The Problem With Libraries

Good post about reading outside your genre to expand your perspective and bring new ideas into your writing.

Katie Bachelder

For as long as I’ve been writing, people have been telling me what reading strategies they think I should follow to make me a better writer. Well, it’s always fun when someone with little to no writing experience tries to tell you how to become a better writer, but the question they raised is still important enough to discuss.

Should writers read outside their genre or focus on reading the genres they intend to write in?

901091 Image found on Goodreads

Time for a little anecdote. When I was young… let’s say, well through elementary school, I was very much into my horse-lover phase. It lasted far longer than most. Throughout the whole of it, I was reading everything related to horses. Pony Pals, the Saddle Club, I am the Great Horse, you name it. If it had a horse on the cover, I was taking it home with me…

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Moving Right Along

Moving can be a great incentive to eliminate a lot of clutter from your life.  Though tiring, it can give you a new perspective being in a new setting with new things to learn and experience.

That said, I hate moving.  Really, really, really hate moving.

Why?  Because in the past 18 years, I’ve made 3 personal moves and 6 business moves (complete or partial due to renovations or such).  In all of those instances I was completely or heavily involved in the actual move – planning, organizing and physical move.  That doesn’t include several other instances where I helped others move.

As someone once said, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, “I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.”

Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

Trust Issues

I understand people with trust issues.  I have them, too.

It’s a sad day when you realize that those people who declared themselves to be your friend, even your best friend, actually meant that you are their best friend.  You are there when they need you, regardless of the difficulty or inconvenience, but they have no intention of reciprocating.

Perhaps that’s why I like to get lost in fictional stories.  There you can find people who truly understand friendship and loyalty.  There you can find people who care about their friend’s well-being as much as they care about their own.

I know people like that exist in the real world, but they are lost in the crowd of ‘otherwise’.  Too bad it isn’t easier to recognize both kinds right at the start.  It would prevent a world of hurt.

Do What?

Noticed the instructions on my eyedrops instruct me to “Instill 1 drop by mouth every day”.

I’m thinking my pharmacy and I have very different understandings of human physiology.  Or maybe it’s like pills that you take for ‘backache’, that somehow know to ignore your headache, toothache and other aches and only focus on fixing the backache?

Thanks, pharmacy, for the instructions, but if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll keep putting them in my eyes.

Roadtrips ‘R Us, or they used to be, anyway

Probably should have posted this earlier in the summer, but maybe some of you are still out and about for a while longer.

At one point in my life, I was the queen of roadtrips.  So far, I’ve visited 48 of the 50 states, and much of that was done via automobile.  I also spent nearly two weeks driving around England, Scotland and Wales.  Over time, I refined the details to make car trips as simple and easy as possible.

When I started, I packed way too much stuff into the car “in case I need it”.  After enough trips, though, I had a better idea of what I could do without and began to winnow down the list.

Sometimes I travelled with another person, but many times I didn’t.  Others maybe were interested, but they didn’t have the time or money at the same time I did, and I quickly learned to let others join me if they could, but do things without them rather than miss out on things I wanted to do.

Of course, that meant I did all the driving and decision-making and choosing where to go and what to do.  Admittedly, the world is a different place now, thanks to ubiquitous laptop computers and cell phones.  I was using maps and tethered to whatever public phone I could find.

If you are interested in doing a little roadtripping, here are some pointers.  Keep in mind, though, the technology you now have available may somewhat alter these suggestions.

