Thursday, March 31, 2011

April's Magic Number Giveaway

Okay, it's March 31st, and we are sadly short of the 25 followers goal I placed two weeks ago for the "Luck of the Irish" giveaway. We're getting closer, and if by some uncanny miracle 6 more followers jump on board before the end of the day, the drawing will be held. However, that is highly unlikely, so let me tell you about the next giveaway.

31 is the number to match or beat in April. Why that seemingly random number, you ask? Quite simple, this is the month that I will be turning 31, so I feel it's only fitting to shape the contest around that momentous occasion.

April's "magic number" giveaway will be slightly different from March's contest, as we won't be waiting until the end of the month, if the right number of followers is reached. The day this blog hits 31 followers is the day the copy of Virtual Wiles will be given away. Whether that happens in a few days, or it takes until the 30th, whenever there are 31 people openly following the blog is the day their names will go into the hat, and one will be drawn at random for the win.

I know, getting the word out is a painstaking task in this era of unlimited competition, but we can do it. It's time to move forward. Here's your second chance to win. Spread the word, and let's get 31 people following before April is gone!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Early Critics and The Guns of Mars

Back in 2009, when the Guns of Mars was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, it received quite a bit of praise, but there were some detractors. Most of the negative comments came from fellow contestants, who thought they could improve their chances by writing up negative comments about their competitors. Of course, those reviews were only based on the first 5,000 words (the free excerpt Amazon displayed), so the negative reviewers often had to stretch their imaginations and make wild assumptions about the book's content.

In response, I threw together my own review, combining all of the negative comments and weaving them into a lampoon of those critics. I repost it here for those of you who haven't seen it before.

You suck! (1-star)

That sums up what I think of this writer in a nutshell. His writing is just so abhorrent I don't know where to begin. Let's start with chapter one. What the heck is going on? We're dumped right in the middle of the story, where Morgan (a guy with a girl's name?) is stranded on Mars. There's some kind of conspiracy going on, but we don't know how or why (lack of information is annoying here). He rambles on about missing his wife (hello, Elton John?), and then goes to sleep. We're told briefly about some interesting technology, like a space heater and a fancy pressure tent, but there's no technical schematics detailing how this technology works. Perhaps he is too stupid to describe the physics behind a "carbon scrubber?"

Next, we move into chapter two, which throws us back to the start of the story. Morgan sits in a classroom, learning about going to Mars (boring). A childish "colonel" comes in and acts like a prima-donna teenie-bopper, not a real military officer, and we discover she's somehow uncovered the secret to aging and reversed it? What does that have to do with Martian colonization? We also find out that Morgan is from the past, and there's virtual reality technology around? What? Too many plot threads are cropping up to confuse the feeble minded.

To wrap this excerpt up, Morgan goes home and has dinner with his wife (more boring), and we're left wondering what the heck he'll do next. Like I care!

This excerpt was boring, lacked technical detail, didn't have any gunplay (hello, Guns of Mars?), and the writer spent way too much time on character development. Who cares what these people think and feel? Let's get some action, and blow things up!

This book also looks way too complicated to be good. I mean, every complex story with such varied plotlines ends up sucking, just like that Dune series by that Herbert guy, and don't get me started on Heinlein. This writer does too much, and not enough at the same time. Not only that, but I bet he smells like turnips. Just my impression.

Such a scathing critique! It was very entertaining to throw this together back then, and I think it still stands up today. I had quite a few people complain that I spent too much time on character development, so it struck me by surprise when a recent review claimed I didn't do enough in that respect.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this little blast from the past. Tune in next week for another adventurous review.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Am Not A Communist!

In my life, I have been called many unwarranted things. Whether it was "groundhog" from child antagonists, or "neocon" from miscreants who didn't like my political take on things during the Clinton/Bush years, I have often been the target of slurs and insults. However, this week my detractors hit a new low.

I received the following "comment" on last Friday's "Talkin' DMV Blues' post: "Your such an anarchist. Watch out it doesn't conflict with your commie leanings." (Copied verbatim, bad grammar included.) It was left by an "anonymous" poster, and I declined the chance to publish this comment at the time, because I didn't feel it was appropriate. However, it is useful as an example of some misconceptions that have apparently started to flow as of late.

I also heard a comment from someone else about several of my posts last week. They wondered what I was doing, slipping in the subliminal communist messages, such as "spread zee wealth," and putting a picture of Stalin and Company on Thursday's post. This reader (you know who you are) was "concerned" that I might be criticized and mistaken for a member of the Red Menace. Lo and behold, it turns out they were right, after all.

Please be assured, I have no sympathies toward Communists or their ideology of conformity and central control. The confusion comes from my subtle jokes, which some people have taken seriously. Anyone who knows me personally in most any respect can tell you that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party (I so solemnly swear, Mr. McCarthy). I am truly a capitalist American pig, and proud of it!

I hope this has put your minds at ease (unless you are a Communist, in which case I'm sure this has saddened you greatly). God Bless America!

If you haven't read the United States Constitution, or The Bill of Rights lately, do it today. It could change your life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

This Poetry Sucks! (Minstrel Mondays)

I've been going over my various pieces of old poetry lately, as I prepare these pieces for Minstrel Mondays, and this weekend I couldn't help but be disgusted by my own work. It seems that half of them are mushy love ballads which make me blush, and the others are bitter bitch fests, which decry the improprieties of society or individuals. I had to question my personal depth after reading such trifles.

Then, it dawned upon me. That's what poetry is, for the most part. It's either peace and love, or waaa, waaa, waaaah, nag, nag, nag! The truth of the matter is, poetry is about emotions, and the most obvious ones are love and hate. Poets are often found singing their love for someone or something, or they're complaining about how horrible things are. It's a flighty form of writing, based on limitless passion.

So, taking a couple of minutes out from my busy writing life, I threw down my feelings on the subject, though as latter lines explain, it is only a temporary emotional reaction. Next week, I might have a totally different outlook. That's poetry for you.

I love you,
I hate you
I need you,
Go away!
That's all I hear when I read what you say.
The flakes of emotional breaks.

