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DeedsofaColoredSoldier_medF.W. Abel was born in the city of New York, long ago enough to have not even been a teenager at the beginning of the Civil War Centennial.  He escaped from Fordham University with a degree in psychology into the U.S. Army.  The army had him function as a psychologist for a while, until he escaped from that into “the real army” that is, the infantry.  After postings in Berlin, Tokyo and the southern United States, he left and became a junior executive in the insurance industry.  He now labors diligently for the American taxpayer as a federal bureaucrat.  He currently resides in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  As many of the most important battles of the Civil war was fought within a relatively short distance, he has taken advantage and visited most of them, as well as several in the so-called “Western Theater.”
Purchase the book on Amazon / Twilight Times Books / B&N

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua. How does it feel to be published for the first time?

A: I’m ecstatic, and apprehensive at the same time.  I think just about anyone who writes something, anything, that took scores of hours and pounds (if not tons) of effort, wants to share their creation with the wider world.  Of course, in doing so, said author leaves themselves open to criticism, and possibly, some of it is deserved.  A work that made you a literary legend in your own mind just might not be perceived that way by readers.  Hence, the ecstasy and the apprehension.

Q: What compelled you to write this Civil War story?

A: I recall a reviewer of the motion picture “Glory” as having stated it would have been interesting to know more about the African-American soldiers portrayed in the film, as it revolved around the story of their commanding officer.  “Glory” was an outstanding movie, but it gave the impression that the 54th Massachusetts Regiment was the first colored regiment to fight.  My novel kind of sets the record straight, and from the viewpoint of the enlisted men, the African-American soldiers who did the fighting.  Also, I was a pre-teen during the Civil War Centennial, and I read a number of young adult novels with that theme.  I essentially combined the two.

Q: Tell us something about your protagonist that my readers won’t be able to resist.

A:  The novel tells the story of Jedediah as a young man, told by himself more than 30 years later.  So a reader can see the enthusiasm and cock-suredness of a youth contrasted with rueful regret of his older, and perhaps wiser, self.

Q: Did your characters surprise you with their own ideas? Did you listen to them?

A:  I remember reading long ago the novel, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas.  It included a scene where Marcus asked a young man who had sculpted two gladiators what their names were.  The young man thought he was being mocked, until Marcus explained that to really animate his two figures, they had to have names, past lives; they had to be real to him, or their sculpted selves would be lifeless.  So, I created lives for them, before the action taking place in the novel.  Of course, the great thing with dealing with fictional characters is the author’s ability to make any amendments needed to fit the narrative.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it?

A:  I wrote it linearly, without a formal outline, although I always knew where I was going.  Historical fiction is great in that way, as it provides your general plot.  The surprises came from filling in the details.

My book is about the rigors of war, and how life-changing, but a story with nothing but battles would bore even the most devoted reader of military fiction.

Q: How did you conduct your research?

A:  I had an fairly extensive reading background in the Civil war from the time I was a pre-teen (I won’t tell you how long ago that was).  But to insert a character into the major events portrayed in the novel required a considerable amount of research to get the minor details, in one case, weather conditions on a particular night, correct.  Readers who read history fiction are also usually avid readers of history, and would be cognizant, and unappreciative, of dramatic license that did too much violence to the facts.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel without letting the historical details drag the pace?

A:  You have to be judicious.  You have to strike the delicate balance between verisimilitude and throwing in details to show how much research you did.  And ideally, the minor historical details should have some bearing on the story.  In one case, I made a big deal of the difference in the bullet sizes of two rifles, because (as really happened) during a battle, the soldiers ran out of one size of ammunition and were in dire straits because the only ammunition available was an unusable size.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A:  I have a full-time job, so I have to fit writing in, but other things usually have priority.  I look forward to the (now somewhat few) totally free days.  I can write for 5-8 hours, but I can’t write anything good in one hour.

Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.

A:  After acquiring a fairly impressive collection of rejection letters, a friend going back to my college days introduced me to his publisher.  The intro only got me so far, as like any good publisher, Lida Quillen wanted to judge the work for herself.  Thankfully, she greeted it with enthusiasm and encouragement.  I’m grateful to Lida, and my friend, Scott.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A:  First, don’t get divorced.  The number of aspiring authors is probably exceeded only by the number of aspiring actors, currently waiting tables, or the number of aspiring general currently serving as lieutenants.  My wife has a business writing background, so I lured her in by having her do copy editing.  Even so, although she liked my novel, she was still very skeptical that I had produced a saleable work.  Sometimes, the person you have to convince is yourself.

On the other hand, writing is a less expensive hobby than golf or deep-sea fishing, so an aspiring author can approach it on that basis until the magic moment when he surprises even himself by having produced something good (good = publishable + saleable).

