This Day in the American Civil War for January 19

Sunday Jan. 19 1862


His superiors had told Gen. George Crittenden not to go north of the Cumberland River–and he had ignored them and moved his men anyway. This proved not to be a good idea at all, as he discovered when his forces were set upon by the troops of U.S. Gen. George Thomas. Thomas, who was still a year away from getting the title of the “Rock of Chickamauga”, was still operating under an earlier nickname, “Old Slow Trot.” He was far from speedy but implacable once prepared for an attack. They called it the Battle of Mill Springs. Crittenden’s fellow Gen. Felix Kirk Zollicoffer was also on the north side of the river and caught up in the fight as well. Zollicoffer’s habit of wearing a white raincoat proved most unfortunate, as he was shot dead in the altercation. Most of the Confederate troops escaped back across the Cumberland, but much equipment and supplies were left behind.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 19.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 18

Saturday Jan. 18 1862


U.S. Gen. George Thomas had faced the same agonizing choice as Robert E. Lee at the outbreak of the Civil War. Both Virginians, they had had to choose between their state and the nation they had sworn to defend. Thomas had stayed with the Union, and today was living up to his nickname of “Old Slow Trot” as he neared the Confederate troops under Brig. Gen. George B. Crittenden in Kentucky. Crittenden had made a number of mistakes: aside from the matter of entering Kentucky in the first place, which under law was a neutral state, he had placed his forces in such a way that they had their backs against the Cumberland River. His most drastic mistake, however, was lack of proper intelligence: he didn’t know Thomas was approaching.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 18.

In Defense of History: 25th Missouri Vols

This will be a series of articles written for my other blog, In Defense of History, a place where I post civil war research.

In my novel, They Met at Shiloh, Robert and his pards find themselves standing at the edge of the Hamburg – Purdy road staring downhill at the gathering mass of Confederates preparing to march upon them. A steep slope of about 75 yards leads up to the camps of Peabody’s brigade and the memorial to Colonel Everett Peabody surrounded now by trees and young forest. The 25th’s camp site was their last stand before the regiment disintegrated and scattered along with the rest of Peabody’s brigade.

via In Defense of History: 25th Missouri Vols.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 17

Friday, Jan. 17, 1862


Two groups of Union forces were on the move in Kentucky this day…or at least trying to. Troops of Grant’s command, under McClernand, struggled along through increasingly unpleasant weather and ground conditions. Theoretically, they made up one arm of a two-prong assault down the Mississippi, the overall intent of which was to take Vicksburg, Miss., and reclaim the Father of Waters for the union. In practical terms, Grant could not really have expected this to succeed, especially in one of the bitterest winters in memory. Afloat, gunboats under the overall command of Brig. Gen. C.F. Smith were working up the Tennessee River, intending to threatened Ft. Henry. These ships represented the waterborne arm of the two-pronged assault. They were not making much progress: Ice was so bad on the Mississippi that shipping was blocked just below St. Louis.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 17.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 16

Thursday, Jan. 16 1862


The USS “Hatteras” steamed into the harbor Cedar Key, Fla., and wreaked a path of destruction. She destroyed seven blockade-running ships, albeit rather small ones. Crews from the Hatteras then went ashore and wrecked the railroad depot, tore up a telegraph office, and ruined a wharf. Miscellaneous other damage caused the community disruption for some time. Elsewhere, in Kentucky, Gen. Felix Zollicoffer knew he was in trouble with his superiors, but did not yet know just how much trouble he was about to be in. He had taken his troops from Mill Springs north across the Cumberland River, and then been ordered back to his previous position. He stayed where he was, unaware that Federal forces under Gen. Thomas were a good deal closer than he realized.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 16.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 15

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1862


Edwin McMasters Stanton was confirmed by Congress as Secretary of War, two days after being nominated. Formerly Attorney General (during the Buchanan Administration), the choice had political elements of a most interesting nature. Stanton had made a number of public statements exceedingly critical of Lincoln. Moreover, he was quite well known to be a friend of Gen. McClellan, who was not devoid of political dreams of his own. Stanton would be a controversial figure in history–held by some analysts to be sneaky, dishonest and underhanded; regarded by others as one of the prime movers in the victory of the Union in the War. It is entirely possible that both are true.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 15.

