Friday, December 5, 2008

Final Countdown to "Counting the Cost"

10-9-8-7 or less...and counting the days until "Counting the Cost," the new novel by best-selling author, Liz Adair will be ready for shipping!

The last few weeks have been extremely exciting as I've worked with Liz to finish up her manuscript and cover and get the book to the printer. Books will be shipping our way early next week, which means we have books to purchase that will be delivered before Christmas--yeehaw!
Best of all, we're offering a pre-release special of $4 off (well, 3.95...) the cover price! That means they are only $14.00...and we would love to send one or two copies your way for the readers on your Christmas list.

Whether you plan to purchase a book or not, I invite you to visit where the cover is posted on the main page, or this link will show you some of the endorsements we've already received:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cecily Markland here...I am eagerly awaiting Liz Adair's arrival here in the Phoenix area where she will present a workshop tonight (Thursday, May 29) on one of her favorite topics, "Using Family History in Fiction," and we will participate in "A Family Celebration of Music and Art" in Mesa on Saturday. For those of you who aren't in this part of the country or who won't be able to attend, but are interested in the material, a booklet (also titled, "Using Family History in Fiction") will be available to purchase from (which will be up and running in raw form as of Saturday!) In the meantime, if anyone is interested in inquiring about purchasing the booklet or in scheduling Liz for a workshop or seminar, please e-mail me at writeone at cox dot net (written this way to avoid phishing, you know what I mean!).

All of this is just part of what is happening as we are ramping up to introduce, Counting the Cost, Liz's powerful new novel based on her own family history. As the book is in its final edit and we are working on the design of the cover, it really feels like history in the making! It's a beautiful story and it's going to look beautiful as well! I believe Counting the Cost is Liz's best work yet, one that will not only bring a small piece of history to life and pay tribute to all that makes up our nation's Western heritage, but that also reaches deep into the hearts of strong, interesting characters and, in so doing, teaches each reader insightful lessons for life. Indeed, for each of us, doesn't life come down to the cost of our choices?

To receive updates about the progress of Counting the Cost, come back to this blog or sign up for updates by going to anytime after June 1.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Using Family History in Fiction

It's been a while since I've posted here, but I've got a good excuse: I've been finishing my booklet on using family history in fiction. It's titled, natch, Using Family History in Fiction.

Here's what it says on the back cover (written by my editor):

Does your family have a story that needs to be told?

Are you a writer wanting to add life and “care-a-bility” to your stories?

Do you want to learn how to tell your family history in an interesting and inspiring way?Learn from a pro how to do just that and more!
  • Discover how to use familiar settings as the backdrop for believable scenes
  • Find out how and why to tell true family stories from a fictional slant
  • Learn how to mold your ancestors or family members into strong fictional characters
  • Share your favorite memories and family lore
  • Develop your storytelling ability

Liz's information about using family history in fiction is very interesting and valuable. I recommend it. It will help you "write what you know." - T. Deighton

Published by Inglestone PublishingPrinted in United States

The booklet sells for $4.95 and is hot off the press. Click here and you'll be taken to the Inglestone Publishing web site where you can purchase the book.

I'll be in Phoenix on May 31 at the Music and Arts Festival and would love it if you would stop by the booth so I can meet you. I'll have these booklets for sale, and a great brochure on blogging family history that I'm giving out free. Go to to find out more about the festival. Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Great Minds and all that Jazz

I'm not the only one that is spreading the gospel of writing family history in fiction. While doing research for a booklet I want to write about this subject, I came upon a booklet written by someone else who is a practitioner and a proselytizer.

Her name is Jennifer Johnson Garrity, and she has not only written a book based on family history, but she has also written a how-to and workbook entitled Family Tree, Writing Historical Fiction Based on Family History. It’s published by BrimWood Press and its target audience is homeschool children, but it would be a great guide for anyone who has the yearning to write a family story as fiction but isn’t sure just how to proceed.

Jennifer Johnson Garrity tells her own story on page 3, chronicling how she came to the realization that she was the one who needed to write her family’s experiences during the Civil War in Missouri. The result is The Bushwhacker, published by Peachtree Publishers, Ltd. In 1999. You can find it on

Ms. Garrity also lists several books that are closely or loosely based on family history. I found several others to add to that list by using a search engine and the words “family history in fiction”. One of my notable finds was William Faulkner, who used his family history and the history of his home county in much of his work.

