Tag Archives: history

Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

Jo Robinson tagged me to continue a tradition of bloggers. Meet My Main Character Blog Tours resemble radio interviews: tune in now for answers to questions posed to me, and a week later for answers to the same questions posed to other authors. This tour asks the authors of works-in-progress to answer questions about the main characters of their historical fiction novels. Jo describes her main character as being part of other-worldly myths that she (her main character) doesn’t believe in. Jo features this character in her Shadow People series. Shadow People: The Hunger coverJo and I write similarly: our characters tell us their stories, and we merely translate them into a language that you can read. And now, the questions and answers about my historical novel-in-progress:

  1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? Polly is my grandmother’s grandmother, as I imagine her.

  2. When and where is the story set? Polly raised her family in the mid 1800s in the crude log cabin that her husbandbuilt in Pennsylvania, USA. My sister and I stirred up few clues about Polly and her family, through our genealogical research projects during the past few decades. I felt amused and then angered when I hit adead end inan historical reference book that declared that Polly’s family didn’t “succeed” because they didn’t develop their land into villages; they didn’testablish businesses on their land in the mid 1800s; they remained farmers.  I define “success” differently, thus I continue her story beyond the history books.
    Polly's mother Elizabeth

  3. What should we know about him/her? Polly grew up surrounded by people whom her parents and grandparents had grown up with in Germany. The adults were doing what they could to stay together in this land that was new to them. Their language was a unique combination of German and English; that is a fun puzzle to translate as I read their historical documents.
    Polly's husband William

  4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Polly’s story is a fictional diary. She writes about reaching the age of marriage and child-rearing. She gives you the unfamiliar perspective of a young woman at that time in that culture. It is a time when her community’s life has become much easier and requires less creativity, but basic survival is still challenging. They were reviving their old ways as much as possible.

  5. What is the personal goal of the character? Polly has the new challenge of defining how to be happy and creative when strategies for survival have become easier and more familiar, and leisure time has become available. My personal goal is to help her figure that out.

  6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? I refer to it as Polly’s Diary, or Diary of a Modern Household. I have not yet shared any excerpts or notes beyond what I shared with you here. Leave me a comment, and I’ll be glad to keep you updated on its progress.

  7. When can we expect the bookto be published? Itwill be published after I finish writing it, or when someoneyanks it from me 🙂 I’m considering putting everything aside for a few weeks to see how far I can get if I focus on it single-mindedly. I am still choosing which word processing program to use to assemble the pieces that Ihave been writing on receipts, magazine page margins, junk mail and other scratch paper; in .pdf, .txt, .odt, .xls, and .doc files; and in my own diaries/journals. I welcome suggestions.
    I have a pile of resources that I nibble on. By the time that I read a few sentences, Polly has woken up to tell me more of her stories. I understand that historical fiction novels often take years to write, especially when the writer does a lot of research into primary documents like wills, letters, and church records, in addition to historians and cousins. Therefor, I might have a few more years before publishing, since I just started writing this story a year and a half ago.
Thank you Jo

for sharing your enthusiasm about my novel.

The Tour Continues…

Susanne Alleyn writes historical fiction with impeccable credentials, as a result of extensive research. In addition, her potent writing makes me consistently breathless. Reading her work is no spectator pastime; it makes my pulse race. You must read what she says about the sequel to her successful book at her blog.

I enjoyed reading about where Roderick Gladwish’s ideas came from when he wrote his trashy story: “Trashy” because it’s about the Green Trash Vortex, and the technology that might clean it up in the future, and what that might lead to. You can read it in Jupiter SF, Issue XLIV, April 2014. Read about the status of his most recent work at his blog.

Ronda K. Reed’s flash fiction stories catch my attention when she submits them to the Moderator Selected Writing Exercises at the Writer’s Discussion Group on Google+. Her tour site is here at my blog where she talks about her book’s main characters, and its mysterious landmark.

I was also hoping that Jess of JMGajda would participate. She caught my attention when I read some of her futuristic and supernatural work. In the midst of her high-risk pregnancy, she took the time to join this tour! You must read about the cultures that challenge her main character!


Update: Onondaga Nation’s Request goes International

map of the Organization of American States
map of the Organization of American States
via Wikimedia
this image is in the public domain

Last Fall, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the Onondaga Nation’s request for legal treaties to be honored.

The Onondaga Nation is now bringing the Land Rights Action to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the Commission), which is part of the Organization of American States. As Jeanne Shenandoah of the Onondaga Nation says,

“This Commission has demonstrated, through rulings in other cases, a profound respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, demonstrated in part by its reliance on and respect for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [the Declaration].”

The Commission has been debating other human rights questions such as whether the “home” of a corporation is liable for the corporation’s actions abroad. It has also been examining the persistent discrimination that underlies violence against women, and ways to abolish the death penalty.

Consider that while the United States Department of State (The Department) points out that the Declaration is not legally binding, it recognizes that the Declaration “has both moral and political force.” The Department also recognizes that the Declaration improves relations with indigenous people. This leads me to be hopeful about the outcome of this next step by the Onondaga Nation.
You can become a Neighbor of the Onondaga Nation and support the Land Rights Action.

Lincoln to King: the next Great Emancipator

A river of emotion swells in me as a little-girl version of my voice overflows, singing with the marchers who are on their way to the Lincoln Memorial for a celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, and “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
Deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

I long to believe, deep in my heart, that we will overcome so we can all have freedom.

via Martin Luther King ‘I Have a Dream’ speech: Re-live his famous speech – World Story.

As I watched this video today, I hung on to every word, recognizing that my understanding and attachment to this speech are deeper than ever.

