Monday, December 22, 2014

The Joy of Family History by Heidi Wessman Kneale

In my novella FOR RICHER, FOR POORER, our heroine Beatrice Nottham love family history. In fact, she'd love to get as much of it done before she moves off-world. She was able to go back more than a thousand years on many of her lines.

Family History, sometimes called genealogy, gives you a sense of who you are and where you've come from. Your own family history is full of facts and figures, interesting stories and quite a few mysteries. Family History is the fastest growing hobby in the world.

Have you considered doing your family history? Here's how you can get started.

1. Living History. The best information comes from those who are still alive. Are your parents still living? Your grandparents, great-grandparents? As you spend time with your family this Holiday season, take some time to ask about the stories your living relatives know. Write them down. Ask about birthdays, marriages, and more. Ask for funny stories, war stories, ask what they remember about their grandparents.

These stories are valuable and need to be saved. Alas, when a person dies, they will take their stories with them, unless they have been written down and preserved.

2. Hatches, Matches and Dispatches. Some of the easiest-to-find information about your ancestors is their dates of birth, marriage and death. This makes filling out a genealogy chart so much easier. Often newspaper archives will contain records of birth, engagement/marriage and death announcements, sometimes with pictures.

3. Finding info. Family members are usually the best for remembering this kind of information, but sometimes you need outside help. Governments maintain a registry of births, deaths and marriages. For a small fee (ie a few dollars), they will provide you with legal certificates showing this information.

If you've gone back three or four generations, you may be able to find additional records through a paid genealogy site such as or FindMyPast. Many public libraries have a subscription to these sites, giving free access to their patrons.

Also, Family History Centers dot the world. You can research your family history there for free (Google "Family History Center" or "Centre" if you're British to find your nearest location). They'll give you access to census data, microfiche records and more--information that may not be readily available on the Internet. Their friendly consultants will help you if you get stuck.

4. Stuck? Go sideways. It happens to every family historian--you hit a dead end. No matter how hard you look, you simply can't find any parental info for Fergus MacIntosh, your ninth-great grandfather. Perhaps the church records of his birth were destroyed in a church fire, or maybe he was an escaped criminal who changed his name? Whatever the reason, do not give up on your family history simply because you encounter a dead end.

You've set up your branches on your family tree. Now go fill in the side twigs. Research brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. Family history doesn't have to be only your direct line of descent. In some cases, this side research can uncover information that may solve your dead end mystery.

5. Record your own stories. Remember, you're a link in your family history too. By writing down your stories, you will be able to share them with your children and grandchildren. Your life is fascinating to them.

In FOR RICHER, FOR POORER, Beatrice was able to trace her genealogy back a thousand years because she was able to tap into a line of nobility. They were very good record-keepers. Her research into Phillipe Deveraux and Gytha of Wessex is the basis of the whole story. Because someone had thought to write their stories down, Beatrice was able to discover something that would bless her and her descendants for the rest of her life.

Heidi Kneale

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some of my favourite Vonnie Hughes

...and why they are my favourites
by Vonnie Hughes

Lee Child (Thrillers)

Who doesn’t like Jack Reacher? Improbable thrillers about an always victorious man who is rarely injured and always prethinks a situation with accuracy. Loved by a disparate bunch of people.

Anne Gracie (Regencies)

Australian Regency author with the bedroom door closed. Sweet, often totally misunderstood heroines with grit – real grit, not the trumped up stuff e.g. Gallant Waif is still my favourite because the protagonists had so much to lose; the sign of an author who understands conflict. Without conflict there is no book.

Lisa Gardner (Often lumped in as Romantic Suspense author but she really should simply be called a Suspense author because nobody can do Suspense like Lisa Gardner)

Look, if you don’t set out intentionally to write a romance, then I don’t think it should be termed a romance.

She gives acknowledgments at the end of each book, and boy, does she spend hours doing research. Her books are convoluted and the police personnel and investigators in them are very flawed.

My favourites are Live to Tell and The Survivors’ Club.

James McGee (Historical Suspense)

Writes about an investigator called Hawkwood – Regency/Victorian. Book titles: The Ratcatcher and The Resurrectionist. “You don’t send a gentleman to catch vermin. You send Hawkwood.” Love it. Want to see more of the same.

Georgette Heyer (Regency)

If you are a history buff, make sure you read An Infamous Army which is “fiction” about the British and its allies at Waterloo. Until very recently it was still used as a reference book to discuss tactics and alliances at the Sandhurst Military Academy in England. No ordinary “romance” writer. She is the rock on which the Regency genre was founded.

