Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults. In this column, she blogs about the reissue of her biography of detective Allan Pinkerton as an ebook.

Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

More than one hundred fifty years ago, when the Midwest was still young and rugged, a tough, burly Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton founded the first detective agency in America. The Pinkerton Detective Agency vowed to catch criminals, recover stolen property, gather information, and investigate fraud. The agency’s motto was “We Never Sleep,” its logo a wide-open eye.

When I was a child, friends asked me if my family was related to this famous detective. That sounded exciting, but we were not relatives. Still my curiosity led me to write a biography of him, now newly reissued as an ebook. My research for the print book from Lerner Publications took me to Van Nuys, California, then the headquarters of the modern agency. I spent the day there poring over stacks of documents, letters, and photos. The methods Pinkerton used were simple, but in 1850, they broke new ground. Facts and codes were recorded in small black notebooks. His agents worked undercover, sometimes in disguises their own mothers wouldn’t recognize. I held Pinkerton’s codebook in my hands, gazed at the memorabilia in glass cases, and marveled at the massive Diebold safe that stood in the lobby. Much of what I saw came from a time when there were no armored trucks, no huge bank vaults, no safe places to keep money, no computers! A time when the first Pinkerton operatives chased railroad and bank robbers by train, horseback, or on foot.

SB_Allan Pinkerton_v3In the revised and updated ebook, I give details about how Pinkerton got into detective work, his work on the Underground Railroad, the famous outlaws and bandits he chased, such as the Jesse James and Reno gangs, and the formation of the first female detective department within his agency. Because of his friendship with Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton and his agents protected Lincoln on the way to his first inauguration. I also wrote about Pinkerton the man—his habits, challenges, and his penchant for practical jokes, such as upending a fishing boat filled with his guests at his Illinois estate, the Larches.

The research for this book fascinated me. After the print book was published, public interest went beyond my target audience to older students and adults.  This enabled me to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery television programs. (My fifteen minutes of fame!) View clips of those appearances on YouTube: Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Author.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency made history. Its story began with a maverick Scotsman who helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the modern agency is in full swing today. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos. The words in these archives bring to life one of the most colorful men of the 19th century.

Check out the ebook on Amazon at  Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye (for readers middle grade and up, plus older readers)

Visit me at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The agency is now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)— I pored over stacks of documents and actually held Pinkerton’s code book in my hand.

 

Today in the United States and other countries, a myriad of law enforcement and surveillance agencies exist. But it wasn’t always so. He didn’t start out to be a detective.  As a young man back in Scotland in the 1830s, he was part of a resistance movement called the Chartists fighting against British control over working people’s lives.  “I wasn’t on the side of the law then.”

When authorities put a price on Pinkerton’s head, he left Scotland for America with his young bride Joan. Back then, he was a cooper, a maker of barrels to hold grains, beef, beer, wine, and other goods. But in Dundee, Illinois, when he cracked a counterfeit ring making phony money, the local sheriff started asked him to solve other crimes. At the same time, Allan and Joan began operating as a safe house for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Because he believed slavery was wrong, he justified breaking the law.

After Allan and his family moved to the fast-growing city of Chicago, he became its first private detective, a move that led to his founding his own agency in 1850. At that time, few detective agencies existed in the United States. Pinkerton decided Pinkerton’s central office looked like a backstage theater wardrobe room. Big trunks held hats, boots, suits, and other clothing. On a specific case, a detective might have to act the part of a bartender, a horse car conductor, a watchmaker, or a gambler. His agents were called operatives and each had a code name. Soon railroads began hiring him and his agents to catch train bandits; banks asked him to tackle gangs of bank robbers.

 

Because of Allan Pinkerton’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln,. Because of the initial publication of this biography, I had the opportunity to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery programs on television.

 

The Pinkertons made history. Their story began with a maverick Scotsman who founded the first detective bureau in the United States and helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos.

The words in these archives and Allan Pinkerton’s legacy bring to life one of the most colorful men of the nineteenth century.

Check out the ebook at : (add bitly link)

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Letters, Missives, Epistolaries . . . You’ve Got Mail!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Today she tells the story behind the story of her latest historical fiction novel, Dear Heart: The Courting Letters. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults.