Back to the workbook. Andrea Newitt added homeschool tips and a teaching schedule for the target audience, which might be of use if you want to set a personal goal for completing your story.

The workbook takes you through the research phase, walking you through both general research about your family member’s time and region, but also specific research that will help you to avoid jarring anachronisms as you write. (I didn’t promise that fiction would release you from research. I did say it would release you from footnotes.) Ms. Garrity gives you lots of pointers on where you can go to begin your research, and she shares how her research grew for The Bushwhacker.

Next, she talks about plot and how you’re writing a story, not a report. She gives lots of tips on how you string sentences together to form a strong narrative. She gives great advice about using adjectives sparingly, using strong verbs, avoiding passive language and employing a variety of sentence starters and has practice work for each. These are all part of the craft of writing and something that every writer is constantly working to improve.

If you’re interested in obtaining one of these workbooks, go to and scroll down until you see Family Tree. The cost is somewhere around $20.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Introducing Marlene Austin

Today I'd like to introduce guest blogger Marlene Austin. She's the author of Grave Secrets. a Mormon family history mystery (how's that for a new literary genre?) which was a Whitney Award finalist this year. Congratulations on that honor, Marlene!

Marlene says that living in historic New England and spending a good deal of time visiting cemeteries for her own family history were what prompted her to add features of genealogical research to her fiction. Grave Secrets is not only a romance/mystery, but family history research is as essential to the plot as the mysterious woman Bethany, the main character, seeks to identify.

Marlene is currently finishing up the sequel as well as doing more research on her own ancestors. However, she took the time to write the following for our Familywriters Blog.

Leafing Out My Family Tree
by Marlene Austin

According to the blogs I’ve been reading, a lot of writers are spending a lot of time watching people rather than their computers. Writers are looking for characters to build their plots around and plots to showcase the characters they’ve spotted. I’ve never needed to sit and watched people for characters. I have a world full of people and experiences just waiting to be told. I do family history.

In my current project I needed an experience where a mother feared that her child was lost but finally found her safe. I remembered the story of my mother scaring her aunt into a panic when she, as a small girl visiting the woman, climbed into the large bed and cuddled in for a mid afternoon nap. When I needed an endearing recitation to help my heroine fall in “like” with a guy, I simply recounted one of those incidents my own sweetheart had told me about himself. He’s now won my heart twice. My brother teases me about a scene where my heroine does some remodeling—moments recaptured from one of the many times our father remodeled one of our four family homes. When it is time to name a new character in a piece, many writers pull out a book for naming babies and scan the list of names. I pull out my family history book, choose the time period I want the name to represent, and find a name—a name that not only represents a character but that automatically brings an age and a time period to my readers mind. Sometimes I barely need to give additional historical background because the name says it all.

Recently I’ve found that the more writing I do, the more I lean upon my family’s historical experiences, and likewise, the more family history I do, the more I find myself seeing my ancestors through the eyes of a writer and longing to write about them.

Here’s an example:

On January 9, 1831, several months after the organization of the Mormon Church, a hole was cut through a foot of ice on a pond near the home of John and Sarah Graham Coltrin so their son, Zebedee Coltrin, could be baptized. Other family members, including my great, great grandfather Graham Coltrin, Zebedee’s brother, joined the church within a few months. It is easy to follow the movement of the family by the places and years of their births. John Coltrin, the patriarch of the family, died near Winter Quarters. Zebedee and Graham both lost their wives and a number of children before they crossed the plains to Utah. Once in Utah, Graham’s second wife bore him twins but she, along with the babies, then Graham himself, all died within a month of each other.

Zebedee who had served as one of the first presidents of the seventies under Joseph Smith, did the temple work for several of his ancestors in 1885 but the only information left about his mother, Sarah Graham, was that she was born in 1775 in Petersburg, Ohio to John and Hannah Wallace Graham, and she died in Peterborough, New Hampshire. This information was questionable at best.

It was not an easy task to sort out the truth and find the location of the cellar hole John Graham dug for the cabin he and Hannah moved to in 1765. It was not easy, but when I stood by the hole and realized that not only John had been there but Hannah, his wife, Sarah, their daughter, and the rest of the family including Hannah’s parents, even her grandmother, it was quite amazing.

I walked the short distance from the cellar hole, now a depression of three or four feet edged by thin-trunked, spindly trees, to the small lake. They would have fished here, gotten water here, swam, bathed and played here. My steps were undoubtedly touching soil their shoes—or feet—had touched. I was looking at rocks they dug and piled, trees they climbed, paths they followed, walking and skipping. I could nearly hear Hannah call Sarah to finish up her chores, to come in the house—supper was ready, it was time to get to bed.

