Archive for September 2012

Welcome Autumn–You’re Worth Writing About

September 25, 2012

Welcome, Autumn. My favorite time of year. So I thought I would post a passage from my novel Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three about my character John Vandelaare (yes, he’s loosely based on me) and how he begins to write about growing up in the U.P. one autumn:


Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three

Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three covers the history of Marquette from 1952-1999.

            As autumn approached, he became aware again of the Upper Peninsula’s special environment. That year, the autumn colors appeared more brilliant than he had remembered them in past years. In the mornings, the smell of rotting leaves gripped his nostrils with a comforting feeling he had not known since childhood’s countless autumn walks with Dickens. The sunlight sparkling on orange and yellow foliage reawoke a sensitivity to light and color he had long forgotten. Soon, the snow would come with its blinding reflections, its cold, its white wonderland possibilities. One evening, he heard the harmonious honking of the Canadian geese on their southern flight. He looked up into the cold northern sky as darkness spread across it. Quickly he tried to count the V of geese—twenty-six, twenty-seven—he was not quite sure how many, but they were a miracle.

His senses had reawakened to the voices of birds and the wind, the beauty of leaves and the lake, the smell of snow and an approaching rain shower, the taste of blueberries, the bitter cold biting at his cheeks and fingertips. The singular elements of this land began to mold his imagination, to heighten his senses and his aesthetic appreciation. He had been isolated from Nature’s powerful influence while downstate. If he moved away again, he would not have this oneness with his environment that was so essential to his writing; he refused to let himself again forget these little details that made life so splendid. This land had shaped seven generations of his family, until it had seeped into his being, claiming him as its native son.

He began to make lists of his sensual memories—the feel of deer munching dandelion leaves from his hand at the Shiras Zoo, the smell of his Grandpa’s cheek when he kissed it, the ivory soap smell of Grandma’s bathroom, the glow of light streaming over Grandma’s lace tablecloth, the comforting dusty warmth of his grandparents’ old furnace turning itself on, of going sledding and then coming home with frozen fingers he had to thaw in hot water, his mother always baking until the house smelled perpetually of chocolate chip cookies, the texture of Aunt Eleanor’s crumby date bars, the festive wrapping paper on presents brought to him by Lucy and Maud. Memories came flooding back, one leading to another, and with them came back stories, memories of childhood, tales Grandpa had told him of his own grandparents and of his mother’s childhood, of Aunt Eleanor’s divorce, Grandpa and Grandma’s religious differences that had postponed their marriage, a hundred little family dramas. He quit worrying about writing—that would come. For now, he was cataloging memories. He began reading historical articles whenever they appeared in the Mining Journal, Marquette Monthly, and Marquette Magazine. He cut out articles and filed them, realizing the potential source of fiction in Marquette’s history, in the environment, the buildings, lake, trees, all of this land that had helped to form him.

A few days before Thanksgiving, he called Mr. O’Neill.

“I’ve begun to write again,” he said proudly. He asked whether he might come to lunch to discuss the novel he wanted to set in the Upper Peninsula. They set a date for the following week, by which time, John intended to have drafted a few chapters to show his prestigious mentor.

“Splendid,” said Mr. O’Neill. “I can’t wait to see it.”

For more information about Superior Heritage and all my books, visit

Nathan Kaufman and the Breitung Family

September 13, 2012

The following passage is taken from my book My Marquette:

The Breitung home, previously at 334 E. Ridge in Marquette, is no longer standing, but its history provides an interesting look into the lives of its owners. The house was built by Edward Breitung and his wife, Mary. Breitung, the son of a Lutheran minister, was born in 1831 in the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen in Germany. He attended the College of Mining in Meiningen, and then in 1849, immigrated to the United States and settled in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. He moved to Detroit in 1851 and became a clerk in a mercantile house. His mining and mercantile background led him to Marquette and later Negaunee where he continued his mercantile business. By 1864, he completely transitioned into iron mining. He located several profitable mines in Marquette and Menominee Counties, and later became involved with gold and silver mining in Colorado. Breitung Township in Minnesota is named after him for his work in developing its Soudan Mine in the 1880s. Breitung Township in Dickinson County, Michigan is also named for him.

Edward Breitung became involved in politics and was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1873 and 1874. He served as a Michigan State Senator in 1877 and 1878. He was Negaunee’s mayor in 1879, 1880, and 1882, and from 1883-1885, he was in the United States House of Representatives for Michigan’s 11th congressional district.

