"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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Recent Posts

Another Thankful Morning--This Time for Alert Cats.
Connections
Meeting Some More Roundheads
Meet the Roundheads
Preparing Gingerly for My First Trader Joe’s Visit

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Another Thankful Morning--This Time for Alert Cats.

 I got up this morning full of great plans for having a cooking day. Since I did not have to cook my own turkey dinner on Thursday, that primal urge was still strong. On my list were pans of baked ziti and chicken and dressing, along with chocolate/maraschino cherry shortbread--everything destined to be portioned and stored in the freezer to get me through a month of non-stop book editing.To honor the season, I decided to start with baking some pumpkin-spice rolls for breakfast. While the oven was heating, I was searching cookbooks for the right recipes. The cats were munching away at their breakfasts. The sun came out. All was right in the world. Yeah!

Then Swizzle (young female cat) leaped straight into the air, knocking over her food bowl, and went streaking into the living room with a bottle-brush tail. Dundee (older male) looked up to watch the fuss, and then he, too, yowled, jumped into the air and took off for a safe hiding place. I (slow on the uptake) looked around to see what had terrified them and discovered--my oven glowing, with white flames dancing behind the glass window in the oven door, and an ominous crackling sound.

Had I left something inside the oven? No, I never do that. I cracked the oven door to look inside and saw the heating element turning into white ash and scattering itself across the oven floor. I shut the door quickly, turned off the heat, and held my breath until the white tubing turned back to red and then faded down to black.

I don't suppose it was as dangerous as it looked. Oven fires tend to put themselves out as soon as they burn up all the oxygen. But it was certainly enough to get my pulse racing--and to remind me to be grateful for alert animals who let me know when something is wrong.

Bottom line: The oven is covered by my home repair policy, although it's a weekend and service guy won't show up until Monday. In the meantime, the stove is out of commission and I'll be eating whatever I can heat up in the microwave or electric skillet--no ziti, no chicken, no shortbread, not even the pumpkin-spice rolls.

Connections

Welcome to November! If you're a writer--or if you know a writer--you may be aware that this is also National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I'm at it again. Every so often i find I need a little extra push to keep the words flowing, and that's what NaNoWriMo provides.  It prods, it pokes, and it keeps graphs to let you see just where you've fallen flat.

So this year, I'm using the challenge to push myself through the end of a novel I've been working on for over a year.  I gave up on it once because I could not figure out a way to make it do what I wanted it to do. But now, I think I've found a solution, and the possibility is enough to start the keyboard rattling again.

Here's what's going on. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book called "Henrietta's Journal." It was entirely written in diary format and followed seven years of a young woman's life as she made the transition from 19-year-old English schoolgirl to becoming the wife of a cotton dealer in 1830s South Carolina. I don't want to give anything of the story away here, but life did get very complicated for her. Not only did she have to learn about the institution of slavery; she also managed to get involved in a rape, a murder, and a kidnapping.
The book has done fairly well, and is a stand-alone good story.

But now I'm working on the second volume, entitled "Henrietta's Legacy," which takes place some 25 year later and involves Henrietta and her 20-something daughters in a new set of problems that result from the American Civil War. This time, the characters manage to get themselves involved in espionage, smuggling, stolen identities, and, yes, another murder. And it turns out that some of the clues needed to solve the mysteries of the second volume are buried in the pages of the diary in the first volume.

The problem, you may already be seeing, was how to connect the two books.  The term "hyperlink" kept cropping up, but my computer skills aren't good enough to handle a book-length set of interconnections. Then came a gift out of the blue. The layout program I use to design the interior of my books added a feature called "Endnote." (Yes, I've used lots of endnotes in my academic life, but not like this.) It is now possible to have an event in Book 2 trigger a pop-up that reveals a section of text from Book 1.

As just one example, consider a murder that takes place in England in 1862.  No witnesses, no weapon, no suspects. Just a dead body full of stab wounds. The clue that leads to the identity of the murderer lies in a liaison between two people in South Carolina in 1837. Who has a motive strong enough to lead to the victim's death? The pop-up will provide the answer.

I can hardly wait to start tying all these loose ends together!

Meeting Some More Roundheads

Since some folks have had trouble opening the Roundhead file i posted yesterday because if its size, here are a few head shots of soldiers who have appeared in my Civil War books, "A Scratch with the Rebels" and "Beyond All Price."

First, the fellow whose individual photo graced yesterday's blog was Adj. Samuel G. "Geordy" Leasure, son of Commander Daniel Leasure. You may remember him as being the young apple of his mother's eye, whom she allowed to join the Roundheads only if his father promised to keep him out of harm's way. Sadly, the promise did not hold. Geordy was killed at the Battle of the Crater in 1864.

James C. Stevenson, from whose collection these photos were taken, is quoted several times in "Scratch," where he left us descriptions of the Roundheads' early train rides and their first view of the Ocean Queen, on which they sailed to South Carolina.