 

Dear Heart: The Courting Letters

Dear HeartA trip to my mailbox these days might yield bills, ads, and the usual collection of junk mail.  The sight of a handwritten letter nestled in the pile delights me. It was not always so. More than a century ago, letters and illustrated postcards were the main ways people communicated, be they friends, relations, or lovers. Phones were an expensive luxury.

Almost twenty years ago, when I discovered an antique writing box filled with courting letters from 1909-1910, even a cursory reading had me hooked.  Here were two people, Gertie and Fred, courting (a.k.a. dating, getting to know one another) via the written word and little packages they sent to each other. Separated between Ipswich, England, and St. Paul, Minnesota, a letter took ten days one way by train and ship. No instant communication was possible! The letter sent was usually not the one answered. I knew there was a story here, and it never let me alone.

I began by transcribing the letters. Fred wrote sixteen-page letters single-spaced. Gertie’s handwriting was creative, often spilling over onto play programs and church bulletins.

At my daughter Kirsten’s suggestion, I interwove a fictional modern couple’s story to add contrast. I chose 2010 in Chicago and Spain as the setting. Some elements—emotions, needs, hurdles, obstacles—are universal. But most young people in love today don’t write letters.  Multiple other vehicles for communication exist. The restraints that existed in 1910 have softened, but not disappeared entirely.

My research entailed digging deeper into the historical events mentioned in the letters and in the two eras.

I purposely highlighted the contrasts between the two stories—modes of communication, technology, transportation, dissemination of information, fashions, speech. One of the most interesting contrasts involved women’s rights and freedoms.

My modern heroine, Lisa, despite her troubles in the dating world, has the freedom make choices, to be an independent woman. My 1909-10 heroine, Gertie, though she admires the suffragettes, hesitates to tell Fred her true feelings; people criticize her for refusing to marry someone else she doesn’t love.

A peek at Lisa: “With the click of computer keys, the Internet made it possible to communicate with more than one person at a time. Lisa crawled into bed and clicked off the lamp. I’m just one small soup can on a grocery soup aisle filled with an array of brands. Why pick me?

A peek at Gertie: “Men had the best of it. Women, relegated to loving someone, but not showing it, must wait to put their true feelings into words until asked to be someone’s wife.” At another point, Mr. Jones, who rents a room from Gertie and fancies her, is off to a men’s-only meeting at church. Gertie writes, “How I wish I were a man.”

My vision for this book included illustrations. So I enlisted my artistically/graphically talented daughter Kirsten to turn photos, paintings, postcards, luggage tags, and letters into 27 vivid chapter openers and 17 interior illustrations.

Writer Wallace Stegner once said, “Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.”

So in Dear Heart: The Courting Letters, I attended to the lives of these two real people and invented two other fictional ones. Of the twenty-two books I’ve written, this one is close to my heart.

I hope readers will become as fascinated with history as I am and be inspired to listen to their hearts and persevere despite obstacles.

Persistence is the key to writing success. If an idea won’t let you alone, then follow it. Learn about the craft, research, revise, and read. Above all, write what you love!

Dear Heart is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and bookstores.

Visit Judith at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

Mother Jones: Mother to America’s Workers

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Josephson loves to dig into the past. People’s lives, especially that of people who have made a difference. Today she reflects on the life and accomplishments of Mary Harris Jones that she researched for her updated ebook: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. She has also written for adults.

 

MotherJones Cover Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, as well as those who mother and mentor young people—aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, youth leaders, coaches! One Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a paperback book, Important Women of the Twentieth Century. It held a section on Mother Jones, a.k.a. Mary Harris Jones, which inspired me to write one of my most intriguing biographies for young people. For the next several months, Mother Jones figuratively stomped around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity.

Mary Harris Jones’s path in her early life was seared by tragedy. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

 

Workers Became Her Family

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that barely sustained them. She hiked up mountains just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” Mary Harris Jones became known as simply Mother Jones.

She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers. Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents, Mother Jones had a simple message—rights for workers.

For sixty years, Mother Jones’s mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills to bottle washers in Milwaukee breweries.

 

Activist to the End

Toward the end of her life, she received a telegram: “MOTHER THERE IS A STRIKE AT THE SILK MILLS HERE   WILL YOU COME AT ONCE   I KNOW YOU CAN DO LOTS OF GOOD   COME IF POSSIBLE    FROM A MINER.”

One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Her feisty, unyielding determination makes her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, my ebook, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights, is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.  Contact me at www.judithjosephson.com.

