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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Writing Memoirs and Biographies

Writing Memoirs and Biographies

As mentioned yesterday, here, I began reading Lions of the West which actually consists of a series of biographies, beginning with Thomas Jefferson - all tied together by the story of the American westward expansion prior to the Civil War era.

Today I came upon an article: "Five Tips on How to Write Biographies," that tied into my reading too closely not to record my thoughts and the connections. I have read, perhaps, a dozen biographies on Thomas Jefferson, large and small, from various viewpoints. Yet, the first 20 pages or so in 'Lions of the West' on Jefferson were filled with detail, most of which I had not seen any but the most cursory mention of previously. What Morgan, the author had done followed two or three of the "Five Tips" to a tee! What a neat connection; and, it confirmed the validity of the "Five Tips."

I am still working at learning the subtle differences between memoirs and biographies. I am working on drafts of two "biographies" of two specific ancestors - though one may be more of a "family history" rather than a biography. See what I am trying to understand? I also believe I have one or more "memoirs" in me, about pieces of my past, to share. What are they, and how do they fit, and how do I best approach them. I will label this post both Memoir Notes and Biography to help keep track.

Comments are welcomed.  ;-)

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Lions of the West by Robert Morgan

It's Monday, What are You Reading? 
                         Lions of the West by Robert Morgan

This is the thirtith entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

Here is the Product Description of the book as presented on

From Thomas Jefferson’s birth in 1743 to the California Gold rush in 1849, America’s Manifest destiny comes to life in Robert Morgan’s skilled hands. Jefferson, a naturalist and visionary, dreamed that the United States would stretch across the continent from ocean to ocean. The account of how that dream became reality unfolds in the stories of Jefferson and nine other Americans whose adventurous spirits and lust for land pushed the westward boundaries: Andrew Jackson, John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson, Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams. Their tenacity was matched only by that of their enemies—the Mexican army under Santa Anna at the Alamo, the Comanche and Apache Indians, and the forbidding geography itself.

Known also for his powerful fiction (Gap Creek, The Truest Pleasure, Brave Enemies), Morgan uses his skill at characterization to give life to the personalities of these ten Americans without whom the United States might well have ended at the Arkansas border. Their stories—and those of the nameless thousands who risked their lives to settle on the frontier, displacing thousands of Native Americans—form an extraordinary chapter in American history that led directly to the cataclysm of the Civil War.

With illustrations, portraits, maps, battle plans, appendixes, notes, and time lines, Lions of the West is a richly authoritative biography of America as compelling as a grand novel.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guest Post - Larry Peterson

Guest Post
Larry Peterson

I am pleased today to host a guest post by Larry Peterson, author of the book, "The Priest and the Peaches," from Tribute Books. This post is part of Tribute Books Blog Tour, running from January 2 through March 31, to promote the book.

Guest Post by Larry Peterson:


"The Priest and the Peaches" is a sad yet funny story about five kids, living in the Bronx, who, having already lost their mom to leukemia, unexpectedly lose their dad during the Christmas season of 1965. Suddenly confronted with having to plan a funeral, realizing that they have no money and discovering that the rent and utilities are all past due thrusts  them into a world they are unprepared to confront---"grown-up world".

Teddy Peach is 18 and the oldest. He is determined to keep all of them together as a family. His sister is 17 and his brothers are 14, 10 and six years old. Outside forces are already at work determined to get the three younger boys into a "properly supervised environment."

Enter Father Tim Sullivan, the local parish priest. A tough, street-wise man from the "Hell's Kitchen" section of Manhattan, Father Tim also has a kind and gentle way about him and possesses a  simple faith that allows him to see God's love  working even amidst chaos. He uses his faith to help guide the Peach kids on their quest to remain together as a family.

This book shows the value and importance of familial love and how powerful it can be, especially when faced with crisis. It also teaches lessons in taking responsibility, being unselfish, caring about others and "loving your neighbor." Finally, it portrays the manner in which so many priests have stayed true to their faith and vocations by being there for so many in times of need.


The book is also available for the Nook, at iBookstore, at Smashwords, and as a PDF.

Happy Reading!  ;-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's Monday, What are You Reading? V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

This is the twenty-ninth entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

A Christmas gift of my very favorite book series. I've read every one; and always look forward to the next. Kinsey is my favorite PI, ever. And there have been some great ones! ;-)

Here is the Product Description of the book as presented on

A spiderweb of dangerous relationships lies at the heart of V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton's daring new Kinsey Millhone novel.

A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.
And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.
V: Victim. Violence. Vengeance.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review - Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood

Book Review - Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood

This is my second review of a book from The History Press. I received the book at no charge in exchange for a fair and honest review, from my point of view. Each book I review for The History Press will be a local history book. This one focuses on Springfield, Missouri.

Civil War: Springfield by Larry Wood is a part of The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. As noted on the back cover of the book, "With this series of concise books by Civil War scholars, The History Press honors the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States.

I can summarize the book no better than to cite the description in the back cover of the book:

"During the Civil War, Springfield was a frontier community of about 1,500 people, but it was the largest and most important place in southwest Missouri. The Northern and Southern armies vied throughout the early part of the war to occupy its strategic position. The Federal defeat at Wilson's Creek in August 1861 gave the Southern forces possession, but Zagonyi's charge two and a half months later returned Springfield to the Union. The Confederacy came back near Christmas of 1861 before being ousted agin in February 1862. Marmaduke's defeat at the Battle of Springfield in January 1863 ended the contest, placing the Union firmly in control, but Springfield continued to pulse with activity throughout the war. Historian Larry Wood chronicles this epic story."

