After a resurrection of an old story line and a re-writing into three different novels, I’ve gotten a new series going and launched as of this weekend.
Epochs is going to be a trip down memory lane, a romp through some history and a glimpse of what happened at the turn of the century to lead to two world wars and now countless regional conflicts. How did we end up with the last 130 years of history?
Epochs will explore that. It’s not exactly alternate history but it isn’t exactly history either.
I’ve gotten something else to do as part of this release, give away a brand new Kindle 6″.
One thing I love about this giveaway is that the more you share it, the more chances you can get to win it. You register yourself and then post the giveaway to social media using one of the links presented, once these people register you get credit for 3 more chances! You’ve only got to get your social media followers to register and you are going to have that many more chances.
How do you get to the giveaway? Click the link and find out.
*no purchase necessary to enter, go to my facebook page for more information on how to enter. Facebook.
Book #3 is nearing that exciting stage where the final edits are happening and the cover has been produced!
The Shiloh series of books had their start back in the day, 1987 to be exact when I first began to research and plan my characters. Of the first two books, #2 and #3 are the most closely tied together as far as character continuity and timeline. As I was writing A Certain Death I removed and then re-added several characters and started a story line that I just found didn’t fit with the conclusion of the novel and the ending hit the cutting room floor. That ending offered instead a perfect beginning to the next novel and Iuka to Corinth can really be treated as a sequel to A Certain Death in the story lines of Philip Pearson and Will Hunter.
Iuka to Corinth also comes back to a battle narrative in a similar style of They Met at Shiloh where A Certain Death was more an adventure story, Iuka to Corinth develops the campaign and the action that takes place around Corinth, Mississippi in the last weeks of September and the first week of October, 1862 as William Stark Rosecrans’ divisions find themselves isolated and unsupported as General U.S. Grant’s armies are spread out over Mississippi and western Tennessee leaving the crucial cross roads town of Corinth only lightly defended.
It was about this time last year that I began work on book 3 of the Shiloh Series, Iuka to Corinth and that work is now nearly completed. What of book 2? Book 2, A Certain Death is nearing completion from the remainder of the production process with the cover designer. I do not have a cover to reveal at this point, but will hopefully in a few days.
When I began writing They Met at Shiloh, I’d envisioned a three book series. Starting with the battle of Shiloh I would follow a few characters to Chickamauga and then with a closing book centering on the USCT to end the series. At the time my concept was to market these to the homeschool community as fully fledged curricula covering the beginning, the middle, and then the end of the war. That has been modified somewhat now to a six book series (don’t tell my wife, but it may be a seven book series and another trip to Tennessee to tromp around more battlefields 😉 )
A Certain Death was begun in 2011 and while I was starting Iuka to Corinth I was beginning to edit and rewrite ACD. I learned a lot from the experience of this novel and the rewriting. I learned to listen to the story all over again as I started and stopped and changed directions numerous times with this work.
The biggest change was the introduction of Will Hunter, an Alabamian who grows up a reckless and ambitious son of a white trash blacksmith who is not content to stay white trash himself. What made this character interesting to write was his vocation as a runaway slave hunter. He’s good at what he does and he does it without any particular malice, as a lucrative means to rise above his birth. Yet one gets away from him and but for the nagging failure, he neither curses the slave that eluded him or those in Ohio who might be harboring him. He curses the slavers that lord it over men of his standing.
Born of an ambition that is not matched by money or birth, Will Hunter finds he cannot escape the slaver class in both pre-war politics and in wartime volunteer militia. His rough and selfish nature has lead him to do things as a boy that he’d rather forget, secrets that he’d like kept secret but for the one man whom he can’t seem to escape, Joshua Kearns. Born of planter blood and privilege and someone who knows Will’s secrets, Will has to deal with this man’s petty and vindictive nature.
Philip Pearson and Stephen Murdoch are back in this novel as well as action shifts from the theater of the war in Tennessee through the attempt by Major General Halleck to invest Corinth, Mississippi throughout the month of May, 1862 to the peaceful fields and forests of Ohio, the POW compound of Camp Chase outside of Columbus and the village of Germantown, Ohio.
For more news and promotions, sign up for the Shiloh Series mail list. Also, They Met at Shiloh is $0.99 cents this week in recognition of this 151st anniversary of the fall of Fort Donelson.
A day in the life of someone. A day in the life of the imaginary someone. The someone we think we want to be sometimes. A dreamer dreams and an actor acts. We sometimes fear to act on the dream or fear the dream will turn into our nightmare. I used to refuse to act because the dream unfolding was never the dream dreamt. It was often the clinging to the utopia of the dream that made the reality the most impossible to accept.