It's what I get from
Everything we place on our screens,
The psychotic scenes of
mental masturbation for wordsmiths.

It's bitter,
It's beautiful
Eye of the beholder.
The poems they drip with
Sugary vinegar.
Whatever you feel,
It flows on the page
Like bibliographic vomit.

I tried to wade through
The cesspool of poetry
From a plethora of pedantic poets.
Yet it was no use
I felt it was abuse
Of my mind's eye and my writer's sanity.

Should I despise it,
This art form of failed expressions?
It's everything and nothing,
The ultimate art
For those who cannot draw.
Is it any wonder I could never make
A million bucks at weaving words
Which I held in contempt?

Do I really despise poetry?
It is a fair question, but
My answer could never be honest.
Name the day, and my view will change
For ours is a love/hate relationship.
To see the best rhyme, or freestyle slime,
It may seem the best candy
Or the sourest battery acid on the cerebrum.

Take these words for what they are,
A waste of time for your mind's eye
And maybe there you will find their worth.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Fistful of Forthmans

This "Family Sunday" post is all about the Forthmans. My mother's mother was one, so I can relate what I've been able to learn over the years, and from recent research.

The name originates from Germany. Common variants are Fortmann and Vortmann. The earliest ancestor that I've found in my particular line is Christoph Gebhard Forthmann, born sometime during the latter half of the 18th century in Lower Saxony, Germany. He married Anna Cathrine Brummerloh and they had a son also named Christoph (born circa 1804) in Bremen.

Christoph Forthman married Margaretha Schmidt (born 1806), and they had at least 7 children (Generation 3):
Christoph Gebhard (b. January 28, 1831)*
Frederick Christian Heinrich (my 2x great grandfather, b. June 9, 1832)**
Anna Margaretha (b. November 6, 1834)
Lucie Wihelmine (January 6, 1837),
Christoph (b. April 2, 1841)*
Ludwig (b. August 23, 1843)
Johann (b. February 23, 1845)

*The fact that two different sons were named Christoph may allude to the elder's early death, though I have not been able to determine if this is the case. There are instances where multiple children are given the same name (like Heavyweight Champion George Forman's 5 sons, all named George, but with different middle names). I have found that it was a common practice in many families to name their younger children after ones that had previously died. It no doubt helped them to cope with their loss.
**Recent discoveres have shed doubt on the lineage of Frederick Forthman.  There were apparently 2 men of the same name born in 1832 in Lower Saxony, so I cannot say with certainty that the above data pertains to my line.  The below data is more concrete and assuredly my family.  I welcome further insight into the origins of Frederick Forthman.

Okay, getting back to the Forthman family history...

Sometime before 1850, Frederick Forthman came to America from Lower Saxony. He first settled in Maryland, around Hagerstown, where he met and married Ann Creager. Ann died during the 1870's and Frederick then married Sarah Ellen Keefer (b. 1853) before 1880. He was working as a Hatter at that time.

I do not know how many of Frederick's siblings also immigrated, as I have not been able to positively identify any of them. It is possible they "Americanized" their names when they moved here, which only makes it harder. There was a "Christopher Fortman" living in Baltimore, MD in 1860, born circa 1832 in Hanover. This could be a match for Christoph Gebhard (census data is often imprecise), though there is insufficient data to tell for certain.

I do know that Frederick's mother, Margaretha, did move to the States at some point, as she was living with him in 1870.

Generation 4:

Frederick and Ann had the following children:

William E. Forthman
Circa 1940
Anna M. (b. 1860)
Frederick Bennard (b. October 17, 1861)
William Edward (my great grandfather, b. July 26, 1863 /Died 1947)
Ida May (b. December 6, 1865)
Sally (b. 1870)

Frederick and his second wife, Sarah Ellen Keefer, had the following children:
Ella Keefer (b. November 1, 1880 /Died March 23, 1884)
Ethel Adella (b. April 21, 1882)
Mabel Leona (b. February 2, 1885 /Died February 2, 1965)
Samuel Earle (b. February 28, 1887 /Died February 1970)
Lynn Keefer (.b August 29, 1892 /Died July 1975)

Generation 5:

Anna M. Forthman married Theodore W. Fahrney, and it doesn't appear they had any children.

William Edward Forthman moved to Chicago and married Anna Louise Littlefield (b. 1880). They had the following children:

Anna L. Forthman,
w/ William, Ethel, Anabell,
Kathryn, & Ruth
Ethel O. (b. January 5, 1901 /Died April 1, 1988)
Anabell (b. January 22, 1903)
Ruth (b. September 18, 1905)
Kathryn Creager (b. October 6, 1906 /Died August 27, 1992)
William Edward, Jr. (b. August 7, 1910 /Died January 2, 1998)
Mary Nadine (my grandmother b. 1919)
Ethel Adella Forthman married William H. Burhans (b. 1884) and they had 3 sons:
William H. Jr. (b. September 11, 1909 /Died February 10, 1994)
Winslow (b. March 31, 1913 /Died September 4, 1990)
Frederick F. (b. 1917)

Lynn Keefer Forthman married Genevieve Harrison (b. February 14, 1898 /Died July 1974) and they had several children.

Generation 6:

Ethel Forthman Rassmusson
holding baby Ethel,
Christmas day, 1922
Houston, Texas.

Ethel O. Forthman married Harold Rassmusson, and they had at least one daughter, Ethel D. Rassmusson (b. November 13, 1922).

Kathryn Creager Forthman married Frank Porlick (b. September 18, 1894 /Died October 2, 1930). They had at least 2 children:
Renee Kathryn (b. September 10, 1928 /Died 1963), married Jack Carroll Dillon, Jr. (b. August 19, 1925 /Died 1997).
Robert (b. 1927)

After Frank Porlick's death, Kathryn married Blair Watson (b. February 18, 1899 /Died April 1965). After Blair's death, she married John Frederick "Fred" Kimball (b. March 16, 1912 /Died April 18, 1999). Though I never had the chance to meet Aunt Kathryn, I did have the opportunity to meet Fred back in the early 90s.

