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.

Two Struck Images, short story launch

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.

Two Struck Images

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)

Famous last words

Civil War battle of Shiloh chromo-lithograph by Thulstrup

War of the Rebellion, dispatch from Grant to Halleck April 3, 1862

(click image to go to other pages of the text)

I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack …

Not exactly the most famous of famous last words, but significant nonetheless regarding what was to happen a few days later.

Grant’s entry to Halleck and the preceding reports chronicle a scene in my upcoming novel, release for later this year, where the 1st Alabama Cavalry becomes inadvertently embroiled in a running fire fight with Federal infantry and cavalry as they reconnoiter forward from Michie’s cross roads tavern, up the Corinth Road, dangerously close to the federal camp at Pittsburg Landing. The action is limited and small, but one of those missed opportunities to take in all available data. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi has marched out of Corinth and though it has been fraught with tension, poor logistical planning, rain, and inexperienced soldering at all levels they succeed in creeping forward undetected up until this point.

That the 72nd Ohio Infantry and 5th Ohio Cavalry scrapped with a combined force of cavalry, artillery, and infantry so close to their camps was alarm enough, but the incident was chalked up to aggressive patrolling by Grant. A costly error.

In this skirmish, the Colonel of the 1st Alabama would lose his horse, saddle, and equipments and the 72nd Ohio a few prisoners.

Women of the American Civil War Soldiers and Nurses

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AGO records also reveal that on August 3, 1862, a nineteen-year-old Irish immigrant named Albert D. J. Cashier, described as having a light complexion, blue eyes, and auburn hair, enlisted in the Ninety-fifth Illinois Infantry. Cashier served steadily until August 17, 1865, when the regiment was mustered out of the Federal army. Cashier participated in approximately forty battles and skirmishes in those long, hard four years.

After the war, Cashier worked as a laborer, eventually drew a pension, and finally went to live in the Quincy, Illinois, Soldiers’ Home. In 1913 a surgeon at the home discovered that Albert D. J. Cashier was a woman. A public disclosure of the finding touched off a storm of sensational newspaper stories, for Cashier had lived her entire adult life as a man. None of Cashier’s former comrades-in-arms ever suspected that he was a she. Apparently, neither did the commandant at the Soldiers’ Home. She died October 11, 1914, in an insane asylum.(12) [A deposition from a fellow soldier taken in 1915 revealed that her deception was quite complete.]

via Women of the American Civil War Soldiers and Nurses.
I ran across this and the following, leaving good meaning to those wives, daughters, girl friends who want to join their husbands, boyfriends, brothers out in the field for reenacting, if you can’t do the above, then don’t do this:

from the TV show Warehouse 13

My first thought was, he’d better hope that dueling pistol aint loaded. My second was, they should fire their costume and prop guy. I’ve been on a movie set before as I was a german reenactor for the Malmedy Massacre scenes in the Indie film Saints and Soldiers, but they had their act together authenticity wise, so I can imagine the reenactors here having a grumble about how these two look.

Civil War News News Briefs

Historic Checks

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A box found during a bank vaults inventory turned up 70 checks signed by 24 U.S. presidents. The treasure trove was acquired by Huntington Bancshares during a 1983 hostile takeover of Union Commerce Corp.

Wall Street Journal writer David Benoit said the box included what perhaps was the last check Abraham Lincoln wrote — to “self” for $800 on April 13, 1865.

Prof. Richard Sylla of New York University, chairman of the Museum of American Finance, said, “This is a classic example of one bank acquiring another and coming up with some old records as a result.” He worries that many such records are thrown away.

The Huntington had the documents appraised and exhibited them in Pittsburgh before a planned auction. However, public response caused the bank to cancel the sale. The check collection was donated by a former director of Union Commerce and was displayed during the U.S. Bicentennial.

via Civil War News News Briefs.

