Jun 292021

July 29, 2021 — I’m happy to report at 39 plus many, many years, I can still learn.

The reason I still learn is that I still make mistakes.

AllowSee the source image me to elucidate. That’s a good example. The word elucidate should be avoided at all costs. The phrase avoided at all costs should be avoided at all costs. That’s a cliche.

Allow me to share my idiotic choices that turned into terrible ideas.

  1.  I ordered a giveaway for 100 Kindle books and posted it on social media before the giveaway actually started.  This made people mad because it took them down a broken elevator shaft when they clicked the beautiful button.  Mad people don’t want to buy your book.  Lesson learned:  read the fine print before you start promoting.
  2. I learned mail merge and purchased a list of bookstore owners. The whole experience involved several mistakes.  Lessons learned:  First, vet the list you are buying.  People who own bookstores that are only for children, LGBTQ, or mystery lovers do not want to sell your Midwestern history book. Second, make sure you know how many outgoing emails your e-mail can send at one time.  Hint: It’s not 2900.  Mine is THREE HUNDRED.  Yes, 3-0-0-.  When you start receiving multiple “undeliverable” emails back to your Inbox, congratulations.  You’ve made several Big Boo-Boos and should be thwacked on the head.
  3. For my next mail merge, I decided to test on a certain list of public librarians from out of state.  Lesson learned:  make sure the email is attached to the mail merge or send out something blank. So that’s what I did.  However, the good news is that I accomplished this no-mail merge on the same day as the first mail merge.  (See above.)  So all the librarian emails came back as “undeliverable.”  I doubt if there will be too many Virginia librarians purchasing my book for their collection.
  4. I posted a note on social media noting that the Kindle book is available.  Lessons learned: do not post anything on social media when you are tired.  When I checked it, I found I had posted a picture of the Moen shower head I want to buy for the basement.  I feel very fortunate, however, as we are also getting a new commode for the downstairs bathroom.  Readers probably don’t wish to see either—showerhead above not an actual one, but freebie one from Wikicommons.  

In my late twenties, I worked for a man who graduated from Annapolis.  He would greet us each morning with a Navy saying, “Another day in which to excel.”  So, we will try again tomorrow, one small indie writer against the machine.

Jun 142021

Flag Day 2021 — Strange times we’re in: cicadas eating plants, dogs eating cicadas, humans stepping on cicada carcasses, the world seemingly falling apart, the pandemic over or not?  What does one little book matter in the middle of all this?  It matters a great deal.

History is important.  It’s how we learn when we bother to pay attention. Unfortunately, history isn’t in fashion now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I fear that generations of students do not hear about the bondage of Africans in slavery to whites, the Great Depression, the Trail of Tears, the anguish of the Civil War.  Lack of context of our past breeds deniers.

Hear me out: nothing I’ve written is as important as “Centennial Farm Family,” my new book that launches two weeks from today. Why?  Because it records a time long gone, a time many of us shared, and a time from which we can learn.

When my maternal grandmother passed, she left me boxes of information—land deeds from the 19th century, pictures, items, history books, and letters. “Centennial Farm Family” took me 29 months as I looked for more information and validated what I already had.

I found some ugly truths about my family.  My ancestors Henry and Philip Long, owned slaves in Virginia.  I felt sick when I found out, but the story needed to be told. Henry’s son Lewis left Virginia for the free state of Ohio.  How I wish I knew if he was opposed to slavery or just experienced wanderlust.  My family also benefited from the inexpensive, rich land that the federal government usurped from the native Americans.

This is not “Gone with the Wind,” I don’t gloss over the terrible things that happened in the family. The first chapter alone will shock the reader with a mysterious poisoning that has never been solved. A family member died after Vicksburg in the Civil War and was buried 300 miles away from home.   His death changed the course of ownership of the family farm, benefiting me.  I hope you are inspired to tell your own stories to your children or even preserve them somehow.