It was the thoughts of those voices that taught me the most about them. Hannah, her tones soft and warm as she talked to John in the stillness of sunrise; Hannah, her voice hushed and tired, strained with exhaustion as she called the children home from the lake while John served at Bunker Hill; Hannah cold and lonely as she pulled her quilt closer to her in the bed John would never share with her again. Yet Hannah, widow, would have been strong even after the day when the descriptive noun had been added to her name. Would Sarah, among the youngest of their children, have been a bright spot in Hannah’s life or a nearly forgotten child as her mother grieved for John?

I am planning to write a book including the story of Hannah with John and Sarah. I will place them in the forest where they settled; the tall pines, the rocky terrain covered in autumn leaves will be the background to their plight. I will be writing about people I know in a place that I love. Identifying the Graham and Wallace families has become one of my most cherished family history experiences. As I begin thinking about the book, focusing on a worthy plot and slowly gathering accurate information, the process forwards me into a new understanding of these ancestors. As I create relationships and arrange these people into history, their reality settles into my knowledge of them. I will not know their characteristics enough to paint them in their true colors or give them the words or thoughts they truly pondered, but seeing where they lived and what they lived like cannot help but bring my thoughts closer to theirs.

This experience is fulfilling an incredible dream for me both as a family historian and as a writer. I believe the two pursuits work together adding a new overall dimension not only to my writing but to my relationship with my ancestors.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hi! Cecily Markland here with a late Valentines greeting and a little about family writing, blogging, and "love sharing."
Sometimes, the simplest things can be the best story-starters out there...and the greatest ways to share family traditions. For example, I'm passing along a fun posting from my daughter's blog as an illustration of writing about simple family traditions. Notice how she explains the tradition, but also uses that tradition to talk about her challenge with "sharing." Enjoy her posting...and try the traditional cookies she describes, which I promise you will also enjoy! By the way, I will try to post the pictures shortly, so you can see what she's talking about.
Here goes:
Every Valentines' Day, for as long as I can remember, I have had a real problem with sharing. Every year, my mom always made these awesome cookies. They are so good, and we only have them at Valentines Day.
What made them even better was every time my mom made them, she would put some on a plate, put them on our front doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run around the to back door and sneak back in so that we thought they we left by a secret admirer. She never fooled us, but she never gave up trying. I remember her doing it even when I was in high school! It was a fun, and I keep waiting for her to come leave some on my doorstep now!
So, after we got the cookies back into the house, we would all dig in. This is where the problem begins...we never seemed to have enough of the cookies! I remember my mom counting them up and saying, "Okay, everyone can have 3 and 1/3 cookies!" (Yes, she even had to cut some of them into thirds to make sure it was fair, because we all wanted them). The sharing problem was an issue when I was little, but you think I would have grown out of it. Nope.
Since I moved out of Mom's house, I have had to carry on the tradition, and make the cookies every year. I made them when I lived with my roommates in college. I did share some of them, but I know I ate more than any of my roommates did. It was just so hard! Now, it becomes a real issue as I make the cookies for my family (who am I kidding, I don't really make the for my family). I actually plan out when I can eat one without being noticed so I won't have to share with my kids! Although Zak is permitted to eat some (maybe one or two), he knows I have this issue with sharing. He likes to offer the cookies to other people whenever he gets the chance just to see my reaction!
So, like I said, I have had these cookies for as long as I can remember, but because I am so stingy with them, even those of you who have known me for a long time may not have ever tried them. (For those of you who have, consider yourselves very lucky!) I decided, while I may still have a hard time sharing the actual cookies, I am at least willing to share the directions for making them, so that everyone can enjoy my guilty pleasure!
There are just three ingredients: Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, Heavy Whipping Cream, and Maraschino cherries. The Chocolate Wafers are hard to find; they don't have them at every grocery store. I always get them at Fry's. They are in the cookie aisle, usually on the very top shelf, by the gourmet cookies. Here is a picture of what you are looking for:
Beat the whipping cream at high speed, adding sugar to taste, until stiff peaks form. I like to make mine pretty sweet, so I use about 2 Tablespoons sugar per cup of cream. You can also add 1 tsp. vanilla. Once your cream is whipped, start building. Place one wafer on a tray, add a spoonful of whipped cream, stack another wafer on top, than more whipped cream, one more wafer, and the final dollop of whipped cream. Top it with a cherry. One box of wafers should make 16 finished cookies, but there always seem to be some broken ones in the box so I usually end up with 14 or 15. Chill the cookies in the refrigerator overnight so the wafers become cake-like. Then enjoy!
Variation: My Nana always adds the juice from the cherries to the whipped cream. Then it is cherry flavored and pink--perfect for valentines. Either way, they are delicious!
Posted by The Price Family at 2:54 PM

