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Friday, November 25, 2016

Holiday Traditions

Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm ready to start the Holiday Traditions! Each year on the last Friday of November, I create the annual Christmas gift to all my brothers and sisters and my dad. It's the Neelley Family Calendar, made special because it includes pictures of the family as we were growing up as well as today and it contains all those special dates like birthdays and anniversaries as well as dates from my dad's genealogy research.

I use PowerPoint to create the pictures. I also have Adobe Photoshop but for some reason it's been easier to use PowerPoint for the monthly pictures.

This is the picture I used in July 2016, which includes my dad as a young boy, at his desk as an FBI Special Agent-in-Charge of the Greenville, Mississippi office during the 1960's, with my niece Marissa and nephews James and Stevie (who are all grown up now!) and my dad getting his special FBI retiree badge in Jackson, Mississippi.

And no calendar is complete without the December well wishes with the whole family! This picture was taken at my niece Marissa's wedding - yep, the same young lady in the picture above this one!

I use Microsoft Publisher for the calendar months. I plug in the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, and for added fun, some of my dad's genealogy dates.

I lay it out on legal sized paper so when it's folded, the calendar is perfect for hanging. The local PostNet in Lumberton, North Carolina prints the copies, staples it in the middle and punches a hole for hanging. Then on Saturday, they will be wrapped and ready to mail first thing Monday morning.

What holiday traditions do you have?

The genealogy information is a very important part of the calendar because I grew up with stories of my ancestors. They inspired trips to Ireland to visit my ancestral home in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland (the graves on my family's property are shown here; the stones were rumored to have been destroyed by the British Army searching for hidden weapons of the IRA), and visiting that region inspired A Thin Slice of Heaven as well as the next book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. The trailer for A Thin Slice of Heaven is shown below.

Genealogy also inspired my bestselling book, Songbirds are Free, the true story about the capture of Mary Neely by Shawnee warriors in 1780 near present-day Nashville, Tennessee, and River Passage, winner of the Best Drama Award, about the Neely's journey to Fort Nashborough at the height of the Chickamauga Indian Wars.

And the Irish men in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series and Ryan O'Clery Mystery Series are inspired by the men in my own family. I am currently working on a book inspired by the three Neely brothers who left Ballygawley in the early 1700's to seek the American dream. Below is the trailer for The Tempest Murders, which takes place against the backdrop of the worst storm in Ireland's history.

For more information and to read excerpts from any of my books, visit