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A Second Edition and a Plea for Help



Purchase or write a review HERE.

It’s up! The second edition of The Scattering of Stones is now available on Amazon. I am very proud of it. (I don’t easily admit such things.) It corrects a few minor errors, has a clean, very readable interior, and sports a fabulous new cover created by Pam Mullins. The cover design visually links the upcoming books in the series, which I have dubbed THE MAGGIE CHRONICLES.

When I first wrote The Scattering of Stones, I had no idea that Maggie Smith, the “present day” researcher in my historical novel, would decide that she was not done! Her fictional research (combined with my real research) unearthed more stories, and she insisted I tell them. Maggie is a very persistent woman.

To those who read Scattering when it first came out, enjoyed it, and then wrote great reviews and sent heartwarming notes, I thank you.

Now I need your help!

If you read my first book and enjoyed it, please write a review for the version showing the cover above. Just click here, scroll down to where it says, “Write a customer review,” click again, and write away. Or you could just cut and paste your old review to the page—or simply give the book a star rating with no comment. I would appreciate it so much.

Here is why!

My previous publisher and I are having trouble pulling the old version of Scattering from Amazon’s on-line sales. Because that edition has more reviews attached to it, and because Amazon does not transfer reviews to second editions, the old version comes up first in a search.  That version is no longer under my copyright, so until it is pulled (except, of course, for used versions), I’d like to bury it under my new, fabulous, edition.

OH—and if you haven’t read Scattering, it has been very well received. If you like historical fiction, in particular American historical fiction, I’d love for you to give it a read. Find a blurb, along with a colored map and short story to compliment the book, on the Moonset Books page above.

THE MAGGIE CHRONICLES, Book Two, The Forging of Frost, set in 17thcentury New Haven Colony, comes out in early January. Book Three, The Legacy of Payne,which takes place in Bennington County, Vermont at the time of the Revolutionary War, is in draft stage, and Maggie’s been whispering two more stories to me, as well. Okay, I wouldn’t call it whispering, but she’ll have to wait.

3 for Fact and 3 for Fiction: Some of my favorite books

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3 plus 3


I’ve changed my site identity to reflect my expanding interest, writing historical fiction inspired by family history. Since I’m in the process of negotiating a contract for my first book and finishing the draft on my second, I thought it was time. I also changed the URL for my site, only a little, dropping the “wordpress” designation. Each of these changes take a little time to finalize so let me know if you see glitches.

I decided to honor these upgrades with a post about my favorite historical fiction and non-fiction writers. The criterion was simple; the author held such high esteem in my mind that he, or she, surfaced immediately. Why three? I like three. Rules of three are everywhere.

My three favorite writers of historical non-fiction

Bernard Bailyn–At 93 years of age, he still writes, having recently published a book of essays, Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History. Winner of numerous awards, he writes in with an ease that makes facts of early America come to life. My favorite is Voyagers to the West, but if you want a quick introduction to his work, try The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction.

Stephen Ambrose–Author of Band of Brothers and my favorite, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the American West, he breathed humanity into the famous and life into the past. He died in 2002 at seventy. A quote of his: “Love of the past implies faith in the future.”

David McCullough–Another award winning historian, 83 years old, and still producing. To take a year, as he did with my favorite, 1776, and interweave the details of the places, people, and incidents so artfully, requires an incremental understanding of history. And his television documentaries are outstanding.

(Runners-up: Jon Meachum because I loved Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals and her TED talk, and Colin Woodard because his book American Nations is so provocative.)

My three favorite writers of historical fiction

Diana Gabaldon­–I cannot lie. I’m a BIG fan. Not for the arc of her plots. They tend to run off and run on. But even when she goes rambling tangentially, I follow willingly because her description and her characters, and her attention to historical detail, mesmerizes, and I am there. My favorite book of the series is Drums of Autumn, because it explores a father’s love. (And yes, I watch the Stars channel’s Outlander series…I said I was a BIG fan.)

Geraldine Brooks– She is a master of a seamless, profound plot. Also, as in People of the Book, she interweaves the present to the past into her plots, a technique I use myself. When I was about ten, I read every Louisa May Alcott book, every one. Brooks is my modern day Alcott. In March, she tells the story of Little Women from the father’s point of view. “I would do my best to live in the quick world, but the ghosts of the dead would be ever at hand,” says it all.