Read “Centennial Farm Family.” On June 28, it will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.  Please write a two-to-three sentence blurb of what you learned, what you liked, and what struck a nerve with you on Amazon or Goodreads.  Indie books fight for recognition, and I need your help.  I’ve been blessed already with several editorial reviews from writers and historians.  But I need your words.  If you’ve been an advanced reader, go to Goodreads or Amazon and placing your short review.  Yes, I’m talking to you. It would mean the world to me, and it would encourage others to read the story.

Don’t get me wrong.  This has never been a money-making adventure.  I am donating many books to historical societies, museums, high schools and universities, and libraries in the coverage age.  I am not as concerned about covering my costs as I am about getting the book into the hands of those who will share their own history.  (As you may know, I’m an eccentric billionaire living on an island in the South Seas.)

In summary:

  1. Ask your local library to buy the book or purchase it yourself.
  2. Please read it.
  3. Write honestly about what your thought and post on Amazon or Goodreads.

(Paperbacks are now available on Amazon, hardcovers in pre-order in/at Barnes and Noble or Amazon, e-book coming June 28. The book is in the Ingram catalog and can be purchased there by any bookstore or library.)

Yes, I’m a brazen hussy, but you are already over it and recovering from dealing with my obnoxious self-promotion.



Indie Writers need love, too.

May 022021

Courtesy South Whitley Community Public Library

As a child, I spent much time with my maternal grandmother, LeNore Hoard Enz. One of her main interests was family history. “Grammy” kept pictures, documents, and objects from her pioneer past. She recorded interviews with pioneer farmers for the local library,  using something new called a cassette tape recorder. Several of the interviews have been transcribed, and one I was able to use for my current project.

Our hometown library was — and is — a treasure trove. When I was a child, the building’s basement held the greatest gems in giant black books. Within their pages were bound copies of the local weekly newspaper, going back decades. My visits came after the town built the new library in my early teen years.  My grandmother had filled me with curiosity about my past, which has led to my own interest in family history.

I remember quite specifically looking for and finding an article about the death of my great-aunt Sarah Mae Hoard, who was my grandmother’s older sister.  Sarah Mae was known as “Mae.”  Mae was killed in a car accident when my grandmother was 14.  Mae had

Mae Hoard, age 14.

been my grandmother’s favorite sister.  Her oldest sister, Zoe, and my grandmother, LeNore, clashed as children and for the rest of their lives.  Great-Aunt Mae died 35 years before I was born, but she was very much alive to me through my grandmother’s stories.

I’ve written a new book that tells her story along with tales of our mutual ancestors.  The book Centennial Farm Family–Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1937 will be available at the end of June.  I long finished the story of Mae with multiple obituaries from newspapers around the area.  A couple of weeks ago, I remembered that as a child I had found Mae’s obituary in my hometown newspaper.  The library which housed the giant black books is 300 miles away.  The black books are long gone, replaced with microfilm.  Could a librarian find that same article I read as a curious adolescent?  Giving Taira Simmons at the library the date and names, she found the citation within a day.  She even sent the newspaper’s masthead from that week which shows the top of Mae’s story at flush left, “Mae Hoard Victim of Auto Wreck.” (The staff at the South Whitley Community Public Library has been extremely helpful to me in my research over the years.)

I had used other obituaries for the book, but it was still thrilling to see that the same story I read at 13 was still available fifty years later.  (Yes, I know, I should get out more.)  Seriously, anyone who researches family history will understand my happiness in seeing this article again. And this is why I devote my time to family history — fifty years from now; I hope someone will run across this column or my Ancestry page or my books and find them useful in their own search.

One cannot easily pass a passion along to another person. It is, however, my hope that readers will find something in my writing that encourages them to search out their own past.  A caveat, however. One can find surprises and shocks; I found several stories I would have rather not known.  I did not shy away because the truth makes up the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle that is my grandmother’s family.

Each person’s life affects another, as the angel Clarence Oddbody tells, “It’s a Wonderful Life” hero George Bailey.  Looking at the overall picture of my grandmother’s family, I cannot help but wonder how things would have been different had the 1922 accident never happened. “What if” is never a productive game. But I can’t help but wonder, having heard about the aftermath of Mae’s death.  Would the two remaining sisters have reconciled? What would have happened to their parent’s farm? Would Mae have married a local boy who wanted to farm the farm? Would that have stopped my grandparents from moving back to Indiana from their cushy life in Springfield, Illinois?  My grandparents and their daughters moved from a plush city home to a farmhouse with no electricity 23 miles from a city.