Emily, Scott & Logan said...
Michelle, you really make me laugh. I wish we were neighbors, all the fun we could have! You are so right about the treadmill, it is just what I (actually what Scott) needed to hear. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has run circles in her house! :) I hope you guys have a fab Valentines Day

Monday, January 7, 2008

Publish! Publish! Publish!

By Liz Adair

You can tell by the tenseness around the lips and jaw that the smile is forced. He stands there, your latest offering held between thumb and forefinger with the title, "Johooser Fornbloot's Early Years" rippling in the breeze. Never mind that old Johooser was his third great grandfather, and that the biography (complete with pictures) you have pressed on him cost you $3.00 to print, he doesn't seem to appreciate either the time invested or the layout of money to run off fifty copies on archive-quality paper.

Never mind. Press away. Research, write, publish and distribute! Keep it up, no matter how glazed the eyes of your kin-public. For, though this particular relation might not even read your offering, he probably won't throw it away. Blood and guilt will keep him from doing that. He'll put it in a pile of things that he intends to read, or he'll file it with other family history stuff. Fifty years later, when his black-clad grandson is weepily sorting through his things, your bio of this now-fifth-great-grandfather will surface, and Grandson will shout, "Hey, look at this!"

Like a good wine, your ten page, stapled-in-the-corner, footnoted, annotated biography will have increased in value with each passing year. It will be a treasure to some historian, whether he's researching the Fornbloots, or early settlers of Peetlepaw County, or craziest patent applications in the nineteenth century. You may be long gone, or staring vacantly in some Alzheimer's unit, but your legacy to the world will be enlightening circles you never dreamed of.

So, keep it up! Whether it's your own history or an ancestor's, write it, publish it, and spread it around. Don't let any less-than-enthusiastic receptions deter you. You're not giving it to this generation, anyway. You're giving it to generations yet unborn, and they will bless your name.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Eat That Elephant!

By Liz Adair

This is my Year of the Family History. I have one cubic yard of letters that I have been carrying around for about forty years. Luckily I have moved several times in those forty years, and as the letters surfaced, the sheer bulk reminded me again that I needed to do something with them.

I have every letter I ever wrote my mother and every letter I wrote to my mother-in-law. My goal this year is to transcribe the letters and 'publish' them for the family. First, though, I'll use editorial license and take out all the whining. Then I will burn them all. Well, maybe not, but it will be a great temptation. Who wants to be remembered as a whiner?

I also have letters my mother wrote to me. I have already transcribed and published her letters from Afghanistan (see ), but there are lots more. Then, there are the letters from my husband. We wrote for the year I was away at college before he went on his mission, and we corresponded weekly while he was in England as a missionary. Two years ago my daughter and grandson helped me transcribe and publish those letters for the family.

I have been trying to get the oomph to sit down and categorize the letters: From Mother, To Mother, From Grandmother, To Grandmother, get the idea. Then, within that category, they need to be put into chronological order. I get tired just thinking about it. However, today I had an epiphany: I don't need to sort them at all! I shall simply take the first one in the first box and transcribe it, naming the file according to a protocol with date and to/from. Later, when I'm ready to publish, it will be easy to sort either by date or by recipient or writer, and then I can gather whichever ones I want to include in a particular publication into a larger file.

When I finish a letter, I'll put it in a "Transcribed" box and take another one from the waiting cubic yard--it doesn't matter who wrote it or when or to whom it was addressed, since the sorting will be done later. Every day I will back up my work with a copy in some remote location that will survive a fire or flood.

So, I'll eat the elephant a bite at a time. I'll savor a toe here, an ear there; I'll nibble the trunk and then the leg; I'll take a bite out of the rump and chew it with lip-smacking enjoyment because, though it's tough and stringy, I'm getting it down. I won't carry the metaphor any further, because it has to do with regurgitation as I sort and publish, and that's grosser than contemplating what chewing on raw elephant would be like.

But, you get the idea. I'm on it. This is the year of the family history elephant. Dinner, anyone?