Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Write on and on and on!


The Great Lakes may be frozen on the surface, but creative energy is bubbling to the top and will be on full display next month at West Michigan Women's Expo.  Great Lakes Authors, a new organization representing 32 Michigan authors, will host its first ever browse-through bookstore at the Expo. .
      Close to 20,000 people are expected to attend the three-day exposition March 13-15 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. This is the 17th year for the Expo but the first year for Great Lakes Authors.
      I'm tickled to be one of the authors represented. Copies of all three Jordan Daily News Mysteries -- Great News Town, One Shoe Off and Full Moon Friday -- will be available, as well as my 2009 memoir, Laughing for a Living.
       I'll be sharing space with some of my former colleagues at the Grand Rapids Press including Tom Rademacher, Charley Honey, Lawrence Heibel and  Janet Vormittag. Genres range from the job advice of Hudsonville employment counselor Susan Maciak to the humorous antics of Tricia McDonald's beloved white terrier, Sally.
       You can pick up locally written financial advice, young adult romance, urban fantasy, cookbooks, poetry and many more genres. And you'll have a chance to meet many of the authors who are scheduled for book signings.
        I expect Full Moon Friday to be glowing on the shelves since the Expo kicks off on Friday the 13th. How can you resist?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Double Friggatriskaidecaphobia!

Just when you thought you made it through Friday the 13th without a mishap, you realize there are only 28 days in February. That means the March day/date combinations are the same. Another Friday the 13th is on the way!
      It would have been the same in 1987, the setting for my most recent book Full Moon Friday. All the craziness of that book happens in one 24-hour period -- Friday, February 13, 1987-- and a few hours into the early morning of a very romantic Valentine's Day.
       Full Moon Friday and my other books -- Great News Town, One Shoe Off and Laughing for a Living -- will be featured this year in a special booth for Great Lakes Authors at the West Michigan Women's Expo at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. The timing is especially appropriate since the March expo will open on Friday the 13th.
       I decided to celebrate the double Friggatrikaidekaphobia of back-to-back Friday-the-13ths by reducing the list price of Full Moon Friday on Amazon.  So if you can't wait for the Women's Expo, you can order a copy here for just $11.69 for a limited time only. Let the madness begin!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Colonial Write Stuff

We're often told to be careful what we write. A rude email or Facebook post  or a scandalous tweet can come back to haunt you. But I doubt ggggggreat grandpa Ambrose Coleman had any idea that a note he wrote to his cousin in 1801 would be posted for the world to read more than 200 years later.
        Of course, I was delighted to find the letter online to help with my current genealogy research.
         The letter survived because Ambrose's cousin was James Madison who was serving as Thomas Jefferson's  Secretary of State in 1801. The National Archives and University of Virginia Press have posted Madison's papers on the Founders Online website.
          Ambrose apologized for writing, "but necessity will compel a person to do that he is ashamed of."  Ambrose was looking for financial aid. Evidently, before the Revolution, Ambrose ran up a tab at the local British Merchant who escaped to Scotland when the fighting started. Ambrose said he tried to settle the debt a couple of times but there was no way to contact the merchant. Now, suddenly, the sheriff is at the door, wanting to collect the debt plus interest! Ambrose owes 8 pounds and change. "We have had a poor Crop year with us and I am not Able to discharge it without selling something that I can Illey spare," he writes.
         Ambrose's mother was Eleanor Madison, a great aunt to the future president. Ambrose lives on a plantation next door to Madison's home at Montpelier. Ambrose, who was about 64 when the letter was written, mentions all the help he had received in recent years from Madison's father, James Madison Sr., who died at Montpelier about six months before the letter.
        Ambrose doesn't come right out and ask the Secretary of State for money. Instead he asks him to contact Ambrose's brother and let him know of the need. The site suggests that the "brother" might be Daniel Coleman who was serving in the Virginia legislature at the time, but according to the genealogical information available on Daniel, he was a distant cousin to Ambrose. Based on the 1764 will of Ambrose's father, Ambrose had only one brother, James, who died in 1796 according to posted genealogies.
         Yes, the letter raises questions about the mystery brother, and it is a bit embarrassing to have an ancestor begging so, but it makes Ambrose seem human, don't you think?


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Named in the will

         Now that it is Black History month I have a huge confession to make. Some of the ancestors I've uncovered were slaveholders.
          Slager. Rose. James.
          Their names pop up in the wills, to be passed on to the next generation along with land and a favorite sorrel riding horse or a treasured spinning wheel.
           Sarah. Izra. Angelo.
           The names conjure faces. Tired and sweaty. Or wrapped in a bandana and dusted with flour. Frightened. Angry. Resigned to their fate.
          I never really thought my ancestors were part of this great national sin, not because my ancestors were morally superior but because they were dirt poor. At the time of the Civil War all of my ancestors were subsistence farmers in Missouri. They didn't own slaves. They didn't own much of anything.
           But now that I am looking more closely at my earlier ancestors in the 1600s, I see that several of them were caught up in the marketing mania that became slavery. In both Virginia and New Jersey the government offered inducements to attract settlers to tame the wilderness. Settlers received "head rights" -- grants of 50 or 60 acres per person. And if a man bought one of the black workers being unloaded at the dock, then he received an additional 60 acres in the deal.
           It doesn't make it acceptable or right, but it helps me understand how William Merrell, a man of fairly modest means in the northern state of New Jersey, ended up with two slaves to pass along in his will. And in Virginia, the Colemans amassed so much land they needed lots of workers to clear it.
           I'm  embarrassed and ashamed and very sorry to realize my family played a part in this tragedy.
          There's one named Sampson. He must have been big and strong. There's one named Mustapher. Sounds like one of the cats in a Broadway musical. There's even one called Cupid.
          Their names echo through the wills and legal paperwork right along with the names of all my distant cousins of long ago.
           They are part of my history, too.