Update / My writing method / New Book Idea / Ramsey Scene 2

Hello all, just wanted to give an update on how the book is coming, share a little about my writing methods, tell you about a new book idea, and as promised give you another sample chapter from “Flags and Honor.”

Status of “Flags and Honor”

It is coming along well. My best estimate to full completion is 22 to 44 days. I’m trying to get better at not being overzealous with my estimates, but you’ll forgive me if it ends up taking just a little longer.

My Writing Method

My method of writing novels has grown and developed over the years. I read my first “How to write a Novel” book when I was in the eighth grade. That summer I started writing the story that turned into the Starstorm Novels. I started “By Force of Arms” in my early twenties. The prologue was originally a short story that I wrote for a presentation I was giving to my local Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp. About the time I decided to make it the beginning of a full novel I read another book about novel writing called the Novel Writer’s Bootcamp by Todd Stone. It was pretty good, though I can’t say I follow his method very closely. He was heavy on planning out the entire book in great detail before you write it. Three or four years ago I started following Brandon Sanderson’s writing classes on Youtube and he really broke down the craft of novel writing in a way that let me understand my style.

1st. I’m very much a “Discovery Writer” or what Brandon Sanderson and George RR Martin would call “a gardener.” For my alternate history novels I wrote a detailed “alternate history” timeline that started at Jackson’s surviving Chancellorsville and that went to the present day. That timeline is in constant flux in my mind but more or less I know how World War I in my world progresses and how it ends. But the stories I write that are set in that world, I honestly have very little idea as to what’s going to happen. When starting a new novel I develop the basic character concepts (writing their info on note cards) and then put the characters at particular conflict points in the alternate history world, start writing and then I see what happens. My chapters are mostly episodic. I do develop what I call “story seeds” for each POV character’s different chapters (which I also put on note cards) but that is usually the extent of my story prep.  The only situation in which  I spend time “outlining the story” is if I’ve written myself into some kind of corner or if I need to figure out a satisfactory ending soon. I will note though that while I don’t do much prep work on the story I do lots of research on the relevant history, technology, weaponry, culture etc of the era in which I’m writing.

2nd. I’ve gotten to the point that I write my first draft by hand. I find it stimulates my creativity better. It forces me to take it slow and really think out each word. It makes the writing more concise. It allows me to be more versatile. I have to take my wife and kids to the doctors a lot. I spend a lot of time sitting in a car in the parking lots. Hard to write on a laptop in the car. The glare of the sun makes it hard to see. For shorter stops there’s not much point in firing up the computer. By the time you get your writing pulled up its time to go. My wife wanted to stop for coffee the other morning so while she ran in to get it I got opened up my writing pad. I wrote over 100 words before she got back with the drinks. Finally, and most importantly, writing in longhand keeps away the distractions and temptations that comes with writing on my laptop: News Websites, Youtube, playing Civilization 5 etc. I only have a limited amount of free time to write during the week. I usually start working on my book around 4 in the afternoon these days. Writing by hand helps make sure I spend my allotted writing time actually writing. Some practical points. Don’t use a spiral notebook, or loose leaf paper. I did that in my early days and it was a mess. Go to Office Depot, Office Max or even Walmart and get a good portfolio / legal pad holder. Mine has pen holders, slots for note cards pen refills, and a small built in folder for carrying previous chapters for reference (not the whole manuscript thus far, just the relevant chapters to the POV character I’m working on.) The portfolio stands up nicely so that when I’m ready I can sit down with my computer and rewrite it, making corrections, revisions, and additions. I like to write with a pen. I use a Dr. Grip refillable Pilot pen. I’m left handed so the wrong kind of pen (more precisely ink) will smear when I write.

3. I’m basically a two draft writer. After I write the rough draft by hand as stated previously I rewrite it on the computer and turn the rough draft into the finished product.

4. I write all the scenes of a given character at once. This is something I’ve started more recently and I find it helps me develop the characters better.

5. When I finish a scene I read it through three times, once focusing on the character, once focusing on the setting, and once for good measure. All three times looking for typos. Finally I give the scene to my good friend Paul who gives it a read through and tries to catch any errors I missed.

6. I have in the past sent chapters to other friends and family for feedback, but I’m sad to say I don’t have any real writing colleagues other than my wife but she’s into a totally different genre. By tradition I mail my father the first hundred pages when I write a book.

