The first in the Shiloh series is on a promotion today, in celebration on my 46th birthday.
Also, sign up for the Shiloh Series News email list to keep informed of new releases, free content, and special promotions.
The first in the Shiloh series is on a promotion today, in celebration on my 46th birthday.
Also, sign up for the Shiloh Series News email list to keep informed of new releases, free content, and special promotions.
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.
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.
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.
I wrote this short story sometime in the early part of last decade after staring at a copy of a daguerrotype of myself and my brother that we’d paid for at the 135th Chickamauga reenactment in 2003. I wrote it after the experience my brother had at his first reenactment and the adventure of what the real 15th Wisconsin went through 135 years earlier. It is about two brothers (fictionalized) and the harrowing experience of this regiment as it was blindly marched into a thick wood only to run into a confederate brigade that had just smashed another Union brigade. Heg’s brigade (Hans Christian Heg) of Davies’ Division would die not far from where the regiments first entered the wood and stood for a short time before being forced to retreat. Their experience was indicative of both sides as the fighting see-sawed back and forth over the Vinniard Farm.
I always have a lot of history sprinkled through my stories, I guess it is the teacher in me. For today only, Two Struck Images is FREE for Kindle owners (if you’ve not a kindle to your name, the Kindle Cloud Reader is also free and the short story can be read on your PC/Mac).
I ran an earlier poll on the title as there was some initial confusion on the part of my cover designer as to how the title should be formatted. I went back and forth with myself over it. Some people were confused, some intrigued, some thought it enough to want to read the blurb. After some time of chewing on all of the advice and offered title suggestions I decided to stick with the original given that it plays such an important role in the story itself. But, that is the danger of all of my inside knowledge. I think the title is what it should be, but there is a world of opinion when it comes to each consumer and what will be liked or be explanatory enough to draw further interest.
Two Struck Images
Book #2 in my civil war series is finished as far as the first draft is concerned and now I’m knee deep in the rewrite. I had a character jump back into the WIP, a character I’d excised as the storyline just wasn’t feeling right. So, mid way through this year it made sense to reintroduce him and he plays a part in the climax of the novel after all. Actually, he has become one of the main characters again (I say again, he was a main character in TMAS). So, I’ve made one pass through my hard copy making notes and cutting sections out that didn’t fit or needed to be reworked and decided that this characters actions after Shiloh needed to be highlighted.
The campaign to take Corinth, Mississippi had been General Halleck’s goal since establishing a presence at Pittsburg Landing and ordering the Army of the Ohio to link up with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee. Pope’s Army of the Mississippi was also to cooperate, leading three armies to converge on Corinth, where Confederate General A.S. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard were concentrated. Shiloh disrupted all of that and nearly wrecked Halleck’s overall plans. Unfortunately for the Confederates Johnston is killed and they fail to destroy the Army of the Tennessee. Now, however, after a month of refitting Halleck is ready to try again at the beginning of May.
Book #2 (tentative title Certain Death) picks up after the battle of Shiloh where a new character has been captured and some old characters are preparing to march south from Pittsburg Landing to a fate unknown. In reading the report of Nelson’s division (where Ammen’s brigade is, a clue to anyone who remembers what characters were in Ammen’s brigade) I’d read that there was a delay in movement forward from Mount Olivet Church where the division camped for a few days before moving on due to two days of heavy rain fall that destroyed the bridges and corduroy roads they’d spent the first few days of May constructing (this area between Corinth and Pittsburg Landing is cut by numerous creeks and marshy lowlands that were impassable for heavy, wheeled artillery and supply trains as well as cavalry, barely so for infantry).
So, knowing all of this I decided to add this little happenstance as part of the story, the destruction of the bridges due to too much water flow, the problem of getting supplies to the forward divisions, the danger of trying to repair the pontoon bridges and keep them secure in the middle of the creeks overflowing, the possibility that someone will be swept downstream in an accident. So, I got to chugging along in a dramatic scene that was to chronicle the attempts to secure the pontoon bridge in heavy rain and a swift current and what that might look like. Soon my creek became a river of some unknown breadth from bank to bank and the pontoon bridge of perhaps thirty feet or more long and the water possibly above a man’s head.
Yesterday as I sat to finish the scene the disaster was complete and my MC was swept downstream. I stopped to go back to my source as it occurred to me that I should know where this little creek was to lead to, was it leading towards the confederate lines? How wide was it really if my MC is to let go of what he is clinging to and swim for the nearest bank? It was then that I realized I’d not gotten down to my regimental reports of the 30 day period and learned that my MC’s regiment wasn’t at Mount Olivet Church but still on the north side of one of these creeks and further was prevented from crossing due to damage done by this rain storm. I’d had them on the south side and going back to do the repairs.
