Shiloh Series cover reveal

20131219-180752.jpgBook #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.

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Iuka to Corinth, (Shiloh Series #3) ARC versionIuka to Corinth, (Shiloh Series #3) ARC version

Finally, They Met at Shiloh is currently $0.99 for the Christmas holidays. Read the first in the series or send it as a gift to that civil war buff you know. Kindle or iBooks.

ETA:3/24/14 – Iuka to Corinth has now been released! Find your copy here:
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Writing and Researching the battle of Corinth

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What I love about writing historical fiction is that I get to dramatize the little things that I dredge up in my research. Reading the after action reports on Corinth and heavy note taking I often find little things that tie people and events together. One of them is from the 63rd Ohio’s report and that of Major General Price and Captain Hoxton regarding a mishap that occurs early on the morning of October 4, 1862 in front of Corinth.

General Price was desirous that any and all advantage be gained from the position the Confederates occupied almost surrounding Corinth, close up to the town and under the cover of woods and ridges that shielded them from the incomplete defensive works Rosecrans had ordered built to command the Mobile and Ohio rail line, the Memphis road, the Chewalla road, and the cross point of the Memphis and Charleston rail line; a series of fortified positions that were spread out 800 yards apart containing heavy caliber cannon. Rosecrans never suspected that these would be the positions he’d have to use to defend the town with from a numerically superior force but that the outer former Confederate works would be.

The ground around the town and the cover allowed Price and Van Dorn to marshall their divisions close to the Union positions without being subject to artillery fire. Hoxton and several other batteries were ordered to take positions upon the ridges to the northwest of the town and before first light begin to shell the town and anything that they could engage, as the battle was to be initiated at first light.

Hoxton’s section under the command of Lieutenant Tobin was busily moving his section into place when two companies of the 63rd Ohio blundered into them. Companies B and G were ordered to buttress the skirmishers of the 27th Ohio of Fuller’s Ohio brigade and to push up the Chewalla road up to the trees and ensure that they controlled the road. The two companies were just as surprised as Tobin was to run into the enemy, only that running into a battery in the blind was a prize seized too easily.

Tobin’s section lost a gun and himself and his bugler as prisoners of war and the two companies were soon beset by Price’s skirmishers and the troopers of the 7th Tennessee cavalry who nearly bagged the whole lot themselves.

It is the little anecdotes like this that I love envisioning and dramatizing through the use of historical characters doing what they would have done. This little episode will be features in the third novel of the Shiloh Series, Iuka to Corinth.

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Gods and Generals: Chancellorsville

I’ve gotten to the end of the movie, through some of the more droll scenes in between Fredericksburg and the final engagement of the movie. The portrayal is a little stilted, only showing Jackson’s Corps assault on the 11th Corps and not the other fighting until it leads up to Jackson’s wounding, but I appreciated the construction of those scenes, the reenactor extras who took time to run silently out of the trees tens of times to get the scene right, and the view where this video spot starts of several brigades worth of Confederates at right shoulder shift arms at the double quick showing how it probably looked had one been there to witness it.

Visiting the battlefield is interesting. There are gun emplacements still visible, emplacements that were dug before the battle started pointing to something of Hooker’s mindset at the time. These emplacements had to be repositioned, faced in a direction Hooker suspected he might be attacked and they had to be swiveled as Jackson’s attack drove the 11th Corps in on the III Corps positions. These are small burms now, preserved and cut into the earth to protect field batteries. They are sort of unique for this time period on a civil war battlefield save for Petersburg and Vickburg where long term siege lines were constructed. Emplacements such as this were constructed when one thought they were going to occupy this spot for more than a day.

Union Artillery facing Hazel Grove’s confederate batteries, dug in emplacements in the foreground facing towards the Orange Plank road.

View of Union Artillery positions looking towards Hazel Grove, emplacements in the background.

Joseph Hooker had stolen a march on Lee, placing the bulk of the Army of the Potomac on Lee’s flank and leaving two corps back on Stafford Heights overlooking Fredericksburg to demonstrate – which Sedgewick does and takes Maryes Heights finally. Why Hooker paused and waited and why he waited for Lee to make the next move is up for debate. The fighting was  a precursor to what fighting would be like in a year when Grant pushes the AoP into the Wilderness and Lee meets him again near the site of the bitter two day struggle known as Chancellorsville. Jackson’s attack is commenced with limited daylight left and is able to push in the 11th Corps but is unable to do more, the other attacks by Lee’s army also fail to drive into the Union left and center and a stalemate ensues the continuing day with neither side gaining any advantage. Hooker finally pulls back across the Rappahanock river and the rest is history leading up to the invasion of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg.