Irving Stone­–He is a classic, and the classic, The Agony and the Ecstasy, accompanied me throughout Italy. It brought Florence to life. Besides, the title…wow, and his Van Gogh novel, Lust for Life…the man had a gift for titles–and beautifully evoked stories. Some authors should never die.

(Runners-up: Mary Renault because her stories of Alexander the Great inspired me, Tracy Chevalier who takes people famous and interweaves them with those ordinary, and James Lee Burke because he is my husband’s favorite author of mostly mysteries, but wrote White Doves at Morning, an unflinching account of the cost of the Civil War.)

And you? Which authors would you add to the list?


Probate Records: Why Historians, Genealogists, and Writers Should Love Them

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy's death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy’s death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

How excited can one genealogy/history/historical fiction writer get…over probate records?

  • Historically, you discover what ordinary people valued and find hints regarding social hierarchies.
  • Genealogically, the records can provide answers to specific genealogical questions, from the names and relationships of heirs to the actual death date of the deceased, not to mention unveiling the personalities of those involved.
  • For writers, these records paint a picture, through the details found there, of the life they lived.

I didn’t have time to delve any new records on-line. I was busy with the “final” edits of my book of historical fiction based on my Pennsylvania family history and starting a new one on my New Haven roots. So I tried to ignore the big event, Ancestry’s grand reveal of a host of new will and probate records. I tried. I couldn’t do it, and I am so glad I gave in and took a peak!

With a special shout out to the distant cousins, and anyone else out there who follows my blog-search these records! Unfortunately, if you didn’t log on during the Labor Day weekend, Ancestry’s freebie “come-on” has passed. But the information is worth gold (well, come on, I’m a history nerd).

One caveat, the records are NOT complete, so don’t forget to contact individual courthouses and libraries. For example, of all 88 of the Ohio Counties, only eight are included.

I recommend going directly to the new information on the Ancestry site. Here’s how:

  1. After logging on to Ancestry, make sure you are on their home page.
  2. At the top you will see “New and Exclusive U.S. Wills and Probate Records.” Click “Search Now”
  3. There you may begin your search, get a quick introduction, or view a research guide. Note: you must view all this on their new site. They are encouraging those who use Ancestry to break away from the old version of their search site.
  4. Now put in the name you are interested in researching. I used surname only so I could browse with my family sheets in mind.

What did I find so far? (I say so far because it will take some time to ferret out all the wonders hiding in these records.)

  1. Probate records for Alexander Huston, Montgomery County (father of Mary Huston Croy Roberts…the heroine in my book of historical fiction), including wonderful tidbits like the fact that he owned a Rhone, Sorrel, and Bay mare and colts. Also, his wife, Mary Ann, purchase 8 yds Muslin for $5, 1 and ¾ gallons whiskey for $1.32, and 1 lb coffee for $.50. The purchases of other family members are also recorded.[i]
  2. The will of Jacob Oswalt II who married Sarah Huston. (Parents of Susannah Oswalt who married Andrew Croy, my 3x great-grandfather.) Recorded in Seneca County, where he finally ended up, it includes this comment “Michael Oswalts, John Oswalts, Samuel Oswalts, Jacob Oswalts and Joseph Oswalts…each one Dollar to be paid out of my money that Jacob Shoe Jr has in his possession…” His daughters split the proceeds from the “two forty acre lots lying in Big Spring Township, and one town lot lying in the town of Springville, Seneca County, Ohio…” (I also found the records of Jacob Oswalt’s father, his stepbrother, and his son.)[ii]
  3. The names of two of Edward Huston’s children. (A son of Alexander)[iii]
  4. The will of Mat(t)hias Croy (likely brother of Jacob Croy, husband of Mary Huston, out of Londonderry Township, Bedford PA) which included the married names of his daughters.[iv]
  5. The probate record of John Croy (again, the likely brother of Jacob Croy) where, on one of many pages, I found this: “…money on hand at the decease of John Croy on the 2nd of August 1824” (and the records of a number of his children).[v]

And then, when I didn’t think it could get any better, this e-mail arrived: “I have copied the handwritten recording of the will of Alexander Houston.  I have also copied the Chancery Record of John Huston v. Henry McGrath (40 pages).  For these copies and postage, please send $10.05” So, never let Ancestry or any on-line source be the only place you research. If you aren’t lucky enough to live where you’re researching, a letter (snail or e-version) and a stamp do wonders.

