who have been with me in history classes, they know of my feminist side. I get a little passionate about equality between the sexes, and when studying women in history, have gotten in a few heated discussions about the plight of some historical female figures. I guess it’s my competitive nature or something. While I believe there should always be equality between gender, I know that this may not be a true biological condition, nor could it be logical. There are just some things men do better than women, and some things women do better than men. Women:

  • Multitasking problem solvers (that means balancing work, babies, housework, dinner and homework with kids, etc.)
  • Nurturing
  • Juggling Household finances
  • Dirty Diapers
  • Runny Noses


  • Linear problem solvers
  • Heavy lifting
  • Christmas Lights on the roof
  • Trash
  • Stuff that goes wrong with cars

Somewhere in there falls creativity. I had always assumed that in writing, both sexes were pretty equal. But recently, a friend showed me an article on “The Daily Beast” that discussed the distinction of creative writing between women and men.  The reported outcome was of a survey conducted by Grammarly. Grammarly (a grammar checking website) polled 3000 plus people to answer the age-old question, “Which gender has the better writers?” I think you need to read the article. You’ll be surprised. Happy writing!!!

Dreams: A Connection to the Cosmos

dali-clockI’ve always paid attention to my dreams. They are like motion movies, in color and sometimes very action packed. Two dreams are what gave me the outline and story concept for the Legends of Green Isle Series. They have also given me insight into problems, and in some instances a brief glance into possible future events. It could almost be said that your dreams are connections to the cosmos. They are often referred to in the Bible as prophetic to those God has chosen to do his work. I’m not saying I’m a chosen messenger or anything, but some dreams, more than others, make me stand up and take notice.

I remember being 19 and living on the base in Alaska when I had a dream like that. I took a nap before my after-school job and had a dream that a little kid ran out in front of me and I couldn’t stop on the road quick enough because of the packed snow. I ran over the kid and killed him in my dream. When I got up to go to work, the images of the dream haunted me. I drove slow on the base roads, the dream still very powerful in my mind. The elementary school was letting out as I turned on the road leading out of the housing area. Had I not been thinking of that dream and going slower than normal, the kid who ran right out in front of my car would have been hit and I most likely would have killed him. Yes, it was a premonition.

With that being said, I refer back to two previous blog posts I did about dreams that referenced some sort of message about an earthquake in the Texas area. This was in March 2012.  I did a follow-up on the same dream in May of 2012. Since then I have had a lot of visitors to these two particular blog post. At the beginning of this month, one of our visitor, Cheryl, sent this message to me:

Read your article,
strange things are happening,
not sure if you would know this but another small earthquake last night here in East Texas.  This happened during a terrible storm coming through.
Here is the link.

What struck me most about the article that Cheryl sent was that these were earthquakes taking place around an area called Timpson, which is somewhat similar to the name that I couldn’t quite get in the dream. Anyway, I hope these dreams I had weren’t something like the one I had in Alaska. It’s terrifying to think of what I saw in the second dream. Would welcome any new information about this subject.

Editing and Rewriting: profiling your characters.

Chapter OneWriting and editing seems to be a never ending cycle of creation and destruction. I say it this way because when I first wrote “The Forgotten Spell,” the first book of the series, it was over six years ago. Since then I’ve completed undergraduate work and am now in graduate studies at Clemson University, and my writing has improved. I didn’t realize until I got back the first round of edits from my wonderful editor Lisanne, how really horrible the book was. One of the main complaints from Lisanne was characterization and of course mid-book slump – no action. Thus, much of what I created has to be destroyed in order to renew the story. Stories evolve too. You may find that first initiation draft does quite get the point across. Yes, my characters did sound all alike in the first book. Lisanne was right. They were individuals in my head, talking to me, but on paper their personalities didn’t come through. I have to destroy their sameness and create them all over again.

Here was some great advice from a good friend: Have you profiled the characters? Start with name, short physical description, likes and dislikes, family, personal history. Make a sheet for each main character, and maybe make a drawing. You can use images that embody your characters: Garfield, WOW, Marvel, Barbie, friends, etc. Profiles can help you position characters and round out scenes. Why does X carry a broken watch? He set the watch to the hour she died and smashed it to preserve the memory, never to forget the goal of his quest.” Mark Wilkinson was a wonderful friend who I knew at University of Alaska way back when. He is also a fantastic writer. Great advice. It has helped me quite a bit. Thanks Mark!



The Last Letter: A Reflection on a Soldier’s Letter from WWI

Soldier WWIToday I haven’t been feeling well, so I’ve had the heating pad, pencil and notebook, and research in bed with me today. My Master’s Thesis deals in part with Mitchell Reid’s book, “The Vacant Chair,” and how hand-written letters become a replacement for that vacant chair within the domestic sphere. One of my readings today was a small booklet, not more than 90 pages, of fragments of letters that a young nineteen year old French lad, who had been studying in school to become a missionary, wrote home. {The book was published in 1917 and reprinted in English in 1918. The title is “For France and the Faith.”}

Alfred Evgene Casalis merged his role as a man of faith and as a volunteer soldier, his ideals ardently expressed in his letters home. He believed it to be his duty for country and for his fellow man to stand along side of those who fought at the front, even though he was a pacifist, not only to defend his country but to minister to his fellow comrades.

He took part in the First Battle of Ypres in May 1915, and it is his last letter which touched me:

May 8th

Since Thursday evening I have been back in the trenches, knowing that the big attack is near at hand. And since that time my life has been one tense and anxious watching for the coming hour. But I am at peace, I fear nothing. I shall be able to do my duty with the aid of God.

The bombardment is becoming more and more violent. Today, particularly, the artillery is firing without a stop and one can hear only the noise of the shells. They whistle through the air, on a level with the trench, like a great heart-rending sob. Then they explode over yonder with a dry crash, and everything flies – earth, wood, and iron. Finally come the shell splinters, reaching up to where we are and falling on all sides. And to think that it is scarcely the fiftieth part of the artillery surrounding us which is firing! What will it be like when all belch forth at once? Therefore I am hopeful. The attack can not fail to succeed. There will be some wounded, some killed, but we shall go forward and far—–

This letter was incomplete. A footnote made at the very end noted “The letter was unfinished and was found in the pocket of the capote when he was buried.” 

Sent back to his mother and father, the last letter found its way home as a material reminder of its author in the visual image of the vacant chair at the dinner table. Alfred’s life was cut short, his last hours filled with the sounds of guns and death. Within the exploration of my thesis, I discuss how families during the early twentieth century coped with the lost of a loved one during WWI, especially if they could not even perform the ritual of normal grieving and burial. How important were those letters to the family?  In the case of Alfred, the Major of his company, wrote his parents that his body was not recovered, it was learned later that he was placed “in a common grave dug on the battlefield near the place where he fell.” It is not a wonder then, that his family published this small booklet of certain parts of Alfred’s letters. These were the last material memories they had of him, a symbolic representation of their son, which they wished to share with the rest of the world. This is how they finalized the grieving for the son who would not come home to fill his vacant chair.