7. Finally, when I’m finished I print myself a copy and read it for enjoyment, (and sigh, to try to find any typos I missed). Then comes the publication process, but that’s for another blog post.

NEW BOOK IDEA

All I’ll say is that it involves an ancient Egyptian artifact, time travel, and the Napoleonic Wars. Provisional title: FOR THE EMPEROR

FINALLY AS PROMISED HERE IS ANOTHER SAMPLE CHAPTER OF FLAGS AND HONOR. THE CHARACTER IS PATRICK RAMSEY, THE SON OF BLAKE RAMSEY FROM PREVIOUS BOOKS.

Fifty-six miles off the coast of Norfolk Virginia, a lone US armored cruiser made its way south. As it had twice before in the previous century, the United States Navy was deploying the bulk of its fleet along the coastline of the Confederacy in an effort to blockade it from the rest of the world. From Virginia to the Florida Keys across the gulf to New Orleans and then across the Texas coast to the Rio Grande, US warships were taking up positions off of every Confederate port. The US fleet was vast. It was in fact the largest it had ever been. But blockading thousands of miles of coast line would stretch even the largest navy thin. The Confederates didn’t have a navy anywhere near as large as their northern foe, but however small it was, it was infinitely larger and better equipped than it had been in the 1860s during the War of Confederate Independence and the War of 1869. This time the Confederates had the means to punish the ships stationed off of their ports. This time the blockade would be far more costly.

Captain Patrick Ramsey stared at the unsuspecting US cruiser through the periscope of the CSS Alexander. The double bar insignia on his filthy gray submariner’s uniform was that of a Lieutenant, but when you commanded a boat of your own you were called Captain regardless. The Confederate submarine was at a depth of forty feet. Ramsey’s XO, Lieutenant Andre Marks was in the cramped conning tower with him.

“What ya got, Skipper?”

“Yankee cruiser, looks like. Bearing 321 and moving south. She looks to be at full steam, I’d say she’s moving at about 18 knots.” He backed away so Marks could have a look at their quarry.

“It’s an older ship,” said Marks. Ramsey nodded and started to work out the attack solution in his head. Mathematics was, if anything, an even more crucial skill for a submarine commander than for a surface Skipper. He had to compute what course to set and at what speed in order to make certain that he lined up his boat and fired at just the right time. He had to take into account not only his own vessel’s course and speed, but also that of the enemy ship. He called down the hatch to the control room.

“Come left to course 340, full power to the motors.” Full power would drain the batteries more quickly, but it couldn’t be helped. They had to get into position in a hurry and surfacing was out of the question. On the surface it was a clear day and the sea was calm, so much so that Ramsey was worried enemy sailors might spot the small wake of his submarine’s periscope. If they did, the first indication he and his crew might get would be eight inch shells crashing down on their position. The Alexander was forty feet beneath the surface of the water, but if an enemy shell landed right on top of them, it might well send them to the bottom. No shells were forthcoming. The Yankee cruiser continued on a straight southerly course at full steam as though it had not a care in the world. Marks returned the periscope to Ramsey who made a full 360-degree scan of the horizon around them. He spotted no other ships but he did spot a smoke plume further to the north east. For the moment, he had no way of knowing what type of ship it was but a predatory grin spread across his face nonetheless.

“Looks like there’s another ship in the neighborhood. If we play this right, we may get two kills today instead of one. Load tubes one and two!”

Down in the forward torpedo room, sailors rushed with chains and pulleys to man handle two torpedoes into their tubes. The men were glad to be rid of them. While they earnestly hoped the two “fish” would blow the ship full of Yankees straight to the devil, they had a much more practical reason: they’d get a little more room to sleep. Submarines were designed with space for people being the last thing in priority. Two lucky sailors would now get to sleep in proper bunks as opposed to sleeping literally on top of a blanket draped torpedo.

“The fish are loaded, Skipper!”

“Flood the tubes.” The CPO in the forward torpedo room turned two valves and the tubes flooded with sea water.

“Tubes flooded, sir!”

“Open the outer door on tube one only.”

Marks looked confusedly at his commander but dutifully relayed the command. A moment later he passed along the response from the torpedo-men.

“Outer door open on tube one, we’re ready to shoot.”

“Stand by!” said Ramsey as he peered intently through the periscope. He licked his lips. He felt like a wolf about to lunge mercilessly on its prey. But like a wolf, he had to wait until the opportune moment. “Shoot tube one!”

