Posts may be a little erratic here for the next couple of weeks, due to unexpected health issues. I will try to write a batch of posts soon and schedule to post.
Your patience is appreciated.
Thank you, and apologies.
Posts may be a little erratic here for the next couple of weeks, due to unexpected health issues. I will try to write a batch of posts soon and schedule to post.
Your patience is appreciated.
Thank you, and apologies.
this photo of a library in Prague is courtesy of izoca via pixabay.com
I spend a lot of time thinking about My Ultimate Fantasy Library.
When I travel, I like to visit libraries, and use a bit of this, a bit of that, as I build my Ultimate Fantasy Library.
Someday, I intend to transform My Ultimate Fantasy Library into My Actual Personal Library.
As I often joke, someday, I will live in a place where I can finally unpack and shelve all my books.
Since I own several thousand books, and use an astonishing number of them every year, it constitutes a personal library.
My library will have both windows and nooks. I want a lot of natural light. I realize natural light is back for rare books/old books, so they will be kept in special cases with special glass to protect them.
But I still want natural light.
I want to be able to look up from whatever I’m reading or writing in the moment and see something beautiful outside the window, such as my garden. I would like one of the windows to be a window seat, possibly with bookshelves tucked in it and under it. I realize I will have to battle the cats to actually sit on it and read.
I would like, within the shelves of books, a little nook built into the wall, padded, with sconces, again, so I can tuck myself away and read.
I would like a chess table with two comfortable chairs, so that I can finally unpack the gorgeous rosewood chess set I bought years ago in Edinburgh. I will finally, then, learn how to play chess.
I want a standing globe, because I love globes and maps. I might even cheat and have an additional standing globe that opens into a bar. The library I worked for several years ago had one of those as part of our prize package in Spectacle of Trees a few years ago.
There will be a massive wooden desk for my computer and printer and whatever else I need, with nice, deep drawers for current projects. Excellent lighting. Other filing cabinets will be built into the bottoms of some of the book shelving, or built into the wall, complementing the overall look of the room.
There will be at least one table on which to spread out projects, maybe two. Probably wooden tables. And an easel or two, on which I can stand cork project boards for the inspirations for different projects.
There will be at least one sofa. If I have room for two sofas, I would like one to be a Victorian carved sofa, and one to be a pullout couch. If I have more guests than bedrooms, I can give up my bedroom and sleep in the library.
I want one of those conversations chairs, where each seat faces in the opposite direction. I want several comfortable wingback and/or club chairs, with lamps beside them, and small side tables, and maybe ottomans. Plenty of places to sit and read. I want a chaise longue (or fainting couch) with a cashmere throw. All of the fabrics would be soft and warm and textured, with the option to toss yoga blankets or other cotton throws on them for summer.
I hope there is a fireplace — a wood-burning one, to keep it cozy in dull weather.
I might have a sound system set up, so that I can play music if I choose — although when I’m writing, I rarely use music. Sometimes I have music on when I read.
There will, of course, be cat trees and cat and dog beds, although the beasts will probably spend most of their time on the sofas and chairs.
I might have a medallion or painted ceiling, so that when I look up, from a chair or one of the couches, I have something interesting to look at.
I change my mind on the colors. Do I want a soft, sage green, to make the woods glow even more? Or do I want to go with a more Art Deco or Art Nouveau look and do something darker, like teal? Because let’s face it, there won’t be a lot of wall space. It will be covered mostly in bookcases.
If there is wall space, it will have prints of old maps or framed photos of places that matter to me. Most of the graphics will be project-specific, and therefore on the project boards.
It will feel literary, comfortable, serene yet exciting, and a sanctuary for both creation and relaxation.
It takes the best bits from my favorite novels and great houses visited and old libraries visited and transforms them into a wonderful space to work and relax.
What is your Ultimate Fantasy Library?
How often do you use the bibliography at the back of a book or the bottom of an article? How often do you create your own bibliographies for what you write?
A bibliography is one of my favorite tools. When I read about a topic that interests me, a good bibliography can direct me to more detailed sources, preferably primary ones like letters or diaries.
When I’m doing research for one of my own projects, the bibliography is vital to both the writing and the editing process.
Bibliographies in other books and articles point me in the right direction. They even give me ideas for people to interview.
Writing my own bibliography of used sources during research saves me a lot of time during the writing and editing processes, especially if the piece is part of a series.