Horace Ludington, the second doctor appointed to care for the Roundheads, was of great help to Nellie M. Chase as she learned how wto treat minor wounds and tropical fevers. In "Beyond All Price," she and Dr. Ludington form a special bond because, unlike the Roundheads, they were NOT from Pennsylvania.




Samuel Bentley was the commander of Company E and the father of Nellie's friend Mary Pollock. The Bentley family reveals something quite important to the  understanding of personnel during the Civil War. Not only did Capt. Bentley allow his widowed daughter to accompany the Roundheads, her brother was also among the soldiers. To an extend we may never understand, this war was a family affair.



Private John C. Stevenson also served as an aide to Col. Leasure. In "Beyond All Price,'  he shows Nellie round the camp and explains some of the equipment the army issued her--things like a haversack and a housewife. Another picture of him appears in the group photo Mrs. Leasure had taken in Beaufort.





Other names you may recognize are Joseph Gilliland and who first served with Col. Leasure during his first three-month enlistment in the Twelfth Pennsylvania Regiment . . . . .



and D. Campbell, a "printer's devil" who left his newspaper job to travel with the Roundheads as a musician--and later, as one of the producers of the "Camp Kettle."


Meet the Roundheads

Have you ever wondered what a Civil War soldier really looked like? When you read about their actions, whether in fiction or non-fiction, can you picture the characters themselves? Here's your chance to meet fifty soldiers of the Roundhead Regiment (100th Pensylvania Volunteer Infantry). These are their photographs--some taken for use on a carte de visite, others posed in civilian clothes for their families.

 The file listed below is a compilation of Roundhead Soldier Images from the James C. Stevenson Collection that David Welch researched recently after attending the Roundhead Reunion in Darlington, PA. The images were compiled into MS Powerpoint and then .pdf'ed. Most of the images here are soldiers from Co. E and K.  

Readers of "A Scratch with the Rebels" and "Beyond All Price" will recognize several of these men: Geordy Leasure, who sesrved as an aide to his father, Col. Daniel Leasure, first commander of the Roundheads; James C. Stephenson, quoted several times; Dr. Horace Ludington; and perhaps others.

JCSRHRPSU.pdf (PDF — 30 MB)

Preparing Gingerly for My First Trader Joe’s Visit

I’m not sure how I managed to get this old without setting foot in a Trader Joe’s but somehow I had never even seen one. Maybe it had something to do with being an Air Force wife and living in so many off-the-map places that had nothing but an Air Force base and a commissary. Whatever the reason, I had no idea why people were so enthusiastic. When the rumors of a TJ coming to Germantown first circulated, I may have been the only person in Memphis who was not excited.
 
Still, the hype eventually piqued my interest, and when the store finally opened last week, I started to make a list.  I asked everyone I talked to about their TJ favorites, and I soon had a long list, but one invariably topped by two items: Mandarin Orange Chicken and Cookie Butter. Other treats jostling for top sport were Triple Gingersnaps and something called Ginger Chews. Then came bagel seasoning and various exotic produce items.
 
Armed with my list, a friend and I ventured out to explore. No one warned me about the traffic—not outside, but in the aisles. Related images kept flashing through my mind as I struggled to push my cart into a slow-moving line of discriminating shoppers.  Imagine the Santa Ana Freeway at rush hour; an inbound evacuation route as a hurricane bears down on the coast; the Salmon River during spawning season.
 
I hear it’s a beautiful store, but all I saw were people and whatever happened to be at eye-level on the shelves as I passed by.  And if I missed an item and wanted to go back . . . well, imagine being a car going the wrong way on that rush hour freeway. Just turning around caused a ripple effect of clashing carts.
 
Eventually I gathered most of my items without spending too much money and came home to indulge in some sampling. The results were . . . instructive. First came a Ginger Chew, which sent puffs of peppery steam right through the top of my skull. Too late, I read the bag, which recommended these as a cure for travel sickness. Maybe so! Hoping for something a little milder I tried a Gingersnap, which turned out to have three kinds of ginger and not much else. A peanut butter pretzel cooled my taste buds, and I decided to try the orange chicken for dinner. You guessed it. The most prominent flavor was ginger.
 
Still searching for the ultimate TJ high, I tried their plain yogurt for breakfast. Not even raspberries and granola could add any sweetness to it.  So I turned to a crumpet (yes, a TJ crumpet) topped with cookie butter. That wasn’t too bad, but you probably don’t need to be told that cookie butter tastes like gingerbread. What is it with these people? Have they never heard of garlic?  Oh, yes, there’s always the bagel seasoning.
 

Will I go back? Of course. It’s the next best thing to visiting a street market in Morocco. Besidesnow I understand the origins of the word “gingerly,” which means to do something with extreme caution.