Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Copyright Infringement

It's a problem writers have struggled with for eons. And I do mean that literally. It's probably just as well all those illuminated manuscripts were so hard to hand copy, but there were forgeries even then.

Patrick Ross' recent blog about eSnips brings attention to a problem all writers (or potential writers) face. What happens when you have no control over your work? Sure, you want people to read it, but you'd like them to pay for it - simple capitalism. My question is, should the government (since this is a clear violation of the law) be more involved than they seem to be? I think so, even though I think that book (and music) prices are too high for the content, that's not the point of the law.

The point is that you pay for a service, that's how the world works. What do you think?

Friday, February 23, 2007


To celebrate the release of my first historical romance, IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW, I’m hosting a contest. To enter, just visit my website (http://pages.videotron.com/cowens/index.html) and click on the contest page. E-mail me with your NAME and MAILING ADDRESS and the answer to the question below.

FIRST PRIZE: A lovely sterling silver Claddagh necklace on an 18” chain;

SECOND PRIZE: Package consisting of a personally autographed copy of IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW, an autographed bookmark and an autographed postcard featuring my beautiful cover design.


1. One contest entry per person. Multiple entries will be discarded.
2. Entering the contest grants us permission to list your name as our winner and to add you to my mailing list.
3. Contest ends March 31, 2007. Winners will be chosen at random.

Contest Question:

What is the name of the village featured in IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW? (The answer can be found in the excerpt on my website.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann was remarkable. Born in 1823, she managed to be the first woman publisher of a newspaper in North America, the first woman to enter Howard University Law School, the second black woman to obtain a Law Degree, and the first black woman to cast a vote in a National Election. In addition, she taught and ran several schools both in Canada and the U.S. She also found time to become a wife and raise five children!

She was the oldest of thirteen children born to Abraham and Harriet Shadd, free blacks living in Wilmington, Delaware. When Mary Ann was 10, the family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania so that she could attend a Quaker-run school there. At sixteen, Mary Ann moved back to Wilmington and opened a school for black students.

When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, Mary Ann moved to Canada. She settled in Windsor, Canada West (Ontario). The black community there encouraged her to open a school for black children, but Mary Ann had a better idea. She opened a school for ALL children, which didn’t sit well with a bunch of people, black community leaders included. This began a long feud with Henry Bibb and his wife Mary, publishers of the Voice of the Fugitives, a black newspaper. Accusations flew on both sides as they charged each other with embezzling funds. The acrimony lasted long after Henry Bibb’s death, which was particularly unfortunate since Mary Bibb then married Mary Ann’s brother Isaac.

Partly to get her revenge on the Bibb’s, Mary Ann began her own newspaper, the Provincial Freeman. In it, she espoused on her vision of integration and equal rights for blacks and women through articles, poetry, essays and letters. She eventually moved the paper to Toronto and then Chatham. In 1856 she married Thomas Cary of Toronto, a barber and father of three. Sadly, they weren’t married long, for Thomas Cary died in 1860. Mary Ann was pregnant at the time with the couple’s second child.

When Civil War broke out in the U.S., Mary Ann was asked to become a recruiter for the Union Army. She worked first in Connecticut and then Indiana, and at the war’s end decided to stay in the States. She obtained a teaching certificate in Detroit. She then moved her family to Washington, D.C., where she became a public school teacher in 1869.

When Mary Ann was forty-six years old, she entered the Law School at Howard University, learning at night while continuing to teach. It took four years after she graduated before she was given her law degree. In the meantime, she wrote for the National Era and The People’s Advocate newspapers.

She joined Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, and testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary died in Washington, D.C. in 1893.






Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Susan's Update to New Year's Goals

I thought I'd post a follow-up on how I've done so far with the New Year's goals I posted to this blog. I won't call them resolutions, because I'm not making changes, just moving forward.

1) I finished my self-revisions of Erin's Rebel and sent a partial to Medallion Press in early January. While waiting to hear back from them, I'm running chapters by my critique group. My critique partners always find things that I miss and I'm very grateful to them. I have a book on self-editing that I plan to re-read, so I can go over the later chapters again by myself, in case I get a request for a full. I wouldn't want to keep the publisher waiting too long.

