Author Archives: Barbara Busenbark

About Barbara Busenbark

A painter, writer, and photographer still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, although the growing up part seems pretty hopeless at this point.

Self-Publish or Keep Querying

I’m up to nearly fifty rejections, which apparently in the world of query letters isn’t all that much, but I’m growing weary of this battle. There are advantages to self-publishing, you maintain control of design and rights, and you get to keep the money from books you sell.

That’s where all you kind folks come in. Perhaps I could cajole you into helping me get the word out about my book. It’s a thought, anyhow.

Also, where you were so helpful in helping me with my cover design I’ve been back at it. Not only that, I’ve been thinking about changing the title from Uncharted to Safe Harbor. Opinions on that change would also be greatly appreciated.

So without further ado, here are some new cover designs –

A Warm Welcome

Our trip to Europe was incredible for many reasons but our visit to Montbéliard, France stood out for deeply personal reasons. As noted in previous blogs it is the hometown of my great-grandmother, a woman who seemd to disappear with the passage of time. My mother and her five siblings always wanted to know where their grandmother came from, even though they never met her. All they ever knew was she came from France.

The church of Saint-Martin de Montbéliard.

For years I casually played with looking up my geneology. I tried to find where Suzanne, our great-grandmother came from but met with dead ends, as though she never existed. My interest in geneology flared anew when Tim told me about his connection to the Mayflower. Then last year on our cruise we pulled into LeHavre, France, the port Suzanne sailed from. LeHavre suddenly became a real place to me and I had to find her.

Showing the mayor my family tree

When I found she was from Montbéliard, France I contacted the Roots Tourism bureau there. In June, we traveled to France before our cruise around the British Isles. A lovely young lady, Anaïs gave us a tour of the city when we arrived. Montbéliard, “The City of Princes” has a very rich history dating back to the Holy Roman Empire. She let us know that on Monday we would be meeting with the archival folks and the mayor. The mayor? That was a head scratcher.

´Etienne Vienot’s records

On Monday we arrived at the Municipal Archives with the folks from the tourism bureau. Aline and René greeted us and proceeded to roll out a piece of paper in front of me. It was five feet long and listed my ancestors dating back to 1560. Étienne Vienot was a mason, born in 1560. I suggested that he helped build “the temple,” the church of Saint Martin built between 1601 and 1607. While they were quick to point out there was no evidence of that, I liked my version of the story. Saint Martin’s is the oldest Protestant church in France.

Lined up on the far side of the table were the books from which they did their research. Some have been digitized but not all. The pages showed their age, but seeing the handwriting from the 16th century was remakable. In one of the books the writing was very small because of the expense of paper. In the oldest book there was a list of Étienne Vienot’s belongings.

The wonderful group of people that made this possible

More people began filing into the room, including the mayor, her staff, and a reporter for the local newspaper. Tim counted seventeen in all. The mayor gave a speech and spoke of the history of the city and referred to Montbéliard as my ancestral homeland, which touched my heart. They asked me to say a few words and I thanked them for all the work they had done. Then I teared up when I wished that my mother were still alive so she could finally learn about her grandmother. When I asked why I was being given such a reception, I learned that while they had researched other families for the program, my family was only from Montbéliard where others were from other towns as well.

The mayor explained all the local meats and cheeses to me at the reception.

Afterward we went outside for refreshments of local meats, and cheeses, along with wine and soda. Also on the table was a bowl of Bugles Corn Snacks, I had to smile. My mother always loved those and I hadn’t seen them in years.

My next order of business, send René information about Suzanne. Beneath her on the tree there was nothing, not her two daughters, nine grandchildren, nor her twenty great-grandchildren. I have more research to do before I start writing about Suzanne but this visit gave me a great deal more to think about.

I can’t thank this group of people enough for their work, their warmth, and their kindness. If anyone is interested in finding out more about the city and or their Roots Tourism program I’m including some links below.

The City of Montbéliard

Roots Tourism

A New Start

As I happily and hopefully write my query letters, I have come to a crossroads. Different agents ask for different information. In a form some use, there is a place to fill in your website and blog address. Until I sent out Uncharted to an editor, I had always thought of my website as a place to display my paintings and my blogging extended that.

While the editor did her work, I reorganized my website to highlight writing more than painting. I failed to improve my blogging and now I realize my posts are less than stellar. Inviting agents to look at uninspired writing is a problem. It’s been more conversational than informational. I paid little attention to spelling (relying mostly on spellcheck), punctuation, and sentence structure. It’s now time to “up my game.”

La Bourgogne, May 1887

That leads me to my change of focus. I plan on writing about a variety of topics with greater deliberation. I did a lot of historical research when writing Uncharted about the places I mentioned in the book. Most of it I didn’t use. I looked for lesser-known historical tidbits that would add some depth to the places we traveled. I’m particularly intrigued by questionable “facts.” Those bits teeter between legend and history. Pirate stories are a fine example of the blurring that happens.

Travel will always jump into the mix. In fact, a month from now I will be in Montbéliard, France. Why? It is the town my great-grandmother came from and a mystery solved. Until recently, all we knew was that she came from France. I’m headed there to learn more about that side of our family and perhaps feed my desire to write some historical fiction about her story. It’s the genre I love to read most, so why not write it?

Perhaps as interesting as the places we’ll be traveling to is our mode of transportation getting there. We will travel to Europe on the Queen Mary 2. I can’t explain why, but I want to stand on the deck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a thousand miles from anywhere.

In a strange twist of fate, we will depart New York Harbor, on May 26. My great-grandmother, Suzanne Viennot, arrived in New York Harbor on May 26, 1887, aboard La Bourgogne. I only wish I could have shared all I’m learning with my mother and her siblings. They always wanted to know more about their grandmother from France. Their mother was only three years old when Suzanne died. No one has been able to tell Suzanne Viennot’s story until now. I’m anxious to learn all I can and then begin to write about her.