Thursday, 30 January 2014

Kotar & Gessler: Pirate Treasure

It's my distinct honor to welcome two ladies to Heart of Fiction who have both been part of all our lives but we never knew it. S.L. Kotar and J.E Gessler's writing career spans decades, but Pirate Treasure is their first published literary work of fiction. How can that be? Well, I'll tell you!

S.L. and J.E. wrote for Hollywood. One of their earliest sales was to the Gunsmoke franchise -- Kitty's Love Affair just celebrated it's 40th anniversary of its first airing, 22 Oct 1973. What makes this episode so important is that it was the first time ever in which a kiss was shown on screen for this series. Until then, hand holding was as steamy as Gunsmoke ever got. It was a good old shootem up western, not a romance. But we all know, Kitty and Matt had a thing between them since the series first aired in 1955. Kitty's Love Affair also earned the franchise their highest ratings ever! Well done, ladies.

S.L. and J.E. went on from there to write pilots for William Shatner, who gave S.L. her nickname, Captain. They've both written for a number of magazines and periodicals, and as medical professionals in their 'day job', the pair have also written some very important medical texts which are used in universities today -- Smallpox: A History ; Cholera: A Worldwide History; The Complete Guide to Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring and Full Disclosure Telemetry; and their book, Yellow Fever: A History, is due out later this year.

If that wasn't enough, S.L. and J.E. also wrote and published historical nonfiction -- The Steamboat Era: A History of Fulton's Folly on American Rivers, 1807-1860; Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900; The Rise of the American Circus, 1716-1899; and Riverboat: The Evolution of a Television Series, 1959-1961.

Wait! I'm not done yet. Pirate Treasure is the first in a complete series called The Kansas Pirates Saga. And in May, S.L. and J.E. will see the first book in another complete series released . . . a western series called The Hellhole Saga; book one is First Draw.

And do you want to know about an untitled series which has 137 completed novels? All things in time, friends, all things in time. Today, we'll focus on pirates and the treasure they seek.

Pirate Treasure isn't your average buccaneer swashbuckling tale. I mean, it IS set in Kansas after all. But the arrival of a special woman into the Ward's lives will bring some of that pirate magic to this midwestern state.

Set in 1857, the state of Kansas had been part of the Louisianna Purchase just 54 years earlier. In 1854, the Kansas Territory had been organized. And it will be two years until the US Constitution would be would be adopted.

In this year, there is relative peace, but in a small town like Lawrence, people are still suspicious and superstitious. And when Seth Ward's wife dies, leaving him with two young children to raise alone, the last thing he needs is for his community to turn their backs on him when his son, Peter, shows signs of something unexplainable. They call the boy haunted.

At his wits end, Seth places a help wanted ad. The way things are going in town, he's pretty sure it will go unanswered, but he has to try for the sake of the kids, and himself.

Born in Nova Scotia, Barbara Nelander served on board her father's ship, learning the ropes from the deck up, so to speak. She's used to working in difficult situations and when she takes a job with the Wards, she's truly put to the test as she walks in the ghost of Seth's late wife and helps Peter come to terms with his situation.

Neither Seth or Nelander, as she's called, expect to be attracted to each other, and as their affections grow, so does the bond within the new family. Using her high seas experience, Nelander transforms their home into a figurative pirate ship, each of them having a job to do on that ship. Nelander and Peter set out to deal with Peter's tormenters, exacting a buccaneers' revenge, and discovering the illusive treasure all pirates search for.

All is not roses though. The hot Kansas summer threatens everything Seth and Nelander are working so hard to achieve, as tempers grow hotter under the Kansas sun.

Wow! Pirate Treasure is an edge of your seat read. From chapter one, readers will be pulled into a unique world where great historical romance meets swashbuckling high seas drama. Pirates in landlocked Kansas? At the heart of the story is the budding relationship between Seth and Nelander. The attraction isn't traditionally instant, but we grow with the characters through the reading and see how their relationship blooms. Nelander's character is well-drawn and believable. Her spirit lifts from the page with each turn. Seth's plight compounds the drama as he suffers the loss of his wife, has to raise two young children on his own, has a community of peers shunning him because of his son's new-found 'affliction', and how can it be possible he's falling in love again? A gripping must read, and a wonderful start to a fabulous series!

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop S.L. and J.E. a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of Pirate Treasure.