2) I finished the revisions to my outline for Katie Rose. I plan to start writing the first draft by the start of next month.

3) I've entered two contests for Erin's Rebel since January. I plan to enter my RWA chapter, Hearts Through History's Romance Through the Ages contest in the paranormal/time travel category.

4) I've surpassed my blogging goals so far. I just posted the second installment of my "Women In the Ranks" series and have already written the third. I've also posted two blogs on the writing life to this blog and have kept up with my personal blog at www.susanmacatee.blogspot.com/ on my life as a romance writer.

5) I've just begun world-building for my futuristic romance. I'm setting that story on an alien planet 300 years in the future. So, for now, I'm trying to build my planet.

I'd say the past few months have been very productive for me.

I love being a writer.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gilded Age Opulence

For reasons I’d rather not examine, the amazing opulence and extravagance of the gilded age fascinates me. The book(s) I’m working on right now are about one (purely fictional) high-society American family during the Victorian age, which has lead me to research how they lived. This particular family is from Boston, who by in large were far more frugal than the society families of other cities, but “my” family has ties to New York. New York society was “the” society and honestly the worst of them all.

They were, for the most part, the “newly” rich—not like in Boston whose family and wealth could be traced back at least ten whole years before these “bouncers”. (a little sarcasm there). Ward McAllister, the Astors, and later, when finally accepted, the Vanderbilts. The men worked (often bilking poor innocents of money) while their bored, wealthy wives spent their money. In fact, they tripped over each other to prove their worth in wealth. Here are a few examples:

Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish gave a ball for her pet monkey.

C.K.G Billings had a stag dinner where guests arrived in riding habit and rode their horses up to the table.

Alva Vanderbilt, in an effort to become “accepted” by high society gave a ball for her daughter. It cost--in 1880’s dollars!--$75,000!

These same families would summer in Newport RI, where they could play tennis and sale their yachts. They lived in “cottages” which by any standard must be considered mansions. You can view them at:




This is just the beginning of my research. I imagine as time goes by I’ll find out more, which I hope to share, most especially about Ward McAllister and Mrs. Astor, the king and queen of New York society, who started the famed 400 club.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Women In the Ranks - Part II

Jennie Hodgers

Jennie Irene Hodgers was born in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland in 1843 or '44.

No one knows why or how she came to America or why she was living in Boone County, Illinois in the summer of 1862.

Unable to read or write, Jennie overheard volunteers talking about the cursory medical examination being given by war recruiters. No disrobing was involved. http://history.alliancelibrarysystem.com/IllinoisAlive/files/iv/htm2/ivtxt018.cfm

She enlisted in Company G of the 95th Illinois infantry under the name, Albert Cashier.

During the next three years, she fought under Ulysses S. Grant in 40 battles including the siege of Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign and combat at Guntown, Mississippi.

Soldiers serving with her described her as small, and a loner, but that was not uncommon for soldiers of the period. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Cashier

Men described Hodgers as "unusually quiet and difficult to get to know ... he did not participate in the games and sports that often took place." http://history.alliancelibrarysystem.com/IllinoisAlive/files/iv/htm2/ivtxt018.cfm

After being mustered out of the army in 1865, Jennie continued to live as a man.

"In November 1910 Cashier was hit by a car and broke his leg." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Cashier The attending physician discovered Jennie's secret, but agreed to keep it quiet.

Stories of Jennie's early life and her reasons for her disguise vary. The most romantic one was given to an attending nurse at the hospital after she'd broken her leg. "In this account, Jennie said she had assumed male dress because she was in love. She said her lover enlisted at the same time, that her lover had been wounded and died during the Civil War. Before his death, he asked Jennie to promise she would never let another man see her in women's dress and that she never had." http://history.alliancelibrarysystem.com/IllinoisAlive/files/iv/htm2/ivtxt018.cfm

It could also be that she enjoyed her male privileges like voting and the use of tobacco.

Jennie died at Watertown State Hospital on October 10, 1915. She was given a military funeral and buried in "Sunnyslope Cemetery, with full military honors." http://history.alliancelibrarysystem.com/IllinoisAlive/files/iv/htm2/ivtxt018.cfm

Her headstone was inscribed with the name, "Albert D. J. Cashier."

For more on the life of Jennie Hodgers: All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies by Elizabeth D. Leonard.