  1. Decide what is important for you to take along (and try to keep it basic). For me, I never liked hotel/motel pillows.  On a plane, you can’t readily take your own pillow with you when you travel.  In a car, you can, and I did.  I usually slipped it into a plastic bag to keep it clean while packed in the car.  I also took nightlights to make it easier to get around an unfamiliar room in the dark.
  1. I had budget constraints – money was an object, and I needed to spend frugally if I wanted to be able to afford these trips. For me, I wasn’t looking for luxury hotel rooms with spas and such.  Not even ones with swimming pools.  Motel 6 usually had acceptable quality at a reasonable price, so it was often my motel of choice, though I used others when Motel 6 wasn’t where I needed it to be.
  1. I also tended to book my motel room ahead. I figured out where I wanted to end my day and booked a room in advance.  Why?  Because at the end of a long day of driving and sightseeing, I didn’t want to have to find a room only to discover everything was sold out at my destination.  I wanted to be guaranteed a bed was waiting.
  1. I also tried to keep days to normal “work” hours (8 or 9 to 5). Pressing too hard wears you out physically and you come home from vacation more drained than rested.  So I planned for an early dinner, preparation for the next day, maybe a little TV watching and then a good night’s sleep.
  1. I carried a small cooler. The one I had was a size that roughly held a 6-pack.  It was small enough to not be too heavy to carry around but enough to keep some things cold.  (If you travel with another person, you might need something larger.)  As needed, I bought a bag of ice for it.  To keep expenses down, I bought milk and stuck it in there to have cereal for breakfast – quick and easy and I didn’t have to hunt for a breakfast spot, or spend the time being served.  I could eat while I was packing up the car.  I carried paper bowls and plates, to dispose as I went, but had a regular knife, fork and spoon that could easily be washed.  I also used tall tupperware glasses with lids.  Why?  Because I could pour milk in those and shove them down in the ice in the cooler to keep it well refrigerated.  I didn’t have to worry that the ice would make the milk container leak (if paper) and I didn’t have to carry a large barely-full milk container.
  1. Think about what you need. Like a dark room when you sleep?  Motel curtains do not always close completely, so morning light might wake you sooner than you expect.  Carry safety pins to secure them.  Find it difficult getting at electrical outlets to plug things in?  Maybe carry a power strip or extension cord to make the outlets more accessible.  It’s more common now in motels to be given plastic drinking cups, but some still have glass.  I don’t find either of those ideal, but I have those plastic tupperware cups on hand so I always have an acceptable drinking container.
  1. Don’t overpack. On roadtrips, unless you are with other people, no one will know if you wear the same clothes 3 days in a row.  Unless you’re planning to do things that will get your clothing filthy so that doesn’t work (requiring you to find a laundromat in order to do laundry), a couple of clothing changes will do.  Also take the temperature into consideration.  Layers allows you to be prepared for warm or cold, especially if either one happens unexpectedly.
  1. A friend told me her mother worried about the safety of her travelling alone. While that was reasonable, common sense should make it no more dangerous than day-to-day living at home.  Don’t open your door to strangers.  Be aware of your surroundings and anyone suspicious who is loitering nearby.  In general, I tried to be in my room by dark so there was no reason to wander around a strange place with unfamiliar dangers.  When you’re in the room, keep the door locked and bolted.  Don’t leave valuable items in your car where someone can see them and be encouraged to break in to steal them.  And don’t walk around flashing money, credit/debit cards, expensive jewelry, expensive computer equipment, etc. in unfamiliar surroundings.  You can keep yourself reasonably safe if you use some common sense.
  1. Roadtrips implys movement. Most vacations involve going to a destination and staying there to have fun and relaxation.  Roadtrips involve covering ground in a car while also having fun and relaxing.  Plot your route to allow for stops/visits at places of interest, and allow however much time you need to enjoy the venue.  Then spend the night somewhere farther along the road than where you stayed the previous night.  That way you are combining travel and sightseeing into one.  Some days you may do a lot of little things between breakfast and dinner.  Other days you will only do one or two (whether due to their distance apart or the time required to fully enjoy them).  And that’s fine.  Roadtripping isn’t about cramming every day full of as much activity as you can manage.  The sightseeing and the travel are both meant to be enjoyed.
  1. The change restaurants are pretty much everywhere in the U.S. these days, but try to occasionally stop at a local diner or restaurant. Mingle with residents and get a local feel.  You might also come across some really good food at a good price.
  1. Improvise. Sometimes bad things happen.  They just do.  Try to keep your sense of humor and find ways to still enjoy as much as you can while dealing with unexpected and/or unpleasant things.  I once had my transmission go out, outside Las Vegas, on a holiday weekend, with temperatures in the 90-100 range.  A uniquely unpleasant experience.  But it happens, and it was certainly a vacation trip that I will never forget.  Take a deep breath and cope.  You can do it.  If you can even contemplate a roadtrip, you can cope with the unexpected.  (If you can’t, get out of the car right now and forget about roadtripping.)