What to Consider When Writing a Series: Part 1

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

L.C. Scott founded eFrog Press in 2011. She has a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Education from Stanford, and a doctorate in educational leadership from UC San Diego. During her freelance writing career she wrote dozens of magazine feature stories, chapters for textbooks, study guides for educations films and newsletters. For many years she created websites for small businesses and children’s authors. She has taught at the high school and university levels. Hershey: A Second Chance is her chapter book for struggling readers about a mischievous rescue Doberman and a young boy who loves him. Today she shares Part 1 of lessons learned when creating a book series.


Planning is Key

Some additional planning is needed when you are writing a series. At eFrog Press we have worked on series for children and for adults. Today we will share how authors came up with their series titles, series logos, and cover design.

Series Title is a Serious Decision

Creating the title of a series is a great opportunity to use key words to help readers find your books. Many authors do not start to make a profit until the second or even third book in their series is published.

The first series we worked on in 2011 was a collection of biographies for young readers about people who have made a difference in the world. We considered calling the series “Lives of Famous People” but these biographies were about people who were more than just famous—they had made an impact. People like Barbara McClintock, a geneticist and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize on her own, were featured. And Jesse Owens whose impact is still being felt and whose life will be featured in a new movie RACE starring Stephan James, Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis and directed by Stephen Hopkins, in theaters February 19, 2016.

So the authors of the different titles in this series chose A Spotlight Biography because these well researched books focused a light on interesting people who had left their mark. The next decision was how the series title would appear on each book cover. We wanted to use some kind of spotlight.

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist   Barbara McClintock

Our first version is the blue cover with a spotlight coming down from the top. But then one of our cover designers came up with a beautiful modern cover with the spotlight over the top right corner. Now we have a nice template for all future titles in the series and the current titles look related.

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist cover  MotherJonesCover1  EastmanCover_200wide

Learn more about other books in A Spotlight Biography series for young readers.

 

Planning a New Historical Fiction Series

When we began working with retired professor and academic research librarian Richard Fitchen, he was planning a five-book fiction series about the history of the United States. He wanted a series title that reflected both the depth and breadth of these stories. After much thought, he named his series An American Saga. He loves history and political science and wanted to use story to engage readers and educate them at the same time.

The series title was actually easier to create than the series logo. The designer came up with many versions but all had an American flag. Since the books spanned centuries, the American flag changed in appearance—more stars and stripes over time. The author wanted a flag to span our country’s history, so he requested a furled flag so the number of stars was less clear.

An American Saga Series Logo

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New Biography of Mother Jones: Feisty Fighter for Workers’ Rights

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson has taught at various grade levels, and has written books for children—biographies, picture books, and childhood history books—and co-written two zany grammar guides for adults. She believes that behind every person and every relationship, there lies a story. Capturing the essence of that story in the space and time it took place makes writing fascinating. Visit her website for more information.

 

MotherJonesCover1As I was writing my biography of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones, I visualized her stomping around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity. Every once in a while, her words would hover in the air: “Get it right. I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell raiser.” “I was born in revolution.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” “Women can do so much if they only realize their power. . . . Nobody wants a lady. They want women.”

Childhood in Ireland

As a child in Ireland in the 1830s, Mary witnessed deadly clashes between British soldiers and peasant farmers, including members of her own family. After immigrating to the United States, she did well in school, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school. Along the way, she acquired skills that would serve her well— teaching, dressmaking, giving speeches, and debating.

Family Tragedy

But Mary’s path in life was not to be an easy one. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her ironworker husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

Champion for Workers’ Rights

Figure17b

In narrow tunnels alongside underground ribbons of coal, boys tended the mules that pulled coal carts.

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that could barely sustain them. She hiked up mountains wearing hip boots and her trademark long, black dresses, just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers.

Figure35_med

“I’ve got stock in these little children,” Mother Jones said of young mill workers like these girls.

Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents of the United States, she brought a simple message to all, rights for workers.  From that moment on, Mary Harris Jones became known, beloved, and called, simply Mother Jones.

For sixty years, Mother Jones crisscrossed the nation, urging men, women, and child workers to fight for their rights through labor unions. Her mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills all the way to presidents of the United States.

A Long Life

Mother Jones always went “wherever the fight was the fiercest.” One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Mother Jones’s feisty and unyielding determination make her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, this biography is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.