Like others in my book, Mae’s life and death affected many people. What happened to the farm ownership with each passing generation changed with unexpected deaths like Mae’s. Ultimately, the farm stayed in the family for 173 years, receiving the Indiana Historical Association award for a century of continuous ownership.  Writing the book took me on a journey of discovery without a clear map, heading off in directions that surprised me, shocked me, and sometimes delighted me.

I hope you will start your story today.  Your descendants are counting on you.

Coming June 28, 2021


Why Family History?

Why Family History?

The stories of my ancestors from my maternal grandmother piqued my interest. When she died in 1994, I became the keeper of the flame. Family members gave me materials, adding to my collection my grandmother (Grammy) had given me. The family stories are compelling and have been waiting for me to propel them into the […]

Did I Mention I'm Writing a Book?

Did I Mention I’m Writing a Book?

January 31, 2021—If you talked to me recently, you know I’m completely obsessed with living in the past. This work is the book I’ve wanted to write since I was a child. In 2019, I compiled letters my now 92-year-old aunt gave me; letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother before they married  “Always Carl” […]

A Name Spelled Incorrectly

A Name Spelled Incorrectly

One of the mysteries in my family is what happened to my great-great-grand parents, the parents of my great-grandmother, the mother of my maternal grandfather. They likely came from Germany in the 1860s or early 1870s, though I cannot find them in the 1870 census. The couple had two daughters, the first, my great-grandmother. She […]

Every Family Has One

Every Family Has One

Studying family history is not for the faint of heart.  This morning I found these notes from another family tree about my third great-grandfather, and upon further research discovered multiple newspaper articles that described his suicide. The letter seemed to whitewash his dark side, while the newspaper left nothing untouched.  There were at least six […]

Dark Haired, Green-Eyed Researcher Seeks Sweets

Dark Haired, Green-Eyed Researcher Seeks Sweets

The media has, and rightly so for privacy and other reasons, cast aspersions on the relatively new industry of DNA analysis for family history. My husband and I took tests about five years ago and found that, in both cases, our report mirrored what we knew of our family background.  For me, it nearly mimicked […]

The Great Vastness of the Universe

The Great Vastness of the Universe

Earlier in the week I watched a documentary about Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Without Einstein, there is no Hawking. Without Einstein, we may have never understood the concept of time and space. Without Hawking, we would not understand the Big Bang theory. The TV show hosts used simple metaphors to explain the concepts of […]

Henry Kellis Hoard, Age 62

Henry Kellis Hoard, Age 62

When reviewing old documents and photographs, I’m generally not emotional. I’m not a cryer at all; it takes something huge to make the tears fall. When I cry I generally have an asthma attack, so I guess I’ve trained myself not to cry. The emotion of finding my great-grandfather’s death certificate caused huge tears to […]

Why Bother

Why Bother

I was thinking this morning about a “vertical file” kept at the newspaper office where I worked in college during summer vacation.  The editor, Hester Little Adams, filed everything from jr. high band concert programs to magazine articles about Mickey Mouse.  My colleague, Anne Shrock Ott, who worked full-time was the unfortunate mistress of the […]

A Journey West

A Journey West

My mother is buried in a Lutheran Cemetery in the rural county where I grew up. Her parents are buried there, as are my grandmother’s parents. My great-grandmother’s parents and grandparents are buried there. Visiting the cemetery gives me an odd feeling, a feeling that I am walking among my history. The first ancestor buried […]

The Mysterious Mr. Hoard

The Mysterious Mr. Hoard

This is the mysterious John Tyler Hoard, my great-great-grandfather.  I’ve been looking for him for 25 years since my grandmother died. Apparently, the family changed the spelling of Hord to Hoard. He was born on March 4, 1840, in Lorane, Indiana, a wisp of a village in the northern part of Whitley County, where most […]