These are niggling little details. What side of a creek a unit was on in this little narrative of a minor event probably does not deserve all of the angst and reworking of the details but it would have bugged me all the same. If I make a mistake in error and ignorance that is my bad, but to make it when I know better is something that I cannot abide. In this sense, the drama becomes emptied of its truth if I knowingly record some errors that are easily discovered if someone means to do so.
In the end, I altered some of the details of the event to fit the truth and kept the dramatic scene of the disaster in place, fixing some historic details to suit my own conscience. There’s detail in the reports of General Nelson (Division commander) that initially set me to building the scene but I’d neglected to dig down into the regimental reports where finer details existed and called my initial assumptions into question. But, in the end, history won out where it was important to me to get right and the scene of the disaster was honed to be more realistic for a creek based on the other details gleaned from the brigade reports of each regiment.
Battery Robinett fortification reconstruction, Corinth MIssissippi Interpretive Center
I’m one month into my rewrite of book #2 in the civil war series starting with the battle of Shiloh. Major General Henry W. Halleck set his plan in motion the beginning of May, 1862 a month later than he’d planned thanks to the untimely intervention of Albert Sidney Johnston’s surprise attack on Grant’s Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing or more commonly known as Shiloh. This campaign is little known, not important enough to rate a history of its own and of the fortifications built no longer exist around the modern town of Corinth, Mississippi. You can find a fine history of several battles part of the western Tennessee and northern Mississippi fighting in Peter Cozzen’s Iuka and Corinth book but otherwise this is just a foot note in the history of the region.
My writing on book #2 started around this time last year when I was only writing fitfully on the weekends when I made the time. I didn’t set any goal, I just started writing. It wasn’t until this year that I started applying a daily word count that I finished the WIP and began to make notes on a printout copy, small edits in sentence structure and overall plot. I won’t do a line edit (that’s for my editor to do) but I will do several passes looking for specific details. In my initial WIP at the beginning I trashed whole sections of the initial start because I just didn’t feel the story any longer. I write by listening to the story and sometimes I stop listening and go off on some other path and sometimes I stop myself. I wrote out two characters in those early chapters only, later on, to write them back in but with a different start. I even wrote in a new character, a former slave hunter to explore an obviously unlikable character who would be the center of much of the story to see if he could be rehabilitated.
My rewrite has entered the less boring stage of applying the notes and changes from the print out to the electronic file to the addition of brand new content. One character I excised early on is now back and on the brink of the beginning of the Corinth siege campaign. The Army of the Ohio will spend the next month (May 1st to May 29th) making short marches and digging in as Halleck cautiously moves and maneuvers his armies to within a mile of the Corinth fortifications and all the while promising Secretary of War Stanton he intends to take Corinth in one gallant rush. The truth is Halleck never intends to attack but to try and force Beauregard to either attack him or hole up in the city and eventually be cut off from his rail road supply lines. Other than skirmishing, there is no real major fighting.
So, why Corinth? Why is it important when no one else sees it as so? Because for a soldier in the Army of the Ohio at the time, as my Philip character is, it was deadly work and something they would have had to experience as time went on. It is part of the soldier narrative to experience the mundane and the trivial with the important and deadly. It is also something that has to happen to get my character from point A, the survival of Shiloh in book #1 and to where I needed him to be for future books. See, I had a problem with book #2, nothing was happening after Shiloh. The civil war in the west after Shiloh was one of maneuver and strategic movement over tactical battles like Shiloh. So, I thought I would be writing a novel about Stone’s River, something that happens late 1862 and early 1863 but one book has turned into six and the time frame needed for #2 was either going to leave out too much from this time period or be way to long.
I rely a lot on the War of the Rebellion collection of after action reports and correspondences between the field commanders and their superiors for the detail I weave into the story lines of these novels. I like to maintain a historical reality for my characters and have something of the mundane, like changing one’s campsite due to unhealthy conditions, as a framework for change. These are the details I can only find in these reports and correspondence during the war. The changes to the 2nd novel have been guided somewhat by these details that send the gears in my head turning as I attempt to follow some logical progression to tie things together. It has been an adventure, this second book through the multiple rewrites and changes with characters that I can only hope have been part of the making the novel better.
A short story for Kindle is out about these two armies:
Two Struck Images
Thanks to the new ePublishing paradigm, where publishing something someone somewhere might want to read, the short story has been given new life where previously it might only be found in zoo like anthology collections in or in subscriber periodicals. Getting a short story into one of those periodicals was just as difficult as landing an agent and then selling a manuscript to a publisher; and far less lucrative for the author.