Mary Nadine Forthman married John Julius Kirton (b. February 4, 1918 /Died April 1967) and they had three children:
Clifton Wesley (b. August 8, 1944 /Died April 21, 2003)
Diana Elizabeth (my mother, b. December 8, 1945 /Died August 13, 2010)
Stephen (March 13, 1947 /Died September 19, 1998)

I have some interesting stories about Uncle Stephen, which I'll be sure to share at some point.

This is not the most comprehensive list, and like all of my other gene lines, it is a work in progress. Anyone with additional information is welcome to share it with me, as I continue to piece together my family history.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Off The Top of My Head

I didn't have anything planned for today, so I'm writing on the fly (no, that doesn't mean I have my pants unzipped, get your mind out of the gutter!) and I realize that there has to come a time when I get a day off from blogging.  I have a few different writing projects to finish in the coming weeks, and every little bit of time I spend writing this blog is less time I have for that.

I still intend to keep this going, though, and in April I have signed up for the A to Z challenge, which will have me posting every day except Sundays.  I will be moving my Family Sunday posts to Saturday for the month of April, to fit the challenge parameters, which will leave me with Sunday for a break.  It's just as well.

This really has nothing to
do with today's blog post,
but it was just too fun and
wacky to exclude!

So, what's coming up this week on the blog?  I can't be certain.  It is mostly empty slots at the moment, but you can be assured there will be a fresh family column tomorrow, followed by Minstrel Monday.  I have been dedicating Wednesdays for reviews of one sort or another, and there should be some talk about one writing project or another before the weekend.

So much work, and so little appreciation.  Yep.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Talkin' DMV Blues

Everyone likes to complain about the Department of Motor Vehicles, though I ran into a fairly unique problem a few weeks ago when I went to get my driver's license renewed. It's not the sort of situation most people would encounter, though the rules for renewal have certainly changed in recent years.

When I first got my license, all you had to do is show a couple of forms of identification (birth certificate, social security card, etc...). This made sense, as you needed to prove you were a real person, and that you were legally in the United States. I had no problem with this sort of simple verification, though it used to only be for the initial application. Once you had a license, it became valid identification for renewal, since you had to show the other documentation to get it in the first place.

No longer can things be so easy.

At present, every time you go to renew a driver's license in the State of Maine, you have to show all of the original documentation, again! How redundant is that? Well, that's not where my strange problem arose. I had the documents to prove who I was. My dilemma came when they wanted to see proof or residency. Never mind that I am a US Citizen with a certified birth certificate, social security card, current driver's license, etc... They wanted some certified document telling them I actually lived at my physical address.

I know most people don't run into this sort of dilemma. Most people have their physical address stamped on all sorts of legal documents, like mortgages, contracts, and so on. But I don't. I have a PO Box, and that's all I've needed to use for virtually all of my previous dealings. The last time I had my Maine driver's license done, that's all they put on the license! There was no pin-pointing of your physical address required back then. But now they want to know exactly where you live, and they want somebody else to tell them that, via third-party documentation.

If you think this isn't an overbearing regulation, just think of this: I know for a fact that it isn't this hard to vote! I've seen people show up to the polls with an envelope and say "here's a piece of mail the post office delivered to my new address, sign me up!" The mail is used as proof of residency for voting purposes, but that won't cut it for the Maine DMV!

It may seem strange that I don't have a bunch of documents outing my address, but I've spent most of my life living halfway off-the-grid. My father's attitude about government and personal privacy sort of rubbed off on me, so I don't think it's their business where I live or what I'm doing in most cases. The fact that I'm a US Citizen should be enough to get me my new license. Who gives a damn what house I'm living in?

Ranting aside, I had to go down to my Town Clerk and have her type up a notation on the town's official letterhead, stating what my legal address was according to the 911 system. The lady at the DMV assured me this would serve as adequate proof of residency, as it apparently meets the new bureaucratic standards.

I'm sure I'll get ripped from both sides on this topic, because people have been conditioned to think it's somehow necessary or good that this sort of bureaucratic runaround is in place. It's supposed to make us safer or keep things "fair," but I personally don't like the idea of the government keeping tabs on everyone's home. What's next, are we going to get barcodes tattooed on our forearms, or computer chips stuck in our foreheads? Don't laugh, it's in the works. Maybe not today, but in another generation or two our kids and grandkids will think it's a good idea, because they've been slowly conditioned to accept the omnipresence of the State. Show us zee papers, please!

Do I sound too much like one of those greasy hippies of the sixties? Well, I guess they weren't totally wrong. Oh, I'm such a radical sometimes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's All About The Numbers

Last Week, I announced my "Luck of the Irish" giveaway. I'm pleased to see some new followers on board, and that we're getting closer to the 25 member threshold for the contest. With one more week to go, there is a good chance we'll make it, and the free copy of Virtual Wiles will be given to one of those lucky followers. Keep spreading the word, and make this freebie a reality!

8 people. That's the magic number at the time of this writing. If 8 new people start following, the book will be given away on March 31st. That may seem like a small number, but it may not be attainable in a single week. Maybe I just don't have enough gravitas to draw in a horde of groupies. If not, I'll just have to settle for quality rather than quantity.

Assemble the great masses of the people, Comrades.
"Follow blog, or we will bury you!"
Rest assured, if we don't hit 25 followers by March 31st, there will be another chance to win this book. April is a very special month, and I'll have more details coming up. There's still hope, so invite friends, family, and even the drunken hobo down the street who occasionally foregoes a bottle of Wild Irish Rose for an hour at the local internet cafe. Together, we can do it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Drifter -By William C. Dietz (Review)

If you're looking for a fast-paced science fiction story without a lot of subtext, Drifter by William C. Dietz is for you.

The story primarily follows Pik Lando, a dashing smuggler who is hired by a group of religious pacifists known as "The Chosen" to haul a very special cargo. The Chosen take the idea of religious pacifism to the extreme, kind of like the Amish of Space, and it turns out they've settled on a planet that is half-owned by an "evil" mining consortium, which wants to drive them off. The passive Chosen can't bring themselves to fight back in a straightforward manner, so they've devised a plan to peacefully defeat the mining company, but they need Lando's help to complete it.