Visiting Picacho Pass Historic Site

Picacho Pass today
Picacho Pass

On April 15, 1862, the western-most “battle” of the American Civil War was fought on the flanks of Picacho Peak, a rocky volcanic spire situated 50 miles northwest of a small Sonoran Desert town named Tucson. Today, the old wagon route which passed by Picacho in 1862 is roughly traced by U.S. Highway 10, which connects the modern metropolises of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Only when the highway runs by Picacho is the open desert view blocked by a series of sheer ridges towering to the west. In 1862, this area was virtually deserted due to its natural desolation, and the fact that all U.S. Army troops had departed the previous year, leaving the local settlers and Indians to do as they wished. Before marching off to join the Union Army being assembled in the East, the local garrison troops had opened their supply depots to the nearby civilians, telling them “take what you need, and get out.” Not everyone heeded this advice. Many people who had staked their lives and fortunes on the Southwest decided to remain, strengthening the local militia units which already populated this secessionist area. For their part, local Indian tribes like the Apache thought they had finally chased away the “bluecoats” and they were naturally determined to make the most of it.

via Visiting Picacho Pass Historic Site.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 25

Saturday, Jan. 25, 1862

PIMLICO PUMMELING PAUSES

The storm that had been battering the fleet off Cape Hatteras abated somewhat today, and efforts were redoubled to move the ships over the Hatteras sandbars into Pimlico Sound. The work was purely physical, as opposed to military, as there was insufficient Confederate manpower on either land or sea to seriously threaten the project.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 25.

Book Review: A Brave Black Regiment

A Brave Black RegimentA Brave Black Regiment by Luis F. Emilio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written by Louis F. Emilio after the war of his experiences as a captain in the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, A Brave Black Regiment is a true to life account of these two regiments exploits in the civil war. Watch Glory, but read this book and Blue Eyed Child of Fortune (from the letters of Robert Gould Shaw of his war experiences). A Brave Black Regiment shows that fact is far more riveting than fiction and you get to see the real privations that the 54th went through before and after Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Emilio and other white officers of the 54th (the 55th was formed out of the excess of volunteers of free blacks from Massachusetts) were granted commissions from the Governor of Mass. as other officers were in the volunteer service. This differed from the selection process used by the army to fill officer quotas in the USCT formations of a written exam and board interview. Emilio was a non commissioned officer in the 23rd Mass. at the time Gov. Andrew began petitioning the War Dept. for the raising of a black regiment. Contrary to the movie, Andrew was not the first to raise a black regiment, but the 54th and 55th were the first northern units raised from free blacks. Emilio took his chance and requested an appointment for commission and was granted it after an interview with those whom Andrew commissioned to recruit officers.

What is also notable is the service the regiment gave after Fort Wagner and the fight at Olustee, Florida where it and the 55th and several USCT regiments fought alongside white brigades and further proved their mettle in a fight.

View all my reviews

This Day in the American Civil War for January 22

Wednesday, Jan. 22 1862

HYDROLOGICAL HEIGHT HINDERS “HENRY” HUNT

The USS “Lexington” set forth to perform reconnaissance in advance of the planned attack on Ft. Henry, Tenn., with Brig. Gen. Charles F. Smith in charge of the project and Lt. Shirk assisting him. It was a hard winter, with much snow in the mountains and rain in the lowlands; the river was very high, and still rising. This hampered the effort, but not so much that the “Lexington” and the other union gunboats were prevented from firing a few mortar rounds at Ft. Henry. In other Naval action, Lt. Worden reported to his superiors that construction of the radical new gunboat “Monitor” was progressing on schedule. The only delay was caused by late delivery of the 11-inch guns with which the ship would be armed.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 22.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 20

Monday Jan. 20 1862

MARITIME MILITARISM MOSTLY MUDDLED

The U.S. Army and Navy’s amphibious attack on Hatteras Inlet was not exactly setting any speed records in its execution. Part of this was by design, intended to avoid problems encountered in prior attack attempts in wintertime. For this reason it had been prearranged to sail in two groups, which were to rendezvous offshore and wait for stragglers to catch up so the attack could be made as a unified force, a not-insignificant factor given the vicious gales that could strike the coast in the wintertime. The rendezvous had been set for Jan. 13, and in fact the weather had been dreadful, with many ships driven onto shoals, sandbars and land. Today, however preparations for the initial attack, on Roanoke Island, were firmly in hand. A Confederate ship chancing on the scene hastened to alert Navy Sec. Mallory that he “there saw a large fleet of steamers and transports.”

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 20.