I suppose I never really dreamt of being a professional IT person, it was just something I decided I wanted to do and then worked and trained my way through it. I started after marriage. Graduating in 1992 with a BA in history meant that I either stayed in school for the next ten years or I needed to find something to do to work. After two years of temp employment I landed one of several horrible jobs that in retrospect pushed me into the computer and IT world where I’ve been ever since. My first job was as a computer salesman at a small company and a month before the owner sold it I had diversified into the computer support department and learned enough to get my next job and that went on from job to job until I was hired to be the sole PC and server administrator for a large company’s local office. Twelve years later and two IT department reorganizations and a company split I find myself a: working from home, b: working in something I’d trained for, and c: doing an architect’s job and working for people I respect.
Writing, on the other hand, has been quite different. I suppose more emotional. There were emotional times during the various re-organizations and times when I ended up exactly where I didn’t want to be, but nothing like the disappointment of pursuing publishing. It was the impossibility of it all, of writing what I wanted to write but knowing that the paths to visibility were resolutely against finding a publisher.
I’m not going to rail against the traditional way. It’s a business and it’s their money to invest in whom they choose and they choose what is going to fit into several quantifiable measures. They can choose the cream of the crop (though even they fail to discover the cream). If I had 10,000 to 20,000 thousand dollars to invest you can bet I’m going to bet on what is going to make me 80,000 to 100,000 thousand dollars in return. That is all good and well, but as a writer of historical fiction, the formula did not fit my novel. No romance. No edgy or politically correct storyline. No female protagonists. It was a tale of war and of soldiers and written in a way that was unique. Uniquely bad or good is debatable. That it was written over a twenty year time period, rewritten at least five times and professionally edited means nothing. It was not a story that was bankable. It was something I wanted to write but if I’d wanted to write what was publishable along the traditional route I wouldn’t have written it. But, this is not to say that I might have even been considered had I been writing what I thought was going to fit the historical fiction mold. I’ll never know the answer to that question as I’ve published it myself.
As of this writing, I’ve had over 1000 in paid Kindle sales since middle of February (a key milestone for me) and been in the top 100 in Civil War nonfiction Amazon category for the last 12 weeks (many fiction works end up in this category as the historical fiction categories are not fine grained enough). 15,000 people have downloaded They Met at Shiloh during two free Amazon promotional periods. Many do better, many do worse but I’m happy with the progress to date. The key milestone was that They Met at Shiloh has now paid for the next book in the series for editing and cover design costs. We are now no longer saving for this goal and each additional dollar made goes for advertising and production of book #3. In another month we will have earned out our initial advance to ourselves, $3,500.00 for two editors, paperback and kindle formatting, promotional materials, and cover design.
For the “I Want to Write Historical Fiction but I Don’t Want to Research” Writer
I write historical fiction, but I do not like a whole lot of detail in the books I read, nor do I really like to write it. Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion is set in England, originally just sometime vaguely during the Crusades. Actually, I toyed with the idea of the character who returns after an absence going to Turkey under Suleiman the Magnificent. I thought I might be able to tie the story in with the Reformation and even Martin Luther, rather than the Crusades. I spent a year learning about Suleiman and his time, but also discovered how many conflicts an Englishman could have gotten himself involved in and eventually went back to the Crusades. (Fortunately I worked at a state university library at the time.)
I discovered Crusader Songs appropriate to the time period and was able to include them, and they even advanced the plot by showing the changing attitudes of the Crusaders on their sea voyage. I finally found a letter from “Guy, a Knight” describing the battle of Damietta, a port-controlling city in Egypt. Circumstances surrounding this battle included an armada of ships that set out for Alexandria and mistakenly arrived in Damietta after a huge storm. Many ships were also lost in this storm. Since my knight was supposed to disappear in his Holy Land quest, I had found my opportunity. This battle had a specific date, and better yet, a specific historical man, under suspicion of disloyalty to the French crown, who fought there. Providentially I found my time period and my villain, Hugo Brun de March, together. April 2, 1249 was the date of the battle and it took place as part of Louis IX of France’s first Crusade.
This battle is also important to the story because of an orphaned Arab, Sadaquah, who lives in Damietta but is forcibly removed very shortly before the battle, thus saving his life. He is brought to teach Arabic to, and becomes friends with, my main male character, known simply as the Christian Dog to the Arabs. Later Sadaquah refers to this incident that brought them together as both destroying any ties he might have had with his home and says his friend saved his life simply by being where he was when he was.
The names in my story are either local to the part of England where the people live, like Cloyes, or significant in their meaning. Hope’s name has obvious significance to a story of hardship, loss and desperate danger. Hope in Arabic is Raja, and Sadaquah points out that his English comrade said that word many times a day while trying to get back home, hardly understanding fully all the hopes that would and could be realized. Sadaquah refers to the alms Muslims give to the poor, and also means Righteousness. Rasoul, another Arab character in the story, is a messenger of sorts, reuniting friends, providing safety and help, and that is the meaning of his name. Tahira means purity, and the Arab woman in the story learns that God is the judge and restorer of purity.