I take notes longhand as I read, whether I’m reading in print or digitally. If it’s a short article and I can print it out, I do so, and put it in my project folder in the project bin. If it’s book-length, or an archival material, I take notes as I go. Sometimes I type my notes later. Often, I don’t, because I annotate and comment on the notes themselves (and clearly mark my own musings). When I look at the note as I wrote it, I remember the context of the moment in which it was written, and that helps me when I use it.
If I’m going to type up and/or submit the sources, I used the standard format by author’s last name.
In my own notes, however, I start a fresh page for each source. Title, author(s). Where published, publisher, copyright date.
Then, vitally important: WHERE I FOUND THE SOURCE.
I use the library A LOT for research. Where I live now has 38 libraries within network. I can order from any of them. Massachusetts also has the Commonwealth Catalog, which means I can order from libraries and some archives all over the state.
I also have a library card at a library in a neighboring town that is the only library on Cape which is part of a different network — through their network, I also have access to all of those libraries.
If I want to go farther afield and use the Interlibrary Loan Service, I go onto World Cat and hunt for what I want, then put the request through the ILL desk at my home library.
Important: If you use Interlibrary Loan (ILL), always ASK if there’s a fee involved. Some libraries or archives charge to send materials out of state.
In my notes, if it’s from my home library, I’d just write the name of the library.
If it’s from another library in the network, I’d write (name of library) via (name of network).
Notation: Vineyard Haven Library via CLAMS network
Translation: the book comes from the Vineyard Haven library on Martha’s Vineyard and came to me via the CLAMS network.
Notation: Plymouth Library via Old Colony network
Translation: the book comes from the Plymouth Library on the South Shore and came to me via the Old Colony network, which means I picked it up and dropped it off at the Sandwich Library instead of my home library.
(I could also order this via the Commonwealth Catalog and pick it up/drop it off at my home library, if I didn’t
Notation: Boston Public Library via Commonwealth Catalog
Translation: the book came from the Boston Public Library system via Commonwealth Catalog.
Notation: U Mass Amherst Library via Commonwealth Catalog
Translation: the book came from the University of Massachusetts campus at Amherst via Commonwealth Catalog.
Notation: Microfilm. University of Indiana Bloomington via ILL. $17.
Translation: It was not a book, it was a roll of microfilm. It came via the Bloomington campus of the University of Indiana through the Interlibrary Loan System and cost $17.
(Note: I own both a microfilm and a microfiche machine, so I can work with both at home, if I order them via ILL. If I didn’t, I could use one of the few machines left in the area at a library or possibly an archive, with permission).
If I get information from a digital online collection, I make a note.
This way, as I write and edit, if I need more than the notes I took, I know where I found it, and where to go back and look for it.
For plays, especially historical plays, I use bibliographies as part of the dramaturgy, and can offer the information and sources to the producing organization and the company.
If I’m writing an article, the bibliographic notes I make are often listed on my fact check sheet. Fewer and fewer publications pay fact checkers (which is ridiculous), but I’m from the days when that was the norm, not the exception. Sources and quotes were checked and confirmed. Off the record sources had to be approved, and had to be verified by at least two and usually three on-record sources, whenever possible. When it was not possible, sometimes it couldn’t be included in the article, or it had to be mentioned that it was an off-the-record source without additional verification.
I also make a note on the reliability of the source. For instance, a diary entry is going to reflect the writer’s frame of reference. If further research shows that individual has a particular reason to like or dislike an individual, or there’s something that influences that point of view, I’ll make a note.
For instance if I’m hunting down a reference to Elizabeth C. in letters between Vera T. and Emily W, and I’ve done my research, I know that Vera hates Elizabeth because she knows her husband has a crush on her. The fact that Elizabeth has no intention of committing adultery with Vera’s husband doesn’t mean Vera’s gossip about Elizabeth are true or un-reflected in her letters to Emily, and that has to be taken into consideration.
If I’m writing fiction about the event, I can decide how I want to interpret Vera’s point of view in the way that best supports the story I’m telling. If I’m writing non-fiction, I have to weigh it against the rest of the evidence.
Even in fiction, it’s vital to make note of where I choose something that supports the story I want to tell best, and where it veers from the best historical record we can put together of what happened. I often mention it in the acknowledgements.
Because even well-researched fiction is FICTION. The more rooted it is in reality, in my opinion, the more one can suspend disbelief. It might be emotional truth (the best fiction often tells emotional truths better than historical record), but it’s still fiction.
Bibliography as inspiration
I read a biography of a particular person, and there’s a reference in passing to someone not central to the subject of the biography. But something about that reference catches my interest.