Note: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights is part of A Spotlight Biography series for young people and is available as an ebook for only $1.99 through October 31.

Writing Biography for Young People

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Edith Hope Fine

Paulsen and McClintock: So Different, So Alike

My two Spotlight Biography subjects—Barbara McClintock and Gary Paulsen—bring to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expertise in a field. Think Yo-Yo Ma and his cello, for example—there’s a guy for whom practice was a joy.

In her eighties, geneticist McClintock was still working twelve hours a day in her lab. And famed children’s writer Gary Paulsen says “I’m totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work.”

 

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist

Barbara McClintockFor the McClintock biography, I visited the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, across from the Liberty Bell. Imagine the experience of heading into the archives with nothing but a pencil, pad, and piece of Kleenex! Imagine holding old family photos, awards, and honorary degrees. If all seventy feet of her records, including detailed 3 x 5 cards, were put into a single file drawer, it would be two school buses long.

Before the 1950s, scientists thought that genes had set positions on chromosomes. Working solo, McClintock studied maize (Indian corn) and made the startling discovery that genes are mobile and some actually control other genes. The press dubbed them “jumping genes.” That was huge, and just one of her major discoveries that changed the world of genetics.

At Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, her research home for forty decades, I met with colleagues and others. Helpful geneticists checked to ensure that my simplification of her complex findings was clear and accurate for young readers. What fun digging out details like her favorite color to paint a picture of this charming genius: “She loved the color red. Red canisters, dish rack and drain board, bowls, dishes, and breadbox brightened her kitchen. Her sugar scoop and other utensils had bright red handles.”

In 1983, at eighty-one, she received a Nobel Prize, the first woman ever to receive an unshared Nobel in Physiology or Medicine.  A set of Nobel stamps came out celebrating discoveries in genetics. “As far as portraits go, I share honors with the fruit fly,” McClintock observed wryly.

This book took two years to write, but all that research paid off. One reviewer wrote, “This is what every good biography should be.”

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author

Author Gary Paulsen works magic with words. His more than 200 books turn students into eager readers. Millions of copies of Hatchet have sold. This award-winning tale of a city boy trying to survive along in the wilderness after a plane crash has been translated into more than fifteen languages.

For this biography, I read as many Paulsen books as I could get my hands on. The tone varies widely. Some are laugh-aloud funny. Some, particularly his Civil War books, are so poignant, they bring tears. His range is wide. Picture books are beautifully illustrated by his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen. His adventure books are designed to pull readers in, to “thoughty” (my mum’s word) young adult books for which he was honored with a Margaret A. Edwards Award. His adult Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, is an elegy to farm life—my book group gave it a ten!

From childhood on, Paulsen’s mind worked like a recorder, storing away things he saw, heard, and felt. And he remembered. Deep in his mind, he tucked away details. There were the hard parts—his rough home life with alcoholic parents, bullies who taunted him, and school troubles. There were the good parts—kind adults, amazing adventures, a growing love of nature. And dogs—a lifetime of dogs that became his friends.

Can you imagine running a dogsled solo in the wilderness for even a day? Paulsen has run the Iditarod, the grueling 1,049-mile Alaskan dogsled race two times. If he’s thrown a stick at a bear, nearly drowned in an icy pond, survived a violent Pacific storm in a twenty-two foot sailboat, been hit by a seagull while riding a Harley, broken bones, gotten lost in a snowstorm, been blown off a mountain, chased by a moose, or caught in a flash flood, Gary Paulsen has written about it, opening the doors to books and reading to millions.

Although their fields are wildly different, both McClintock and Paulsen demonstrate how taking joy in one’s work can move the world forward in remarkable ways. I’m glad to have these two books available to young readers as ebooks through eFrog Press.

A Spotlight Biography Series: Role Models to Inspire Young People

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
When LC Scott launched eFrog Press in 2011, she began by experimenting on a variety of titles including a seriesA Spotlight Biography series. Since then three authors have worked with eFrog Press to update and publish their carefully researched biographies for young people, grades five and up. There is an increasing demand for well written juvenile nonfiction, so the Spotlight Biography authors are planning a virtual launch of their series during the month of October. Stay tuned for details.

 

Founder of Kodak, George Eastman, revolutionized the field of photography by making it accessible to everyone.