Other links: http://www.geocities.com/pettigolass/hodgers.html


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Victorian Icon to Close

In the mid 1800s, Atlantic City was the place to holiday on the East Coast. Next came the railroad, and by 1878 A.C. was so popular a second line needed to be built. Visitors by boat also arrived, and it wasn’t long before Atlantic City became the premier resort city. The first ‘official’ road from the mainland to the island was completed in 1870 with a 30¢ toll.

In 1898 The Steel Pier opened. Throughout its 109 year history, it’s been referred to as "an Amusement City at Sea”, "Showplace of the Nation", and was known for such acts as the High Diving Horse (Disney did a movie based on a 1930s rider, Sonora Webster Carver called Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken), Rex the Wonder Dog, and a water-skiing canine during the 1930's. Even Frank Sinatra and Al Jolson preformed there.

The Pier entertained tens of thousands of visitors each day, with attendance reaching 80,000 the Sunday before Labor Day. Four theaters could accommodate 12,000 at a time. For one all-inclusive admission price, patrons could enjoy every concert, film, and attraction The Pier provided.

2007 will be The Pier’s last year – sold by its owner, Trump Entertainment Resorts, to developers, it’s scheduled to be to redeveloped into retail and entertainment attractions, and luxury condominiums.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Update on My New Year's Resolutions -- or How I Took Procrastination to New Heights

I’ve been meaning to post this blog, but like everything else in my life, I keep putting it off. Probably because I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s. Or resolutions. Most years I resolve not to make any resolutions because it’s just one more thing to keep up with.

But this year I did.

Along with the usual lose ten pounds and go through the house room by room to de-clutter and organize, I made some writing resolutions. To write more. Blog more. Procrastinate less. The good news is that so far this year, on more days than not I have managed to write. The bad news is I haven’t accomplished much.

In my household, the only quiet time I’m guaranteed is early morning. Real early morning. Earlier even than the dog cares to get up, but he gives one last longing glance toward the warm bed where my husband still has an hour yet to sleep, and dutifully follows me down the stairs. He takes care of his business outside, while I put on the coffee. Minutes later he’s back, and obligingly warms my toes while the first few sips of Nirvana rouse my sleepy brain.

With luck, I have ninety minutes before I have to wake the kids for school and get us all dressed. On a productive morning I can get a good ten pages or more done. (On a non-productive morning I end up forwarding e-mail jokes to unsuspecting friends and co-workers).

But it never fails that just as I’m getting into this routine, someone gets sick. My kids are still in that age group where swapping germs at school is a requirement. At my oldest son’s age, sneezing on someone else’s bologna sandwich in the school lunchroom is cause for a fit of giggles (and, sadly, not cause for finding a new sandwich). The youngest is at the age where your fingers still taste good –the longer you’ve gone between washings, the better. Murphy’s law being what it is, right around the time the kids are rebounding from whatever bug bit them, mom gets it. (I was always one of those people who never got sick. Until I had kids. But when I’m worn out and weary from too many early mornings and too many lost nights of sleep with sick kids, apparently even I’m susceptible.)

It’s been more than two weeks now since the last germs followed us home and wreaked havoc with our immune systems. And next week is February break, so there’s hope that if we make it through til Friday with no drippy noses or low-grade fevers, we’ll stay healthy through next week. (Of course having the kids home from school an entire week in the dead of winter brings tortures of its own). I still haven’t been able to get back into the swing of early mornings after this last bug, and the mornings I have been up early I’ve needed to clean several inches of snow off the car and shovel out the driveway (don’t even get me started on the kind of winter Upstate New York has seen this year).

But one of the nice things about the kids being home is they tend to sleep in. And I tend to not sleep in. So I’ll check back after next week and let you know if I managed to get back on the writing wagon. Or not.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Victoria & Eugenie

Queen Victoria’s deep and abiding friendship with the Empress Eugenie set standards within the mercurial arenas of Victorian society. Their circumferential lifestyles connected, because they took care to nurture an unexpected friendship.

Their marriages were both under magnifying lenses, critically. Yet, the very differences between Victoria’s monogamous and faithful Prince Consort and Eugenie’s notoriously and regularly unfaithful monarch lent them a dais of friendship on which they bonded. By comparisons in contrasts, each strengthened the other’s resolve. As a result, Eugenie spent inordinate amounts of time within Victoria’s court.