At the bottom is a Google Maps view of land that the Civil War Trust is trying to save on the Jackson Sneak Attack and marshaling area. You can see from the patchwork of colors that this area is only partially preserved. This battlefield is hemmed in by lots of development and a fight was waged several years ago to prevent a Walmart going in on ground that abutted the park.

In other news, work on Iuka to Corinth has gone into its final phases, the first pass edit has come back from the editor and I’m busy rewriting a few chapters to flesh out the Michael Greirson character introduced first in They Met at Shiloh and his involvement with the renowned 2nd Texas Infantry. The rewrite is always an interesting exersize as you cover stuff you are already over familiar with but need to read with a new eye for the detail that needs to be added. The conflict had already been set when I first wrote the manuscript out and fortunately this is just bringing certain things out and not a full alteration of the text.

ARC versions of Iuka to Corinth will be available soon, if you’re interested in a copy in electronic format, sign up for the news letter as I’ll be letting members have first stab at copies.

 

Satellite view of Jackson’s Flank attack, noting the land preserved by the Civil War Trust (blue), CVBT (brown), and the National Park Service (green). The 2013 target properties are highlighted in yellow. (Google Earth)

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September 5, 2013 · 7:08 pm

Gods and Generals – Fredericksburg

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20th Maine assault up to Maree’s Heights, Fredericksburg 1862.

I’m again on this topic as I watched a brief scene last night before bed on my iPad; movie watching this way is punctuated and drawn out and takes me days sometimes.

From the movie we know that Burnside was a stubborn boob, Hancock was a prescient anti-boob, and Lee talks too much with a pseudo southern lisp. We also know that of all of the other brigades that stormed Maree’s Heights the Irish Brigade is most remembered. It’s a movie, so you have to cut some stuff.

General Sumner, in command of Burnside’s Left Grand Division, and Hancock have a little chat about the probably outcome of the battle and Hancock exclaims that Jackson’s line will not be turned. Well, it almost was in the real battle, not the movie one. Jackson’s Corps occupies Lee’s line on the right and extends along a treed and forested area parallel to the Mine Road and behind the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad.

The following is excerpted from the NPS Fredericksburg web site about this action:

Burnside had reinforced Franklin’s sector on the morning of battle to a strength of some 60,000 men. Franklin, a brilliant engineer but cautious combatant, placed the most literal and conservative interpretation on Burnside’s ill-phrased instructions. He designated Major General George G. Meade’s division — just 4,500 troops — to spearhead his attack.

Meade’s men, Pennsylvanians all, moved out in the misty half-light about 8:30 a.m. and headed straight for Jackson’s line, not quite one mile distant. Suddenly, artillery fire exploded to the left and rear of Meade’s lines. Major John Pelham had valiantly moved two small guns into position along the Richmond Stage Road perpendicular to Meade’s axis of march. The 24 year-old Alabamian ignored orders from Major General J.E.B. Stuart to disengage and continued to disrupt the Federal formations for almost an hour. General Lee, watching the action from Prospect Hill, remarked, “it is glorious to see such courage in one so young.” When Pelham exhausted his ammunition and retired, Meade resumed his approach, Jackson patiently allowed the Federals to close to within 500 yards of the wooded elevation where a 14-gun battalion lay hidden in the trees. As the Pennsylvanians drew near to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad north of Hamilton’s Crossing, “Stonewall” unleashed his masked artillery. Confederate shells ripped gaping holes in Meade’s ranks and the beleaguered Unionists sought protection behind wrinkles of ground in the open fields. Continue reading

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Gods and Generals

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I started watching my copy of Gods and Generals this weekend, working through my war movie collection. I know several of my civil war online acquaintances dislike various things about the Maxwell movies, some things that I’ve not even noticed before unless they were pointed out for me, but one of the things I liked most about the movie was its grounding in the unit and soldier portrayals. Not just satisfied to show you men in blue or grey moving hither and thither, but to tell you who they were. The opening sequence also sets this up rather well:
Gods and Generals opening