We love to work on series here at eFrog Press, and I will be blogging soon about things to consider when writing and publishing a series. As with our other eFrog Press titles, our series titles are not limited to one genre but include speculative fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Regency romance, and juvenile biography. Today I will focus on A Spotlight Biography series. The authors will be doing a virtual launch of their series in the next month starting with a bricks-and-mortar book launch tonight for the newest title, George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People, complete with Eastman’s favorite lemon meringue pie and vintage Kodak cameras. George Eastman is the first spotlight title to be released in both paperback and ebook formats.

SB_Barbara-McClintock_Final_200wAll these biographies have been previously published as print books, many in the 1990s, and the authors retained the ebook rights. They were excited to update these titles, many out of print, and tap into the power of the Internet. Each book has a section titled “Digging Deeper” where authors link to a few selected sites. For our very first title, Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist, veteran author Edith Hope Fine was thrilled to discover a video of Barbara McClintock receiving the Nobel Prize from the King of Sweden! Talk about a subject coming to life! Rich content like this was praised by the Styling Librarian, Debbie Alvarez, in her blog last week about Lynda Pflueger’s new George Eastman biography:

There are new opportunities for learning with non-fiction texts that I adore lately: the back matter of the book. I was thrilled to find an area called “Digging Deeper” which tells you about websites to explore further and videos to watch about Eastman.

Mother Jones lost her entire family in a yellow fever epidemic, yet became a fierce fighter for workers’ rights, caring especially for the plight of children as young as four working.

Covers are critical in identifying series. With a skillful, creative designer, covers can signal that titles are related without looking redundant. We went through many incarnations including a dangling spotlight before coming up with the simple but elegant design we now use. There is just a hint of a spotlight in the top right corner highlighting that the title is A Spotlight Biography. In October, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights by Judith Josephson will be released. Fierce is almost not strong enough to describe this remarkable, and little known today, woman!

Spotlight biographies give young readers role models—people to emulate and admire. The subjects come from all walks of life—sports, science, art, writing, history, business, art, and even activism. When students read stories about the lives of real people, a spark of hope ignites and the future calls. In the Spotlight’s bright beam, the subjects of biography inspire.

Upcoming Spotlight Posts

October 6: Lynda Pflueger on Planning George Eastman Book Launch

October 15: Judith Josephson on Mother Jones Ebook Release

October 20: Edith Hope Fine on Biographies of Gary Paulsen & Barbara McClintock

And Join the Blog Tour and Book Giveaway for launch of George Eastman biography.

EastmanBlogTour2

 

 

 

 

 


eFrog Press Recommends Books for Holiday Gifts

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

LC Scott, owner of eFrog Press, reflects on books published in 2014. Next week she will focus on titles for children.

 

As I look back over books we have worked on at eFrog Press in 2014, I have some wonderful holiday gift recommendations for the readers in your life. Not sure how to gift an ebook? All of the big ebook sellers provide a simple process. I don’t mean a gift card. I mean there is a method to send a person a specific ebook that you think they would enjoy reading. For example, Barnes & Noble’s website allows you to select the book you want to gift and then click on “Buy as Gift” (to the right of the Buy Now button) to send the gift to the recipient. On Amazon, find the book you’d like to send and select the “Give as a Gift” button (to the far right of the page, under the Buy button).

So here are my recommendations.

Science Fiction


science fiction, futuristic
For a futuristic page turner, consider gifting Philippe de Vosjoli’s I AM the Other and his sequel, The CyberBardos. An unknown entity is taking over computer screens around the world and transmitting puzzling messages that inspire fear in some and awe in others. Governments, religious groups, and individuals struggle to make sense of the ongoing messages. The second volume may be even better than the first so put this fast-paced series at the top of your list for science fiction lovers. Available in print and ebook.

 

Classic Westerns


Will James Cowboys North and South
Prefer Westerns? Will James was a real cowboy who wrote and illustrated tales based on his own experiences in the Wild West. James published a 22-book set on the range and now, for the first time, Bareback Publishing has released four titles through eFrog Press as ebooks: Cowboys North and South, The Drifting Cowboy, Lone Cowboy: My Life Story, and Smoky: The Cowhorse. In the preface to Cowboys North and South (1922), James writes, “The cowboy’s life can’t be learnt in a day or even a year, it’s a life you got to be raised at to understand, and I’ve had it proved that in my work even tho it may be rough, all the folks of the cow countries are backing me in what I say, and I hear the same holler as I used to when riding the side-winding bucker ‘stay a long time cowboy.’” Written in authentic cowboy vernacular, these titles bring the West back to life and are accompanied by illustrations by the author. Now available as ebooks.