When I first took opportunity to evaluate my own writing I did what every aspiring author does, purchased a copy of publishers weekly and a copy of Writers Market for Fiction to find magazines who bought and published short stories. If you can be discovered in one of these, you might be on your way to some notoriety and have some publishing credits to your name. What did the author make on that short story sold? Depended on the magazine and the author. Maybe fifty bucks? Usually you were giving the rights to publish the story away for free and an exclusivity agreement that the story will not be published by any other entity for a year or more and they also had the rights to archive that story as it appeared. You might be able to get the rights back eventually and sell that story somewhere else. You might never get the rights back. That was then, around the 2001 time frame when I was shopping for someplace to publish my short stories.
Now, enter today where a short story can easily be published on KDP or in SmashWords and find someone willing to pay to read it. It means much more than money but meets the same discoverability goals that one might have hoped for if they publish their short story in a mag. They can be stand alone titles, though I know of many who publish theirs in anthology format, and they can be a consumable means to introduce yourself to a wider audience.
At 35% royalty over the lifetime of the product (much, much better than a one time publication in a monthly even if that monthly is available online) and a reach that is really unlimited, the advent of the new eBook publication and distribution streams make dusting off old material an option where they may have never had an opportunity before.
Two Struck Images is just such a story for me, written seven years ago based on an experience I had with my brother at the 135th Chickamauga Reenactment in Georgia, it has become a method of introduction to my other work and a small showcase for me as a writer/story teller. I won’t claim special genius for it, just that it was a joy to write and now a joy to publish.
And a few other recommendations of my own:
The Red Pond At Shiloh: A short story
The Red Badge of Courage and Four Stories (Signet Classics)
Excerpt from They Met at Shiloh:
Revile shook Philip from his slumber in the morning chill. Huddling his arms to his chest, he lay motionless. Grunts, groans, and coughs multiplied as his comrades awoke to the fading darkness of early morning. The crackling of cook fires and smell of char replaced the once quiet of the morning fields. Resigned to being awake, Philip rubbed his eyes and sat up in his bed roll. Pushing his night cap back from his eyes and forehead, he sat for a few moments more as the clouds of sleep slowly lifted. The flickering fires cast momentary flashes of orange and red upon the tree line a few rods away, making the figures in the distance look like demons.
Philip curled his legs Indian style and drew the blanket up to his chest. Next to him, Sammy crawled out of his blanket and stood, his face drawn and eyes but mere slivers behind squinted eye lids. To his left, Mule lay motionless and huddled under his blanket.
“Mule, wake up,” Sammy croaked softly.
Philip stared at the heap for a moment and marveled at Mule’s ability to sleep through the growing clamor.
“Mule, get up,” Sammy repeated louder. “Philip, nudge him.”
Philip turned to the Mule’s form and said, “Hey, Mule. Up.”
“You know that never works. Ya’ gotta nudge ’em,” Johnny said as he sat up in his bed roll next to Mule.
“C’mon, Mule. Revile, wake up. Time to get up, Mule.” Philip shook what he thought was a shoulder, and a grunt sounded from the lump of blanket.
Mule suddenly swept the blanket off and sat up with a dumbfounded expression painted on his features. “Mornin’ already?”
“Better get moving. We probably got an hour afore we got to form,” Sammy said while he stretched and sat down to pull his brogans on.
“Who’s makin’ Kaffe?” Mule grunted and ran his thick stubby fingers through a matted lump of hair.
“It’s Philip’s turn for mess. Better get him a-goin’,” Johnny said. He brought out his tin cup.
“Ja, Kaffe.” Mule thrust his cup into Philip’s face, shaking it.
“Ok, I’m going.” Philip grabbed the cup and let it drop on the ground as he struggled out of the blanket and to his feet. “Give me the cups.”
Johnny’s cup landed by Philip’s foot. Quickly slipping his brogans on, he made his way to the company cook fire and filled the cups with water. Philip dug through his haversack to retrieve a muslin bag and loosed the string enough to form a spout. After sprinkling the crushed coffee beans onto the surface of each cup, he set them in a row around the coals. The fire pit was ringed with cups and soldiers chatting. Philip settled down at the fire’s edge and nibbled on a brick of hardtack. Staring into the fire, he imagined they were perdition’s flames, and the suddenness of the thought caused him to wonder at the irony of using them to heat the coffee.