I’ll go through the footnotes (yes, I’m someone who reads the notes, too), and through the bibliography to see where that reference originated. Then, I go on the hunt.
The bibliography becomes the start when there’s been a spark of an idea. The bibliography guides me to additional information, so I can find out if the idea is viable.
The bibliography may look like a list, but to me, it’s an invitation to browse more shelves in more libraries or archives, and enter even more new worlds.
I read a lot of books in 2019. A LOT. So many that I didn’t post a number publicly, because I am not wasting time with people who will insist that I “couldn’t” possibly read that much in a year.
I enjoyed many, many of the books I read, including those by Arlene Kay, Alyssa Maxwell, Barbara Ross, Lauren Dane, Kate Carlisle, Juliet Blackwell, Ed Ifkovic, Mark Pryor, and more.
When it came to books I didn’t enjoy, if I wasn’t paid to read them (such as a contest entry, or for review), I put them down when they lost me. I don’t consider them books “read.”
But there were a handful of books that blew me away. Books I read for the first time in 2019 (whenever they may have been published) and to which I will return often. I want to share those titles with you here, in hopes some of you might seek them out and enjoy them, too.
UNMARRIAGEABLE by Soniah Kamal. Tagged as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in Pakistan, this lively, funny, beautiful novel made me laugh and cry and want to read and re-read. It has pride of place amongst the old set of Jane Austen novels I inherited from my grandmother. I just loved this book. The writing, the energy, everything about it is wonderful.
EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTEROUS GENTLEWOMAN by Theodora Goss. Great characters, situations, and actions. I love the way Goss turns tropes, myths, and expectations inside out. I love the characters, their interaction, their growth.
TWO SKIES BEFORE NIGHT by Robert Gryn. One of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, and one of the best world-building I’ve ever seen anywhere. This book mixes detective and fantasy in a beautiful, fascinating blend. I could not put it down.
THRESHOLD DELIVERY by Patty Seyburn. Every single poem resonated, and it’s a book I’ve re-read a couple of times since my first reading last year.
All four of these books stayed in both memory and heart. If you haven’t read, them I encourage you to add them to your TBR pile — and then, actually read them! You’ll be glad you did.
I’m delighted to have author Jean Roberts as our guest today. I met Jean via Twitter, as part of the writing community.
Devon Ellington: The premise of WEAVE A WEB OF WITCHCRAFT is so interesting, because so often, the woman is the partner accused of witchcraft. In this case, it’s the man. And then she admits to being a witch. How did you find them?
Jean Roberts: Mary and Hugh Parsons are a fascinating couple who I first encountered while doing genealogy work on my family. Something about their tragic story resonated with me and I dropped the research on my ancestors in favor of delving into their history. I was excited to find that the testimony taken at Hugh’s deposition in 1651 is still available. The testimony paints a vivid picture of Hugh and Mary and from there I tried to recreate the circumstances that led to the accusations of witchcraft against him. I believe Mary suffered from a mental breakdown which led to her own confession of witchcraft. It’s hard to believe that intelligent people could find such accusations credible, and I tried to show how innocent actions could and were misinterpreted or misrepresented, much to the detriment of poor Hugh. What a scary world they inhabited.
DE: I have to ask the same question about BLOOD IN THE VALLEY. Do you come across these wonderful characters as part of your genealogical research and they inspire you? Or are you looking to tell a particular story and search for people who’ve lived it?
JR: When I was a young girl, I read a family history book, owned by my Grandfather, about my ancestors, the Thorntons. The book mostly dealt with the male members of the family, especially the Hon. Matthew Thornton, Esq., who signed the Declaration of Independence for the Colony/State of New Hampshire. I was flipping through the book, now mine, several years ago and came across the brief story of Catherine Wasson Clyde, niece of my ancestor and his brother Matthew Thornton. The story of the Cherry Valley Massacre and her survival really caught my attention. Questions immediately popped into in my head. What was her experience of the American Revolution? How did the average woman survive without her husband for months at a time? Were her feelings taken into consideration, valued, ignored? I felt like she came to me and begged me to write her story. I hope I did her justice.
DE: What is your process, once you settle on the characters? How much time do you devote to research for each of your books? How do you vet your sources?
JR: Historical accuracy is very important to me and hopefully to my readers. I want to paint a vivid picture of life as it was, from the clothing, to the food, to attitudes and social customs. I spent an inordinate amount of time on research, which is fine as I love it, but I generally end up with way more material than I need. One thing I learned while doing genealogy is the importance of sources. For my research I look for good primary source material which comes from as close to the time period as possible. Luckily for me, the depositions and some trial information exist and I was able to get a significant amount of information for those documents, for Weave a Web of Witchcraft. I have quite a few ancestors who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, so I was already very familiar with many sources for life in early New England.
