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Why You Should Keep A Journal

I'm an advocate of keeping journals for future generations, and seeking out relatives alive and dead to unravel the mysteries of time and to have a closer family, anyway. I believe we should know our families. I like to stay close to mine.

But it's also inspiration for new stories.

I'll let you in on a secret. Two of my stories have been inspired by my genealogy. And they turned out to be the most fun stories to write and re-read.

The first, sadly, is out of print. Family history reports that my husband is related to The Dalton Gang. That was too juicy not to investigate. My ravenous little mind kept asking what would happen if I was transported back in time and dropped into that part of the family. Researching family history and that time period was a blast and the story wrote itself.

More recently, a second story emerged from my side of the family. For generations we thought my great-great-great grandfather had abandoned his family. We didn't have any hard evidence, however, and time makes memories murky. And then a distant cousin whom I found on an online family history site uncovered a wealth of medical documents. Hand written accounts by our great-great-great grandmother, his physicians, his neighbors, co-workers, bosses, friends,and enemies all awaited us. I got to pour over them and unravel what had really happened more than a hundred years before my birth. I was in awe that I could read the events in my grandmother's own handwriting and in her point of view.

This really made me realize the importance of keeping my own daily journal and prompting my kids to keep one, too.

If you keep one, however, here's a tip. Don't merely write down your schedule. I had asked my mother to keep a journal. After she died, I was disappointed to read an entire journal's worth of:

I awoke at 7:00 am.

I brushed my teeth at  7:05 am.

Went to work at 8:00 am.

Got home from work at 5:35 pm.

Had dinner at 6:30 pm.

Went to bed at 10:00 pm.

That told me nothing of her feelings, hopes and dreams. It doesn't tell future generations anything about her personality or her daily life.

To keep a successful journal, share your feelings. Give details about the important things. Nobody cares what time you woke up unless an 8.0 earthquake shook you awake and you had to scramble for your life. If you're mad or happy or sad, explain why.

My March 2010 release at TEB, "Crazy In Love" was inspired by my great-great-great grandparents. I wouldn't be surprised if I start seeing their ghosts. So far I haven't, so I imagine they like the story.

The ghost of Kacey's crazy great-grandfather threatens her life but just might save her marriage.

When the ghost of Kacey's crazy great-grandfather mistakes her for her great-grandmother, he threatens to kill her for cheating on him. Meanwhile her husband, Heath, finds out she believes he's fallen out of love with her and he sets out to show her just how much he loves her. However, he fears she's crazy as she claims to see homicidal ghosts.

Although Kacey longs to save her marriage, she doesn't know if she can stay with a man who doesn't believe her and thinks she's insane.

Excerpt From: Crazy in Love
Available at Total-E-Bound

A mixture of awe, disbelief, enlightenment, and grief washing over her, Kacey Carlisle poured over her great-great-grandmother’s pension claim records. The ancient handwriting was almost illegible in places yet it was clear—her grandfather, August, hadn’t left his wife and family as the descendants had believed all these years. Her grandmother, Emma, had kicked him out.

Emma had sworn under deposition she’d feared for her life after August had returned home from the Civil War, physically and mentally ill. Other acquaintances had also testified under oath that August had suffered from crazy spells, that he’d thought spirits were chasing him. Others claimed August believed Emma to have been unfaithful. For sure, he’d been a tortured soul.

Kacey’s head spun so she took another sip of her soda as she tried to make sense of her readings. Clearly, there were two sides. Still, she sympathised with Emma. Her own husband, Heath, while not insane or abusive, had been ignoring her for a long time and so her thoughts had turned more and more to divorce. It broke her heart, but she could no longer deny it. Heath had fallen out of love with her. If she paraded naked before him, he’d only tell her to quit acting silly and stop blocking the TV.

Oh, yeah. She empathised with her ancestor. Men could be real shits. Who needed them?

Her heart cracked a little more. Who was she fooling? She still loved her husband, desperately, madly. Insanely. At least, they didn’t have kids who would get hurt.

Miffed at herself, she chewed her lower lip. So it would seem she was insane, too. Who would hang on when the situation was so hopeless?

Only a crazy person. Maybe she’d inherited Grandpa August’s crazy streak.

”It’s late. Come to bed,” Heath muttered on a growl. Barefoot, he padded through the hall and scowled at her. He scrubbed the heel of his hand over the beginnings of new stubble on his chin. “I’ll lose my job if you keep me awake all night. I won’t be able to function at work tomorrow.”

For more of your reading enjoyment, please visit me at my blog. Every Monday I post a new free short story. We call it "Monday Minute Fiction". Today's story is "Incognito".



Nerine Dorman said...

I totally agree with regard to journal keeping and, although my early teen journals are seriously cringe-worthy, I still have them as they mark an important step in my life.

(When I was still convinced that I was going to save the world from itself.)

elaineg0707 said...

Speaking from experience, it is sometimes the only way to learn about your family's past. I tried interviewing my grandparents...but by the time I was interested in learning this stuff, their memories had badly faded...sadly the things they DID remember were things that I knew, for your kids and grand kids, we should all keep Journals...I started mine right before my son was born and I am pretty diligent about writing in it...especially things that have to do with him:)

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