Genealogy: Taking Steps to Build a Family Tree

One of the new directions this website will be going, is Genealogy. A new tab will be added to the navigation bar at the top of the page, as well as a new category added to the sidebar.

I first became interested in my ancestors when my children were born about 20 years ago. Prior to that there was just me and my immediate family. There were no grand parents, aunts and uncles or cousins, let alone distant relatives. Of course, I had all these relatives, but the closest lived 3,000 kilometres away. I always considered myself from a very small family and when my sons were born, I suddenly developed an itch to know where we had come from.

Hence, the questions started. Back in those days, there wasn’t the convenience of the internet. Everything was done by post and everything took months before I started seeing results. I questioned my grandmother and her sister-in-law until they probably cringed every time they saw an envelope with my hand writing on it. But they were fantastic and patient, and provided me with a firm family tree foundation.

Later, many years later in fact, the internet popped up and after a while I restarted my search as I found new sites generating databases filled with valuable information. In the few years that followed my discovery of the internet, my family tree went from 200 or so people to over 6,500 people. Every name I found, spurred me to look some more. More importantly, I connected with other family members who were researching the same family names. These people were complete strangers, even though they were distant cousins, and now they are friends.

However, during those early years of research I made a terrible mistake. I didn’t “source” my information, which means that my family tree is virtually useless in genealogy circles. By the time I realised my mistake, I had gone too far to turn back…or so I thought.

Recently, only two weeks ago, I purchased a new version of the genealogy program I’ve been using for a couple of years. With that new version came the urge to record my tree correctly. Yes, it’s going to be a huge job, but in the long term, it will be worth my time and effort. I look at it like this…I am making an investment for my descentants. When someone looks at me as their ancestor, I want them to be grateful that I put a lot of time into building a tree that will make their life a lot easier. And to do that, it must be properly sourced.

That mammoth job will begin soon…and it will be recorded on this website.

Book Review: The Storm Weaver and the Sand

The Storm Weaver and the Sand by Sean Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Thursday I finished reading The Storm Weaver & the Sand (Third Book of the Change) by Sean Williams. It’s the last book of The Change Trilogy.

This book was rivetting from the first page. I found that I didn’t want to put it down and, when I had no choice but to do so, I was eager to return to the story. Being the last book in the set, the pace was a lot faster and all the loose ends were woven in soundly. By the time I got to the end of the book I was feeling upset as I knew the story was soon to end and I honestly didn’t want it to.

Just quickly, as in the other two books, the characters, setting and plot were exceptional. I especially liked the author’s “voice” as I find it easy to read and understand, which means it wasn’t distracting in any way. And I liked the messages the books put over too, and (in my opinion) the trilogy has several, but more on that in a minute.

As a writer, I found that I put this last book down and stared out the train’s window for the longest time as I thought about the manner in which the author put the trilogy together. It would be wonderful to sit with Sean Williams and talk about the planning of a project like this because to produce series of books would so well put together would be wonderful. Anyway, I feel I’d learn a lot from a conversation like this. Unfortunately for me, I interviewed Sean prior to finishing the trilogy (the interview is scheduled for tomorrow) and I now wish I could reinterview him so that I could focus on the planning of this trilogy alone.

So what did I really like?

I was impressed by how smoothly the ends were tied together (or woven in, as I prefer to think of it). There are no seams and everything fit together so naturally. It really was impressive.

I loved the depth of the characters. Whilst there were basic descriptions, I didn’t have to endure long, tiresome descriptions that lasted pages and pages (which is something I hate). Yet I had a vivid image of each character in my mind. I’m certain my image would be quite different to the images of other readers (and even the author’s own impressions), but that doesn’t matter. Readers create characters they can relate to in order to enjoy the story presented, I’ve always been aware of that.

The conflicts were realistic and easily related to. The author was clever in using everyday problems and showing growth through experience. As this is a young adult trilogy, I think those lessons are well presented.

I can’t forget the messages…and I mean that quite literally. I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for anyone else so I won’t go into them here, but I learned a lot from one of the stories within the story. It left a lasting impression on me and I am certain that I will remember the message of that story for ever more. I also liked the message given that our future is not set in stone and that it is within our power to change the future with every decision we make. A message like this gives hope to the reader and we all need hope, no matter what our age.

When I write reviews I always try to show the good and bad sides of the book. Sometimes, even the bad parts are nothing major, but with The Change Trilogy I have trouble coming up with anything negative to say. It really is a great reading experience and I’m glad I finally got around to reading these books (I had the first two on my book shelf for several years).

Highly recommended.

When it’s Time to Relax

Resident Evil 5 No one can write all the time. Everyone has to have other hobbies in their lives to ensure a heavy, happy existence. Or so I’ve been told.

Anyway, one of the things I like to do when I’m not writing…is play role playing games on the PlayStation. Most people stop and gape at me when I say I’m a Resident Evil fan. How could such a prim and proper woman of my age want to kill zombies? What can I say…I love it!

Except for the first game (which I used to own but sold once I completed it as I knew I’d never play it again), I own and have finished every Resident Evil game. My two favourites are the second and third games. They were especially hard to get through (thank heavens for walkthroughs online), but I have easily played both these games a couple of dozen times each. The suspense throughout these games made my heart pound at times as I tried frantically to kill a “boss” that just wouldn’t die. They were games that took my total concentration and stole many hours each time I sat down. Having said that, I got so good at them that I could sit down and finish the entire game, without a single save, in a little over an hour in the end. And, please excuse my bragging, but none of my family could beat my times and I was the only one to unlock Tofu in RE2.