I had to find an abandoned castle for some of the story to take place. Fortunately, there is Colchester Castle, a well-known and well-documented location. I was able to find industries appropriate to the time period, places of worship, even an oyster festival to help establish Hope’s character at the beginning of the story. Building the setting around Colchester, I was able to create a manor house for my minor nobleman, and learn about how life ran in such a place. I even got to study earlier English government and how common people involved themselves in the affairs of the nobility. One reviewer commented on how much he learned about medieval life, a whole new vocabulary in the clothing and customs of the day. Robin Hood, for example, may not have worn Lincoln Green but Lincoln Grayne, a finely woven linen fabric that could be any color but was often dyed red.
Nobility bedding down in the hallways of a castle and every available fireplace being commandeered to cook meals for a horde of retainers and guests was another “fun fact” I picked up along the way. I made a decision to use modern speech with a somewhat archaic flavor and the insertion of vocabulary important to the occupations, government and activities of the time. Realistically, if I had written in Chaucerian English, few would have understood it. I have a few Arabic words and phrases as well. This story came after more than twenty years of research and reading, checking sources, confirming most of the facts in many different references, online and in libraries, and though it may not be as detailed as some historical fiction, I am comfortable with the idea that it will give the reader at least of taste of a real time and place.
One sidelight is that this book also has an illustrated version. I tried to capture some of the feel of a Medieval manuscript with gilded leaves, jeweled page corners and elaborate designs, though mine are created with shapes and textures from my graphic design program, Photo Impact, and reproduced throughout, instead of painstakingly hand-drawn page by page.
I am in love with the ability to recall an out of print book free of charge! More than anything else, this has revolutionized research by and large for those of us who write in the civil war time frame.
Two good examples of this are Google Books and Project Gutenberg, even more so for Google since they improved their iPad app. I can now download my bookshelf to my device (it used to only read from an internet connection) and be able to treat the pdf files as a virtual book a la iBook with page turns, etc. Project Gutenberg offers a variety of book formats for any device. What the epub files offer me over Google Books is the ability to highlight and make notes via iBooks.
Though there are some limitations still with Google Books, i.e. inability to make notes or copy text, I’m greatly satisfied with where this technology has taken us. There’s a wealth of primary source material out there that has sat in special collections for decades (one or perhaps a handful of collections depending on the source) requiring travel, working with a curator to navigate the unique file systems, and limited time for study.
I would give a word of caution regarding primary source materials, especially like the ones that I’ve been using for my own particular brand of fiction. One needs to filter out the primary motives of the author. Some of my materials (see my research page) are regimental histories written decades after the war and primarily for the survivors and their families to recount their common experiences. These contain a certain lack of objectivity (not their primary purpose) and may at times contain objective opinions or one-sided information regarding a battle or a prominent figure. These should be used for gaining a flavor of the common experience of the regiment, how they saw what was happening around them, how the author saw it (regimental histories are written by single individuals), and data on where the regiment was at any given time in the narrative. Sometimes this information can be had from other sources, but the regimental history can be relied upon for accuracy for dates and actions engaged in.
War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
One favorite of mine is the Official Records of the Rebellion, a copious collection of orders of battle, field reports, correspondence, and battle reports. Not everything can be found, but one can usually find individual regiments mentioned in brigade and division reports to clarify what a unit was doing on any given date. The same can be said for normal daily operations. What I like about tracking down where a regiment was is you usually get some little snippet of anecdotal data that can only add to the narrative of your story. I like fleshing these out, placing my characters in the regiment and then building a framework of the historical record, adding scenery, characters, emotion, and conversation to build a story around the story. This is one of the best resources for this data I’ve found. These are as close as you can come to real narrative data to the events as they are often real time records.
Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman With Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the Civil War
The second, as I’ve already alluded to above, is the regimental history. Written from a designated point of view using collected reports from its time in the war, the regimental historian builds a dialogue, sometimes first person, recounting what he and the regiment experienced. The hard marches, the battles, the politics of army life, and the synopsis of the experience that comes with time, these are the real trademark of the historian. These histories also help fill a void in building the narrative based on recorded fact. They add that flavor of tension at times, recalling events that loomed large with the regiment and giving the story arch needed to place action with fact. It does not do to have a regiment in a battle but in the wrong place (Chamberlain’s 20th Maine behind the stone wall on the third day in the Movie Gettysburg, anyone?) doing things that it never had opportunity to do because it was somewhere else. These experiences built the character of the regiment and I like using that in my novels to not only be factually accurate but to pay tribute to those men now long gone. Having this sense of commitment is important, in my opinion, to the historical fiction novelist as fact is often more entertaining than fiction.