Research for the soul…

IMG_0186Well, maybe not for every soul. But for me, research is a thrill. It always has been even way back in junior and senior high. I even went back to school for graduate work and concentrated on the areas of research. I thought about getting another masters degree in order to research some more. But, I stopped with my MA in English. After all, I can research on my own…whatever topic I want.

IMG_2093I’ve found many ways and places to satisfy my deep desire to learn something new or to delve into a topic whether for a new novel I’m writing or a new interest. The library is always a top choice–the smell of old books and the feel of aged paper as well as the thickness of the volume or the well-used softness of the paper. The internet offers many resources too. I’ve found recently that archives in state libraries and museums are an awesome source of information.

On my recent trip to Charleston, SC for research, I bought four new books–South Carolina and the American Revolution by John Gordon, The Life of General Francis Marion by P. Horry, Crescent Moon over Carolina by C.L. Bragg, and A Gallant Defense by Carl Borick. I take these books and a highlighter and read and read letting ideas form for a plot. My focus now is on 1777-1782 American Revolution in Charles Town. Whether nerdy or not, I must admit I love this part of writing. Even though I’m not finished with the research, I couldn’t wait to write the first paragraph. So, the novel writing process has commenced.

What are your feelings on research?

Not an ordinary vacation activity

IMG_8599Recently I joined my three sisters on a much-needed vacation and sister time in Charleston, South Carolina. We always include yummy restaurants and a beach journey if possible. After walking and walking in this beautiful, historic city, we enjoyed the relaxation each evening with a movie in our little rented house with a coveted dessert or two.

IMG_1181Part of my research for my books and for genealogical information included searching the cemetery at St. Philip’s for ancestors. I had done this before with my husband with no luck. Finding a tombstone that is legible from 1760-1780 is difficult. My father had seen it around 1952 and later in the 1960s. But the church has no records of where my relatives were buried just the fact that they were buried in the cemetery.

My father gave us instructions before we left for our trip. “I want pictures of you in the cemetery searching for the graves.” He laughed. And I’m sure we were a sight taking off across the graveyard scouring all the headstones for a familiar name or two. I promise not one of the four of us thought about not completing this task.

Growing up with Daddy and traveling with him led us to many cemeteries. Mama and the four of us would follow him around, listening to his stories or family or historical events. I still do this. For some odd reason, I like visiting the grave sites of historical figures whether in Europe or the US.  From the elaborate tombs of Elizabeth I or the missing headstone of an Uncle Jack in North Louisiana.

After my sisters’ left, I stayed a few days and found myself in the Pioneer Cemetery in Orangeburg, S.C. I found some family members and one stone with unrecognizable lettering on it. Records show that Louis and Elizabeth Lestarjette (major characters in my Revolutionary Faith Series) are in this cemetery with their children but the graves are unmarked, disappearing through the 200 plus years. I will be back to try again to see if I can find out more.

I wondered as we roamed cemeteries, if anyone else does this strange activity on vacation or anytime. Do you have something you include in a vacation that might be a bit odd? Share here.

 

First Things First

IMG_9580How I love summer! I use the time to do something different from teaching. Since I have completed the preliminary draft of a novel and submitted it to the publisher, I’ve been thinking and planning for my next novel. I spent a week in Charleston, S.C. with my sisters for four days then myself for three days. Beautiful, inspiring, lots of ideas!

I write historical fiction where the characters roam and live in a factual historical world. I always use a venue that I have traveled by walking the streets, visiting the sites, and researching. I’ve discussed my library before when I was writing the first four books in Revolutionary Faith Series–35 sources. On my latest venture to Charleston, I added more sources. I will have to scour the pages, formulating a plot, developing characters, outlining a historical backdrop. I’m so excited about this process.

IMG_9749So in the month of July, I’ll read and highlight my new books from Charleston. But the first book I am reading is an old 1906 book that will not receive any highlighting because of its value. Charleston The Place and the People by Mrs. St. Julien Ravenel is a treasure, one found in my parents’ library. I’m sure there are quite a few interesting observations discussed by Mrs. Ravenel.

I bought my books from two wonderful shops in Charleston–Historic Shops of Charleston on Meeting Street and The Preservation Society Shop on King Street. Time spent in both shops is a thrill. One book I bought is South Carolina and the American Revolution: A Battlefield History by John. W. Gordon. I’ve read another of his books for research and thoroughly enjoyed it.