For Blood in the Valley, I combed through countless online archives included the papers of George Clinton, Governor of New York, the papers of George Washington and many others. I read at least a dozen histories of the American Revolution and of New York. I also travelled from my home in Texas to the beautiful Mohawk Valley in New York and stood on the hilltop homesite of Catherine and Samuel Clyde in Cherry Valley. It was inspiring to stand where she stood and see what she saw. It was an amazing and emotional moment for me.
DE: How much do you have to cut out from your research, because it doesn’t drive the plot?
JR: A lot! Not every reader is going to share my passion for historical details and I have to fight my temptation to overload the book with historical minutia. I want there to be enough to make the reader feel immersed in my characters world without the book reading like an encyclopedia.
DE: What are you working on now?
JR: I am really excited about my next book, The Heron. Once again, I have tapped a few of my ancestors to help me tell my story, but this time they are only bit players. This book tells the dark tale of Mary, a woman who lived in New Hampshire in the late 1600s and Abigail a modern-day college professor. Their lives intersect in a house/ B&B called Pine Tree House, once Mary’s home. There is a bit of mind/time travel, a ghost and a love story. The timeline is split about 50/50 in the dangerous period of the late 1600s and in the current time. Historical accuracy is again very important, so I’ve included a lot of details of life along the Indian frontier of New Hampshire. The central themes are abuse survival, and the enduring nature of love.
Blood in the Valley onAmazon.
Weave a Web of Witchcraft on Amazon.
Jeanie Roberts, a proud mixture of English Puritan Great Migration Ancestors and Irish Immigrants, makes her home outside of Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas, Houston with a BSN. Following in her father’s footsteps, Jeanie served in the United States Air Force and married an Air Force pilot. After touring around the world, her family settled in Texas, where she worked as a Nurse Administrator for a non-profit. She has one son, a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Jeanie divides her time between writing, family history/genealogy and traveling. She is currently working on her third novel. When not writing novels, Jeanie reviews books on her blog,The Book Delight, researches and posts about her ancestors on her blog, The Family Connection, and investigates mythical Native American Ancestry on her blog, Indian Reservations.
My freelance pal Paula Hendrickson introduced me (electronically) to Scott when she invited me to participate in the weekly #RemoteChat on Twitter. Scott is a fantastic host, and I love being part of a group of smart, funny, resourceful, talented, compassionate people all over the world.
I wanted to know more about Scott and his book, THE ART OF WORKING REMOTELY.
Devon Ellington: What factors played into your choice to work remotely, and how long did it take for you to make the transition?
Scott Dawson: Honestly, it was a total accident. I was almost two years into my new job and I was engaged. My fiancee and I had looked at housing, commutes, and jobs, and decided that living in New York City wasn’t for us. I was honest with my boss. I told him I was about to be married and wanted to live in another area. I wanted to let him know I was going to be searching for jobs — either an internal transfer or a job with another company. I had no other angle. No other motivation. He considered what I said. After a few moments he asked, “How would you like to work from home?” I hadn’t considered that, but months later I was working out of a spare bedroom of our new Massachusetts apartment. I had a laptop, fax machine, an ISDN line (twice the speed of dialup!) and easy access to New York City if I needed to go into the office for a few days. It was couched as a 3-month trial, after which I’d return to the office if it wasn’t working out. It did work out, and I continued in that job for 17 years.
DE: Is there anything you thought was necessary before you made the switch that you discovered was not?
SD: Yes! Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. We rented a 3-bedroom apartment, thinking that I’d need a dedicated office apart from our bedroom. Another room was set aside as an art studio, since my wife loved to paint. We definitely didn’t need the third room. We didn’t have kids yet, and my wife taught most of the day. I was alone, and totally could have carved out a corner of our living room or bedroom to do my work. It’s true that having the separate room was nice, but it would have been nice to save a little money while we could, too.
DE: How has it improved both the quality of your work and your life?
SD: On the work front, I find that I can get into flow so much easier than if I were around a lot of people. I’m rather disciplined at home, and when I’m in the zone, I can be incredibly productive (I’m a web designer and developer). It’s just not the same in an office environment. The impact on my life is unquantifiable. I was there for all of those moments that mothers and fathers want to see when their kids are growing up. I got support from my family throughout the days and years, and I gave support right back. Most meals, when we’re all in the house, are at our dining room table. No commute gets in the way of me connecting with my family before and after work. All of that sums up to a lower-stress, far happier me!
