Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wild West Christmas

Lena Nelson Dooley starts off this collection of Christmas romances with the story of Charlsey, the youngest daughter of Frank Ames , Texas rancher. This little blonde cattle-roping bombshell resists the appeal of Harold Miller whom she disparagingly refers to as “Boston” for his cold Northern upbringing. Can Harold warm up to ranching and Texas ways to sweep her off her feet in time for a Christmas wedding?

Next, Darlene Franklin brings us the tale of older sister Lucy, gifted with a keen sight with a rifle. Lucy finds more gifts than she thought she possessed as she tours in a Wild West show. Can her unique talents win the heart of the show proprietor’s son, Gordon? Will Gordon’s calling from God whisk him from the arms of this humble beauty? A special gift awaits them on Christmas.

Vickie McDonough ropes heartstrings with her yarn about Sarah Ames, the daughter who believes she should have been born a son. Sarah finds more ease among the horses than she does in the kitchen. When her father hires a new hand with her beloved horses, will her rivalry and suspicion of him prevent her from yielding to attraction to this gentle horse trainer? Will Carson Romero put his brand on her heart under the mistletoe?

Finally, the oldest Ames girl, Bess, emerges in the voice of story weaver Kathleen Y’Barbo. Bess struggles with a self-image hurt by an unflattering childhood rhyme that Joe Mueller made up about her. “Bessie Mae, plain as day.” Will her grudge against this man, now a handsome Texas ranger, harden her stubborn heart? Her father courts a neighbor widow, and she fears she will intrude upon their newlywed home if she stays an old maid forever. Can Joe win her confidence and rescue her from a fearful fate? Christmas holds the biggest surprise of all for Bess, with a new rhyme and a new life.

Wild West Christmas provides an authentic flavor of Texas ranching life at the end of the 19th Century. Each character captured the rugged independence of the lone star state, and each tale depicted a unique romance sure to capture the heart. I especially enjoyed the three dimensional characters, like Lucy’s humility despite rising to acclaim, and Sarah’s conflicting desire to make her father proud when he demands that she give up the one thing that stirs her passion—horses. Each story weaves a redemptive thread through to a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interview with Scotti Cohn

Featured Book for October:
It Happened in Chicago by Scotti Cohn
Author bio for Scotti Cohn:

I was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois. I have been writing poetry and fiction almost since I learned the alphabet.

My first major opus was a joint project with my best friend in fourth grade. We wrote a sequel to 101 Dalmatians and sent it to Walt Disney Studios. They accepted it and we became famous child prodigies, and. . . oops. There I go, writing fiction again.

Anyhow, although I was bitter at the rejection by Disney, I continued to pursue my calling. I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating from the latter with a double major in English and Russian. I lived in North Carolina for 25 years. I have two adult children.

I have worked as a technical editor for a bank holding company, an educational software purchasing agent, a legal secretary, an advertising executive, and a public relations and communication specialist for a health care system.

My first nonfiction adult book was published by The Globe Pequot Press in 2000, and I have since written five other books for Globe. My first picture book was published in 2009 by Sylvan Dell Publishing.

I now live in Bloomington, Illinois with my high school sweetheart and five cats. I work from home as a writer and copyeditor.

Kathy: Scotti, Thank you for taking the time for this interview. You have just released your book, It Happened in Chicago. In it you highlight some of the major events that took place in Chicago that shaped history.

Okay, first, a couple of fun questions:

Favorite book, favorite movie, favorite TV show?

Scotti: My favorite books in general are fiction, typically fantasy (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle; The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper). I'm not much of a movie-watcher, but I lean toward movies that are clever, funny, or quirky. In the area of television, I enjoy Animal Planet and Discovery Channel programming, but I also watch Law and Order, NCIS, and CSI with my husband.

Kathy: A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorites, too. What is your favorite of the books you have written and why?

Scotti: I would have to say that my picture book, One Wolf Howls, is my favorite. That's because I came up with the idea, I wrote it, and I found a publisher -- and because the illustrations (by Susan Detwiler) are gorgeous. The topics for my other books were chosen by the publisher, who then provided me with loose guidelines for content.