In common, the two women with disparate youths remained active in their chosen outdoor activities. Both were fair equestrians which provided outlet for constraints on their innate youthful spirits.

By contrast, Victoria forever indulged in nostalgia, to the point infamy. Eugenie did nothing if not look to the future and its hope, eschewing her own happiness for the sake of duty to her people and to her place in life. Victoria often was criticized for no fault of her own for a proclaimed dowdy appearance and was known to forever seek out her advisors on the tiniest details of protocol. Eugenie set the standards of European beauty and fashion at the highest levels, revered for her physical beauty and deportment.

Both women epitomized the evolving roles of women in a changeable era, where a moment mis-coiffed or misspoken saw a woman exited from societies. And yet, it was an era that honored the gentility of the heart.

Both remarkable women were ultimately revered by history and beloved in their own times.

[Majesty Magazine, Vol. 28 No. 2, "Kindred Spirits"]

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Plotters vs. Pantsers

I decided to take a break today on the revisions of my time travel romance, Erin's Rebel, to do some work on my Civil War historical romance, Katie Rose.

I'd worked out a detailed plot and wanted to make some changes after taking a plotting workshop a while back. I think my "Women In the Ranks" blogs kept Katie on my mind. You see, Katie is an Irish immigrant who disguises herself as a man and follows her husband into the Rebel army after Yankees invade and loot their Virginia farm and shoot her father-in-law to death. When her husband is killed in battle, she stays in the army because she has nowhere else to go and her brother-in-law, who serves with her, protects her identity.

The plot for this story has really expanded and I'm trying to work in a subplot. I want to get all this done before I start the first draft.

I wasn't always a plotter. My first book, Under the Guns, was loosely plotted. I worked on that book in a workshop where I had one instructor helping me work through the plot and opening chapters, while another helped with the revisions once the book was finished.

With Erin's Rebel, I didn't really have a plot worked out. I just had a vague idea of where I wanted to go. And boy, did I go wrong! I had to finally work out a detailed plot and then scrap most of the chapters I'd already written.

Well, I learned my lesson. I've become a plotter. I'm hoping it will save me a lot of work on this second romance book.

But, I won't know 'til it's finished.

How do all of you work out your stories?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Victorian furniture, Belter

I love all Victorian furniture but the kind I love the most are those pieces made by John Henry Belter. He was a cabinet maker originally from Germany, who started his own business in New York. His furniture has all sorts of beautiful scrolling, mostly floral and leaf carving, and mostly in rosewood. Unfortunately he died fairly early, and was only making furniture between 1844 and 1863. His furniture was expensive at the time, and today because so few pieces were made, very difficult to find.

I have a picture, but unfortunately, I can't get it uploaded right now. I'll see if I can get it to work later. You may also see pictures of his work here:



For more information on Belter:


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Writer's stage fright

So January is behind us and I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished very much, but I guess I have been plodding along.

With February comes a wonderful opportunity to participate in a “Romance Author Panel” at my local library on Tuesday, the 6th. Susan Barclay and I from No Law Against Love will be teaming with Eve Silver (His Dark Kiss) and Michelle Rowen (Angel with Attitude) to discuss the romance genre in general and trends we see happening. (I’ll be sure to mention the increased interest in Victoriana!)

Like I said, this is a wonderful opportunity--and I’m scared to death. Not only will I have to be a REAL WRITER (my fellow Victorians assure me my feelings of inadequacy are not unique) but I have good reason to be nervous. I’ve done something like this before.

In the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to do a brief reading along with five other writers. As luck would have it, I was scheduled to go last. The first three writers had fabulous stories which they each told clearly and passionately. The fourth writer also had a great story, and one which was very emotional. By the time she finished reading, I was literally sobbing. I don’t mean wiping a bit of moisture from the corner of my eye, but gut-wrenching, gasping for breath, convulsive weeping.

And now, immediately, I must read. Read? Hell, I couldn’t even SEE. Every word ended with a sniffle--which really cuts into your reading pace, let me tell you. It was such a disaster that I finished one paragraph and announced it was enough. Mind you everyone else read their entire piece. The worst part of course, was that I was the ONLY one who was the least bit moved by my fellow writer’s words.