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A:  There’s an old adage for writers, which is write what you know.  To that, I would add, read, and extensively, because at some point, a reader could get the spark from something read to transition into a writer.

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Alison's bio pic.Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels.

Find Alison on the web:

Website: http://www.alisonbruce.ca

Blog: http://alisonebruce.blogspot.ca

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alisonebruce

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books

Kat bio picKat Flannery’s love of history shows in the novels she writes. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. This is Kat’s third book and she is hard at work on her next.

Find Kat on the web:

Website: www.katflannery-author.com

Blog: www.kat-scratch.blogspot.ca
Twitter: https://twitter.com/katflannery1

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kat-Flannery/131065966999142

SUMMARY:

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor.

Find on AMAZON.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, HAZARDOUS UNIONS. What was your inspiration for it?

KAT: Thank you! I’d always wanted to write a holiday themed book, and to be able to do it with another author. When I came up with the idea of doing a Christmas book, Alison Bruce was the person I wanted to collaborate with. Together we hashed out the details of the book.

ALISON: Being asked was an honor. The whole process was a great adventure.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

KAT: Matty loves to read, so much that she is often quoting Shakespeare and Poe throughout the story.

ALISON: Maggie took her father’s history lesson to heart and often quotes her mother’s German proverbs.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

Hazardous_Union_Front_CoverKAT: I knew very little about the Civil War and so I needed to do a ton of research. Once I knew my plot and where I was going I wrote this story in three weeks.

ALISON: I knew a fair amount about the politics involved in the Civil War but I needed to get a regular person’s eye view of the time. So, I needed to do a ton of research too. Most of what happens to Maggie is a direct result of that research and asking myself, how would she react to these situations.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

KAT: With Matty it was easy because she is so serious and yet, she is constantly quoting Shakespeare or Poe. I write my characters to be real individuals. Sometimes what they say or do comes naturally.

ALISON: Maggie is the practical one. She’d rather be outgoing like her sister or clever like Miss Patience, but she’s the one who takes care of things and ultimately takes charge. At the same time, she’s young and inexperienced. Some of the decisions she thinks are practical turn out to be anything but.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

KAT: Yes, sometimes I do if I don’t know where I am going with a story. I usually take a break and re-hash all my notes to see if I can’t find the problem. Once I find it the anxiety goes away and I can write.

ALISON: I don’t get anxious when I write, but I do get a little manic at times either because something is keeping me from writing–like other jobs, the kids, an appointment I’m already five minutes late for…

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

KAT: I write everyday when I’m doing a book. This can sometimes be tricky if my boys are busy with sports or I need to work, but I find the time and sometimes that is late at night when everyone is asleep.

ALISON: It’s a juggling act. My kids always come first, but they’re old enough to also take up the slack around the house and they are invested in my books. In addition to being an author, I’m a publications manager, awards administrator, freelance writer, editor and graphic designer. Each job ebbs and flows throughout the week, month and year, so a rigid schedule isn’t practical. It’s a constant challenge to keep all the balls in the air, but it suits me better than a 9-5 job.

Q: How do you define success?

KAT: Success is different for everyone. I’m successful in a lot of things in my life; my family, my friends, my faith, my career.

ALISON: I came across a great quote: “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I’m fitted to be a storyteller and I get to do that. That’s success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

KAT: That can be tough. Be strong and believe in yourself.

ALISON: My initial reaction is to get a different partner. This may not be practical, however. Honestly, I’m blessed. My kids support my writing habit. My friends and extended family are proud of me. There was a time when they thought I was a little crazy, but they never tried to squash my dreams. Any persistent nay sayers have dropped out of my life.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

KAT: No. I love to write—to create characters and stories and to have the ability to touch my readers through those stories.

ALISON: I do agree with the driven part but my demon and I are old friends who understand each other and enjoy the other’s company… even if we do yell at each other now and then.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

KAT: I love to hear from readers so please drop me a line on my Facebook page or via my website.

ALISON: I love hearing from people too. Fair warning: I am also a mystery writer. Be nice or you might end up dead in my next book. 😉

 

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A native of Gainesville, Florida, author Nick West attended the University of Florida where he became interested in writing. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, and together with his family, have owned and operated a landscape business in the area for over twenty years. He and his wife Kay and their children, Tammy, John and Christy, along with their families all live on the farm where he grew up near Archer. He is the author of The Great Southern Circus and The Long Road Home.

The Great Southern Circus, his first book, is a collection of circus stories told to him by his grandmother as they were told to her by her grandmother, Miranda Madderra, who performed with this horse drawn caravan just prior to the Civil War. His second book, The Long Road Home, follows the main characters from The Great Southern Circus as they traverse the difficult and painful years of the American Civil War.