Kathy: Granola or hot fudge sundae?

Scotti: Hot fudge sundae -- maybe with some granola sprinkled on it.

Kathy: Jeans or skirt?

Scotti: Jeans mostly.

Kathy: Would you rather go fossil hunting or shopping for shoes?

Scotti: In general, I would rather go shopping -- not necessarily for shoes, however.

Kathy: Pets?

Scotti: Five cats.

Kathy: Tell me, why Chicago? Is it because you are from Bloomington, Illinois, or are there things about the Windy City everyone can appreciate?

Scotti: An editor at the Globe Pequot Press asked me if I wanted to write It Happened in Chicago. I said yes because I was raised in Springfield, I now live in Bloomington, and I have been to Chicago many times. I was interested in the subject and knew I would enjoy doing the research.

Kathy: Why did you choose to cover the historical events that you did?

Scotti: I started with a list of 90 historical events from Chicago history. My publisher wanted no more than 30 in the book. My criteria for inclusion was based on a desire to cover various time periods and various types of events (funny, horrifying, inspiring, sad). I wanted to include famous incidents as well as less-known incidents.

Kathy: What Native American people lived in the Illinois area prior to white settlement? Were they peaceful tribes? What happened to them?

Scotti: My understanding is that there were several different Native American tribes in Illinois and the Chicago area prior to white settlement. There were periods of fighting among tribes and against white trappers and settlers, as well as periods of peaceful coexistence. The Potawatomi were the principal Native American residents of the Chicago area in 1835, when the Treaty of Chicago was signed. Within three years, in accordance with treaty requirements, most of the Potawatomi had left the area. They relocated in Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, and Canada.

Kathy: What role did Chicago play in Abraham Lincoln’s bid for president? What role did it play throughout his life, his funeral and his wife’s later years?

Scotti: Lincoln supporters lobbied tirelessly for the Republican Convention of 1860 to be held in Chicago because they knew that would give the home-field advantage to Lincoln, who was Illinois' "favorite son." As an attorney living in Springfield, Lincoln spent a lot of time in Chicago. His funeral train stopped in Chicago, where an elaborate procession and viewing took place. After his death, Mary Todd Lincoln spent considerable time in Chicago, as did her son Robert.

Kathy: What were the Atrocious Acts of 1886, in a nutshell?

Scotti: I took the chapter title "Atrocious Acts" from a handbill distributed by labor activists in Chicago in May of 1886. At that time, all across the country, American workers were on strike in support of the eight-hour workday. Many "atrocious acts" were committed by labor activists as well as police. The handbill distributed in Chicago decried "the latest atrocious act of the police" -- a reference to a violent police response to strikers who had attacked replacement workers at McCormick's Reaper Works on May 3. On May 4 during a meeting in Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown, causing the death of several policemen. Four men were later executed for inciting, advising, and encouraging the throwing of the bomb.

Kathy: Tell us about the World’s Fair of 1893. What inventions and innovations were introduced to the world at this event?

Scotti: The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 brought us the Ferris wheel, the moveable sidewalk, the elevated intramural railway, the Kinetograph (an early version of the movie projector), and numerous tasty delights such as Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit gum, Pabst beer, and Cream of Wheat.

Kathy: The location of this world-class event stirred jealousy from old, established cities like New York. Why was it significant that Chicago, an up-and-coming city on the world scene, be the host for such an event?

Scotti: New York, in particular, expressed concern that Chicago would embarrass the entire country by hosting a fair that was little more than a cattle show. Prominent Chicagoans like Charles T. Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, Potter Palmer, Gustavus Swift, George Pullman, and Cyrus McCormick were determined to prove otherwise. They succeeded, which did wonders for Chicago's image and status on the national and world stage.

Kathy: I was aware of certain events, like the Chicago world’s fair of 1893, and the great fire. But you explore some off-the-beaten-path events and people, like Mary Todd Lincoln’s confinement at a sanitarium toward the end of her life. What did you learn as you researched and wrote this book?