There was a loud swoosh as the torpedo erupted out of the Alexander along with a burst of compressed air. Through the periscope, Ramsey watched it speed away from the Alexander leaving a long bubbly trail in its wake. He’d fired it in the path of the enemy ship as opposed to directly at it. You had to do that if you wanted to hit a moving target at anything more than close range. By his calculations, if the cruiser maintained its course the torpedo would hit it directly amidships. Fresh smoke from the cruiser’s smoke stack said that her lookouts had indeed spotted the incoming torpedo. The cruiser was already at full steam. In spite of this, the Yankee Captain ordered speed. You risked blowing the boilers and your ship to Kingdom come when you pushed them past the design specifications but at the moment the Yankee Captain had nothing to lose. The Union vessel also began to turn away frantically from the torpedo’s path. It was all too little too late. Ramsey had aimed his fish well. The torpedo slammed into the cruiser, just aft of its mid-point, and exploded beneath the waterline. Ramsey saw the plume of the explosion through the periscope and the sound of the explosion reverberated throughout the submarine. The crew of the Alexander let out a torrent of Rebel Yells that would have given the Confederate Army a run for its money. Ramsey moved aside so that Marks could have a look at their first real kill.

“Yeah, she’s dead in the water alright, but there was no secondary explosion. We didn’t hit her powder magazine or her coal bunker. She is sinking though. Hard to tell if its beyond repair. How come you only hit her with one fish?”

“Because I wanted to make sure she had time to send a distress signal. A ship that size has to have a wireless. Check bearing 325 and see if that smoke plume has gotten any closer.”

Marks turned the periscope counter clockwise a few degrees and stopped.

“Oh yeah. Something’s headed this way fast.”

“Let’s finish the first bastard off and get set up to take on the second.”

“Right.”

Ramsey resumed his post at the periscope.

“Helm, come left two degrees!” A moment later the now stationary and heavily listing cruiser came into his torpedo sights. “Open door, two!” Forty seconds later there was another loud swoosh of water and compressed air as the second torpedo began it lethal track towards the now helpless cruiser. If the Yankee sailors saw it coming, they could do nothing but watch in terror. Their ship was dead in the water. A few of them did see it coming. Through the periscope Ramsey watched as several of them leapt into the sea in a panic, trying desperately to swim away from the now certainly doomed armored cruiser. As before the sound of the explosion reverberated through the water and throughout the sub.  This time it was followed almost immediately by a second much larger explosion. The crew not only heard it they felt it. The shock wave shook the whole boat. Ramsey swore profanely and uttered a blasphemy.

“We got the powder magazine that time! She blew apart like a time bomb!” A few moments later Marks got a look for himself. He was just in time to see the cruiser’s ruined and smoking hulk slip into the sea.

Ramsey knew that for the moment they had not time to rest upon their laurels.

“Come left to course 325, and reload tubes one and two, we’ve still got work to do!”

A call suddenly came up through the hatch.

“Hey Skipper, batteries are down to 35 percent!” o

“Understood. Maintain course, depth, and speed.”

The plume of smoke eventually metamorphosed into the front silhouette of a ship. Ramsey had the range to fire but he wanted to make certain it was a military target that was coming in response to the cruiser’s distress call and not a civilian ship or neutral ship. Between all the nations fighting for either the Grand Alliance or Continental Entente, there were only a relative few still neutral. The Confederate States didn’t need Ramsey and his crew inadvertently bringing another nation into the fold against them. The CSS Alexander’s standing orders were to sink all enemy warships on sight and without warning. Ramsey was also under orders to stop and search any freighters flying an enemy flag—a task he was not looking forward to. If such a freighter was carrying war materiel he could then sink it. But passenger liners, hospital ships, fishing boats and other civilian or noncombatant ships were off limits—even if they were coming to the aid of a sinking warship.

Ramsey motioned for Marks to look through the periscope.

“What do you think, Andre, what is it another cruiser?”

Marks took a moment to study approaching vessel. He and Patrick had each spent hours studying the silhouettes of known enemy ships, but they were far easier to identify from the side than they were from the front or rear.

“I’m not sure, Skipper. It looks too small to be a cruiser but it’s coming this way far too slow to be a destroyer. It’s got a single deck gun and its flying Old Stripey so whatever it is… it’s fair game.”

A short while later the Alexander let loose two torpedoes. The Union ship saw them coming before they’d reached the half way mark of their journey. As the cruiser had before her she increased her speed and turned to her starboard giving Ramsey his first view of her side. He grunted satisfactorily. He finally recognized the enemy ship.