The games after Nemesis (RE3) weren’t as good, but I still enjoyed them immensely. I guess once a Resident Evil fan, always a Resident Evil fan. Having said that, the worst game (in my opinion) is Outbreak – if you took the RE name off the cover, no one would have known it was connected to the other games. It was just too ordinary and felt the same as many other games. Up ‘til then, RE games stood apart from the rest.

Anyway, earlier this year Resident Evil 5 was released. I had to get it and was lucky enough to get it at a bargain price (less than half price new) about a month ago. So Saturday night is now “kill the zombies” night and I’ll be heading off to do just that right after I’ve finished writing this post. RE5 is much better than Outbreak, but still lacks the old RE feel, which is a shame, but I’m still enjoying the game overall. As I said at the beginning of this post, I love to play role playing games on the PlayStation. I have quite a few PlayStation 2 games and my PlayStation 3 collection is slowly growing. I have some great games, but Resident Evil is still my favourite. Closely followed by Silent Hill, which is great for creating atmosphere through fear (brilliantly done with the sound effects used).

My immediate family are used to the fact that I’m a killer on the weekends (a zombie killer that is). Other family and friends remain mind boggled over this fact, but it feels great to smash their “practical” image of me.

Everyone has an “evil” side, what’s yours?

Book Review: The Sky Warden and the Sun

The Sky Warden and the Sun

The Sky Warden and the Sun by Sean Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sky Warden & the Sun by Sean Williams is the second book of The Change. The first book is called The Stone Mage and the Sea.

This book sees Sal and Shilly continue their adventure. Their guardians have been killed and they have been left to flee capture by the sky wardens, one in particular. In the first book, the children were just that…children. In the second book, we can see their forced growth as they struggle with decisions that adults would have trouble making.

Again, the story isn’t fast paced, but the characters, setting and plot are not lacking. I was again impressed by the sense of realism. I feel as if I know the two main characters extremely well. In fact, I found myself caring about what was happening to them, which meant that I was eager to read on and I admired the author’s writing ability because of it.

The other thing that impressed me with this book, which could be considered the “middle” of the story, was that it didn’t sag in any way – often the middle of a story does, I find. Every scene was there for a reason and what seemed like “fluff” turned out to be important information or was definitely connected in some way. I also noticed references to parts of the first book that made everything fall clearly into place as well. These might sound like silly things to comment on, but together they make for a much smoother reading experience.

The series was published in 2002/2003, so I have had a lot of trouble getting hold of the third and final book in the trilogy – The Storm Weaver and the Sand. For a few days I thought I was going to be disappointed and miss out on how Sal and Shilly’s story ended, but I’m glad to say that I managed to get my hands on a copy of the book and it is presently making its way to me through the post.

This book is highly recommended and I am patiently waiting to read the final book.

Author Interview: Kate Forsyth

This month I have the pleasure of interviewing Kate Forsyth, author of several books, including The Puzzle Ring.

Welcome, Kate. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

I wrote my first novel when I was only 7, and have been writing ever since. I don’t remember ever deciding I wanted to be a writer – it feels as if I was born with the desperate desire – but there must have been a point in which I realised people were paid to spend their days reading, writing, and daydreaming, and knew that it was the job for me.

It sounds brilliant, but I doubt it’s as easy as you make it sound. 😀 Tell us about your latest publication?

‘The Puzzle Ring’ is a novel about a girl who discovers her family was cursed long ago by one of the Sidhe (a Scottish fairy). She sets out to break the curse but discovers that to do so she must go back in time to the tumultuous last days of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still walked the land. It is a thrilling adventure story, filled with all sorts of fascinating information about Scottish history and fairy lore.

I’ve already put it on my “to-read” list as it sound like a book I would enjoy. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a YA fantasy novel called ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ about a wildkin girl who sets out to free her cousin from prison, with the reluctant help of two starkin boys. Her cousin has the Gift of Telling which means she can foretell the future, but also has the gift of altering the world with her words. She can wish, she can curse, and she can change the future. It’s the sequel to an earlier book of mine, ‘The Starthorn Tree’.

Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Not directly. I write stories about curses and perilous quests and battles and fairy queens. However, I do believe that every writer builds stories out of their own lives and their own imaginations. We take everything we’ve ever heard or seen or read about or wondered about or been excited by or disgusted by, and we turn it into something else. It’s an alchemical process.

I agree totally. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Yes, I always know the ending before I start. I don’t always know HOW I’ll achieve the ending, but I cannot start writing until I have a clear narrative arc laid out in my mind.

I believe writers could easily be swept away with their story and let “life” slip away without meaning for it to happen, so I’m interested to know how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It can be difficult, but I try very hard to! I do this by only writing when my children are at school or asleep, or when they are so busy and happy they don’t mind what I do.

What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Read a lot, write a lot, and rewrite a lot. It’s actually very easy.

And a question that will allow us to see the person behind the writer, what do you do when you are not writing?

I am very busy with my family – I have 3 children aged under 11 – so that involves all the usual mum things of shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing and folding – urk! It’s a sign of my true love for my family that I do it. For my own pleasure, I read books, I garden, I walk by the beach with my dog, I go the movies and out dancing with friends.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

All writers get blocked sometimes, but know to go and work on something else and let the subconscious mind work on it at will. I like to think about the problem before I go to sleep, and I usually wake up with the solution.

What are your writing goals for the future?

To keep writing till I die.

It has been a pleasure “chatting” with you, Kate. Thank you for your time and good luck with your future writing ventures.

To find out more about Kate’s books, please visit her website: Kate Forsyth