Scotti: Among the things I did not know before researching and writing this book are:
- A Black person is regarded as Chicago's first permanent settler. (Historians don't know for certain where he came from. He may have been from Santo Domingo or Haiti or Canada. He is referred to as a "Negro" in records from the late 1700s).
- The grade of Chicago's streets was raised six to ten feet during the 1850s and 1860s.
- One of the very first "open heart" surgeries was performed by an African-American doctor in Chicago in 1893.
- Charlie Chaplin filmed a movie in Chicago in 1915.
- The term "Windy City" was historically used both literally (as a reference to gusty winds) and figuratively (as a derisive reference to pretentious bragging on the part of Chicagoans).

Kathy: You do speaking engagements on a number of topics. Tell us about that.

Scotti: Currently my presentations center around my two most recently published books: It Happened in Chicago and One Wolf Howls. For It Happened in Chicago, I created a PowerPoint slide for each chapter, using music, visuals, and voice-overs to capture the essence of the chapter. I lead an interactive discussion with the audience about the events depicted in the slides. For One Wolf Howls, I talk to elementary-school children about wolves and their role in nature and/or how I wrote the book and got it published.

Kathy: Scotti, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your research and a glimpse into your latest release, It Happened in Chicago. Best wishes on its success.

It Happened in Chicago gives a rich historic overview, useful to history buffs and those who would like a better understanding of one of our country’s great cities. The link to the book trailer is
The website/blog for the book can be reached here:
Scotti’s website is

Other books by Scotti Cohn (all published by The Globe Pequot Press):
More Than Petticoats: Remarkable North Carolina Women (written under the name Scotti Kent) -- Fourteen mini-biographies of extraordinary women from North Carolina's history.
It Happened in North Carolina (first edition written under the name Scotti Kent; second edition - including two new chapters - published under the name Scotti Cohn) -- A collection of narratives about 29 events that shaped the history of the Tarheel State.
Disasters and Heroic Rescues of North Carolina -- A collection of 18 true stories of tragedy and survival that occurred over the course of North Carolina's history.
Beyond Their Years: Stories of 16 Civil War Children -- A collection of mini-biographies of people who were children or teens during the Civil War, displaying courage, devotion, and wisdom beyond their years.
Liberty's Children: Stories of 11 Revolutionary War Children -- A collection of mini-biographies of people who were children or teens during the American Revolution, actively participating in the war or simply enduring as best their interrupted youths allowed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review of A Bride in the Bargain by DeeAnee Gist

Anna Ivey is one of my all-time favorite heroines. Orphaned and utterly alone after the Civil War, she carries a weight of guilt which cripples her from ever allowing love to blossom in her heart. She feels she is responsible for the deaths of those closest to her, and fears she will be the demise of anyone she lets near. Despite her poverty and grief, she is a plucky, hard-working gal, and unafraid to take the risk of joining Asa Mercer’s emigration of single women to the Northwest Territory.

Utterly handsome Joe Denton has worked his Seattle lumber enterprise for eleven years as a single man. He loves his land more than anything, even more than the wife he lost back east before she could join him. Without a wife, however, he will lose half of his land due to the land grant rules. Married men are entitled to 640 acres, but a single man can only have 320. Desperate to retain what he’s developed, he agrees to take one of Mercer’s brides, sight unseen.

What results is a delicious conflict of physical attraction, emotional hang-ups, and a dash of mis-communication, smattered with humor and, ahem, almost-romantic rivalries. Joe believes he has secured a bride, while Anna holds to her contract as stated—to work as a cook. Can Joe muster the charm and love for Anna to win her as his bride before his deadline?

