7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Celebrating 350 years of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

The waterways along the Great Lakes aren't given the respect that they deserve for America's Colonial Era. People tend to focus on Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. But here are some interesting facts to point out for the 350th Anniversary of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan:

  • In 1623, Étienne Brûlé visited what is now Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and named it "Sault de Gaston" in honor of Gaston, the brother of King Louis XIII of France. (Sault meant either waterfall or rapids.)
  • The Dutch started the first settlement in New Netherland (New York) in 1624.
  • The Puritans did start not arriving in Boston until 1630.
  • In 1668 the French Jesuits missionaries started the first settlement where Étienne Brûlé had visited and named it "Saults de Sainte-Marie, meaning St. Mary's Falls.
  • Pennsylvania didn't get its charter until 1681
  • The War of 1812 touched Sault Ste. Marie with the American burning and looting of the British Northwest Company's fur trader post there.

The area was first under the control of the native Ojibwe, Sauk, and Ottawa tribes who migrated north in the summer months when the whitefish were plentiful.

The French came and traded with the native tribes, they introduced things like metal knives, pots, woven cloth, guns, and gunpowder. The tribesmen traded beaver and other hides which were much in fashion in Europe as well as food. The French claim on the area spanned from 1623 - 1763.

The Brittish drove out the French and alienated the natives. Their tenure in the area was relatively short, from 1763 - 1814.

The Americans claimed the area in 1814 at the conclusion of the War of 1812. Aside from the fortune in furs, the area proved to be rich in other natural resources like iron, copper, fish, and lumber.
Related image
Today, Sault Ste Marie operates the only lock system that allows freighters to move between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Millions of tons of cargo and raw materials - many vital to our national interests and security - pass through the Soo Locks each year. 

Pegg Thomas is a native Michigander and avid Upper Peninsula fan. She and husband Michael plan to return to "Da Soo" (Sault Ste. Marie) when he retires in a few years. Both attended Lake Superior State University - back when it was Lake Superior State College - and look forward to moving back "home."


Monday, June 18, 2018

The Longhunters

One cannot read colonial-era stories for long without finding mention of the longhunters—or long hunters, depending upon the writer. But just who were these people?

Only known portrait of Daniel Boone during his lifetime (1820)
The era of the longhunter probably starts with the expedition led by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750 along the frontier of Virginia, into what is now Tennessee and Kentucky by way of Cumberland Gap, who reported on a land of unbelievable richness, with buffalo and beaver and all kinds of other game whose hides and pelts brought a great deal of money out East, and in trade to England. It wasn’t long before various parties of men followed, venturing into the wilderness for “long hunts”—expeditions that, like Walker’s, could last from several months to more than a year. The most famous of the hardy (some might say foolhardy) men who set out on these hunts was Daniel Boone, but he was by no means the only one.

The era reached its peak during the 1760’s. Up until that time, politics between France and England, and resistance from native tribes, kept most from venturing west. Tensions were bad enough during the French and Indian War, and at the close of that conflict in 1763, King George made it essentially illegal to hunt west of the Appalachians without a trading license. The vast majority of hunters ignored his proclamation. One accounts says that Daniel Boone himself did not make his first trip west until 1769, after a visit by English trader John Finley, but others say his first long hunt was in 1750. I'm inclined to believe the latter. Boone’s adventures included capture by the Cherokee and Shawnee, having his pelts confiscated, probable adoption as a native, returning home after so long that his wife had given him up for dead, and the later loss of a son to Indian attack. None of this deterred him from making the hunting grounds his eventual home, and persuading others to join him there.

Other notable longhunters included James Harrod (for whom Harrodsburg, KY is named), Simon Kenton, Elisha Walden (also called Wallen/Walling, for whom Wallen’s Ridge at Cumberland Gap is named), Abraham and Isaac Bledsoe (yes, from the same real-life family I used in both Defending Truth and The Cumberland Bride), and Benjamin Cutbirth (almost certainly a mispronunciation and subsequent mispelling of Cuthbert).

1852 painting of Squire Boone Crossing the mountains
By the time the American Revolution ended, the heyday of the longhunter had passed. The unbelievable abundance of game across Kentucky and Tennessee had thinned considerably, probably less by hunting than pushed westward by the rising tide of settlers. And so the explorers and adventurers went further west, as well. In the process, the Boones and Bledsoes left a trail across Tennessee and into central Missouri of both place names and descendants.

More reading:

William Blevins, Long Hunter
Daniel Boone (and at Wiki)
Simon Kenton
Longhunters (at Wiki)
Bledsoe's Station in Tennessee

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

1000 Posts - The Best of Colonial Quills

"My dear, are you finished penning your article for Colonial Quills?"

Celebrating 1000 Colonial Quills blog posts!!

In Colonials America stone markers were set up along the way to show the miles along the road. Today we are putting up our own milestone marking our 1,000 blog post here at Colonial Quills!

We have gone through a lot of virtual ink and quills during our 7 year journey of blogging. During that time our Quillers have written many wonderful articles about our country's Colonial heritage. We've shared about life in 18th century America, brought you along on our research trips, and told you about our experiences writing Colonial fiction. We've also celebrated our many book releases during our famous Colonial Quills tea parties which our dear readers have been our honored guests! We've had over a million page views on our blog. In honor of this milestone, here are the top ten posts of all time.

We hope that you'll take some time to peruse some of these highlights.