 

New Western


The Bone Feud
How about a rollicking new Western with scientific touches? Screenwriter and video game designer Wynne McLaughlin’s The Bone Feud is the real story of a bitter feud between two paleontologists as they scoured the Wild West for skeletal remains of undiscovered dinosaur species. Scientist-adventurers Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh inadvertently unleashed “dinosaur fever” across the globe, and their amazing discoveries became the subject of bidding wars by universities, museums, and even the great showman P.T. Barnum. Their story has never been told, until now. This book is a fun read with a strong thread of truth. Available in print and ebook.

 

Historical Fiction

Richard Fitchen Republic in TriumphAny historical fiction lovers on your holiday list? Richard Fitchen’s writing combines storytelling with meticulous historical research. As a former professor, social sciences bibliographer at Yale University, and research librarian and bibliographer at Stanford, Fitchen does his homework and is passionate about making history come to life for his readers. His An American Saga series is a bold undertaking following feuding American families through the centuries from the 1700s to modern day.

Republic in Triumph: Jessie’s America covers 1908 to 1964. Attorney Jessie LaBarre practices judo and serves as an advisor to presidents. She spurs the growth of civil liberties, labor relations, women’s rights, and collective security, and she paves the way for a revolutionary culture of automobiles and airplanes. Readers of this historical novel meet leading men and women of the tumultuous decades from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson. Her family’s nemeses, the Camerons, plot to destroy Jessie and her family. Although she wins some convictions against them in court, a ruthless new Cameron generation extracts a terrible price. Available in print and ebook.

 

Christmas Picture Book


'Twas the Late Night of Christmas
Need a gift for a family that celebrates Christmas? ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by Nancy Hayashi is a fun picture book that adults and kids alike will enjoy. This delightful retelling of the classic Christmas poem gives Mrs. Saint Nick a starring role and the recognition she deserves.

‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas and all through the house
Everyone was exhausted, even the mouse.
The children were whining. The house was a mess.
Mom slumped in despair from all of the stress.

The perfect gift for hassled parents overwhelmed by the crazy-making business of Christmas. View the book trailer and let Malcolm in the Middle‘s Jane Kaczmarek tell you more. Available in print, ebook and read aloud.

 

The Joy of Gifting Ebooks

The best thing about gifting ebooks is you can wait until the very last minute to make your purchases without paying for expedited shipping!

What are your favorite books to gift at this time of year? Share with us below in the comments.

 

 

 

Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes—Writing “The Bone Feud”

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Author Photo ColorWynne McLaughlin is a video game designer, screenwriter, and television writer. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, west and the International Game Developers Association. His first novel, “The Bone Feud,” an action-packed true story of dinosaur bone hunters in the Wild West, will be available as a free download from Amazon.com on Tuesday, November 18th and Thursday, November 20th .

 

Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes—Writing “The Bone Feud”

“An action adventure novel about dinosaur bone hunters in the Wild West? How did you come up with an idea like that?” Great question.  For me, the journey that eventually led me to write The Bone Feud began when I was just five years old.

Today, the North Shore Shopping Center in Peabody, Massachusetts, is a huge, multilevel mall, but in the mid-1960s, it was an open-air shopping center with a small selection of kiddie rides at one end. The year I entered kindergarten the shopping center sponsored a dinosaur exhibit. They brought in a number of life-sized fiberglass models of dinosaurs on wheeled trailers and parked them beside the amusements for the kids to gawk at. There was a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, and an enormous green Brontosaurus (which today we know to be an Apatosaurus) that looked very much to me like Dino, the family pet from one of my favorite cartoon shows, The Flintstones. I’ve no idea how accurate these representations were, only that, in the wide eyes of a five year old, they were magnificent. It was right then and there that my lifelong fascination with dinosaurs began.

I immediately proclaimed that when I grew up I wanted to be an “archaeologist” and dig up dinosaur bones, but my mother patiently explained to me that archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaur bones, and that what I actually wanted to be was a paleontologist.