Visit the author and learn more about his work at http://thelongroadsouth.com.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

I believe that all writers are avid readers. As such I have tremendous respect for those who are talented enough to draw their readers into a caring relationship with the characters in their books. I have found that after reading a good book, I often recall the experiences of the characters as I would good friends or family members. That is my goal as a writer. I have attempted to relate these stories in a way that future generations of my own family could relate to them as the real people that they were. My effort is to bring these wonderful people to life in my books so that even readers outside of my own family would feel as connected to them as I do.

What was your inspiration for The Long Road Home?

When The Great Southern Circus became available nationally on Amazon, I was contacted by a large number of readers who had become invested in the characters of that book. As that book ended, half the characters rushed to join the Union Army and the other half joined the Southern cause. Readers wanted to know what had become of these folks during the Civil War. This book answers those questions.

So the novel is part biographical, part fictional?

Biographical in the sense that these were real people who actually lived the events about which I have written, and fictional in the sense that I can only imagine most of their actual conversations based upon recollections as handed down through oral history for several generations.

For those readers who haven’t read your first book yet, is there something about the plot or characters they need to know in advance before reading The Long Road Home or is it a stand alone novel?

I have had readers who read The Long Road Home first, but invariably went back to read the Great Southern Circus to better understand the relationships. I would encourage folks to read the books in the order they were written to become more involved with all of these wonderful people.

How long did it take you to write the book and did you plot in advance?

The Great Southern Circus was a work in progress for years. I remembered the stories as they were told by my Grandmother and was determined to put them down in written form for future generations of my own family. The advent of the internet made it possible to not only verify that the events chronicled in the book actually took place, but also to connect me with other descendants of the same tour to compare notes and flesh out the other characters. This book took about a year to actually write and told the story of a two year circus tour that ended when the Civil War broke out. The Long Road Home picked up the adventures of the same characters as they struggled to survive the terrible years of the war. This book also took about one year to research and write.

I understand you did a lot of research for this novel. What was the process like and what surprised you most about this dark time of American history?

The American Civil War is probably the most researched period of American History. No matter how small a skirmish or political event, someone has researched and written about it. I read countless articles, books and research papers as they related to the experiences of my ancestors during this dark period. I found many surprises (at least to me) along the way. For instance, at the beginning of the War, Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union than he was about slavery which I was always taught was the major reason for the conflict. I also learned that racial prejudice in the North did not allow black men to even join the Union Army until late in the war. I had forgotten that our Nation was less than one hundred years old at the time and that many of the States believed that the Union was voluntary and that they could simply “opt out” if they believed that the Federal government was causing them more problems than it was helping their individual cause. I also learned to respect even more the character displayed by, and heartaches endured by President Lincoln during this time.

What themes do you explore in your novel?

Romance, friendship, adventure, hardships in a historical context. This is an attempt to put into perspective the individual stories of each of these men and women as they were swept along by events beyond their control. These characters first met each other and became close friends during the hardships of a circus tour that lasted two years before the outbreak of the War. One man was the northern son of the circus owner and performer, one young black man who joined to circus to search for his sister who was still held as a slave somewhere in the South, one young Alabama girl (my 3x Great Grandmother) who was a bare back rider and a young man from Alabama who joined the circus just to be near her. This is primarily their story.

What has been the reaction from your friends and family so far?

Friends and family loved both books and I have been blessed by the fact that total strangers have discovered my books. From the reviews on Amazon and other sites they seemed to have enjoyed them as well.

Are you planning any local book signings or other promotional events you’d like to announce?

I have periodic signing events that I advertise locally and through social networking. I am also happy to personalize and sign books that my office will mail to anyone who phones in a request to 1 (352)495-9858.

What’s on the horizon for you? Is there a third novel in the works?

I am now working on my third novel.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

I am always happy to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. They can find me on Facebook or E-Mail me at CountryGator@AOL.COM

Thanks again for the interview and best of luck with your books!

My interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine

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Jessica James is the author of the historical fiction novel Shades of Gray, which has won two Best Regional Fiction awards and was named FAVORITE BOOK of 2008 across all genres on two book review sites. The novel has also been nominated for the 2009 Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction and has climbed as high as #3 on Amazon in the romance/historical/U.S. category, trailing behind a book it is often compared to, Gone with the Wind.

 

In its review, the BookConnection said, “if you only buy one book in 2009, make it this one.”

Because of the strict attention to language used in Shades of Gray, James has been asked to review a script for a proposed Civil War movie to help with the flow and authenticity of the 19th century dialogue.

 

It's great to have you here, Jessica. Do you have another job besides writing?

 

For 18 years, I was a journalist and newspaper editor, which, when combined with writing a novel, resulted in a pretty sedentary lifestyle. In 2006, I quit that career to become a spotlight operator for a Broadway show that came into town. When the show ended after a three-month run, I stayed on as a part-time stagehand – which is anything but sedentary. The flexible hours and the physical aspect of the job meld perfectly with my writing life, and I have the added bonus of getting paid to see a few hundred shows each year.