Having served in the military in the late 80′s through 2002 I had an appreciation for unit designations. I served all of that time in the 44th Army Band in Albuquerque, NM and we marched hundreds of ceremonies and trooped the line with a new or outgoing commander and the unit’s colors with its battle streamers (New Mexico is home to the predecessors of 200th Coastal Artillery Regiment – the Battling Bastards of Bataan fame) and other awards adorning and often eclipsing the flag itself. Each unit has a stand of colors and each is unique. The opening sequence with the music by Mary Fahl rightly sets the stage for the movie to come, that it is not going to be partisan (though, for better or worse it is almost wholly about Jackson with Chamberlain as the Union counterpoint) and it is going to portray a level of historical performance not seen in many war movies.

It can be preachy, there are some annoying soliloquy’s by a few characters you’d just soon fast forward over, but I appreciated adding dimensions to what I already knew about Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville and 1st Bull Run.

Novel #3 is off to the editor who is hard at work with it, my wife has worked up the cover and is tweaking it, I hope to do a cover reveal soon. A recent bargain book promotion moved more copies of They Met at Shiloh and moved copies of the other books in my series which was nice to see.

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Birthday promotion, They Met at Shiloh .99 cents

They Met at Shiloh on Free Kindle Books and Tips blog

The first in the Shiloh series is on a promotion today, in celebration on my 46th birthday.

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A Certain Death cover reveal

battle of Corinth, At the Double Quick, Shiloh seriesBook 2 is about to be released, March 1st to be exact, so mark your calendars! A follow on to the story set during the battle of Shiloh, a battle that set the course for the rest of the war in the west. What follows is an excerpt from the Prologue and the teaser description.

The cover image is the bas relief prominent at the Corinth Interpretive Center, Corinth Mississippi and part of the Shiloh National Battlefield NPS park and cemetery.

The battle at Pittsburg Landing altered the course of the war in the west and changed the lives of thousands who fought there and survived.

Will Hunter’s pursuit of higher command has been interrupted by his capture, the fault of his jealous commanding officer. Stuck far behind enemy lines with little hope for exchange, escape seems improbable. Neither high prison walls nor hundreds of miles of Ohio backwoods trails will keep him from trying.

Philip Pearson survived Shiloh but wonders if his luck will hold much longer. Pursuing reinstatement in the Methodist Episcopal Church brings him full circle: his battlefield experience calling him back to the collar he left behind. Only convincing the bishop of Dayton and surviving the coming assaults on Corinth stand in his way of a chaplaincy.

Ohio, far from the theaters of war, will test both men’s ambitions and trust in their fellow man.

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A Certain Death (The Shiloh Series)

Book Excerpt

Prologue
Huntsville, Alabama, 1847

Will Hunter stole ever so close to his prey. He was dressed in pants and a shirt of old muslin, fading in color and too long in use. The boy’s sandy blond hair and wry smile finished the look of an Alabama backwater, son of a white-trash drunk with nothing better to do but get into shines. The day was bright and hot, his shirt hanging loosely upon his slim shoulders, his cuffs open and begrimed. He would strike a blow for his father or just for himself—what did it matter when the target was a black?

Excitement animated his hands as he looked one way, then the other, then back. The house stood by the side of the road, an old wooden shack not much different from many other rural homesteads. The target of Will’s attentions was not deserving of mischief, nor were its occupants beholden to him in any way. Perhaps that was what irked the boy the most: their total lack of the customary deference expected between people of certain classes and races. The law being in his favor was not enough to satisfy his caprice for the man known as Baxter. He needed to do this to satisfy his superiority in deed as well as station.

Youthful pride and ignorance were no exception for Will. It was mischief he wanted on this day, and what better way to do it than in secret? He was not so protected by the law as to be brazen with his destructive errand, but anonymity would give him his revenge and protection at the same time. He had picked a spot to run and hide where he could watch the shenanigans, and now he needed only strike the match and watch the fun, storing up the details to share with his chums. He wouldn’t burn down the house—just the fence surrounding it. He reasoned that Alabama did not need free blacks and therefore did not need to extend the rights of property to them either.

Baxter’s slave wife, June, was a house slave of one of the larger plantations around Huntsville belonging to the Kearns family. Baxter could visit her and the children now and again. He lived alone and worked his own land, having been freed years before and allowed to build his little home on land his former owner willed to him and a few other former slaves. No longer the possession of another, Baxter was not entirely free to do as he pleased, but he tried to make due with what life and the law would allow.

