TWO Ohioana Awards!

Many thanks to all of you who took time to vote for Epitaph as the Ohioana Readers Choice. Not only did you nail that one down for me, your enthusiasm for the novel was matched by the professional judges who also gave the novel the 2015 Best Fiction prize. The award ceremony will be at the Ohio State House on September 23 and I'll be a guest at the 2017 Ohioana Book Festival on April 8 as well. Recognition like this doesn't guarantee that my next novel will be published -- every book is a separate roll of the dice -- but ...
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Listen. Just…listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfcZheDtUXc ...
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Sorry! Here’s the live link to the Readers Choice Award

I messed up on my last blog. If you'd still like to vote for Epitaph in the Readers Choice Award, here's the link. Thanks again! ...
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Shameless request for support!

I'd appreciate it if you take the time to vote for Epitaph, which is one of thirty books up for the first annual Readers Choice Award from the Ohioana Library Association. There are no categories -- fiction, nonfiction, childrens' lit, etc. are all in a bunch. You can only vote once per computer and you can only click once before it tosses you off!  Thanks! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RR3YML2 ...
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Tuberculosis and 19th Century Fashions

A while back, I posted about what might well be a photograph of Doc Holliday taken shortly before his death from tuberculosis. Whoever that poor soul really was, his neck is neatly wrapped in white cloth. It was not a fashion statement; it was a bandage. It covered the kind of open sores that can result from TB-infected glands, but its resemblance to the male neck wear of the Romantic period is not accidental. It is hard to overestimate the impact of tuberculosis in the 1700-1800s. The disease itself is as old as human history, but it became epidemic in Europe ...
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Trigger warning…

This review is difficult for me to write. It might also be difficult for you to read. Try to imagine, then, how difficult it must have been for Joanna Connors to write I Will Find You. That title is a perfect encapsulation of the book's theme, structure, elegance, horror and grace. In 1984, when she was a 30-year-old reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Connors was raped at knife-point by a stranger. When he was finished with her, the rapist warned, "If you go to the police, I will find you." That is also what she decided twenty years after the ...
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Writing what YOU know

Once again, I'm turning to you for help with the next novel. An Unremembered Life (yes, new working title) is the story of Annie Clements, who was once known around the world as America's Joan of Arc. This extraordinary 25-year-old woman was a pivotal figure in the labor movement of the Progressive Age. In 1913, she led a strike that shut down 20 copper mines for nearly a year in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Obviously, there are few (if any) people who remember those days directly, but I'm hoping some of you have family memories of strikes that have been passed down ...
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Review: A Friend of Mr. Lincoln by Stephen Harrigan

Readers often suggest books I should write. My standard reply is, "Well, arranged marriages can work nicely for some folks, but I have to fall in love on my own." When I'm almost finished with a novel, I start dating again. I read promiscuously and watch a lot of documentaries on the History Channel and PBS and Smithsonian -- the literary equivalent of hanging around in a bar. If there's a spark, I begin to accumulate a library on the topic and see if it can sustain my interest. Often the story just doesn't catch fire for me. A few years ago, ...
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For those who watched “Murder of a President” on PBS

Here's the passage from Epitaph with Doc Holliday's observation of the election of 1880, which brought James A. Garfield to the White House. Hundreds of delegates and thousands of observers crammed into Chicago's many-windowed Industrial Exposition Building and screamed themselves hoarse over which as-yet-unindicted criminal might best disserve the country. In the end, the field narrowed down to two men who were equally disliked and mistrusted, even by their fellow Republicans. Ulysses Grant had left the White House three years earlier under a dense cloud of scandal; he was now ferociously backed by Roscoe Conkling – arguably the most corrupt politician in ...
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PBS: “Murder of a President” on American Experience

When developing a historical novel, I try to get a sense of what's going on in the wider world that surrounds my story's setting. War is always there in the background: impending wars, current wars, wars still haunting the dreams of veterans. But what else happening? What's scandalous? What's amusing? What are people reading? What is popular? Who's ascendant politically and why? How's the economy doing? For Epitaph, I collected nineteen linear feet of background books and one of them was Candace Millard's fine account of James A. Garfield's life and death, Destiny of the Republic: a tale of madness, medicine ...
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