As I advance in my plot for the next book, I decided to add A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780 by Carl P. Borick. I want to know what it was like living in a city under siege by the British.

Two historical figures have fascinated me as I’ve researched and written them into my novels. One is William Moultrie, an American General in Charleston. I added  Crescent Moon over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty by C.L. Bragg.

One of my favorite characters that I have already used in my novels is Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox).  I found The Life of General Francis Marion by Brig. Gen. P. Horry and Parson M. L. Weems. I’m hoping for some interesting insight into this extraordinary man.

IMG_9744Research–I LOVE the process. I’m rubbing my hands together in excitement wondering which book I’ll read first.

Do you have a project that you really anticipate with joy? 

Delays or Cancellations–It’s okay!

IMG_8707Happy Summer! Since I am a teacher, I’m enjoying every moment, storing up energy for the school year that is only seven weeks away. I started my summer vacation with a sisters’ trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The four of us spent four days eating, laughing, crying, sharing, walking, movie watching, eating more, shopping–forming memories that can never be taken away.

 

After my sisters returned to their homes, I stayed  three extra days to research, read, walk the streets, and make new “research” friends. So relaxing and so productive.

Then, the inevitable day arrived when I turned in my car and proceeded to my gate at the airport for a 10:06 departure to Atlanta. Let me offer a caveat here–I was traveling alone, no husband, no group, no children. Alone. My perspective will be a bit ashew with those perimeters. Anyway, I have traveled enough with children, family, and students enough to have experienced a few set backs.

This day ended up being one that I will remember as an eventful travel situation. Storms in Atlanta brought the flight world to a standstill. The 10:06 departure turned to 11:15, then 12:15, then a canceled flight and no departure time. For me, I knew there was nothing I could do. This was a weather condition that did not fall under the fault of the airport, the airline, the pilot, or the attendants.

 

Besides having the passengers from the Charleston cancelled flights, the airport had redirected flights that could not land in Atlanta. This small airport was packed. Luckily, I love airports and travel, most aspects of the journey. I read and finished a great book, The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White.  And I had to buy another book, The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis.

With eight hours in the airport, I had time to walk, snack, watch people, and read. I loved it especially since I knew I could do nothing about it. It was sad to see couples fight and children, tired children, act up. The attendants did their best to pacify the passengers.

IMG_9643Once I left Charleston at 6:00 p.m. for Atlanta, I still had that monstrosity of an airport to maneuver and a ticket to secure. The attendant was very proud that he found a seat for me on the 12:17 a.m. to Jackson.

All fine, right? The plane carried 300 very tired and frustrated people, especially the parents and children. I was determined to make it through with a smile on my fatigued face.

You probably have guessed what happened once in Jackson. Right you are. The luggage had not followed all of us since none of us had this flight as our original connection. Once in my car with no luggage, I drove to my sister’s house thirty minutes away and crawled into bed for five hours sleep.

IMG_9663Twenty-four hours late, I arrived home (without my bag) and praised God for a safe journey, one with a few delays and cancellations. No harsh words or annoyed facial expressions. This is part of traveling.

Do you have a delayed or canceled travel story? How did you handle it? 

Sister Trip to Charleston

Charleston 06 020Do you want to know a great blessing I have? Well, I have three younger sisters! We are the best of friends and love our time together. Yes, I’m the oldest, and I know that is the  best place to be! Haha! Any oldest siblings out there? I know all other positions think they are the best too. Anyway, the four of us like to choose a destination and meet there to relax, catch up, talk about everything–just exist together in the same place.

Charleston 06 022This year one sister suggested Charleston, South Carolina. Why? Because she had just finished Bring Me Near, my  Revolutionary Faith Book Three. “I want to see all those places in the books.” As well she should. Charleston holds her roots as much as mine. How could I refuse being a book tour guide to my very own sisters!

Charleston 06 042I plan on showing them the different houses featured in my books, including the Lestarjette house on Church Street. We’ll include a cemetery search behind St. Philip’s Church for Elizabeth Elliott’s parent’s tombstones. Also, on the tour are the college, the Exchange Building with the dungeon ,and most likely a house tour.