There’s probably more stuff I could say, but that covers most of the basic stuff.  If you have questions, I’ll try to answer them.

Happy Trails!


Do I Have to Draw You a Map?

Blogger Uninspired Writers did a recent post on world building via creating maps.  It directly focuses on fantasy worlds, but even in real world settings with fictional places, they can be useful.

If your drawing ability is limited, like mine and obviously many others, draw it in pencil first.  That allows for easier changes or corrections as you go.  Once you are reasonably satisfied, you can ink over in a darker color to make it more ‘permanent’.

You can also draw maps of buildings (rooms inside, room layout, etc.) or spaceships to make it easier to move people around inside them.

see the full post at:

Genealogical Resources

For genealogists, ‘free’ websites with useful information are always desirable, since so much of genealogy work requires payment of some sort, and that adds up quickly.  That’s not to say that pay websites are evil – they provide a wealth of information at our fingertips, allowing us to research at 4 a.m. in our pajamas, if we wish.  And much of their content is not readily accessible to the general public otherwise.  Even so, ‘free’ is always nice.

Because of that, and because for a while I worked in a Family History Center helping others, I began collecting websites into Word documents for my own reference.  I don’t claim to have found them all on my own, and some may no longer exist.  (I don’t actively curate the lists, just add what I find.  If I do see duplication, though, I remove it, as well as any sites I find that are no longer there.  The date I indicate is the date I put it into the Word file.  If I go to the website after that date and thus confirm it still exists, I change the date accordingly.)

These originally were broken down by U.S. state and by other countries (if I ran across anything).  Over the years, a few ‘specialty’ groups appeared, like Military, Cemeteries, Newspapers and Maps.

The thought occurred to me today that while these are useful to me, they are not particularly helping anyone else (unless that other person has found these sites also).  To that end, I thought I would mention their existence here, in case anyone was interested in having a copy of one or more of them.  If you are, feel free to contact me via the Contact page linked at the top and provide your email, specifying which ones are of interest to you – there are presently over 150 separate files.  Most are currently Word documents, though some are still in rtf format (I’ve gradually been converting them to Word).  At need, I could put them in PDF format, but if you wanted very many of them, that would take a while.  Some have a LOT of pages (50, 80, 100+) and some have a single entry.  It all depends on what I’ve found.

Anyway, there’s your freebie offer of the day.

Here’s a sample of what is in the Military document:


US – The free website Genealogy Trails is currently working on adding the 1883 Pensioners on the Roll for every county in every state. These are pension records of Union soldiers. The project is currently around 60% complete. Work has also started on transcribing the 1890 Veterans Census. This project is currently around 25% complete (note: records are not available from all states because some of these census records were destroyed by fire). Access is free. [Genealogy Trails] 

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The Irish in the American Civil War, Posted: 24 Mar 2014

If you’ve got Irish ancestors who fought in the American Civil War, this website/blog may have some interesting reading for you–“The Irish in the American Civil War.”  (


Scotland – The National Library of Scotland has put online Rolls of Honour from World War I. These are lists of casualties and those who died while on active service. The collection includes rolls from schools, universities, clans, businesses, churches and towns. Some of the Rolls of Honour contain detailed biographies of the soldiers, as shown below. The collection can be searched by keyword, such as name. Access is free. [Scottish WWI Rolls of Honour]  

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Look Before You Leap

and Think Before You Act/Speak/Post

It’s become common practice to just do/say/post anything at all that you want, and then if it gets you into trouble, to offer an “apology” and pretend like it was all just a simple mistake or accident.  Often these insincere ‘apologies’ are meant to soothe ruffled feathers in order to salvage reputation or career.  The trouble is, no one believes them anymore than the person offering them.  False contrition is easy to recognize.

“Tee hee, pardon my French.”       [Meaning you don’t care enough to avoid foul language in company that might not appreciate it, but you think saying this lets you off the hook.]

“I’m not really a racist.  I don’t know why I tweeted that, but I’m really sorry.”            [Meaning I really did mean it, but everyone’s angry and it might hurt my job, so I have to say I’m sorry to keep myself from losing any money.]