• • •

They said the boy was haunted and the townspeople of Lawrence, Kansas, wanted nothing to do with widower Seth Ward or his two children. In 1857, superstitions run high.

Left alone to raise Patricia and Peter, Seth has been isolated from his neighbors since the death of his wife from a lingering, malignant disease. Nearly at his wits end, a young woman appears in response to an advertisement for help.

Barbara Nelander dared brave the terror of a dead woman's ghost and the haunting of her son because she was not like other women. Born in Nova Scotia, "Nelander," as she was called, had served as a crewman aboard her father's trading ship since early childhood. Used to working in a man's world and handling difficult situations, she signs aboard with the determination to dispel the ghosts of the past.

Transforming the homestead into a figurative pirate ship, she uses her wiles to restore Peter's self-confidence, extract a buccaneer's revenge on those who tormented him and battles drought alongside Seth as the harsh Kansas summer threatens to destroy the family and the relationship that develops between the "captain" and "first officer."

Nelander had little exposure to men of such ilk. Her father had owned his own vessel and therefore kept clear of banks. Captains of her acquaintance who worked for hire, however, spoke of them in language unfit for public ears.

The teller waited until the manager retired to his office, then scurried after him, politely knocking on the door. It required three light scratches before a booming voice ordered, “Come in!” The man adjusted his starched neck collar and disappeared. Ten minutes later he reemerged, pale and perspiring. Not daring to speak, he used two fingers to motion the waiting customer.

“Mr. Pronger will see you, now.”

Fully aware that the delay had been a purposeful one, Nelander followed the clerk down the hall, waved her hand by way of dismissing the minion and strode through the door. The teller later described the incident by saying, “It were as though she owned the place!”

Mr. Pronger rose from behind his massive mahogany desk in a gesture of civil obedience. The observer likened the act to a magistrate offering a condemned man a hood before ordering him to walk the plank.

“What can I do for you...madam?”

“I desire to transfer money from an account I have in Nova Scotia to this facility.” In order to make herself perfectly clear, she added, “From one bank to another. The account is in my own name. I shall sign whatever documents are necessary. I would appreciate expedience in the matter.”

“You are not from around here, madam?”

“My name is Barbara Nelander, sir, recently Second Officer aboard the Bottom Dollar. I have arrived only this morning from San Francisco.”

“You are in need of funds?”

She supposed he meant to embarrass her as the question appeared superfluous.

“I am.”

“And you need this money for—?”

Her head shot back. “To continue my journey.”

“You are returning to Canada?”

“I am. As soon as I get my money.”

Which may, or may not, have been a threat.

Or an inducement.

The bank president removed an official form from his desk. Making a show of fitting a nib to the end of a pen shaft, he uncorked an inkwell and dipped it. Hand hovering over the paper, he inquired with a judge’s dour inflection, “Name on the account from which you wish to transfer funds?”

“Would it be easier for me to fill out the form, myself?”

Pronger evidenced genuine surprise. “You can read and write?”

“I have a degree, sir, from Davy Jones University.”

“I am unfamiliar with that institution. Is it in Canada?”

Not normally prone to lie, Nelander considered it more in the nature of a jest.

“It has branches there.”

• • •

Find S.L. and J.E. online at --

Facebook --
Tirgearr Publishing --
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Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for the draw!


  1. Welcome, Sue and Joan, to Heart of Fiction! And congrats on the publication of your first novel! Love this story.

    What inspired a pirate story set in Kansas?

  2. I look forward to the rest of this series, and the Hellhole series too. I am a sucker for a good western.

  3. Being a captain, myself (the title was given to me by the greatest captain of them all, William Shatner) I tend to favor nautical settings, especially those in the 19th century. I started the book without having a keen idea of Nelander: she actually popped up in my mind and started talking to me, describing her life and her personal tragedies. That's when you know you have a really good book in the works: when the characters talk to you and write themselves. So I just followed along and she told me her history. The interesting part of this book is that my original idea started with what turned out to be Book II in this series ("Strawberry Fields") but when I started writing it, I realized I couldn't get to where I was going without establishing the characters and to do that required a first book. So "Pirate Treasure" became Book I and "Strawberry Fields" fit in nicely as Book II. I had to write the third book "The Drinking Gourd") because the characters weren't through with me.

  4. Don't you love it when your characters run away with the story?

    What was the funnest part of writing Pirate Treasure?

  5. Pirate Treasure sounds like a lot of fun. Love the Kansas setting!