Thursday, July 29, 2010

Circle of Dishonor is now Available on Kindle

This morning Amazon launched the Kindle version of Circle of Dishonor on their site. It is not quite the same a holding a copy of the book in your hands, but little by little my novel is moving into public view.

The best public view of Circle of Dishonor is going to be at the launch party on August 9th. If you are in the Lexington, KY area come join me at Natasha's Bistro and Bar at 112 Esplanade Alley. The party starts at 6 PM.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Getting Ready to Launch

The "to do" list for the Circle of Dishonor launch party is an ever changing document. Each time one item is removed two more pop up to take its place. There are the standard necessities, guest list, location, invitations, and, of course, books. All those friends who have listened to me endlessly talk about the book, particularly those who have read chapters, advised me on plot, edited my not so perfect prose, sweated with me over query letters, and offered their shoulder to cry on after rejections, want to be there when the book is presented for the first time. It is important to have them there to celebrate this success.

The rest of the to do list is more difficult. There are decisions that must be made about refreshments. Sometimes this isn't as important, bookstores often don't allow food. The expense of providing refreshments can be prohibitive if the guest list is too long. Since the last thing an author wants to do is limit their guest list, food can easily become a major issue.

In my opinion, the launch party is a party. It is about saying thank you to the people who have supported me and letting them know that I appreciate their support. I expect that book sales will not cover the cost of the party and set my budget accordingly. There will be refreshments, and a sound system for reading a portion of the book. I am also planning to talk a little about the history behind the story, answer questions and sign copies of the book.

Now for the other problems: What kind of book poster and how large? What sort of goodies do I give out? Oh, what am I going to wear?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charged with Impersonating a Man

It is hard to know how many women disguised themselves as men and participated in the American Civil war. Most estimates put the number around 400, but that's just the best guess historians can derive from known discharge records and the records of women who applied for service pensions. Discharge records are unreliable, though, since women discovered and discharged from one company would often reenlist in another. Pension records are more accurate, since those presenting them were required to provide proof or service. However, there was a risk in revealing service when it was a criminal act to impersonate a man.

Of the hundreds who ignored the law, took on male roles in male attire, and stepped onto the battlefields, certain names are remembered better than others. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor, is the most famous of these women. Dr. Walker did not pretend to be a man, but was arrested on numerous occasions for "impersonating a man." She fought her way through medical school and believed that she should be allowed to dress as she pleased. The law disagreed, arrested, fined and imprisoned her, but they could not stop her acts of defiance. She was buried in her suit and vest with her medal pinned to her chest.

Dr. Walker was the exception. As a rule, women not only dressed in male clothing, they changed their names, pasted on beards, and did whatever it took to pass as male. Look at the histories of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Sarah Emma Edmonds, Jennie Hodgers, or Pauline Cushman. Their photographs might make you wonder how they got away with posing as women. But the fact is that some women were never discovered, never drew attention to themselves, and never went back to living as a woman.

These unknown women are the inspiration for Nessa Donnelly. She is not the Irish beauty so often portrayed in the movies. Nessa was a skinny, flat chested girl with wild red curls, big ears, and crooked teeth. If you look at pictures of the Irish immigrants who flooded onto American shores between 1845 and 1852, you will find a lot of girls like Nessa. No one paid them much mind as they worked as maids, nurses, and seamstresses. It is unlikely that one would have drawn much attention if she disappeared in the waning days of the Civil War and was replaced by a skinny Irishman. She wouldn't have been the first or last to have risked being charged with impersonating a man...that is, if she ever gets caught.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Launch Party Date Set

August 9, 2010 at 6:00 PM is the official launch of Circle of Dishonor. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the copies I have ordered will arrive in time for the party. They are supposed to be on their way to me, but until they are safely here I'm not going to rest easy.