“I apologize.  That was a poor choice of words and I didn’t mean to offend anyone.”       [Meaning you didn’t care if you offended anyone or not, but when there was an uproar then you thought you ought to pretend like you do care.]

Fake apologies don’t fix anything, and they don’t absolve you of the wrong-doing.  They never have, and they never will.

Try paying attention to what you write and say and do, and don’t write/say/do it if you “really don’t mean it”.

We can be anything we want in life.  Maybe we should shoot for kind and courteous, rather than rude, vulgar or insensitive.

Summer Cleaning?

Managed to sneak in a week’s vacation this week.  Our office is moving soon to a new location and I’m heavily involved, so getting time away is a challenge.

This week hasn’t been terribly productive, unless you count catching up on sleep.  Even so, between downsizing at home and preparing for the move at work, organization is heavily on my mind.  Here are a couple of pointers if you’re looking to lighten your load also.

1)  Even if you have it on paper (and want to keep it on paper), try to make a digital copy of most everything.  Photos, documents, etc.  Paper piles up quickly and much of it you really don’t need to have taking up space.  Digital copies (and backups) allows you to eliminate much of it.  It also saves you if a disaster comes, like flood or fire.  At least then, not everything is lost.

And label those digital copies in a useful way.  Simply calling a file ‘Joe’, then ‘Joe2’ and ‘Joe3’ isn’t very helpful.  Yes, it narrows things down, but what if you’re looking for a photo of Joe Marshall’s fifth birthday party?  And what if you know more than one Joe?  You still have to wade through all those photos until you find the one you want.  Instead, labelling them something like ‘Marshall_Joe_fifth birthday party’ or ‘Marshall_Joe_birthday party_06.21.17’ gives you a much better idea of what/who is in a photo.

While this applies to your day-to-day life, it can also specifically be applied to your hobbies or even your avocations.  I have a ton of research I have collected on various topics in connection with my writing.  I want to be able to find that information easily, and not have to hunt it down on the Internet a second time.  Giving files useful names is the key.

2)  Try to keep things organized from the start.  It’s much easier to maintain than it is to suddenly start organizing a ton of information.  If you already have that ton of information lying around unorganized, start fresh now keeping things in order, and then clean up that disorganized information as you find time.  It will make it easier to find things, work with information, etc.

3)  Trust me on this – you are NOT going to remember as much as you think you will several years from now.  I can look back at things I wrote ten or more years ago about people who were obviously important to me at that time and have no clue who they were, what they looked like or anything about them.  If you really want to remember, you’d best be getting it in writing and in photos and making sure photos are labelled as to who is in them, where it was taken and anything else of importance.

4)  Take a close look at what you have.  Some things are keepsakes, but do you remember why?  If not, why are you keeping them?  Those books on your shelves – do you ever read them, refer to them or are you likely to do so?  If not, why are they there?  If it’s broken and useless, put it in the trash.  If it is still useful and someone else might like it, give it to someone you know or a charity or a library or anyone else interested.

Some cities have a Freecycle email group wherein you can offer what you have and others can claim it.  Then you simply arrange for them to collect it.  You can also request things you need that someone might have lying around, but would like to get rid of.  If you can find one of those lists, it is a more targeted way of sharing things that you no longer have use for.

Do you want to spend your summer cleaning house and organizing things?  Probably not, but you can do a little at a time.  If you open a junk drawer and see something that belongs somewhere else or is broken or is no longer needed, get it out of there while you’re thinking of it.  If you have time, maybe clean that entire drawer.  Set up a box or bag for donations or things to give to family members.  Then every time you run across something put it in that box/bag and that’s one less thing in your drawers or closets.  If you are getting something out of your closet, and spot something you never wear and probably never will again, pull it out of there now.

Truthfully, I’m one of the laziest people you’ll find, but being efficient means I do less work with less effort.  I’m in my living room.  If I get up to go into the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, and there is something in the living room that should be in one of those places, I take it with me when I go.  Then I don’t have to make a special trip.  If I take a dirty dish to the kitchen and have time, I might wash all the accumulated dirty dishes before I leave the kitchen.

You can simplify your life if you try, and it’s amazing how getting rid of clutter and having things organized lifts a load from your mind.