Sure, “Whites Only” paper signs are gone from water fountains, buses and schools. Sure, 50 years ago, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize. Sure, 50 years ago, the U.S. Civil Rights Act outlawed many forms of discrimination. Sure, Blacks can vote. Sure, the US now has a Black president. But how crippled is he, like many other people, by “the manacles of segregation” and “chains of discrimination” that persist? How much does he represent the end of “the long night of captivity” that people have endured? Where do invisible “Whites Only” signs still exist? What does “freedom” mean today for people who are African American, Native American, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, women, gay, sick, disabled, homeless, hungry, orphaned, aged, jailed…?

As President Obama confirmed, economic disparity is a real issue, not just an illusion.

via President Obama Marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington | The White House.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., by Betsy Graves Reyneau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What is, or would be, the fate today for a Great Emancipator like Dr. King, and a march for freedom like the one in 1963? Dr. King came 100 years after President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. 100 years later, will someone else hold their title? Who will move our world forward to provide more fair shots for the many, instead of more privileges for the few?

President Abraham Lincoln, 1865
Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, 1865 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When President Lincoln promoted the Emancipation Proclamation, he reminded people that the U.S. Declaration of Independence “gave hope [for liberty] to the world for all time…that in due time the weights should be lifted from all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

Let’s remember President Lincoln’s message, as we listen to or read Dr. King’s speech again, and reach for a deeper understanding and appreciation of emancipators. Then, let’s renew our personal commitment to freedom for all.

Thanksgiving Days

When I was in college, each time that I drove on the interstate highway past a certain Indian reservation, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it. I repeatedly looked at maps to verify that I was looking in the right place. I could not see teepees anywhere.

TeePee Watercolor painting by Karl Bodmer 1832-1834
This work is in the public domain

A few years later, I was lost. As I drove along, I saw signs on both sides of the road stating that I was in an Indian reservation. I became super-alert, expecting men to jump out at me from behind the trees, wearing war paint and loincloths, and threatening to attack me with tomahawks.

Indians with Tomahawks attack a womanThe Death of Jane McCrea Oil painting by John Vanderlyn 1804
This work is in the public domain

A few years after that, a friend mentioned that we were passing through an Indian reservation. All I saw was normal homes, and wondered why I couldn’t see where the Indians lived.

Indian homes?Photo by Cameron Slater, April 26, 2013
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

How the heck could a High Honors student who was relatively enlightened about world cultures learn to be so dumb? I expected to find teepees inhabited in an area where several feet of snow accumulate, and temperatures drop below zero Fahrenheit. I expected characters from an old wild wild west movie to emerge from the woods near where I had lived for several years. I was so sure that Indians lived in teepees, I didn’t think to ask anyone where the Indians really lived.

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

Today, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my neighbors here in the United States. Although this is a secular holiday, most houses of worship host celebrations of thanks to God this morning. Then, we celebrate our relationship with the Earth by feasting at each other’s homes. It is a time of abundant food and hospitality. We often celebrate with local foods, freshly prepared. We enjoy the colors and textures of a wide variety of foods. The aromas, flavors. Conversations with loved ones.

Thanksgiving DinnerPhoto Credit: Remi Levoff,  November 16, 2011
Creative Commons License

According to my review of trends on the internet this week, the most common foods for today are herb-roasted turkey, bread stuffing with celery and onions, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, Parker House rolls, and pumpkin and apple pies. We make these from ingredients that are typically harvested at the end of our growing season. This menu is consistent from year to year.

This year, our Thanksgiving coincides with Hanukkah, but I didn’t see much mention of that online.

Global Thanksgiving Days

Throughout the year, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my global neighbors. Many people around the world celebrate harvests, especially as they anticipate seasons of ice, heavy rain or drought. When some people celebrate Thanksgiving holidays, they celebrate fertility as they anticipate a productive growing season.

HarvestBy Scott Bauer, USDA ARS
[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

I like that Thanksgiving continues to relate to agricultural calendars. With the strong global trend toward urbanization, I wonder how long this will continue. Perhaps it will become more of a day of general appreciation.

Thanksgiving Days For Reconciliation

Regardless of when and why we celebrate Thanksgiving, family and friends are an important element. Even those who are tough to get along with are often invited for dinner. Many people also include strangers in their observance of the day, as we share food so everyone can enjoy a feast.

This tradition of reaching out to strangers may be inspired by remembering the story of Indians welcoming Europeans and teaching them how to survive their first winters here. I have a vivid memory from my childhood of a painting showing Pilgrim men sitting at a table full of food while Indian men stood around and sat on the ground. I like to think that this image conveys the importance of replacing oppression with embracing people of diverse religions, races, sexual orientations, abilities and other differences.

First ThanksgivingThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth Painted 1914
By Jennie A. Brownscombe
This image is in the public domain

Think of how surprised I was to find that the Wampanoag descendents of the people represented in the painting celebrate this day as National Day of Mourning. They and their supportive neighbors are recalling when they lost their lives, trust, dignity, culture, and land to the intruders.

National Day of MourningPhoto credit: nicole s
used by permission from Frank Macer of

The plaque:

National Day of Mourning

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England.

National Day of Mourning bannerPhoto Credit: hate5six, November 22, 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

As we recognize the impact of this tragedy, let’s join with the Onondaga Indian Nation during today’s Annual Thanksgiving Circle for Peace and Hope as we celebrate our appreciation for each other and the Earth, and our commitment to work together for healing and justice, for all people and our environment.

Thanksgiving Circle of Peace and HopePhotographer: JT Lee, November 22, 2012
used by permission from Syracuse Peace Council