I learned my lesson though. In December, there was another reading opportunity. I received permission from the host to go first, although I did get the impression he thought I was pretty nervy. When I got to the podium I explained the reason behind my presumptuous behaviour and then read beautifully--although I still can’t get the hang of looking around at the audience without losing my place. And yes, I ruined it all by tripping over my coffee when I went back to my seat.

The last writer told an emotional, heart-breaking story. Several different people (strangers!) came up to me afterward to say how pleased they were I’d asked to go first. They all mentioned they saw me crying.

So, how will I embarrass myself this time?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Women In the Ranks - Part I

Sarah Emma Edmonds

Sarah Emma Edmonds was born in New Brunswick, Canada in 1841. She grew up on a farm, so along with her sisters, she participated beside her one brother to perform the hard physical work of farming. She tended to the animals, chopped wood, milked cows, planted and harvested. She also learned to ride horses, hunted and fished.

Her upbringing caused her to develop a lean, masculine-looking physique.

In 1860 she was nineteen. She moved south into the United States dressed in men's garb. Pretending to be a man, she called herself "Franklin Thompson". She worked in Hartford, Connecticut as a publishing agent, selling Bibles in Canada and Michigan.

In 1861 the Civil War began. She enlisted in Company F of the 2nd Michigan Infantry Volunteers, signing up for three years.

As Franklin Thompson, Sarah spent her first months of military service at the regimental hospital, serving as a "male" nurse. She then became postmaster and then a mail carrier.

One of her superior officers, General O. M. Poe, recalled that "Frank Thompson was effeminate looking, and for that reason was detailed as a mail carrier, to avoid taking an efficient soldier from the ranks." All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies, p. 171.

As a mail carrier, Edmonds carried two or three bushels of mail over a distance of 50 or 60 miles.

In her own words: "I was often compelled to spend the night alone by the roadside. It was reported that the bushwackers had murdered a mail carrier on that road and robbed the mail, and there seemed to be evidence of the fact, for, in the most lonely spot of all the road the ground was still strewn with fragments of letters and papers, over which I often passed when it was so dark that I only knew it by the rustle of the letters under my horse's feet." All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies, pp. 171-172.

She was also engaged in combat starting with the battle of First Bull Run in July 1861.

According to a Congressional report: "Franklin Thompson, gave his heart and soul to the regiment, sharing in all its toil and privations, marching and fighting in the various engagements in which it participated . . . (He was) never absent from duty, obeying all orders with intelligence and alacrity, his whole aim and desire to render zealous and efficient aid to the Union cause." All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies, pp. 172-173.

While serving, Sarah became good friends with a young medical steward and assistant surgeon for the 2nd Michigan. She fell in love with the man, confessing to him that she was female. She felt rebuffed when he told her he was betrothed.

Besides soldiering, Sarah also served the Union as a spy. She disguised herself as a a male fugitive slave, wearing a wig and coloring her skin with silver nitrate. http://civilwar.bluegrass.net/SpiesRaidersAndPartisans/sarahemmaedmonds.html/
At other times she portrayed a female Irish peddler by the name of Bridget O'Shea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Edmonds/

In Kentucky in the Spring of 1863, Sarah fell ill with chills and fever. She feared a hospital stay would expose her sex, so, after a request for a leave of absence was denied, she deserted the army. She checked herself into a civilian hospital, planning to return to the army once she'd recovered.

On learning that Franklin Thompson was wanted for desertion, she donned women's clothes, resumed using her real name and returned to the army to serve as a female nurse for the remainder of the war. All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies, p. 178

After the war ended, she published her autobiography, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army under the pen name of S. E. Edmonds. "In 1867, she married L. H. Seelye, a Canadian carpenter with whom she had three children." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Edmonds/

Beginning in 1886, she was given a government pension of $12 a month. She died in LaPorte, Texas and is buried in Houston, Texas. "She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1992." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Edmonds/
For more on Sarah Emma Edmonds:

Sources: All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies by Elizabeth D. Leonard, pp. 170-185.



In "Women In the Ranks - Part II", I'll be talking about another woman Union soldier, Jennie Hodgers.