CLICK HERE TO BUY Thunder from a Clear Sky

June 2006

June 10 * Guest Speaker- 8th Annual Military History Education Group, Arthur, IL
going on at Yoders
I'm being introduced at the 8th Annual Military History Education Group Conference at
Yoder's Kitchen in Arthur, Illinois (I'm standing in the distant center in blue).

Bruce Gregory is a special person. He called me and asked me to re-schedule a previous engagement for June 10 in order to attend his annual conference. I am extremely glad I did. This is going to be a long entry because I've got so much to say about Bruce, about the event, about the other authors I got to know, and about how things went for me.
          First, Bruce Gregory. Bruce has created a world-class event with his Military History Education Group and with his Civil War roundtable group. These are top class events. After 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I've attended many top shelf conferences, presentations, seminars, and training courses throughout North America. Bruce's events lack nothing in terms of accommodations, atmosphere, and general quality. Bruce has discovered that the key to a good conference is the quality of the facilities, speakers, and support team that can be assembled. Bruce's family and friends are his biggest asset. They are always looking after the author's needs, clearing every obstacle for good presentations. You won't be able to go anywhere else for a better array of Civil War historians.
          Author Gary Robert Matthews, Gary's wife, and I arrived at the Arthur Country Inn before anyone else. More on Gary later. I called Bruce to let him know we were present in Arthur and a few minutes later he showed up at my hotel door. Gary came over and we both listened to Bruce give us the "rundown" on Arthur. Arthur, Illinois, is the third largest Amish community in the United States and that fact gives the town its distinctive feel. With Amish furniture craftsmen posted on each street corner, and horse and buggy teams clopping Illinois Route 133, it is quite quaint.
          After an hour or so we proceeded to meet the other two presenters for a home cooked meal with Bruce's family and some friends. There we met authors Edward T. Cotham, Jr. and Dr. John V. Cimprich. I don't mind telling you that I was in awesome company for this rare evening. Mr. Cotham is an attorney and author of three Civil War books, Dr. Cimprich is a professor of History at Thomas More College and author of two Civil War books, Mr. Matthews is a historian and free lance writer, and Bruce Gregory probably knows more about the current generation of Civil War writers than any other man in America. I felt like I should be paying good money to be among such company. It was a great time to sit around and talk about anything that came to mind. Bruce allows the authors to bond with each other knowing that for the next 24 hours we would be an informal team, put together to share our knowledge in front of a paying audience while having some fun along the way. We convened at Yoder's Kitchen around 8:30 AM the next day.

Yoder's Kitchen
The Amish flavor of Arthur, Illinois, is on display at Yoder's Kitchen

          The name "Yoder's Kitchen" may conjure a certain image to anyone who hasn't been to the establishment. I assure you it is a grand place. It has a great hall where the presentations were given and where a large and varied Civil War book display was on view. Mind you, I had never been to such a symposium before and had no idea what I was supposed to do while awaiting the official start of the presentations. Since I was there to get the word out about Adam Johnson, I posted myself near my bookstand and started to talk to browsers as they came by. People started buying my book simply on the faith that if I was brought in by Bruce then I had a good book to sell and a good presentation to follow. I probably sold ten books before I said a word from the stage area.     
          Gary Matthews was first up and gave a wonderful talk on Basil Duke, General John Hunt Morgan's right-hand man. Sometimes you'll speak with someone for only a few minutes and realize that you could be good friends. That's how I felt with Gary. Since his book is about the Kentucky Civil War experience, he agreed to an interview and a book review of his new work:
Basil Wilson Duke, CSA: The Right Man in the Right Place. His book is my review selection for the 2nd Quarter of 2007. I was up next.
          Continuing on a theme struck the night before at dinner, I decided to talk about
Thunder From a Clear Sky in terms of my personal journey of growth and fulfillment. It probably wasn't what the audience expected or ordinarily gets from famous Civil War authors. Of course, I talked about the raid and sketched an outline of Adam Johnson's incredible life story. After talking to Bruce and several other guests the previous evening, I felt like I wanted to let others know that if it was possible for me to stand among such respected Civil War historians, then whatever dreams they might be harboring could be set to action without fear or uncertainty. That's about all I remember of what I said. I can only judge from the response as to how the audience accepted it. I was mobbed by people wanting to buy Thunder before the lunch break. I probably sold a dozen more books in the fifteen minutes preceding lunch.
          After lunch is a tough time to present. Everyone is full from a good meal and the occasional lunch plate rattles in the background. Somehow, Bruce knew that Ed Cotham was the right man in the right place (to borrow a phrase). I knew absolutely nothing about the Battle of Sabine Pass- you could have told me it was a World War II battle and I wouldn't have doubted you. Ed Cotham hooked me, deep. I was absolutely entranced. This is a fascinating little story and it was told in a spellbinding manner. I did something that I almost never do. I purchased Ed's book on the power of his presentation and the neat little hook of the story. I look forward to reading it. After Ed's presentation, I continued to sell books pretty steadily. According to the bookseller, I wound up selling 30 books which was almost twice as many as any previous author to present at any of the previous seven annual conferences. I felt good that Adam Johnson's story was spreading.
          Last up for the day was Dr. Cimprich, who had an immobilized wing as a result of some shoulder problems. Dr. Cimprich gave a nice little talk on the Fort Pillow massacre. It's not a subject I knew much about, but I do now. I enjoyed listening to him.
          That's about it. I felt really good about the results of my first conference and it gave me enough energy to ride home the three and a half hours in safe shape. Just another one of those once-in-a-lifetime events, I guess.

June 15 * Guest Speaker- St. Benedict's Silver Club, Evansville, IN
Members of the St. Benedict's Silver Club

Kamille Stich heard me speak at Henderson last year and liked what I had to say enough to invite me to speak at the St. Benedict's Silver Club. The Club is made up of people 55 and older from the parish who are interested in learning whatever life has to offer. I took the afternoon off from work and met Kamille before my talk. After the Military History Conference this past weekend it was a little different to speak to such a small group. But my motto is that if I show up and only one person is there, that person gets the works as if the room was packed. Since there were only about ten people I decided to gather everyone close and have a sort of roundtable talk about the book, the story, and some of the things I've learned. It was fun. I remained seated and it was a very casual affair. The group invited me for lunch (which was great) and I sat around and talked about whatever came up. I sold a few books and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for an anniversary gift for my wife. It was a nice affair and I'm looking forward to a little break. My next appointment isn't until July 9, but I'll be posting quite a bit until then. I look forward to perhaps doing something else with the parish. Only time will tell.