In the years that followed I fell in love with all things science. My father took me to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see real dinosaur skeletons. I began to collect rocks and a few small fossils. I became enraptured by the Apollo space programs and watched in the grainy footage of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in awe, on a tiny, flickering black and white television. I owned a chemistry set, a telescope, a microscope, and a working scale-model German steam engine that I’d won in a contest, for building a whacky Rube Goldberg machine that ate spaghetti. I was determined to become a scientist of some kind.

 

Science is Hard

My disillusionment came in junior high school when I discovered that a large part of any science degree involved advanced mathematics, something for which I had no natural talent. I was “numerically challenged,” but I loved to read, and for me, reading science fiction was the next best thing to studying science. I was such a voracious reader that eventually becoming a writer was inevitable.

I began to write screenplays and eventually moved to Los Angeles. I was in my early 20s, waiting tables and tending bar to pay my bills while I wrote. Eventually I got my break and ended up spending the better part of ten years writing for film and television. Today I make my living writing and designing video games.

 

The Bones of Contention

Before I left the film industry, around 2000-2001, I stumbled upon a nonfiction book by author and newspaper journalist Mark Jaffe. Entitled The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science, it detailed the history of the events known variously as “The Bone Wars” and the “Great Dinosaur Rush.” These events came about when two paleontologists made a remarkable series of discoveries, unearthing the remains of some of the greatest of the Jurassic dinosaur species we know today.

A straightforward re-telling of their story would have been somewhat dry, and ultimately quite depressing. These two men, Professor Edward Drinker Cope and Professor O.C. Marsh, were compulsive, jealous, driven men, and their bitter feud ultimately destroyed them both. But the events surrounding the story captured my imagination. This happened in the late 1870s at the height of the American Wild West. In the course of their travels, Cope and Marsh crossed paths with an amazing array of colorful characters who have been heavily romanticized in Western fiction over the years: Wild Bill Hickok, P.T. Barnum, the great Sioux leader Red Cloud, and many others. As I read their stories I began to see within them the bones of a fantastic adventure tale. I saw wonder and magic in these events, and I became determined to take their story and make it my own.

 

“The Truth Is Bound To Be Somewhere In Between.”

I made notes on all of the most interesting characters and events and wrote them on a series of index cards, posting them on a giant corkboard. I moved them around, combined some events, and altered others. I compressed timelines and took liberties with historical fact. In the end, I was satisfied with the structure of the story I’d created, but there was something missing. I needed a lens to view the story through. In short, I needed a storyteller.

At about this same time I read the fabulous revisionist western Little Big Man, by Thomas Berger. I’d become aware of the novel after seeing the Dustin Hoffman film of the same name. Both the novel and the film used a framing sequence—“bookended” scenes—that had Jack Crabb, the 121 year old main character, recounting his story in flashback to a curious historian.

I’d learned, from Mark Jaffe’s book, of a newspaperman who had published a number of stories about Cope and Marsh’s feud in the New York Herald. I made William H. Ballou my stand-in for the historian. But who would be telling him the story? I didn’t want to use Cope or Marsh, or any of their known associates. I wanted an outside perspective; someone peripherally involved with the story, but not a scientist. I wanted someone the reader would immediately identify with. An everyman.

Garvey the catAs I was sitting at my computer thinking about this, our cat leaped up onto my lap. He was an older cat, an orange tabby that had been with my wife for over a decade before I met her. He was the star of a hundred stories my wife had told me over the years. Garvey had the most adventuresome spirit of any animal I’d ever met. If only he could talk.

And just like that, my fictional hero James Garvey was born.

 

Breaking All The Rules

I finished the screenplay for The Bone Feud a few months later and was convinced that it was the best thing I’d ever written. I had my agent send it out, and I had some initial interest, but ultimately nothing came of it. It broke all the rules. It was a big budget period piece. It had an ensemble cast rather than one or two starring roles. And it was a Western. Westerns have been a hard sell since their golden age in the 50s and 60s. So, I put it on a shelf, but I never forgot about it. I’d fallen in love with this story and these characters. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I just couldn’t give it up.

The Bone FeudA few years ago I dusted it off and began to turn it into a novel. I knew, as written, it would be a short novel, and I briefly considered padding it out. I could add more descriptive text, additional scenes, or more back story to make it a more marketable length, but when it came right down to it, I didn’t want to do that. This was exactly the story I wanted to tell, and the way I wanted to tell it.