On occasion, he had tried to teach a lesson on Hell, of its flames, pain, and thirst. Those were his worst sermons for he lacked the oratory passion to make Hell seem like Hell and not some fantastic place of the imagination. The dance of the flames also brought to his mind thoughts of war and the fires of passion that burned in the early days. Each flame flickered for a moment, and then shrank back into the coals, only to birth another.
The parishioners in his circuit had little interest in Hell and Satan and anything else that had to do with the mysteries of the spiritual realms. He couldn’t help but to teach on those topics, regardless. He knew that if he did not ponder their effects, he, too, would become complacent in his faith.
The growing sectional conflict brought out questions of war and what was the pious, spiritual response. These were questions that he could not answer even for himself. Instead, he taught respect for authority as given by God and prayed for wisdom. Leaving this all behind was a relief, for he no longer needed wrestle with answers that met ecclesiastical requirements. The flames consumed him as they did the wood that slowly disintegrated into glowing coals of red and white. In the same way, flames consumed the nation and families that composed his circuit. Their hearts burned with indignation at the affronts caused by the rebel states and against the administration for its excesses in wielding power. Few, if any, that he was specifically aware of worried about the darkies or even mentioned the issue in conversation. His own thoughts were just as vague, and he had given little thought toward it until the regiment encountered the first sad columns of contrabands in Kentucky. Seeing only ignorant and pathetic forms under ill-fitting clothing, Philip tried to move himself to the righteous indignation he thought he should feel.
He pitied their plight and the sometimes dumb and numb expressions of the oppressed. Yet, he also saw smiles and expectation in them, a reverie in camp and a willingness to show graciousness for any small kindness shown them. They carried their world upon their backs and followed the army, hoping for protection and salvation. Often, they were turned back and looked upon as a nuisance. Starving and penniless, the runaways and liberated slaves presented a reality that shook Philip to the core. For good or for ill, the status of the black man was in the balance, and no one realized that more than the slave himself.
The eastern horizon brightened slowly and cast its lightening shades of blue westward. Slowly the surface of the cups stirred with bubbles rising to the surface. Soon, they were ready to drink. Deftly pulling each one from the coals, he set them down on the fire’s edge and doused the surface with cold water to settle the coffee grounds to the bottom.
“Ah, coffee,” Sammy walked to the fire and said. He bent down to grasp his cup.
“Are we ready?” Philip asked.
“Yeah, I rolled your blanket and put it on your straps. You just need to pack your things into the sack. Your traps are set by the pack.”
Johnny grunted as he set himself next to Philip and grabbed his cup. “You got any more apricots?”
Philip dug into his haversack and tossed Johnny the bag. Mule was the last to join them, and soon each was cooling the surface of his cup and chewing hardtack. Philip handed around a bag of cooked salt pork he had prepared the evening before. The strips were greasy and chewy but would suffice for a little intake of meat until they could cook again that evening.
His mess duties finished, Philip grabbed his cup and went back to his pack. Sammy had rolled his blanket up, and it fit onto the top of his pack properly. He always had trouble getting it rolled right himself. After exchanging his night cap for his forage cap, he grabbed his testament and quickly thumbed the pages to the Book of Isaiah. He hadn’t read much in that book before the war, nor had he taught on it. Reading it now gave him comfort as he compared Judah and her call to repentance with the rebellion. Who was the guilty party? Who was the faithless? He had no idea, only a faint hope that the North was not.
Not just for reenacting, though this can serve as a nice recipe for early war scenarios before the blessed advent of Essence of Coffee (condensed coffee sludge invented as a means of getting coffee to Union armies, packaged in tin containers and easily prepared by adding a spoonful to hot water) but also for hikers, campers, wilderness survival (coffee is a necessity).
For the truly adventurous, take green coffee beans. They can be stored indefinitely and will not sour. Roasting them over a griddle produces a strong coffee, but it takes practice to get the beans roasted evenly and produces a unique flavorful brew.
If you are roasting them yourself, have something handy to crush and grind them with. I’ve tried it with a rifle butt before, it can be done but takes awhile. A muslin bag can also be bounded with something blunt, keeps the grains from spilling everywhere and can be transported easily.
2 tablespoons full of ground coffee (handful if you like)
1 tin cup with water
1 fire with hot coals
Simply put the cup next to or on some coals and sprinkle your coffee on top and allow water to come to a boil. Beans will steep nicely. Once hot enough, remove from fire and add some cold water to surface. This will settle the grounds to the bottom and you will have a nice, rich cup of coffee. Add sugar to taste and use a brick of Hardtack to skim the surface of any grounds that refused to sink.
No grinder, no heavy or large coffee pot, no electricity required and one authentic cup of coffee, a soldier’s best friend!