Mr. Breitung met his wife, Mary, in a boarding house in Republic, Michigan where he often ate when in town on business and where she worked as a chambermaid. They would have two children, William, who died young, and Edward N. Breitung who was fifteen at the time of his father’s death in 1887. Breitung built this home just before his death.

Six years after Mr. Breitung’s death, Mary Breitung married Nathan Kaufman, whom her husband had relied on to handle many business details for him. The marriage created gossip that Mary and Nathan had been seeing each other before Mr. Breitung’s death, but considering they waited six years to marry, that seems unlikely. The gossip was more due to people disliking Nathan Kaufman and being jealous of how the Kaufman family’s social position rose as a result of this marriage. In the 1890s, Nathan Kaufman would serve as mayor, be responsible for building the city hall, be involved in starting the Marquette Street Railway, and would help to establish and become president of the Savings Bank.

The Breitung Mausoleum, Park Cemetery, Marquette

The Breitung Mausoleum, Park Cemetery, Marquette

Meanwhile, Edward N. Breitung reached adulthood and married his stepfather’s younger sister Charlotte Graveraet Kaufman. Nathan Kaufman would continue to oversee operation of the Breitung money and businesses until his death in 1918.

When Nathan Kaufman died, his will left everything to the Kaufman rather than Breitung side of the family. When his wife, Mary Breitung Kaufman, went to court to break the will it resulted in a trial where so many unsavory details came out about Nathan that Mary decided to divorce him posthumously.

About the same time, Nathan’s younger brother, Louis Kaufman, built the impressive Kaufman Mausoleum in Park Cemetery—a scaled-down replica of the Parthenon in Greece and said to cost about three million dollars. To be buried in the marvelous marble mausoleum was not good enough reason for Mary to stay married to her deceased second husband. Today she is buried in the smaller Breitung mausoleum built of sandstone.

As for Mary’s son Edward Breitung who married Nathan Kaufman’s sister, they had their own fascinating family scandals, which you can read more about in my book My Marquette, available at

Announcing “The Gothic Wanderer” – My New Book and New Website

September 4, 2012

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest book The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, Gothic Fiction from 1794-Present by Modern History Press, which formerly published my book King Arthur’s Children. This new book has been about fifteen years in the making, having begun as my doctoral dissertation at Western Michigan University, and it has since been expanded and updated to include discussion of why I love the Gothic, and not only the classic nineteenth century British Gothic novels, but to explore how that tradition influenced works throughout the twentieth century and to the present day.

The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption by Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D.

Here is some information from the back cover about the book:

From the horrors of sixteenth century Italian castles to twenty-first century plagues, from the French Revolution to the liberation of Libya, Tyler R. Tichelaar takes readers on far more than a journey through literary history. The Gothic Wanderer is an exploration of man’s deepest fears, his efforts to rise above them for the last two centuries, and how he may be on the brink finally of succeeding. Whether it’s seeking immortal life, the fabulous philosopher’s stone that will change lead into gold, or human blood as a vampire, or coping with more common “transgressions” like being a woman in a patriarchal society, being a Jew in a Christian land, or simply being addicted to gambling, the Gothic wanderer’s journey toward damnation or redemption is never dull and always enlightening.

Tichelaar examines the figure of the Gothic wanderer in such well-known Gothic novels as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, and Dracula, as well as lesser known works like Fanny Burney’s The Wanderer, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni. He also finds surprising Gothic elements in classics like Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. From Matthew Lewis’ The Monk to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Tichelaar explores a literary tradition whose characters reflect our greatest fears and deepest hopes. Readers will find here the revelation that not only are we all Gothic wanderers—but we are so only by our own choosing.

With the publication of The Gothic Wanderer, I have also launched a new website, designed by my good friend Larry Alexander of Storyteller’s Friend. At this website, not only can you find more information about the book, but I will also be blogging about all things Gothic, and for those of you interested in the Arthurian legend and my blog at, I’ll be tying the Gothic and the Arthurian legend together into my upcoming series of novels based on the Arthurian legend, so watch for many Gothic and Arthurian topics on both blogs.

The Gothic tradition greatly influenced the writing of my last novel Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance, and my readers might also be interested in knowing that I wrote the original dissertation that The Gothic Wanderer is based on from 1998-2000, while I began writing The Marquette Trilogy in 1999 so both works were really written simultaneously. And while the Gothic may seem like a subject removed from Marquette and its history, Marquette has its share of Gothic, paranormal, and supernatural places and connections, but perhaps that is another blog….

Please visit – if you ever wondered about the story behind the story of great books like Dracula and Frankenstein, you won’t be disappointed.