 

The Parts That People Skip

One of my writing heroes, the great Elmore Leonard, said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts that readers tend to skip.” That was his style. He left out big descriptive paragraphs, kept things as lean and as fast-moving as possible, and revealed character through dialog. That’s what I tried to do. In the end, I wanted to create a novel that filled the reader’s head with images, and kept them compulsively turning pages.

My favorite early review said that one of the things they most enjoyed about The Bone Feud was that “It was almost like watching a movie in my head.” That was entirely my intention. I hope the rest of my readers feel the same way.

 

FREE Download!

You can download The Bone Feud for free today, Tuesday, Nov. 18th, or on Thursday, Nov. 20th, at Amazon.com. If you enjoy it, and you’re willing to post a review of the book on Amazon, I’ll be forever grateful.

 

Author of Thomas Nast Shares Her Publishing Journey from Traditional to Indie

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Lynda Pfleuger, authorLynda Pflueger has written nine biographies for children.  Her books have been favorably reviewed by Kirkus, School and Library Journal, and Booklist. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist is the fourth book in the Spotlight Biography Series.


 

One day, while researching an article on collecting, a book fell from the shelf above me and hit me on the head. I rubbed my head for a few seconds and then reached down and picked up the book.  It was about a man who collected political cartoons. His favorite cartoonist was Thomas Nast.

I’m a history buff, particular US history. I love visiting museums and libraries. Nothing pleases me more than to roam around dusty old archives and find newspaper articles or photographs I can use in my books. Sometimes my discoveries come from unusual places and surprise me.

Boss Tweed with money bag for a head to show his greedI was intrigued by Nast’s story. After the Civil War, with only his pen as a weapon, he helped bring down a notoriously corrupt group of politicians called the Tweed Ring in New York City. Nast continually harassed the ring with his drawings and often focused his attention on William M. Tweed, the leader of the ring. In one drawing entitled “Brains Nast drew Tweed dressed in a three-piece business suit and replaced his head with a money bag to signify the money he had stolen from the city.

 

Santa Claus by Thomas NastI also fell in love with Nast’s drawings of Santa Claus inspired by Clement Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Nast portrayed Santa Claus as a jolly old fellow with a white beard and round belly.

 

Then I came across one of Nast’s drawings entitled Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner and I knew I had to write about him. In the drawing Uncle Sam is carving a turkey, next to him is Columbia, and sitting around the table are Americans from around the world:  Germany, France, Britain, Africa, China, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. At the bottom of the drawing on the left side Nast wrote, “Come One Come All,” and on the right side, “Free and Equal.”

 Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving

 

I started collecting all the books and magazine articles I could find about Thomas Nast. I traveled to Morristown, New Jersey, where he lived with his family. I spent days at the Morristown and Morris Township Library going through Nast’s scrapbooks, drawings, and other memorabilia. Afterward, I walked across the street to the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and saw several of Nast’s paintings. I also discovered the Thomas Nast Society and purchased several copies of their journal. Finally, I was ready to sit down and write.

 

Queried Publishers

I completed my first draft and then sent out query letters to six educational publishers. Five months later an editor called. She was impressed with my query letter. Her publishing house was starting a new Historical American Biography Series. She wasn’t interested in a book about Nast at the time; but wondered if I would like to submit a proposal for a biography of someone on their list. She gave me a choice of five people. I chose Stonewall Jackson and within a week I submitted a proposal. Timing was important because they wanted the complete book in four months.

I met my deadline and a year later the first book in the Historical American Biography series, Stonewall Jackson:  Confederate General was published. A few weeks later my editor called with the news that Kirkus had favorably reviewed my book and commented it would find fans with Civil War enthusiasts.

Over the next few years, I wrote several other books for the series. Then one day my editor called and asked if I still wanted to write about Thomas Nast. I enthusiastically responded, “Yes!”

 

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist Published

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist coverThe first edition of Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist was published in 2000. This year, I updated the text, added hyperlinks, more photos and a new cover for an ebook version. For more information about Thomas Nast and upcoming writing projects visit my website at LyndaPflueger.com. The ebook is now available online.

 

Note:  The images used in this blog are from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction numbers: LC-USZ62-787, LC-USZ62-42027, and LC-USZ62-85882.

 

Please Share

Tell me about your publishing journey. I doubt it started with a book falling on your head, but would love to hear the details.