There is a bit of melodrama in this, and a romantic fling between Lando and the young lady who recruits him to help The Chosen. This meshes with the overall theme of the story, and it doesn't get too sappy.

This was the first book I ever read by William C. Dietz, and it was enjoyable. The story was pretty straightforward and sometimes predictable. It's a fun little space opera, with all the action & adventure a Sci-Fi fan could ask for. One thing that could have been improved is the setting, which is left quite vague. We know the characters live in a universe where there is a human "empire" colonizing space, and there are various aliens and cyborgs mixed in here and there for flavoring, but the background of society is mostly left to the reader's imagination.

Overall, I'd set this book at 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's good, but nothing really special, and I found the two sequels to be much better.

I picked up my copy of Drifter for $1 at a used bookstore, and I see there are some affordable used copies on Amazon. I was shocked to see the Kindle version of this book set at $9.99, and I would not recommend that anyone pay that kind of money for this. You'll find the Kindle listing for the book to the left, as there are some interesting reviews posted with it, as well as links to the used paperback copies which can be had for a more reasonable price. As a writer, myself, I understand that my fellow wordsmiths and their publishers need to make money, but charging $9.99 for a Kindle book is outrageous. That's just my opinion, and if you feel differently, by all means, buy the expensive version.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tri-Chip Cookies

As I continue along with my mission to lose weight, I realize how much delicious food I have learned to prepare over the years. It started at an early age, as I often found the need to cook what I wanted, because it was the only way to satisfy my greedy stomach and taste buds. One problem is, I'm pretty good at cooking, and I like to eat it.

While I must limit myself, there's no reason I should hoard my knowledge, so today I'd like to share with you a cookie recipe that I've used in recent years. This is a variation on several different recipes found in various books, so don't be surprised if it sounds familiar.

What y'all need:
2 sticks of soft butter (you can use margarine, but it sucks!)
1 cup of sugar
½ cup brown sugar (light or dark, whichever you prefer)
2 ½ cups flour (white is standard, but you can try whole wheat, it's good)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips

Cooks, start your stoves! Preheat oven to 400F (I personally use a wood cook stove, but I doubt many of you have that).

Sift your flour, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. If you don't have a sifter, get one. It really makes a difference with your baking. You'll be amazed at the little lumps and stuff that can form in any and all flour, and it helps to blend dry things when you strain them through the sifter together. Need an example? Check this out: Mrs. Anderson's 5-Cup Stainless-Steel Crank Flour Sifter.(It is similar to the one I use, but mine is a vintage Bromwell.)

Next, put your butter in a bowl with your white sugar and blend it together with a fork or Pastry Blender.Once all the white sugar has been mixed into the butter, add your brown sugar and do the same thing. Once that is done, add your eggs and vanilla until you have one big blob.

Now you're ready to combine the two mixes. Dump your butter/sugar mix into the flour and stir, stir, stir. Once it's all one big tan blob, throw in your chocolate chips. Mix them in, and that should be about it.  You should end up with one big slightly-sticky lump.

Using a fork or spoon, rip out little globs (about 1½-2 inches around) onto your baking sheets (use lightly greased or nonstick pans). You can fit about a dozen per sheet, and this recipe makes about 4 dozen, so you'll be reusing the pans if you don't have 4 of them (duh).

Stick your cookies in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly brown. If you burn them, don't say I didn't warn you, but also be careful not to pull them out too soon, or you'll get these moist, yucky things that taste half raw. (Cookie dough ice-cream is the dumbest invention ever, how can people eat that? Oh, wait, is the mic still on? Oh, crap!)

Well, there you have it: A delicious cookie recipe suitable for anyone who isn't on a special diet. Bake them for the kids, grandchildren, your shut-in neighbor down the street, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mom & dad, or just for yourself (but be careful not to pig out, they're so good).

That's it for this edition of Comrade Cooking. Now go out and spread zee wealth!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sexy Novelization (Minstrel Mondays)

I've always had a prudish streak in me. For whatever reason, I'm not one for a whole lot of hedonism in my life, and find sexuality to often be overdone in modern literature. Yeah, and I'm a Heinlein fan, too; figure that one out!

In a lot of cases, it's not so much the sex that bothers me, but the detached or meaningless manner in which it is applied. In a lot of books, romance seems to be shoved in there as a needless afterthought, and sometimes the relationships are forced. Characters are put into compromising positions because an author is feeling his oats, rather than out of a logical result of the plotline (you dirty writers know what I mean, both hands on the keyboard!).

Maybe I'm making sense to you, or maybe you're scratching your head and wondering what planet I've recently emigrated from. Okay, I admit, it's Alpha-Sigma 3 in the Plantagenet Belt—but don't tell Homeland Security!

Getting on with this week's Minstrel Monday piece, I threw this thing together ten years ago, after reading something that troubled my offbeat sensibilities. To be honest, I can't recall which book I was reading at the time, but the result was this interesting little poem.

The wheels of mental creation
churn throughout a life
filled with deep, dark images
of animalistic thought.
A craft unhindered by prudity,
novelists give in to unsavory desire
time and time again.

So many tales of high adventure,
deeper subtext, or complex characters,
all have felt the sting of
a writer's darker impulses.
The fantasies they can never
make come true
slip through the cracks
of the ball-point pen,
and seep onto page after page.

A good idea destroyed by desire,
but salvaged by the reader's own
sense of strange sensuality.
Carnal nights alone under wraps,
become the basis of a Hollywood hit;
a product of modern imagination
unhindered by moral insight.
Is it the writer's fault
we fall into chronicling
the darkest of nights?
For the writer only delivers
what the critics want.

Hyped into a romantic tryst,
characters who once were friends
are forced into each other's arms
against their personality profiles.
If they could speak,
they'd disown the hack
who makes them so promiscuous.
Yet, the writer remains confined
in his own prison of popularity.