Review of Mother, May you Never see the Sights I’ve seen

Mother, May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen: The Fifty Seventh Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers in the Army of the Potomac 1864-1865Mother, May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen: The Fifty Seventh Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers in the Army of the Potomac 1864-1865 by Warren Wilkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 57th Mass. Volunteers was a Veteran Volunteer infantry unit who participated in the last campaigns of the war, a campaign that differed from every other in the civil war. Grant, now a Lt. General and in command of all the Union forces, orders Mead’s Army of the Potomac to march and unleashes unrelenting and daily combat the likes that no one in either army had ever experienced before. This book draws from personal letters and the war record of this unit as it marched and fought in every battle from the Wilderness to the siege at Petersburg and the final chase of Lee’s forces to Appomattox.

Noteable in this record are the accounts of those taken prisoner and paroled and of thier experience in the exchange sysetm (though prisoner exchanges had largely been halted there was still some activity going on). Overall a very good unit history, written for the modern day (as opposed to a history written for the civil war generation).

View all my reviews

This Day in the American Civil War for January 14

Tuesday Jan. 14 1862


Gen. Ambrose Burnside was supposed to be leading an invasion force of nearly 100 ships to Hatteras Inlet, N.C. Instead he was spending his time on continuous rescue missions as the ships of his fleet were torn by fierce winds and storm. Many were being driven onto shoals and sandbars as their anchor lines were dragged or broke entirely. Burnside was seen on one tugboat personally leading a rescue party to the “City of New York” which was loaded with stores; he was willing to let the stores go but wanted to rescue the crew. All of this chaos was going on within the relative shelter of the inlet; many of the ships of the mission had not made it even that far, could not attempt the entrance as long as the wind blew, and were at the mercy of the storm on the open ocean. As this was taking place in the dead of winter the storm was probably not a hurricane in the technical sense, but few cared to debate the finer points of meteorological terminology.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 14.

Kindle Select from Amazon


Kindle Select, what’s an Indie author to do?

If there’s a blog topic of choice this week for writers, it would be the new select program at Amazon. The information is all over the KDP website and the KDP author forums. It has been going for over a week now. If you’re not on a side yet, you soon will be.

The upside? Another way to reach the consumer.

The downside? An exclusive arrangement with KDP for e-book distribution.

Let’s be honest, Amazon and KDP drive the e-book revolution. It is their market to have and to hold, till death do they part. If you sell titles at all on multiple devices (multiple distribution channels) it is at least 75% to 90% of your sales. The other platforms neither have the reach or the market in devices (thanks to the Kindle Fire that gap will only widen).

So, adding your title or titles to select is going to do very little to your bottom line and may even increase it. It will drastically put the heat on their competitors, and this is one of the gripes coming from authors who, for very good reason, do not want to put all their eggs in one basket. That is probably the logical answer, the emotional one being freedom. If there is to be a primary, visceral reaction to this, it is the question of freedom and what the system is doing to the rankings of those who are not in. Rankings have suddenly skyrocketed (in the wrong direction for many) as everyone who opted in took advantage of the free promotions and there are lots of questions being asked about how this affects rankings. The upshot is that your free book will rank with the other freebies and go back to the paid ranking where it left off. Some are seeing positive numbers after the fact and others aren’t. The end result, as with all marketing is make your plans and know what it is that you wish to accomplish.

This leads to the other great deal for the indie author, the ability to offer a free promotion for up to five days every ninety days. This costs the author nothing at all and will even benefit them from the Amazon slush fund to be shared out among all who participate? This is probably the best perk in the system, second to the Amazon Prime lending library giving you one lend per month with no due date (for those prime members who own a Kindle).