Wood presents an extremely well researched and easy to read, detailed account of the activities in and around the Springfield community from several years before the war, throughout the war years, and summarized commemorative activities following the war. The book is well researched using local and regional archives and well written in an easy-to-read narrative. Included are many maps, photos and illustrations to provide a 'real-life' texture to reading experience.

I found the early discussion of the pre-war years where "Border Ruffians" and free-soil advocates created "Bleeding Kansas" especially useful and even-handed. Probably my strongest feeling throughout the entire book was the true historian even-handedness applied. This was a period of high tensions between well-meaning and strong partisans on each side. Wood notes how many in southwest Missouri wanted to be neutral because of this strong dual pull from the competing sides. He skillfully describes the feelings of these competing interests and provides meaningful insights into how many of these individuals managed to get through the war years and continue to serve both Springfield and Missouri in future years, regardless of their particular partisan positions during the war years. I strongly recommend this book to readers with an interest in the Springfield community during the Civil War period 150 years ago.

You may also enjoy reading a related article I wrote, based on this book, at: "Civil War: Springfield tells of Christmas 1861 - 150 Years Ago."

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Back to Work by Bill Clinton

It's Monday, What are You Reading?

Bill Clinton - Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy

This is the twenty-eighth entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

Back cover quote from book:

"I wrote this book because I love my country and I'm concerned about out future. As I often said when I first ran for president in 1992, America at its core is an idea - the idea that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs… Work is about more than making a living… It's fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people… We've got to get America back in the future business."

Here is the Product Description of the book as presented on

President Bill Clinton gives us his views on the challenges facing the United States today and why government matters—presenting his ideas on restoring economic growth, job creation, financial responsibility, resolving the mortgage crisis, and pursuing a strategy to get us "back in the future business.” He explains how we got into the current economic crisis, and offers specific recommendations on how we can put people back to work, increase bank lending and corporate investment, double our exports, restore our manufacturing base, and create new businesses. He supports President Obama’s emphasis on green technology, saying that changing the way we produce and consume energy is the strategy most likely to spark a fast-growing economy while enhancing our national security.

Clinton also stresses that we need a strong private sector and a smart government working together to restore prosperity and progress, demonstrating that whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame government for all our problems, we’ve lost our ability to produce sustained economic growth and shared prosperity.

Clinton writes, “There is simply no evidence that we can succeed in the twenty-first century with an antigovernment strategy,” based on “a philosophy grounded in ‘you’re on your own’ rather than ‘we’re all in this together.’ ” He believes that conflict between government and the private sector has proved to be good politics but has produced bad policies, giving us a weak economy with not enough jobs, growing income inequality and poverty, and a decline in our competitive position. In the real world, cooperation works much better than conflict, and “Americans need victories in real life.”

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How well do you keep your New Year Resolutions?

How well do you keep your New Year Resolutions?

My friend, Dan Curtis, Professional Personal Historian, and great blogger has some excellent advise for making keeping your resolutions better.  Perhaps it is not too late to adopt his technique.

Do you have "3 words for 2012?" How will you make them work for you?  ;-)

Leave a comment and share with us how you think this approach might work, for you!  ;-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Reading and Writing Plans for 2012

I just finished The Year in Review - 2011, and promised to write this for January 2, so I guess I'll give it a try, while I'm in the mood. I hope it is not all redundant between the two pieces. I'll try to keep it simple.

1. I put 'reading and writing' in the title this year because, to me, I must continue to read in order to be able to write… at least the way I want to. I'm getting more books as Christmas gifts, both print and Kindle, so that will keep me going; plus, online reading never ends.

2. I will continue to write, currently five, articles each week for on my two topic areas: Springfield Genealogy Examiner and Ozarks Cultural Heritage Examiner.

3. It seems I need to have each of my five blogs to have the necessary outlets for what I want to write. Each has its own content and focus, and I've noticed the priority among them shifts a bit, month by month. That is fine, must keep from getting bored.
Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories
Dr. Bill on Retirement
Dr. Bill's Book Bazaar
The Homeplace Series Blog
The KINNICK Project

4. One addition this year, as a daily priority is transcribing my mother's 1937 diary entries onto The KINNICK Project blog - 75 Years Ago. Eileen KINNICK had just turned 18 years old in December 1936, is three months into her relationship with Pete Smith, and is a devoted 'Coon Rapids' girl - giving us some insight into this small Iowa town, as well. They will get married in the Spring of 1938; I'll come along on 1 Jul 1939. So, it should make some interesting reading. The transcriptions begin on 4 Jan 2012; my weekly commentaries on Tuesday will continue on the Ancestor Stories blog starting on 10 Jan 2012.

5. During the year I hope to finish the research and writing of the non-fiction family history on our Revolutionary War ancestor, Sergeant Major William KINNICK. He is my 5th great-grandfather as well as the 3rd great-grandfather of 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile KINNICK, for whom KINNICK Stadium at the University of Iowa is named. There is surely some promotion value there to exploit. Wish me well!  ;-)

6. I will continue to research and write on issues related to a non-fiction family history book on my great-grandfather Michael Smith. I am still developing alternative approaches to making this project most effective.

7. Finally, I will continue to pursue "The Homeplace" series fiction work. A lot of additional ground work was done during the last half of 2011, and I do not yet know just where that will take us. Come along for the journey, and see where we are at the end of another year!  ;-)

8. From Arrion: For 2012, assist your youngest daughter Arrion with her research on the Smith family in Europe (Colmar, France area.) Also, interested in the Stauffer line on Mom's side - Ibershiem, Germany area. This is for my October 2012 European Road Trip. That is, if you have the time! P.S. We will find time.  ;-)

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Note: This is posted to both the Ancestor Stores blog and the Book Bazaar blog.