Writing with morality;
what's the point?
Who would read a work of fiction
with sensibilities in mind,
when there's no one left
to offend?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Horde of Hendersons

This week's "Family Sunday" will take a look at one of the larger branches of my father's side of the family; the Hendersons of Southern New Jersey. They were a family of farmers, most of whom were born, lived, and died in Cumberland County. There must be hundreds of living descendants, so I hope this information will be of interest to some of them.

The earliest of the Hendersons which I've been able to identify is Joseph Henderson, born circa 1770. His wife may have been Judith Cobb Clark, though I haven't seen conclusive evidence of this. Joseph and his wife had a son, John Bell Henderson (b. January 7, 1803 in Cumberland County, NJ), and John subsequently married Elma Sockwell on June 9, 1822.

John & Elma Henderson had 9 children (Generation 3):
Abram Clark (b. August 1822)
Henry Wharton (b. 1825)
Daniel Woodruff (my 4x great grandfather, b. January 21, 1827)
Joseph Woodruff (b. November 1830)
Martha E. (b. August 1836)
Lucy (b. 1838)
William A. (b. 1842)
Eunice Clark (b. September 23, 1842)
Harriett S. (b. 1845)

I am currently tracing the children of Daniel's siblings, and their offspring may be the subject of another column someday.

Daniel Woodruff Henderson married Caroline Royal Sheppard on September 29, 1849 in Deerfield, NJ, and they certainly did a lot of begetting. I have been able to identify 15 children, though family lore tells they had 20 who lived to adulthood. Either way, those numbers are nothing to laugh at, and it is an ongoing mission of mine to find and identify their many descendants.

The children of Daniel & Caroline Henderson (Generation 4):

Robert (b. March 2, 1851)
Rebecca (my 3x great grandmother, b. 1853)
Martha E. (b. 1855, /Died 1900)
Sarah M. (b. 1857)
John (b. April 15, 1858, /Died August 19, 1858)
Daniel W. Jr. (b. 1859)
Caroline (b. 1861)  -Updated-
Thomas (b. April 13, 1863 /Died June 14, 1896)
Phillip S. (b. 1865)
Edwin "Edward" (b. September 2, 1867)
Lewis J. (b. August 4, 1869)
Harvey Loper Fodell (b. January 14, 1871 /Died December 9, 1926)
William F. (b. May 10, 1873)
Howard C (b. February 7, 1875)
Sherrard "Sherod" (April 10, 1877 /Died August 17, 1955)

Now for their children (Generation 5):

Robert Henderson married Joanna Brooks (b. November 1854) in Bridgeton, NJ on October 25, 1874, and they had 4 daughters:
Hattie (b. 1875), married Harry Blizzard on July 1, 1893.
Elizabeth "Lizzie" (b. September 15, 1876) -UPDATED
Mary P. (b. June 1880)
Ella L. (b. June 1888)

On September 2, 1874, Rebecca Henderson married Charles W. Ballinger (b. August 1853). As far as I've been able to tell, they only had one daughter, Nellie (my 2x great grandmother, b. February 1876). I'll discuss more about Nellie & her line in a later column to appear on April 2.

Martha E. Henderson married Edmond D. Minch (b. 1851) on January 11, 1881. They had a daughter, Edith (b. September 16, 1886) and a son, Roland Leslie (b. March 18, 1891 /Died November 1975).

Sarah M. Henderson married James E. Thompson (b. 1854) on December 27, 1876. They had at least 3 children:
Carrie H. (b. January 9, 1878)
Edward (b. September 6, 1880)
A second daughter (b. September 16, 1888) whose name I haven't been able to find. She may have died young, as she doesn't appear on the 1900 census.

Daniel W. Henderson Jr. married Anna M. West (b. 1862) on December 15, 1883. They had two children; daughter Rena M. (b. December 27, 1884), and son Claud (b. March 24, 1889).

Thomas Henderson married Rebecca J. Ashley (b. March 25, 1866) on December 29, 1883. They had four children:
Unidentified daughter (b. April 25, 1885)
Wilbert M. (b. March 29, 1887)
Mary Dare (b. March 29, 1887)
Gladys S. (b. November 26, 1896)
It is sad that Thomas apparently did not live to see his last daughter's birth, and I believe Rebecca may have died shortly thereafter, as the children were split up and living with different family members by 1900.

Phillip S. Henderson married Emma M. Goutiere (b. June 1869), and they had three children:
Gwyneth (b. May 6, 1893),
Russell Stanger (b. September 14, 1896 /Died August 1967)
Kenneth Phillip (b. June 30, 1909 /Died September 10, 1943)

Edwin "Edward" Henderson married Emma (b. September 1880) sometime before 1900. I haven't discovered if they had any children, but they had none listed on the 1920 census.

Lewis J. Henderson married Abigail G. Sharp (b. June 1868), and they had 5 children:
Allen R. (b. May 27, 1893)
Alice Hazel (b. August 26, 1895)
Bessie (b. May 7, 1899)
Edith M. (b. 1904)
Lois E. (b. 1907).
Abigail died sometime before 1910, and Lewis married Elfrida Spence (b. 1868) sometime thereafter.

Harvey Loper Fodell Henderson married Esther Catherine Wilhelm (b. June 7, 1870 /Died February 10, 1921), and they had two children:
Howard Cortland (b. February 6, 1896 /Died August 15, 1959)
Caroline Beryl (b. February 21, 1897 /Died 1969)

William F. Henderson married Lillian W. Hickman (b. November 1879) on June 12, 1896, and they had six children:
Pearl S. (b. October 29, 1897)
Reba L. (b. 1902)
Anna May (b. 1903)
Edwin F. (b. March 30, 1906 /Died July 1979)
Emma S. (b. 1912)
Mildred B. (b. 1917).

Howard C. Henderson married Clara H. (b. 1878), and they had 3 children:
Johnathan M. (b. 1907)
Frances (b. 1911)
Ruth E. (b. 1915).

