I was born and raised in Spooner, Wisconsin, a small town in the
northern part of the state, the middle child of a family of nine
kids whose births spanned twenty years.
After earning my bachelor's and master's degrees in English from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and the University of Tennessee respectively, I served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, was active in Wisconsin politics for several years, and served in various administrative capacities in Wisconsin's human services system in both the private and the public sector.
My first published work, The Taos Massacres, deals with the rebellion of Mexicans and Indians against American authority in 1847 in the aftermath of the Mexico-American War. I published it through Puzzlebox Press, which I established to get the book before the reading public. I believed in this story, and as I was already in my mid-60's, I realized that the usual process of submission/rejection, submission/rejection would not work for me. Life was too short! During the process of learning how to self-publish, I discovered how much I enjoy creating a print-ready book and its cover.
The second book I published, The Odyssey of Mary B, was actually my first serious attempt to write since college, a work that I began in the 1980s with the encouragement of a dear friend. The story follows a young convict woman sent to Australia who later escaped and was returned to England, where James Boswell of biography fame took up her cause. It was while I struggled to get my arms around this big story that I decided I loved researching and writing and trying to get the story right. From then on, I worked to earn money to sustain myself so I could write. However, after going through a couple years of submission/rejection, submission/rejection, I gave up on this book, and the manuscript lay dormant for several years. Then, a friend read it and loved it. I decided to self-publish Mary B as I had The Taos Massacres. So I did.
Some writers use history as a departure point and basically create a story. In The Taos Massacres and Mary B, I stuck as close as I could to what we consider to be historical fact, However, I felt free to create (or to re-create) in what I call the "interstices of history," where events are connected, but we do not know how (at least now), or characters are mentioned, but we know little about them (at least now). Some call this kind of writing "faction."
My third book was a memoir titled Behind Enemy Lines, which tells of my childhood polio and its effect on my early life. I found the process of writing this book therapeutic,and I'm glad I got it out of me. Readers admire the memoir's honesty and its rich detail about small town life in northern Wisconsin.
During the last years of my mother's life, I took notes on stories she told me about her family and her growing up. These notes and my research resulted in Anna's Story, which I'm happy to say she saw in manuscript before she died. Like Mary B, however, this manuscript lay dormant for several years before I prepared it in book form for printing. Although I published just a hundred copies or so of Anna's Story for "family," I put it on Kindle and Nook just for kicks, and have been surprised by the steady trickle of digital readers.
The Boys: 1st North Dakota Volunteers in the Philippines was my first purely historical work. I had wanted to make my grandfather's unpublished narrative of his service with the 1st North Dakota more accessible, but that process grew into this comprehensive history of his regiment and the early days of the war in the Philippines, 1898-99. I'm pleased that The Boys has garnered good reviews, as history!
Since then, I've been stuck in 1898-99, repurposing information I gathered in writing The Boys. This I did for my grandfather's war narrative, which I published as Tom Stafne, a Volunteer Soldier in the Philippines. I did the same to make another soldier's unpublished narrative available: Avenge the Maine: John Kinne's War. Kinne was awarded a Medal of Honor for his deeds as a member of Young's Scouts, an elite military unit that earned much praise for its derring-do. I used information Kinne provided about the Scouts and my own research to publish a monograph on Kindle, Young's Scouts: A Complete History. If I could figure out a way to publish this 36-page, letter-size work in the full color it deserves without impoverishing me, I would.
Somewhere along the way, I edited and published a memoir written by a deceased fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, A Wedding in Samar, by John Halloran. I think it is an honest, rich, and unique work that deserved publication, even posthumously.
I am continuing to write about the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars with my current writing project, The Gallant Fifty-first, a history of Iowa's 51st Volunteer Infantry regiment in those wars. I'm almost done.
My next project will be to write about Peter MacQueen, a Congregationalist minister who became a well-known war correspondent and global adventurer.
And after that, who knows?
I am unmarried, live in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and have one surviving son and a wonderful daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.