Amanda Quick (Regency, and Regency and Victorian/paranormal)
Jayne Ann Krentz Contemporary
Jayne Castle Paranormal

For pure enjoyment, not-so-convoluted plots but with brilliant characterisation, I quite simply adore JAK’s writing. Quirky characters with peculiar hang-ups – love ‘em.

J.D. Robb

Her futuristic series involving a tough but fragile woman cop hits all the high spots. The world building is impressive because it’s constructed by deft brushstrokes, not laid on with a trowel as in so many speculative fiction otherworlds.

Lisa Jackson (Suspense)

Creepy perpetrators in creepy circumstances. A disused asylum comes to mind.

Karen Rose (Romantic Suspense) Her research is brilliant, and you can expect a not-always-easy read from Ms Rose. Her murderers are definitely not the sort you want to meet.

Gayle Wilson (Romantic Suspense) Lighter than some, but still with hidden depths, I enjoy Ms Wilson’s southern settings such as New Orleans and  Mississippi.

Dick Francis (Can anyone tell me how you’d classify DF?) Readable, clear conflict. Heroes are misunderstood, likeable but by no means perfect. When he died, we lost a thoroughly decent, well-researched author.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anachronistically Speaking by Judy Nickles

My parents came out of World War I, lived much of their formative years during the Great Depression, and married just before World War II. These times shaped them and, ultimately, shaped me as well. Is it any wonder I love writing “vintage” books?
Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? actually began as a thinly-veiled re-telling of a tragic family story which I found out about totally by accident. I never told my mother I
knew about it, but I made several surreptitious trips to her hometown to do some research. I found nothing. The event had happened, but records had either been sanitized or not kept at all.
So the book went through many, many re-writes before it finally found its way to The Wild Rose Press and ultimately to editor Nan Swanson’s desk. The story was supposed to end with the final page, but almost as soon as edits began, I found myself creating a second volume—the rest of the story so to speak—with Finding Papa’s Shining Star.
When I look back at them now, I understand how limited their audience truly is. In a way, I’m an anachronism in today’s writing world. The dialogue, the muted passion, the all-important behavioral etiquette which is anything but important today. So while one might say, “It’s a good story,”, it’s definitely not a best-seller.
One reviewer proclaimed indignantly, “There are no sex scenes!” Where did she miss the desire, the passion, the teeming emotions so difficult to keep in control, the necessity to survive in spite of everything? Human nature was then what it is today and will, I suspect, always be.
Still, The Shining Star Books resonate with me and others of my “ilk”. In many ways they portray a kinder, gentler time soon to be forgotten—or perhaps it already is. It’s true there’s nothing new under the sun, and the books’ characters find themselves embroiled in situations still happening today. Perhaps it’s their creator’s approach to these situations which doesn’t ring true in contemporary literature.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to fall in love with Alan and Lenore and later with Annie and David; to grieve their losses and applaud their triumphs; to believe in spite of everything they’ll find their HEA.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A wealthy businessman, blinded in World War I, falls in love with the woman he hires as his personal assistant during the Depression—and finds her secrets may destroy their chance at happiness.

She didn’t appear for breakfast, but she was waiting by the door at the appointed time for leaving. “You’ve had no breakfast,” he said.
“I wasn’t hungry.”
“I see.” He opened the door and let her precede him to the car under the porte cochere.
They’d driven several blocks in silence when she said, “Mr. Ashley, I really should make other living arrangements.”
He knew why, but he asked anyway, adding, “I thought we’d settled all that. I find it convenient for you to live in and don’t wish to make a change.”
“Mr. Ashley, it’s not…”
“We’re both adults, Miss Seldon. I am a man, and you are a woman. We shared a brief kiss in the spirit of the moment.”
“It shouldn’t have happened.”
“Was it so repulsive to you?”
“No, but it shouldn’t have happened.”
“Actually, it was quite nice,” he interrupted. “It might even happen again.”
“It can’t.”
“Why not?”
“I’m not Elise Mayhew.”
“No, thank God. Can’t we put that behind us? She’s gone off again to who knows where, according to Sam. I won’t mention where he said he hoped she’d gone to.”
“I mean you can’t play with me as you might have played with her.”
“Played with her? If you mean were we intimate, no, we weren’t, though I’m sure she considered it more than once. I might have considered it, too.”
“Mr. Ashley, please.”
“I keep forgetting you don’t think in those terms.”
“The arrangement was questionable from the beginning.”

Judy Nickles also writing as Gwyneth Greer
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