For indie authors, freedom is the very reason we have taken this road. We want the control over every aspect of our creativity and the reward that our hard work produced. The Select agreement still palls in comparison with the normal exclusivity contracts one signs with a traditional publisher when you give them the rights. You will own the rights, but not the ability to sell in other e-book distribution channels.

The buzz is pretty strong with emotions running high; Select acolytes spreading the gospel vs. those who refuse to surrender any freedom at all. The latter, seeing their rankings dissolve, are understandably frustrated at the change and becoming more so. Those who are benefitting from the new exposure are also admittedly wondering what the big deal is with everyone else not in. In the middle are all of those, like me, trying to evaluate what is right for us. I don’t myself agree with the thought that Amazon is doing something illegal and against anti-trust laws, but that remains to be seen.

As I mentioned, Amazon Prime members can “borrow” your book as part of their membership, a very unique way of exposure. Lends may not lead to purchases, but word of mouth is what we thrive on for sales. Like this program or not, Amazon has added another avenue for indie authors to make money and compete with the Big Six published authors.

If you are in, what have you found? If you are not, why not. If you won’t, what are the issues for you?

Addendum, 12/23/11

It’s been a week and more information has become available from those authors who have jumped aboard the Kindle Select train. The following thread has some information on how one author garnered an impressive number of free downloads:,96561.0.html

From feedback here and on the other Kindle boards, the results from Select seem to be a positive boost in exposure for the Indie. If you already have work up on the other ebook distribution channels I would take a long, hard look at the sales data before pulling your work from them. Money on the table is still money on the table.

Another word about the negative hype regarding this program. I read an interview with the CEO of Smashwords regarding the Select program. Honestly, why even ask him? Of course he’s going to say that what Amazon is doing is bad, horrible, anti-competitive, bordering on monopolistic, yadda yadda yadda. I would expect that from any one of the CEOs of the other distribution channels.

Would you expect to hear the CEO of Random House lambast one of his competitors if they filched one of his cash cows? Perhaps. Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo – these are distributors not publishers. They deal with everyone. I think the hype surrounding this is a tad overblown. Only time will tell if its impact on indie publishing is real or imagined.

Update 12/30/11
Read and understand what the exclusivity clause means,97561.0.html

From a strict interpretation of the contract, the meaning is for any distribution of the agreed upon content that could include excerpts published on other blogs, full digital media sent to a reviewer (if the content did not originate with KDP, you have just distributed an electronic version of your work to someone else outside of the agreement), excerpts published on your own blog, excerpts and teasers published on other distributors web pages. Exclusive means what it says.

I actually hadn’t even considered an excerpt as applying. I thought it would only mean I agree to not sell the work from any other distributor. But, giving a print book away isn’t giving the means to reproduce it away, it is just a product of the process. A .pdf or .mobi file IS the means to reproduce and selectively distribute the same content. People need to carefully read the fine print.

The penalty? Amazon will withhold the lending royalties for the period covered or limit royalties in retrospect if you willingly flout the contract. How can they? You said exclusive, didn’t you? You agreed to it.

Caveat Emptor; buyer beware.

What Inspires me

Byrne’s Mississippi Battery, Shiloh National Battlefield Military Park. copyright Jennifer Bryant 2011

What inspires me? Many things have in the past.

Julia Cameron inspired me to keep going and to recognize that the editor and critic are dark parts of myself that need to be controlled, just as the creative part of myself needs to be freed from control. I control it with a heavy hand but give free reign to the editor. Somehow that is natural to the point of being creatively blocked. We learn it from the criticism of parents and our friends and it has to be unlearned through painful practice, like the muscles learn to run each extra foot further than they have strength for. Her gospel frees the creative soul from the pit of creative darkness. It has mentored me through the days where I would have given up on completing They Met at Shiloh. I believe she is a universalist when it comes to faith, believing that there is a God but perhaps not the God that I know and Christ who allows me to know him, but she has nailed it as far as truth, that we are best when we are under faith and not works, that there is a spirit who whispers to us the stories we tell. I do not quibble with questions of her christianity or not, she isn’t speaking a gospel of what saves us but what saves our creative souls and that I can follow as it points me back to the owner of that creativity, even Christ.