 

Tell us about your book. What inspired jessicajamesheadshoteyou to write it?

 

Growing up in Gettysburg, Pa., most people think I’ve been a Civil War buff all my life — but that’s not exactly right. It wasn’t until I moved to northern Virginia in the 80s and learned about a Confederate officer, Colonel John Mosby, that I really got hooked. Mosby is every writer’s dream of a great leading character: gallant, valiant, handsome, and chivalrous. My main character, Colonel Alexander Hunter, is based on his legendary life as a Confederate officer.

 

Once I caught the Civil War bug, I became enthralled by how committed the common soldier was to God, country, and honor. The more I read about the war, the more inspired I became to put a story down on paper that reflected the values and principles of that era, as well as the affection and devotion that existed between those who vowed “’til death do us part.”

 

Shades of Gray is the result, telling the story of a time in our nation’s history when “honor was as precious as the blood spilled to earn it.”

 

Did your book require a lot of research?

 

In a word, YES! I don’t think there is a group of people more knowledgeable or more critical than Civil War buffs, and I figured no matter how careful I was, they would find some small inconsistency in fact. Fortunately, that has not happened. I’ve managed to satisfy the historian with the amount of factual information in Shades of Gray – and have pleased romance readers by weaving a love story into the fabric of history.

 

What was your goal?

 

My goal is to educate and to entertain. I want readers to not only feel like they’ve read a great 
love story, but to also gain an understanding of the great conflict of emotion that tore at the 
hearts of those thrust into the War Between the States. The title Shades of Gray, was chosen
for just that reason—to show that the issues that caused the war were not black and white, 
or right and wrong—but shades of gray. I really hope that through this fictional story, readers 
also develop a better understanding of the passionate debate on both sides, and can learn to
appreciate and respect those who value that heritage today. The extraordinary valor and 
devotion of the Confederate shadessoldier is, unfortunately, often maligned and misunderstood in 
today’s politically correct society. 


Who is your target audience?

 

In a wide sense, my target audience is anyone who wants to be inspired by the strong principles and morals of the 19th century, while being entertained with a poignant love story. Civil War buffs, of course are a part of that audience, but it is not simply a Civil War story. It’s a story full of hope and heartbreak, as the loyalty and love of the two main characters clashes with honor and conviction.

 

Readers who cherish good, old-fashioned, classic, romantic fiction are as much a part of that audience as historical fiction enthusiasts.

 

What will the reader learn?

 

Many readers are not interested in reading a dry book about the Civil War, so it became a mission for me to weave a story around the facts, create characters with real feelings, and make history come alive. If readers are entertained and fall in love with the characters, they won’t even know they are learning something. With that said, I think readers will learn a little more about the issues that led to the War Between the States, and how far we’ve moved away from the strong morals and principles that were once such a vibrant part of our culture.

 

Describe you working environment.

 

I have a beautiful office in a pre-Civil War home with a huge antique desk that I really love – but rarely use for actual writing. I do most of my writing on a chair in my living room with a computer on my lap. I have a wild bird feeder, a butterfly bush, and a humming bird feeder within my direct line of vision, so when I lift my eyes, I always have something interesting to watch. I have read that this is actually a beneficial exercise because it engages a different part of the brain, giving the creative side a rest. If I get stuck, I watch the birds for a few minutes, and when I get back to work, the problem often solves itself.

 

Do you have a website or blog?

 

Yes to both. My website is http://www.jessicajamesbooks.com, and my blog Life in the Past Lane is http://www.jessicajamesblog.com.

 

 

Do you have another book in the works?

 

Yes, I have another Civil War novel in the works, though I’m finding less and less time to work on it. The heroine in Above and Beyond is not based on any real person in history, but I have read of accounts such as hers. In a nutshell, she is so convincing at pretending to be a strong Unionist while living in Virginia, that all her neighbors, and even her own brother, believe the ruse. By allowing Federal soldiers to camp on her land and stay in her home she becomes an outcast and a scourge in her own community, but all the while she is passing on valuable information to the Confederacy.

 

One can only imagine the courage and strong will it would take to be despised and maligned by family and friends while you are nobly serving a cause. It could be argued that it would take more fortitude than fighting an outright battle with hundreds of your comrades surrounding you.

 

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

 

My greatest reward is having readers tell me that Shades of Gray made them laugh one minute and cry the next – which I really love to hear! That means they are emotionally involved in the story and that is a great compliment.

 

Perhaps even more gratifying is to have readers blame me for lack of sleep because they ‘couldn’t put it down.’ That’s a reward for all the sleepless nights I spent writing it!

 

Thanks for the interview, Jessica!

 

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