DE: Do you miss anything about on-site work?
SD: I travel occasionally to the office, and so I’m reminded sometimes of the things that I miss. If you subtracted the commute, the social benefits of working alongside other people would be compelling. Going out to lunch, sharing playlists, ranting about this, or celebrating that … it’s all easier when you’re co-located. I try to fill that gap as a remote worker by being far more intentional about my social commitments. It’s important to make plans to connect with other people.
DE: Can you share one of the strangest anecdotes about working with a remote client?
SD: Sure! It’s an anecdote that, at the time, was not strange at all. Time and change have conspired to make it strange. Now, asynchronous collaboration is all the rage. Slack, social media, and other collaboration platforms vie for our attention throughout the day. These platforms enable a lot of teams to be efficiently distributed around the world. When I first started working remotely in 1998, my business counterpart and I were collaborating on a web site prototype. I updated a clickable prototype and uploaded to a server. She clicked around the prototype when she was free, and printed out the pages to mark them up with changes. Then she FAXED them to me. Yeah, it was the age of fax machines and modems, and it worked great! I made the changes, and the process repeated. She and I worked so well together, and it was the first example I can think of where asynchronous collaboration was as seamless as it could be at the time.
DE: What is your best suggestion for a person who wants to negotiate a remote work option to set out positives such as heightened productivity, better quality of work, and less sick time/lateness from commuting issues balanced against so many managers’ need to stare at their workers to make sure they’re actually working?
SD: You’ve actually cited a lot of the business benefits of remote work in the phrasing of the question. https://usefyi.com/remote-work-statistics is my go-to resource for statistics about remote work, many of which can be pretty compelling for a negotiating table. Armed with facts, you can then think about how working remotely can work in your unique situation. Perhaps suggest a trial like my manager did, and keep tabs on your output and productivity as compared to the office environment. When you do get the opportunity to work remotely, demonstrate your efficacy and highlight the big wins. If you’re more productive, make sure that they see it. Lastly, position things in terms of how it benefits the employer. Sure, you’ll derive big benefits, but the ones that seal the deal are the ones that matter most to the decision maker.
— The Art of Working Remotely Excerpt
Cornell’s career center was quite an operation. New companies arrived weekly, vying for the attention of Cornell’s upcoming graduates. Microsoft. IBM. Motorola. Morgan Stanley. We were also vying for their attention! We pored over the sign-up sheets posted in Carpenter Hall. What companies seemed interesting to me? There was no real intention to this “job search.” I hadn’t thought about what I wanted so it was a scattergun approach to my professional destiny. I wasn’t prepared for some of the more technical interviews. Microsoft didn’t even call me back after my session with them. I signed up for as many interviews as I could. I knew that time spent interviewing was good practice.
I walked into the interview room at the appointed time for one of these “practice” interviews. A major bank had sent a representative to speak with job hopefuls like me. The interviewer started off with the softest of pitches over the plate. “So, Scott, what can you tell me about the private banking business?”
I hadn’t prepared for this interview. Heck, I hadn’t prepared for any of these interviews. I assumed I’d talk about me, my skills, my path. Big mistake. How could I reply? As with most things in life, the truth seemed the best option and most in line with who I was.
“To be honest, I don’t know what private banking is.”
He smiled. The next half hour was surreal.
— Author Bio
Scott Dawson lives in Trumansburg, New York with his wife Amy and two children, Elizabeth and Xander. He’s a web designer and developer and enjoys writing, acting, creating art, and making music. He’s an avid skier in the winter and runs year-round on the roads and trails of Tompkins County in upstate New York. Connect with him at scottpdawson.com or @scottpdawson.
image courtesy of Larissa-K via pixabay.com
First of all, Happy New Year! May the New Year bring you many blessings, literary and other.
For me, the first book of the year is a huge, huge choice. I sometimes feel it sets the tone for the coming year, so I want it to be wonderful.
Well, every time I pick up a book, I hope I fall in love with it!
I often buy a new book on New Year’s Eve. Even if I haven’t finished the stack I received for Solstice/Christmas, I often buy a new book, carefully chosen, on December 31.
I start reading it a few minutes after midnight. Unless I’m at a party. Then I start reading it when I get home.
I chose my book yesterday: Blood and Blade byLauren Dane. A kickass book to start a kickass year.
Happy New Year!