Sherrard "Sherod" Henderson married Myrtle Husted (b. September 1875) in 1903, and they had five children:
Seth D. (b.March 16, 1906 /Died August 15, 1983)
Anna M. (b. 1909)
Dorothy (b. 1910)
Rosa T. (b. 1914)
Harry L. (b. September 22, 1915 /Died May 1974).

My knowledge of Generation 6 is limited, but I'll share what I have been able to dig up. If you have any information to add to this, please be sure to let me know, as it would be nice to hear from some living cousins.

The only one of Robert's daughters that I've been able to trace further is Hattie Henderson, who married Harry Blizzard on July 1, 1893. Harry and Hattie Blizzard had four daughters:

Henrietta (b. October 1893 /Died 1967)
Irene (b. February 1898)
Mary C. (b. 1904)
Bertha (b. 1908).

Roland Leslie Minch married Jennie R (b. 1893), and they had at least one daughter, Margaret R. Minch (b. 1917).

Edward Thompson married Myrtle Bardman (b. 1880 in PA), and they had 2 sons:
Walter (b. 1907)
James (b. 1912).

Claud Henderson married Lily (b. 1889), and they had 2 sons:
Osea Merrice (b. 1907)
Claud M (b. 1918).

Wilbert M. Henderson married Elva Parkhill (b. 1887 /Died 1969). They moved to Punxsutawney PA, and they had son Wilbert Jr. (b. December 14, 1908 /Died October 1982) and daughter Yvonne Magdeline (b. 1911 /Died 1990).

Russell Stanger Henderson married Alice G. Rice (b. December 30, 1895 /Died January 2, 1988), and they had a daughter, Louise Henderson (b. February 15, 1930). Louise married Irvin Frank Foster (b. February 5, 1920 /Died February 6, 1995).

Howard Cortland Henderson married Cordelia Cressie Wilson (b. June 25 1897 /Died October 1969), and they had a daughter, Caroline Beryl (b. December 26, 1915 /Died November 20, 2005) who married Winfield Jess, Jr. (b. December 14, 1918 /Died February 20, 1982).

Seth D. Henderson married Laura Bradway (b. 1908), and they had at least 4 children.

Generation 7:

Henrietta Blizzard married Elwood Fisher Bailey, Sr. (b. October 14, 1887 /Died 1941), and they had two sons, one being Elwood Fisher Bailey, Jr.

Yvonne Magdeline Henderson married Darold Joseph Straitiff (b. June 11, 1916 /Died 1970) and they had a son, John King Straitiff (b. 1947).  John King married Linda Ann Porter (b. 1947) and they had at least one son.

There you have it, a veritable horde of Hendersons! It is amazing how expansive a family line can grow, and I'm pleased to research this part of my lineage that has branched out in so many directions. There's no telling what I'll eventually uncover.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


At long last, the end is in sight. I've almost finished writing the Fantasy Western that I've been constructing over the last few months. With 7 completed parts, and the last installment started, I hope to have this thing done by the end of next week. It's not a really long piece, but it sure did take time to write.

There were times I yearned for the old days, when 3,000 words on a novel was a slow day. That was the sort of progress I was making when I wrote The Guns of Mars, and I had a 10,000 word night when I was doing Prisoner of Time, though this latest work has seen days where 1,000 words was speedy.

Research has been one factor that has slowed me down, though divided attention has also played a key role. I've spent far too much time researching my genetic line, and I've also been writing other things (like this blog every day). If you add up all the words I've been cranking out with letters, blogs, and assorted stories, they would probably add up to about 3,000 words a day. The only thing is, they're not focused on a single work of fiction, and that is why progress has been stymied at times.

I'm still well ahead of schedule, though. The contract gives me until June to have the Fantasy Western submitted, and I shall most certainly have a finished draft submitted sometime in April. No worries there.

I expect my word count will dip a bit once I'm back to my "day job." There is only so much you can write when you're working for a living. Physical labor leaves less time for intellectual pursuits, and there are days when I'm just too tired to work a keyboard. Still, it beats starving. Let's hope I can stay strong.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reader Opinions -anted

Your opinion is impotent impertinent important to me (yes, that's the one). So, why not take a moment to let your voice be heard with my first ever readership poll? This is a fun way that everyone who reads the blog can let me know what they like to read most.

What topics are you most interested in reading at Martin's blog?
Stuff about his writing/stories.
Stuff that'll tee people off (politics/religion).
I just come to read the geneaology crap.
Shameless self-promotional topics.
Reviews of other people's stuff.
Human interest pieces (what Martin's really doing).
Minstrel Mondays (I love the songs/poems!).

View Results

I can't say if the results of this poll will seriously alter what I write or post, but it would be nice to hear what you like about my current posting habits. Give me your three cents worth today, and stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Yes, it's that time of the year again, where half of the civilized world wears green and eats corned beef in honor of that legendary Saint of the Emerald Isle. I'm not ashamed to say I have more than a little bit of Irish heritage in my family. I have ancestors named MacCain, Gamble, Kennedy, Moore, Carney, Littlefield, and Nelson who all came from Ireland (just to name a few). I really should get meself a bowler hat and a shillelagh someday!

What would you say if I got all shameless with a promotional giveaway on this fine day?

In fine Hibernian fashion, I'd like to offer you a chance to acquire a free copy of my first published novel, "Virtual Wiles."  For a chance to win the book, all you have to do is be a public follower of this blog. However, before I give anything away, there need to be more of you. That's why I'm asking for your help.

Let other people know about this giveaway, and if the magic number of 25 is reached in time, you'll all benefit. Not only will everyone be able to share in my insightful daily posts, but 1 of you will taste "The Luck of the Irish," and get a free book which I paid good money for. How's that for a win/win? Spread the word, and get people on board.

If I have a total of 25 or more followers on March 31st 2011, I will put all of their names in a hat and one of them will win a free copy of this book. It's that simple.

I know, this promotion excludes all of you fine folks who don't have affiliated accounts to link up with the blogger system, but there will be other promotional freebies for you in the future. Hang in there (or get yourself a free Google account).