The house looked still and empty, and the field in the back where the man raised cotton and foodstuffs was lonely. Baxter himself was not to be seen. This was the perfect time.

Engrossed in his preparations, Will did not hear the land owner close up behind him.

“Whut you do there, boy?”

Will gave a cry of surprise and dropped his match. Caught, he had nothing to say.

****

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A Certain Death, book 2 of the Shiloh Series

scene of camp life - of the 18th Illinois Infantry, in the camp before Corinth, Miss.

Caption on illustration reads: scene of camp life – of the 18th Illinois Infantry, in the camp before Corinth, Miss.

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.


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On the March from Hamburg to Camp before Corinth

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Title: On the march from Hamburg to camp before Corinth / sketched by A.E. Mathews, 31st Reg’t O.V.[U.S.A.] ; lithographed by Middleton, Strobridge & Co., Cincinnati.
Creator(s): Middleton, Strobridge & Co., lithographer

A depiction of the type of terrain that the combined Army of the Ohio, Army of the Tennessee, and Army of the Mississippi had to contend with in their maneuvering to surround Corinth, Mississippi in May of 1862.

The second novel in the Shiloh Series, A Certain Death deals with some of the events of this campaign that ultimately failed to achieve all of its goals, the destruction of Beauregard’s Army of Mississippi.

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February 9, 2013 · 9:53 pm

One Year after twenty

This blog began about a year ago as I started to replicate what I was told I had to do to begin marketing my first novel. I was told I had to have a website, someplace to describe myself and my work. It was a clumsy first post as I tried to find my voice.

Voice is what animates anything we write. It can be a passion, a goal, a journey, a cause célèbre, a drive to communicate with someone other than our own inner voice. I am still searching for my voice in this blog.

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They Met at Shiloh

I published my first novel in November of 2011 in both paperback and Kindle format. I sold my first Kindle eBook to someone who has become a good friend and fellow author for the ridiculous price of $9.99. His was to become my first review. He was a brave man, buying an eBook at that price from a random Facebook posting. That first review has over 27 votes and is the top review yet of the 20 I now have. I knew little of how to market at that point and even less of how to find my audience. In November 2011 I had a few free kindle titles on my iPad and very little knowledge about how Amazon was better at selling Amazon than I would be. My wife and I hit publish and hoped that we would figure it out as we went along. I knew one other person at this point who had self published and she was an old friend who had finally written and published her first work a year before. I sold one whole eBook that month, November 2011.

It is December 2012. A year and a month have gone by in a journey I undertook twenty one years before in college to write a novel with all of my friends as characters set in a civil war battle. I never finished it. Twelve years later I undertook to rewrite the novel from scratch and for the next eight years worked on it on the odd weekend or trip, in coffee houses and in hotel rooms, airplanes, and cars. I wanted to finish it. Other than having written stories or stage plays for fun most of my life I had little to go on other than instinct with this rewrite. I knew the story I wanted to tell and I learned to let the story tell itself. I wanted the soldiers to speak their minds and speak about what comradeship and loss meant to them. I wanted confederate and federal to tell why they volunteered and treat both sides with equality of voice, not turning all confederates into antagonists and all federals into protagonists. Men volunteered to follow their own ideas of patriotism and duty and each believed they were serving a higher cause.

I was doubtful that I’d succeeded. The story was written from stream of consciousness and from the point of view of each character, allowing the thoughts and fears, doubts and struggles to be laid out for the reader to experience along with the fright and rush that was civil war combat. The majority of the reviews have confirmed a level of success in that endeavor, that the reviewer was transported int the ranks and experienced the life of the soldier and experienced the common faith that most soldiers shared on either side.

This year has been an eye opener. Many say that you need four things in order to sell an eBook. A good cover, a good book, a good blurb and luck. Now most would say that it is the luck part that can make the difference between a huge seller and an average seller. I do not know if I fit the huge seller or the average even, but we met our goal for this year financially and that was a big thing. It was luck that KDP Select was introduced and for the first part of the year the Amazon selling environment favored the extra exposure from a successful free giveaway.

As I ready my first book launch (we unceremoniously launched They Met at Shiloh with no plan and no promotion) this next year and finish my third novel I do look forward to what 2013 will bring.


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