Do YOU have a particularly favorite post from our archives? What type of posts do you enjoy reading best? Please post it in the comments.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Writing Active Historical Fiction

A long-time reader of historical romance, I grew up in the literary fiction tradition. I dreamed of penning the next epic novel, a thick tome fortified by months of research, rife with details, and paced like a golden afternoon in the Victorian countryside. I scribbled many notebooks full of stories. I attended journalism school, where I learned AP style. I almost got my dreamed-of story published right out of college. Almost.

Rare post-college pic of me & the hubs
Life happened. Marriage. A job in public relations. Two daughters. Multiple moves. Editing, desktop publishing, and magazine writing from home. Then, I reached for my book writing once more. A novella came out, then a series. Yea! I was on my way. Wasn’t I?

Progress screeched to a halt as editors, publishers, and agents relayed shocking news. Writing had changed. I almost fainted when I got back my first manuscript marked in the unfamiliar track changes setting. The comments spoke an unsettling language.

Publishers like formulas, not rambling forever; scenes, not snapshots. Avoid information dumps. Start with the action. Cut the adverbs. Cut the unnecessary details. And most of all, don’t write in passive voice! What? My default setting? But wasn’t that my voice, an embodiment of old-fashioned-sounding historical fiction?

As an author, and then an editor myself, I began to open to the New Ways. Because who doesn’t want to read a historical where you can smell the horse lather and hear the gun go off in your ear and feel the swish of silk against your skin? Even stories designed as those golden afternoons in the Victorian countryside rather than nail-biters should immerse us. Here are some tips and tricks I learned to help write historical fiction with an active, rather than a passive or stagnant, tone:

       Ask yourself if each scene advances the plot by showing the reader something new, either internally or externally.
       Where possible, yes, change passive voice to active. (Her purse was stolen by someone. –to– Someone stole her purse.)
       Show with verbs and adjectives rather than telling with many adverbs. (He ran quickly and sneakily. –to– He darted.)
       Delete unnecessary speaker tags, or change to beats of action. (“I’m Sandy,” she said, flipping her hair. –to– “I’m Sandy.” She flipped her hair.)
       Search and rewrite instances of “she/he thought-felt-wondered-saw-heard-noticed.” The reader knows your character is the one doing these things.
       Use deep point of view rather than a narrator’s voice. (If Sandy is our third person heroine, and she and her friend are walking, say “they walked” rather than “the girls walked.” Relate only what Sandy would see/feel/hear/think, not what others would. Keep us in her head.)
       Add historical details rather than vague generalities (i.e. tell what type of dance, dinner service, car, dress, etc.). Here’s where your level of research shows, but keep it concise.
       Use sensory details to create historical setting—smell of wood smoke or leather, sounds of a particular song (name it), touch of a particular material or a pinching corset. Part of expanding deep point of view.

Writers, what helps you create fresh, active historical fiction? Readers, are there particular titles that do a great job of this? What are your pet peeves that fizzle out historicals? 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to Present -- Reviewed by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to Present
By J. E. Kaufman and H. W. Kaufman
Illustrated by Tomasz Idzikowski
Da Capo Press, a Division of Perseus Books Group (hardcover 2004, paperback 2007, now available in ebook, also)
416 pages

Publisher's Description:

From the earliest colonial settlements to recent Cold War bunkers, the North American continent has been home to thousands of forts and fortress structures. Seacoast forts were the nation's primary means of strategic defense from the 1790s until World War II. Almost every seaport on both coasts had at least one fort to protect it at one time or another. Inland forts were built to defend against attacks by Native Americans, or to defend against the English, the French, or the Spanish. So many forts were built-most in the 1800s-that there are few places in the continental United States more than fifty miles from a fort location. Yet, despite their prominence and importance, there has never been-until now-a single volume devoted to American forts and homeland fortification defense.As in their previous and very successful books, experts J. E. and H. W. Kaufmann include never-before-published photographs, extraordinary drawings, cut-aways, and diagrams to illustrate Fortress America.

IF you have a FORT in your story you WANT this book!!!

-- Reviewed by Carrie Fancett Pagels

This is a great compendium with some limits that I will address. What it does cover are the main forts in America with great illustrations and explanations of the forts. I was looking for specific forts and their information and I found limitations. Given that this is a book touching on so very many forts and locations, the reader is not going to get in depth information.

There is a great deal of narrative history that attempts to illustrate the uses of forts in specific instances. And there are many nuggets of information contained in those passages. However, the reader should look at this as an encapsulated overview. There is an extensive bibliography in the back which allows the reader to pursue further information from the original source.

About a quarter of the book is from the colonial era to American Revolutionary War era. This is one of the few books I've come across that had comprehensive information about forts. In the back is also a glossary of fort terms, which is handy. Having grown up near a couple of re-created forts in Michigan, I've heard much of the life at colonial forts. Don't expect that from this book. As the title says, these is more about the fort's defensive purposes.

I'm glad to have this book in my research library. I will say for researchers of specific forts, such as those put up for settlers in the backcountry of America during the French-Indian War, you're unlikely to find them in this compendium. When doing further research for my novella, "Shenandoah Hearts", in The Backcountry Brides (Barbour, Mary 2018) I happily stumbled upon a book referencing Fort Holmes, where one of my ancestors was born. It was in an Indy published book from an author local to the region where the fort stood. And for specific forts that have been re-created, some of the best books can be found in the museum's bookstores.

Recommended for: Serious writers who have fort settings in their books across time frames in America. Also, military historians should enjoy this book.