Come on, help a poor Irishman out! Okay, I'm actually an Irish-Anglo-Scotch-Germanic hybrid with a touch of French, Dutch, and Swiss for flavoring, but who's counting? Only me, I suppose. What? No, I havena gotten into the green beer! Oh, be off with ye, then!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top Ten Hit Parade: Matthew Sweet

He's one of the music industry's little known artists who's done a bit of everything over the years, but never become a superstar.

I began listening to Matthew Sweet back in 1995, when "100% Fun" was BMG Music Club's featured selection of the month. I was rarely one to buy their quick pick (as my music tastes can be anything but mainstream), though something about this particular album called to me. They listed The Beatles as one of his musical influences, and I have always been a fan of the Fab Four, so that pushed me over the top in my choice, and I was willing to give him a chance. The rest, as they say, is history. I was hooked right after the first few tracks, and have been listening ever since. Over the years, he's remained one of my favorite musical artists, and he currently sits at #4 on my personal preference list.

Below is a list of my top ten favorite Matthew Sweet songs. The order may shift a little, depending on my mood, but these are a solid collection that I can listen to any day of the week.

10: Life Without You–A very sweet love song with a steady pop soundtrack. There's a "funny" story behind why my wife can't stand to listen to this song, and I might tell it someday. Regardless, it's a really nice little tune, though perhaps a bit sappy. It appears on "Altered Beast," an album named for the hit video game some of you might remember.

9: Missing Time–A song all about alien abduction (from the aptly named album "Blue Sky on Mars"). It's a slow and soft song which screams "1970s" to me for some reason. Listen and see what you think.

8: I Wanted To Tell You–From his breakthrough "Girlfriend"album, which brought him much of his current success. It's an off-beat love ballad of sorts.

7: Back Of My Mind–An excellent song from his most recent album, "Sunshine Lies." I'm still trying to figure out the lyrical nuances of this piece, but the music is excellent.

6: Over It–A short and sweet rock piece about disagreements, and getting over it!

5: Tomorrow–A song of optimism and coming to terms with reality. The musical score is upbeat and sweet, and I bet you've never heard an accordion sound so good! The perfect conclusion to "Living Things."

4: Future Shock–It's about a dysfunctional relationship on the rocks. The backbeat and the lead guitar speak to me more than anything else.

3: Walk Out–The music is haunting in this one, with the country-rock guitar musings and a Harpsichord backup. Try to find an insightful message in the lyrics.

2: Get Older–A song about being young and growing older, just like the title implies. A really nice harmony with this one. Both this and Walk Out come from "100% Fun."

1: Thunderstorm–A 9:36 rock symphony, which takes us through 4 distinct parts. This is simply the best song he's ever put together in my opinion. You can really hear the Beatles influence in places, which might be another reason it's my favorite. This accompanies Future Shock on "In Reverse."

These songs may not have been "hits," but they certainly are worthy of that title in my book. There's no accounting for taste, so I can't say if anyone else will agree with my favorable view of these tunes. It's just my three cents worth.

There you have it, my personal top ten Matthew Sweet songs. There are a lot more which I could mention, and I might at some point, but this is a nice sampling to start. Try them out, and see what happens. You never know.

*The links provided are listings for the mp3 downloads at, which are pretty cheap by themselves. I know there are different sites where you can download music for free, but I've never used them (I may be the last man online who hasn't pirated music; I'm such a boy scout). I'm sure these songs are available pretty much everywhere music is stolen, though I encourage you to acquire them through legitimate channels (Matthew Sweet has to eat!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

If This Is As Bad As It Gets...

The Guns of Mars received a mixed review this week from Antony Jones over at SFbook Reviews. While 3 out of 5 stars is not a horrible rating, it is the lowest I've received so far, and I sincerely thank Mr. Jones for his honesty.

The review illustrated the weaknesses of the book, and included pretty much everything different people have criticized in the past, and then some. One major criticism regards the premise of Virtual Reality, and Morgan's displacement in time because of it. This is something that arises from this book being a sequel to Prisoner of Time, which was itself the sequel to Virtual Wiles. If you haven't read either of these books (or know of their existence), I understand how jumping into Guns might disorient you.

Another point of contention regards the pacing. A few people have mentioned that it is "rushed" toward the end, though this is the first time I've heard it referred to as "disjointed." The pacing is something I really couldn't help. There are parts of the story which unfold at different rates, and are therefore told to reflect the situation. I suppose I could have padded the hell out of certain sections, but then it would have become sluggish. Any slow sections were likewise unavoidable, as we'd end up removing the intellectual elements from the narrative to speed them up.

The critique of the characters is something I haven't heard before, so I'm not sure if anyone else has found them to "lack the definition needed to turn them into real people." Perhaps this is another flaw of this being the 3rd volume in a series. Added characterization can be found in the first two books, which isn't to say I didn't spend significant time fleshing them out in The Guns of Mars.

It all comes down to individual taste, and you really can't please everyone on all fronts. It can actually be counter-productive to hear nothing but praise, so I really am satisfied with this review. It gives me a look at disparate points of view, and may help me in the creation of future works.

Now, get yourself a copy of The Guns of Mars and tell me what you really think!

Monday, March 14, 2011

False Promise (Minstrel Mondays)

When I was first considering a run for elected office, a lot of things were going through my head. Thoughts of the political system in general made me wonder if it would be a good idea. I asked myself, how could I win at a game where the rules are often skewed by disparate interests on all sides, where honor and integrity are commonly irrelevant? Well, I couldn't, obviously, as was proven by my failed run for the Maine legislature in 2008. It was probably for the best, as I have better things to do than become a politician.

While I was mulling it all over in 2007, I wrote this little poem, which expressed my feelings at the time. I hope you can find something of value in these words.

They don't want to hear the lies
the truth is what they seek,
until they hear a truth they dislike.
When reality is harsh,
and you can't have your candy store,
just run to a false prophet
spewing forth promises
for a million special interests in constant contradiction,
none of which bear fruit.

False promise,
the key to power and prestige.
you can't get it for real,
so you lie and steal it from the
unwitting populace of peons.

No choice is given
when all play by the
same crooked rules.
Break away, rewrite the
book on victory, and
tell it like it is.

