The day after …

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One of our early possibilities for the book cover, Byrne’s Mississippi Battery monument at Shiloh facing the Hornet’s Nest.

I inadvertently discovered that my Kindle edition of They Met at Shiloh was inexplicably unavailable for sale on Amazon. I’d uploaded the file for my short story Two Struck Images instead of the file for the novel, so anyone who had purchased the book from May 8 to May 13 didn’t get the right version. D’oh!

In the realm of the rest of my life? No big deal. It will get fixed. In the realm of hourly rankings and changes on Amazon? An eternity. But, what could I do? I fixed the problem and then some back and forth with KDP to explain the issue and the rest is a wait. So, now I check every so often to see if and when it will be available to be purchased but at the moment all of my promotion activities have come to a halt. But, this has me to really evaluating the efficacy of some of my promotion activities via social media. I am willing to admit that I may not be using these avenues very well, but overall they do seem to be ineffective at best in driving sales. I rarely look at tweets any more and when I do I’m looking for content tweets, not marketing ones. I suspect others do as well. Facebook as well seems to be a hit and miss proposition at times. Branding? Better for that perhaps or for allowing fans to keep in contact or up to date on what is happening. But, some of that has also become something of a mine that is about played out. I’d been evaluating period images and mining them for what they might tell us of the men and the times and that was fun for a time, but it has now become rote. If creativity abhors anything it is rote activities.

As an update to the last paragraph, the book is now up again for sales on Amazon. There is no way I can tell how many possible sales I missed in this time frame. But, Amazon is a world wide marketplace and a US wide opportunity to sell to the same consumers over and over through exposure, but getting and keeping that exposure is the great key. I can at least go on my vacation tomorrow and have one less thing to worry about!

Speaking of vacation I will try to share a pic or two from each Civil War battlefield we visit of the next four days this week and some on why we are there at each one and some of the history and how it relates to future books in the They Met at Shiloh series.

Happy birthday to me

May 12, 1967.

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.

Research Methodologies: for the reluctant researcher

My guest today is Mary Findley, author of several historical fiction titles, of note is: Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion.

Link to GoodReads
Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion
Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion

other titles:
Send a White Rose Vienta Benny and the Bank Robber 2: Doctor Dad

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.

Mary C. Findley
blog:
Elk Jerky for the Soul
Book links:
Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion Paperback
Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion Kindle

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the author and her husband Michael Findley

Research Methodologies

Researching methodologies: primary sources

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.

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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.

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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 ArmiesWar 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.

 

Link to book

Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman With Custer's Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the Civil WarPersonal 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.

 

Link to book

Guest Blogger, Karen Baney on Researching tips: Museums

As part of a series the next several weeks on researching methodologies employed by historical fiction authors, today I host my first guest!

Guest blogging today is best selling Historical Fiction and Romance author, Karen Baney whose Prescott Pioneers series has reached #1 in the Kindle store and whose newest release, Nickles can be found here at Amazon: Nickels
Link to GoodReads titles.
Nickels A Dream Unfolding (Prescott Pioneers, #1) A Heart Renewed (Prescott Pioneers, #2) A Life Restored (Prescott Pioneers, #3)

Research Tips and Tricks at Museums
My husband and I recently took a nice long weekend trip to Tucson, Arizona. As with most of our vacations, we worked in a trip to a few museums. I love walking into museums, smelling that old musty smell of things long past.

Then reality hits. I mean, I’m standing in the largest aircraft museum in the country. I could spend days here. How am I ever going to gather all of the information I need in one short afternoon without testing my husband’s patience?
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Normally, I’m armed with my Nikon D50 and a notepad. I take hundreds of pictures and make notes (as long as the museum permits picture taking). But this time, I brought something extra. My iPhone and this neat little app called EverNote.

Several times throughout the day, I snapped a few pictures with my iPhone, saving the shot directly into EverNote. I added a few quick notes and viola! My research notes were instantly uploaded to my account and available from my laptop, phone, and even my desktop sitting at home.

By the end of the trip, I found myself getting into a groove. If there were long text descriptions of something that I wanted to capture to read later, I used my iPhone. If I wanted the highest quality picture of an object, like the WWII airplanes, I used my Nikon and added a few notes to my paper notepad. I always jot down the picture number beside the note.

At the end of each day, I allotted an hour in the hotel room to organize the day’s notes. I loaded the pictures from my Nikon to my laptop. I went through my notepad and typed up the notes directly into EverNote. Now, when I’m ready to write my WWII series, all my notes are neatly organized and extremely accessible. I don’t have to try to remember what drawer I stuffed them in.