Many things are inspiring me now.

My wife inspires me to press on, encouraged me to quit the national guard after 15 years and pick up the old book again. She isn’t just a fan, she’s a partner with me as we both try to adopt and adapt to what it means to be self employed (a hobby as Dave Ramsey would call anything that doesn’t make money yet) but has not just dutifully followed me but joined me by my side, taking care of what I am an avowed idiot with; money.

I would not soon trust myself with our finances because I am too single minded of purpose. I see something and decide that I want it. If we have money in the bank, cost is no object! Thankfully, she has taken it on herself to manage our household in this regard and I have to say is now encumbering herself with yet one more thing that has to be managed, a growing book selling business. She has withstood much from me over the years and still does, I can be irascible and moody when something is puzzling me or when I am getting impatient for an outcome. I can only thank God that she still loves me when I am on a terror.

The Official Records of the Rebellion inspires me. I have found more than just a few incidents recorded on these dusty (now digitized pages) to lead to scenes and fancies for my characters to behold. I write about individuals who are part of organizations, regiments and brigades. I’m interested in the soldier’s experience as they react and interact with one another and with the specter of wounds and death each time they put on their traps and take a line of march. When I am researching a unit and what it did, going back a month or so before a battle I look up that unit or its leader in the official records and find little tidbits of daily activities to include in my narrative and often if I’m stuck, I go to these pages to just get an official glimpse of what it was like to have marched along with these soldiers. These are bereft of emotions, being communique’s and battle reports, telegrams and such, but they often fill in some of the gaps.

@sarahwitenhafer has been an inspiration for me. We write in the same genre and I’ve known her since 1989. I’ve been following her own progress as she was further ahead than I have been in both publication and marketing. I’m still floundering around at the moment, but keeping tabs on her progress has kept me going. She has a manner that is winning and has found a way to inspire others and a grow a fan base.

Another is @jakonrath who has experienced a renaissance of sorts in e-publishing and is inspiring hundreds if not thousands to follow his lead and shake off the shackles of the traditional publishing world for the freedom of self publishing. The success seen by those two, and a host of others, thanks to Amazon and Kindle, have opened the doors for the revolution to happen in the publishing world. Good or bad, it is happening and making unknown authors a living as the consumer chooses who to keep buying books from, not the publishers. You can say whatever about the lack of gate keeping going on and why or why not that is a bad thing, but in my experience, gate keeping is a defensive strategy by those inside the gate. It assumes a zero sum game for a limited pool of resources. E-publishing has changed all of this in a big way thanks to Amazon.

Inspiration, like exercise, takes training as we relearn to react to the world as we did when we were children and not encumbered by cares, worries, economies, and family. We were fed and clothed and sheltered so that aside from chores to do and rules to obey we were freed from the things that distract us.

We played and usually with whatever we had on hand. I used to use a music stand, one of those foldable wire stands for a machine gun. It could be an MP40, the German sub-machine gun or it could be a British Bren Gun.

We had our toy figures from Star Wars or GI Joe and the hallway would become our battle ground. Cardboard boxes became whatever the imagination would allow for. We didn’t care that it really didn’t look like a tank, or a house, or whatever because our imaginations filled in the gaps.

Creativity is as natural for a child as becoming blocked by the cares of this world come to adults. Christ told his disciples that the Kingdom of God was made for such as these, children that surrounded him one day. One can imagine what that scene might have looked like, the adults trying to control the situation and the children trying to chaos it.

He said if one did not approach the throne of the most high God as a child, one would never enter into the gates. Why is that? Exactly why it takes a child to be creative, because the child has to trust the authority over it, be protected by it, be drawn to its love, and aside from the rebellion that is born in us, all we as children laid our cares down at His feet. As we create or struggle to be creative again as adults, we approach the throne as children again no longer as independent beings but as dependent.