Media credit:Probate Records of Mary Moore Croy, wife of David Croy: 1 December 1899. Washington County Probate Court, 205 Putnam St., Marietta, OH. Microfilm Copies: acquired 13 August 2015.

[i] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 139, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[ii] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Probate Records, 1828-1954; Probate Place: Seneca, Ohio; Probate Date: 26 September 1836.

[iii] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 3234, Ca. 1841-1861; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[iv] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Will Records, 1804-1919; General Index to Estates, 1801-1935: Ohio. Probate Court (Belmont County); Probate Date: 9 October 1837.

[v] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Estate Files #597-666, # 659, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

Research the Library of Congress Maps on Line

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Be still my heart; the perfect map for a writer of historical fiction and an amateur historian.[i]

Be still my heart; the perfect map for a writer of historical fiction and an amateur historian.[i]

After numerous edits, as I prepared the historical fiction novel I wrote for ‘final’ scrutiny, I determined that it might need a map or two. That decision led me to one of my favorite on-line research sites, the Library of Congress maps collection at I wanted my maps to have the look and feel of maps from the same period as my novel (1770-1820.) I found some great examples and, meandering off the course as so often happens in the research process, I found two maps useful to my genealogical research as well. In this blog, I hope to walk you through the very simple process of searching the Library’s fabulous collection by outlining how I found the map that inspired the maps for my novel as well as the other maps I discovered.

First, before you do anything, have a purpose in mind. I had set the goal of finding hand-produced maps of Pennsylvania and Ohio from a particular period as examples for my fictionalized maps. I still got distracted, but without a goal you could spend hours in a maze of old maps. That could be your goal I suppose but, really, isn’t there something you want to discover?

Next, log on to the Internet. (My wonderful, wonderful friend…Is it right to love an inanimate object, and is something so responsive really inanimate?) Anyway, head to the address indicated above.

When first exploring the site, I recommend using the search column you’ll find to the right of the page. It allows you to narrow the parameters of your search one step at a time. After all, you don’t want to miss something wonderful. By choosing ‘1700-1799’ in the ‘Dates’ section, 2,230 amazing handcrafted maps of the period appeared, just a few too many.

The narrower your search the fewer your results, and the site offers many ways to narrow your outcomes. One option, ‘Collections,’ allows you to look inside the numerous collections compiled by the Library such as this intriguing possibility, Discovery and Exploration. If you are a real map geek you can search by the contributor or maker of the map. Perhaps your goal is subject based such as the American Revolution; there is that option as well. And, while I don’t recommend it because many excellent early maps might be overlooked, you can search by language. For my novel, I chose to narrow my search to ‘1700-1799’ and Pennsylvania, reducing the results to 88. Just remember that if you decide to change your search criteria, you need to eliminate the old search by clicking on the ‘x’ by that search option in the right hand column. Here is one example of a handmade map that I found as inspiration.[ii]

Braddock's Route

Braddock’s Route

If your goal is narrowly defined, type in your specific search at the top of the page. You can still use the search column at the right to narrow your results even further! For example, when I started roaming the unknown, I began to wonder about the Ohio clan, the one I just can’t seem to release. Anyway, I typed in Washington County, Ohio and found the map shown below.[iii] With it, published in 1858, and knowing that my family owned land in that county by 1860 (based on the Federal Census)[iv] I was able to narrow the probable time that they entered Washington County from Coshocton County to about 1859. Now that gets a genealogist’s heart all in a flutter!washington county

[i] Bradley, Abraham. A map of the United States exhibiting post roads & distances. Map. From the Library of Congress, Map Collections. (accessed June 29, 2015)

[ii] Braddock’s route, 1755, Fort Cumberland to Fort Pitt. Map. From Library of Congress, Map Collections. (accessed June 29, 2015)

[iii] Lorey, Wm. Map of Washington County, Ohio: from actual survey & records. Map. 1858, From the Library of Congress, Map Collections. (accessed June 29, 2015) [iv] Federal Census, 1860; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll; M653_1048: Page: 124; Image: 251; Family History Library Film:805048 (accessed April 22, 2013)