Many twists and unexpected delights awaited on this romantic journey. Full of tangible yearning, this story held me captive to see how the guy gets the girl. In the end, it was deeply satisfying. One of the most beautifully written and deeply characterized books I’ve read in a while. Wonderful secondary characters make this a fun, and at times, laugh-out-loud book. But keep a hanky close—some parts just hit the spot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review of Spring Creek Bride by Janice Thompson

Ida Mueller has big ideals and high standards, forged by her godly German upbringing in the formerly sleepy town of Spring Creek, Texas. The railroad boom has changed her landscape, but not her heart. She still longs for the innocence of a bygone day, even if that naive era was only two years prior. Since her mother’s death, Ida grows big shoulders to carry heavy yokes, like the cooking, cleaning, helping, and one other thing. She adopts the way her mother championed causes, like a 19th Century Esther. Her latest cause, to clean the town of the ruffians who have invaded it. Her crusade leaves no room for romance in her life . . .

. . . until Mick Bradley arrives on the train from Chicago, with his shiny shoes and handsome attire. Mick has an agenda on his mind, and it isn’t the beautiful, wild-haired young lady who nearly runs him over on the street. He has come to build his empire, one whiskey drink and one slot machine at a time no matter who stands in his way—even a force he hasn’t reckoned with.

Janice Thompson’s story of cultural transition colliding with age-old faith held a particular power in showing how religious prejudice and good intent can miss God’s will. Each character, though flawed, held a unique glory, and showed a lovely portrait of God’s grace. Some surprises unfold with the recurring theme of opening one’s heart to love—some for the first time, and others, for a second chance at true happiness.

Spring Creek Bride has one of the loveliest examples of cover art I’ve ever been drawn to. It was a nice taste of local history, Texas style, along with a sassy love story of two stubborn wills finding common ground through God’s matchmaking. A fun and enlightening read.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Chemung Canal

Elmira, New York has a history in transportation innovations. Before the age of rail, canals delivered goods cheaper than overland travel. The success of the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, spawned a series of lateral canals to connect other communities to its trade. The Chemung Canal was one of the first proposed for State Legislature funding in that same year. Approval was not granted until 1829, and the first shovels were dug on its construction in 1830 by thirteen Revolutionary War veterans. Completed in 1833, The Chemung Canal was open for business. It linked Elmira to the Erie through Seneca Lake via Watkins Glen in a notoriously slow and consistently problematic history which lasted through the Civil War into the late 1870's.

Th system of locks were built of wood, which bowed and rotted. Silt continued to push in on its four-foot-deep bottom, requiring expensive maintenance. And yet, the lucrative trade in lumber, Pennsylvania coal and other regional products generated enough business to make Elmira an up-and-coming town by the time of the Civil War. The Erie Railroad had come to Elmira in 1849, linking the township with New York City and points east, and then by 1854, north to Rochester. By the Civil War, rail had placed its iron foot on the area in a dominant stance, and the age of the canal had well begun to decline.

The route took canal boats, pulled by mule teams, along a 42' wide path from the Chemung River through Elmira, Horseheads, Millport, Havana and finally Watkins Glen. The Horseheads toll station stood where the fire station is today, just past Hanover Square. To this day, traces of the old canal can be seen along Route 14 toward Watkins Glen, near Catherine Creek.

1872 marked the year that a portion of the canal was refilled in downtown Elmira, but parts remained active through October 1878. In Elmira, little remains of the canal's history except for the trust company by the same name. What killed the canal also took the life of the Chemung Canal's first toll taker, Thomas Maxwell. In 1864, Maxwell was struck down by a locomotive in Elmira.

for further reading, see:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

announcing CROWN fiction marketing

Are you a published or aspiring historical novelist who recognizes the need for innovative marketing for your book?
Announcing CROWN:
Civil War,
Reconstruction and
Other historic
CROWN is a network of writers whose focus and passion is creating God-honoring fiction set in 1800’s America, who share marketing opportunities to promote one another.

Our purpose for CROWN is to create a viral network of quid-pro-quo promotion and influence for our genre and individual books. Participants of CROWN enjoy an internet buzz over their new releases via author interviews, blog tours, reader discussion/review campaigns, forum participation, and social networking. In addition, grass-roots campaigning at local bookstores and libraries, speaking engagements, and book signings.

Imagine the power of numbers working for you.