My tips for researching at a museum:
1. Take lots of pictures.
2. Bring a notepad.
3. Always write down the picture number and a brief note in the notepad for the pictures you’re taking.
4. Find ways to use your smart phone to work more efficiently on research trips.
5. Do a quick review of your notes at the end of each day. You’ll remember things you forgot to write down and you’ll capture them while they are fresh.
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Self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing. She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years. She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels. For more information about Karen or her books, visit http://www.karenbaney.com.

Writing Militarily pt 2

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25th Infantry, some wearing buffalo robes, Ft. Keogh, Montana 1890

Indian Wars, post-Civil War to WWI

The Indian Wars, though occupying a time frame mirroring colonization, from the Pequot War in 1637 to the Posey War in 1923 between the Ute and Paiute against Mormon settlers, the conflicts romanticized in western films cover a time between the American Civil War and the crushing of the Sioux after Little Big Horn in 1876. It can be said that the uprisings, localized conflicts between settlers and marauders, punitive expeditions, and conflicts like the French and Indian War, War of 1812, and Civil War there were incidents that pit Indians against whites or hispanics throughout our nation’s history.

In 1862, a column of infantry, cavalry, and artillery raised in California to help repel Confederate General Sibley’s New Mexico invasion never faced a confederate save for a brief skirmish in Arizona when a patrol of the 1st California Cavalry ran into a confederate held outpost at Pichacho Pass, rounding up three prisoners and scattering the rest. The numbers involved were small and the outcome already established as the confederates had little choice but to withdraw before the superior union force. Having arrived too late to affect the outcome, the remaining Union forces in New Mexico: the 1st Colorado, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd New Mexico Volunteer Infantry and the 1st California Infantry, 1st California Cavalry, 1st California Artillery spent the rest of the war fighting Apache and Navajo Indians. A visit to the Santa Fe National Cemetery will reveal remnants of Californian service in New Mexico, men who died of disease and wounds from Indian campaigning.

As before the Civil War, these frontier units were scattered about in forts established along critical trade and communication routes throughout the western states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and later Texas and Oklahoma.

The ubiquitous cavalryman from our western films wasn’t the only federal army presence in the west even after the war. The army still had several regular army regiments of infantry that were again located in the various forts. Cavalry makes for better westerns, but not for a complete view of our military at this time.

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View of markers from Last Stand Hill, Little Big Horn

The campaign undertaken in 1876 to corral the Sioux and Cheyenne who were following Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse into the Black Hills of Montana was made up of both infantry and cavalry elements, Custer’s 7th being famous among them. A column under the command of General Crook, ten companies (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, L, and M) of the 3rd Cavalry, five (A, B, D, E, and I) of the 2nd Cavalry, two companies (D and F) of the 4th Infantry, and three companies (C, G, and H) of the 9th Infantry was attacked at the headwaters of the Rosebud River, Montana and soundly defeated just days before General Terry’s column of including twelve companies (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, and M) of the 7th Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s immediate command,[4] Companies C and G of the 17th U.S. Infantry, and the Gatling gun detachment of the 20th Infantry arrived at the mouth of the Rosebud. Custer’s 7th was to make its way up the Rosebud while Terry’s other units were to converge on the Little Big Horn River and catch the Indian encampment between two forces and disperse it. The rest is history as the 7th stumbles on the encampment first.

Infantry regiments as well as artillery units played key roles in defending frontier outposts. Know your area of interest’s history for the forts and who manned them lest you stray into more myth about the cavalry’s sole role in this time period.

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Infantry Officer's tunic button

Organizationally, there is little difference from before with the regiment still the primary unit that held ones allegiance. As before the Civil War, with a reduced regular army, units would be spread out on garrison duty so that a single company or two of infantry, a battery of artillery, and a troop or two of cavalry might be the only units present. The duties and the organization would be adapted to the need. The Indian Wars were punctuated affairs with several months of active campaigning where an entire regiment might be united for the hunt and then dispersed once again for garrison.

Patrolling would be done in one to two troops of cavalry or company sized infantry detachments. Because the enemy (from the army’s point of view) was wily and evasive, preferring hit and run to a stand up fight, the use of large numbers of men (aside from a large campaign) would be minimal. The expansive, hostile desert made operating and supplying large numbers of armed men difficult. Little patrolling was done as the fort was a presence and a response to possible Indian depredations on communication trails or settlements. The soldiers spent more hours in drill and upkeep activities than they did in actually fighting Indians.

references cited:
http://www.militarymuseum.org/CaliforniaColumn.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn

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Infantry Kepi bugle

 

Writing Militarily, Pt 1 Revolution to Civil War