Charleston was voted the best Southern city in “Southern Living” recently. Of course, it is. And the food…we will eat and eat, soaking up the atmosphere. The city is very walkable, and we love exercise, especially since our house is in the historical district.

Charleston 06 086There is no way I will pass up a chance to research. I decided to stay an extra three days giving a few hours to research at the South Carolina Room in the Charleston County Public Library and the South Carolina Historical Society. A quick trip to Orangeburg will add an additional dimension to my research as that is where Louis and Elizabeth are buried.

I look forward to sharing tidbits about Charleston and my research. Since I’ve finished writing Draw Me to Your Side, I am anxious to start on As I Wait which involves another phase of the American Revolution.

Charleston 06 033Do you have a favorite city or destination to which you repeatedly return? Charleston is that for me. 

My Writer’s Retreat

IMG_5336Just me. Alone. With my research box, my computer, books, pens, and a great view. I am on fall break from teaching. I asked my husband for a getaway, and he couldn’t leave work. So, here I am in a comfy room with a view of a huge lake and nothing to do except what I want. Three nights and three days.

IMG_5337I’ve needed time like this to organize my thoughts and make some progress on my current writing project–Draw Me to Your Side, Revolutionary Faith Book Four. I’m so excited with high hopes and lofty ideas of progress.

Of course, I will use the scenery and perfect weather to motivate me. I will take at least two walks a day finding spots to write and think.  I’ll nap or rest with a good book when I feel the need. Oh, how I look forward to the freshwater fish and local dishes.

What will my writer’s retreat involve? Here are some of my (flexible) plans.

  1. Organize my research box. This will take a few hours as I look through odd pieces of paper that at one time I thought important enough to jot down notes or save from odd resources.IMG_5341
  2. Reread the chapters I have written, comparing them to my outline, focusing on my characters’ personalities and physical appearances.
  3. Input my handwritten manuscript to my computer–I have about four chapters that haven’t been added to the 15,000 words already there. IMG_5343
  4. Write. Write. WRITE. I want to advance 4-5 chapters.
  5. Make a schedule for writing once I return home. My novel will be 90,000-100,000 words, so I need to write the end in the next two months.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Well, happy week to you. I’m doing exactly what I want to for a few days.                                                                                                                                                                            If you could, what type of retreat would you take all by yourself?

Dead end Research? No way!

IMG_2973
Bordeaux, France

As many of you know, I spend lots of hours in research on family history and on historical data for my novels. I like to keep my novels in a real historical setting with quite a few historical characters that I bring to life on the pages. In the states, I’ve been very successful in my genealogical research, but I want to go further back, across the pond and onto the continent–France in particular.

IMG_2957In July on vacation with my daughter, I included a two-day research option in Bordeaux, France. Family oral stories relate that Louis Lestarjette (the male protagonist in my Revolutionary Faith Series) sailed from Bordeaux to South Carolina around 1770. Also, one oral source remembered seeing Lestarjette on a storefront in the city. It was a place to start since my internet research had come to a halt.

After visiting a local library in Bordeaux, I learned that the information I sought was in the National Archives, especially since I had a great hunch by now that Louis was not from Bordeaux. Perhaps he had only set sail from the city, if even that.

Still I decided to check a few cemeteries boosting of graves from the 1770s. We chose Chautreuse Cemetery and wandered perhaps a fourth of it looking for names. I felt at peace on the old foot paths. This burial ground in the past was Catholic although in the present it has morphed into a mixture of denomination. No luck. And no plot record available.

Next, we chose the Protestant cemetery. Smaller and more manageable. But no Lestarjettes. Here the cemetery director and archivist assured us that no Lestarjettes were there. She gave us her contact information which in turn gives me a lead to follow to other national cemeteries. A ribbon of hope.

IMG_4107Another family story places Louis’s mother under the guillotine’s blade, beheaded during the French Revolution. I didn’t want to find her name on a list, but I knew I must research it. At the Conciergerie in Paris–the prison that once housed thousands of people facing executions during the Revolution including King Louis and Marie Antoinette–a room has been designed with all of the names of the executed on the walls and in a hands-on computer data base. We searched and found no Lestarjettes. I’m glad. Yet, people all over France were executed outside of the Conciergerie.

Even with these dead ends, I’m not discouraged. One day I will find the one tiny link that I need to connect my Louis with his past and mine.

What genealogical resource have you used?