The venue for the launch party will be Natasha's Bistro and Bar. I wanted a downtown location because most of the book is set in old Lexington. Natasha's is in the heart of the streets Nessa would have walked. The owners also have a lot of experience in working with authors and other artist. They work hard to make their bistro a unique space where art and music thrive. It should be a great place to hold the launch. If you're in the Lexington area I hope you'll join me in celebrating my debut novel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Revisiting the Regulators

Writing about post Civil War Kentucky takes me down a lot of different roads. Revisiting the Regulator Uprising of 1879 took me on a road back home to Eastern Kentucky. There were Regulator problems in most Kentucky counties throughout the decades of discord,the decades from the end of the Civil War through the early 1900's. In 1877, a large portion of Martinsburg (Sandy Hook) was burned by Regulators. The uprising had its beginning in Elliott County, but quickly spread to Lewis, Carter, Boyd, and Rowen.

On the night of October 20, 1879, about 200 armed men took two prisoners (John W. Kendall and William "Bill Muck" McMillan) from the Martinsburg jail and hanged them from a tree in the court house square. The hangings started a virtual vigilante takeover of local government. Hundreds of men joined the Regulators and thousands of families lived in fear of their version of law enforcement. During their vigilante governing of Eastern Kentucky, these masked men acted as the legal and moral police of the region. They took it upon themselves to discipline not only lawbreakers but drunkards, abusers, derelicts, loose women, adulterers, etc. Regulators would swoop in on horseback, threatening, beating, and often driving offenders from the community.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Research I Tell You

Yesterday I was getting feedback on my "research" into 19th century fudge recipes for maple fudge. It was research. Really. Next month I am doing a guest blog on Chris Reddings blog on a "Recipe Wednesday" and will be posting the fudge recipe there. It is fun research, particularly when it allows me to discover how many helpful "friends" I have.

It is amazing how many people are willing to sample the fudge and give me their opinion. Some of them are so dedicated to helping me find the right recipe that they insist on sampling and comparing every batch.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Circle of Dishonor Now Available

Today I got the following email from Jessy Marie Roberts at Pill Hill Press:

Just a quick note to let you know that Circle of Dishonor is now available on Amazon:

It takes a little while for all of the information to upload to their server (including the cover image), but it should be on there within the next couple of weeks.


Being the sort that can't resist seeing for myself, I had to go take a look. She was right. My first novel is available to order. The cover doesn't come up yet, and a search of other online bookstores was a little disappointing. Right now, Amazon is the only place you can order Circle of Dishonor. Still, my book is out. The official publication date is July, 4. Now it is time to get the details of that launch party worked out.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What's Real in Historical Fiction

Now that the cover is here and the publication date is zooming toward me, I've been thinking about what is real when writing historical fiction. The easy answer is "Nothing. I write FICTION." That's true enough, but it isn't the whole truth. Belle Brezing was a real and somewhat famous prostitute, her step-father did run a grocery store in Lexington, KY, and Jenny Hill's whorehouse was in a large Main Street home that was once owned by Mary Todd Lincoln's father.

In historical mystery, there are bits of truth, but the characters are figments of the writer's imagination, even when we writers draw on an actual historical figure. No matter how many biographies, newspaper articles, historical letter or other accounts I read when writing a character, what I write will never be more or less than what I imagine they would be if they had lived in my fictional world. If I am very lucky the bits of truth will shine through and my readers take an interest in the time and place I write about.

Kentucky has a wonderful, colorful, rich history. When readers open the pages of Cricle of Dishonor I hope they step back into that history and enjoy the visit.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cover for Circle of Dishonor

I got a great 4th of July surprise when Jessy Roberts of Pill Hill Press sent me the cover of my book just before midnight along with the news that Circle of Dishonor has gone to press and will be available sometime in the next week or so. Now it is time to plan that release party. Stay tuned for details.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Update on Cover Art

The cover art for Circle of Dishonor is due from the artist on July 21. The cover should feature the scene from Jenny Hill's front hallway. I am looking forward to seeing how Greg Smallwood, the cover artist, will envision the the murder scene in a nineteenth century brothel. I am also looking forward to what Alva J. Roberts, who is doing the cover design, will do with the design. I have asked for copies of both the art and the cover to be sent to me when they are finished. The cover will be posted to my blog as soon as it is available.