That's what we all want,
the blunt observer, unwilling
to compromise or postulate platitudes
for people who want a handout or a kickback.

People seek leaders, but
it's not what they need.
A representative, not a ruler,
that is what one must be.
Throw away the domineering games,
and forget what you think you know.
The politics of politics is
a deadly road,
a source of endless fraud.

I'm no politician,
I guess that's why
they won't let me play.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

George & The Pheasant

Week 2 of "Family Sundays" takes us to my father's side of the family, and a story about his grandfather, the venerable George Sylvester Counts.

In recent years, George S. Counts is a name that has largely been forgotten. The vast majority of people scratch their heads when you mention his name, having no knowledge of this man who wrote dozens of nonfiction works, and played a key role in training many of the "activist" teachers of the 1960's. In his time, he was very influential in various political and educational circles, though today he's become little more than a footnote in history.

George S. Counts
in "The Colorado Daily"
July 25, 1958
I believe this marginalization of George S. Counts is due to the fact that there is little spoken of his "human" side. All you ever read about him are articles concerning his professional work, which isn't something that interests most people. The person behind the professor has been hidden from view. I know some of this may have been his desire, as he preferred to be an agent of social progress, and sometimes his personality and personal behavior worked contrary to the future he sought to shape. Therefore, many of the more interesting parts of his life are currently untold.

As one of his few descendants, I think it's a shame we don't have detailed accounts of his early life, and no one ever did an "after hours" look at his later years. All I know comes from a handful of stories that I've heard from my father, his grandson. During his early years, my father spent a lot of time with "Grand-Pappy" Counts, learning bits of family lore and getting to know the man outside the classroom.

Over the coming months, I'll relate a few interesting tales about George S. Counts, but to start I'd like to tell a tale very few have ever heard.

One summer morning in 1951, my father accompanied George on a short drive to the local store, to buy the newspaper. On the way, they saw a ring-neck pheasant standing by the side of the road; not an uncommon thing to see in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, though what George decided to do about it isn't so ordinary. He decided he wanted to eat that bird, so the car took a quick detour. Swerving onto the shoulder, he whacked the bird with his front bumper, apparently killing it. After retrieving the bird and tossing it onto the back seat, George and my father continued to the gas station, where George got out to buy his paper.

As my father waited in the car for George to return, the pheasant came back to life. It had only been stunned by the impact, and was now screaming and flopping around inside the car. My father was only five years old at the time, but was understandably concerned. It wasn't exactly hunting season, and he didn't want his grand-pappy to get into trouble for attacking this bird. There was only one thing my father could do. He strangled the pheasant with his bare hands, completing the job George had sought to accomplish.

A few minutes later, George returned with his paper and drove home. My father never told him about the pheasant's untimely revival.

This story may seem a bit fantastic, but my father is not one to embellish or invent stuff, so I accept it as truth. If I asked him for greater details, he could probably tell me the make and model of the car George was driving, and even identify the route they took. His memory is fairly impressive, though often guarded. I'm not the sort to grill him about such things, and simply listen when he is of a mind to relate something of interest.

So, what does this story tell us about George S. Counts? I'll leave that for you to decide, though I will say that a little anecdote like this can give some interesting perspective on a man who is generally seen as a stuffy intellectual of a bygone era. Some people might think this sort of thing is best left forgotten, as it doesn't fit the popular image that has been created around George S. Counts, though I beg to differ. I personally feel events like these are the most important aspects of his life, or any person's life. They make him a real person, not just some notation in a text book, and that can be the difference between fame and the forgotten man.

If only more of these tidbits could be told, then perhaps he would be better remembered.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blog Overkill

As I wrap up the 2nd week of daily blog posts, I am starting to wonder if there can be such a thing as too much of a good thing. Writing and posting to the blog daily is something that I decided to do, hoping that it would provide my fans with something of interest, though I'm wondering if the quantity of the posts are marginalizing one another.

It is true, not everyone can take the time to view the blog every day, and when they do stop by, they're more likely to read the first post or two, rather than go over the past week they've missed. Therefore, I'm wondering if it is counter-productive to have a daily schedule. I'm still committed to producing a new article each day, though I'd like to have some input from those of you reading this. Even if it's just a single sentence, let me know if you think this is a worthy venture.

I may start to take Saturdays off, though I haven't decided yet. It might be easier to take Wednesday or Thursday, especially during the busy summer months.

Let me know your thoughts, really.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In the Cold of the Night

The last few weeks have been pretty noisy in my neck of the woods. Some loggers have been cutting trees in the middle of the night, revving and roaring with the tree-cutting machinery (not chainsaws, those are just too old fashioned). While it's nice to hear that people are working, especially in these tough economic times, it gets to be a bit much when a team of guys shows up at 2AM to start cutting wood a quarter of a mile from your house.

Yes, all you city people are probably laughing right now. "Noise? You think you've got noise from a few logging trucks? Look out my window, man!" I can understand that some places never sleep, and the sounds of the city at night are equally, if not more, raucous than these loggers, but that's one reason I don't live in a city. I like my peace and quiet, and would rather not have heavy machinery being run at midnight.

There are no noise ordnances in Robbinston (to my knowledge), so people can do pretty much whatever they want. I'm sure if you started making too much of a racket, a State Trooper might show up, but not if you're doing something legitimate, like clear-cutting a wood lot. So, until these folks are done, I'll just have to listen to the engines all night.

Nighttime noise is not something you generally have in a rural Maine town, though I recall a neighbor who used to turn on his headlights and target practice at odd hours. Though, I don't mind the gunfire that much, for it is generally brief. You get two or three shots, and then silence, not constant "rummmmmm-rawww-clunk-rummmm-ratttle-rattle-rummmm!"

At 19 years old,
I was a wood-cuttin' man!
I am not some tree hugger who hates loggers. I've cut plenty of trees over the years, and appreciate the hard work that's involved with this necessary vocation. However, I simply can't stand these ridiculous hours! It'll be nice when these particular loggers are done with my neighbor's wood lot. Then I'll be able to get some sleep again.