“She’s a frigate.” The Yankee ship continued its turn. She may not have been as fast as a destroyer but she was faster than the cruiser had been. “It’s gonna be close!” declared Ramsey. There was a sudden explosion as the first torpedo slammed into the stern of the frigate. It didn’t take long for Ramsey to realize that the second torpedo missed.

“Should we reload the tubes?”

Ramsey shook his head.

“She’s sinking by the stern. It’ll probably take a while, but I don’t want to waste another fish if I can help it.” He then hollered down to the control room. “All stop!” He then turned back to his XO. “Maintain position and depth. Keep an eye on the frigate. Once she’s under we’ll move off. I want to wait as long as possible and get as far away as possible before we surface. Keep an eye on the horizon too. I don’t want any other ships getting the drop on us.”

“Aye, sir.”

Ramsey then climbed down from the extremely cramped conning tower into the slightly less crowded control room and made his way to the six by three food cubby hole that served as a “cabin” for he and his XO. He pulled aside the curtain that served to separate it from the rest of the small narrow corridor that connected the control room with the forward torpedo room. He retrieved the log book from the small shelf under his bunk and then turned and sat on the small table on the opposite side of the corridor. The small table was just large enough for he and Marks to sit and dine together though it made for an extremely crowded meal if they did so. Ramsey opened up the log book and proudly entered the Alexander’s first kills in his log. He noted the date and relevant times, as well as the type of ships sunk and their estimated tonnage. His hand froze as he came to the last column that demanded an entry. ESTIMATED LOSS OF LIFE. Only then did it fully hit him that in all probability he’d just sent over nine hundred sailors to their watery graves. It didn’t bother him as much as he’d expected it to. The enemy had started the war. Those dead seamen had been trying to strangle the life out of Ramsey’s nation. They yet had a long war in front of them. With any luck, those eight-hundred Yankees would be just the start.

Ramsey finished his entries and slammed the logbook closed. As he turned to put it back in its place the Alexander’s cook came through the hatchway on his way to the forward torpedo. The Alexander’s lone negro gave Ramsey a salute and a white toothy smile. He may have just been a cook. But he was proud to be a part of the crew.

“Hey, Cookie.”

“Yah suh?”

“Tonight we celebrate. I want you fix the best supper you can and break out that extra bottle of medicinal rum we brought aboard. Each man gets a shot.”

The black man’s smile grew broader and brighter.

“Yeah suh!”

IMPORTANT NOTE: Hours of playing the Nintendo Game “Silent Service” when I was a kid actually paid off!

Cover Idea

Flags and Glory Book 2

Here’s a preliminary cover proposal for my new novel “Flags and Honor.” Would appreciate feedback from fans. Its essentially the same design as the cover of By Force of Arms accept I swapped the Gatling Gun for a World War I artillery piece and a change of the color scheme.. Since the title has the word “flags” plural, I may add a US flag as well, assuming I can get a copyright free picture of a fluttering 30 star US flag. I’m trying to keep it simple. As I’ve said before that’s usually best for an indie author, especially one who makes his own book covers. My original idea was to have a cover that some how displayed the flags of all the major nations that are fighting the war in opposition to each other. I’m unwilling to show what my attempt to make it looked like (yes it was that bad). Work is still proceeding steadily. Best estimate to completion 25-50 days.

Nesterov’s First Chapter

As requested, here is Pyotr Nesterov’s first chapter. As with Patton’s please note that everything is subject to revision. Hope everyone enjoys.

***

Pyotr Nesterov stared down at war torn Silistra from his VK-2 monoplane. For the second time in sixty years, the Imperial Russian Army was laying siege to the city on the Romanian-Bulgarian border. Bulgaria had declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. That hadn’t stopped the Turks from reoccupying the country by force six months earlier when the Tsar had once again declared war on the Sultan. The Ottoman Turks were using Bulgaria as a buffer between the Rodina and the small remnant of the Ottoman Empire’s European territory that surrounded Istanbul.

Constantinople thought Nesterov with reverence. He crossed himself and then brought his hand to the Orthodox crucifix he wore under his thick flight clothes. Once Holy Russia had liberated it from the Mohammedan infidels, the city that had once been the capitol of the ancient Byzantine Empire, and the center of the Orthodox Christian faith, would be under Christian control for the first time in over four-hundred and fifty years. Nesterov reflected that Russia had tried this particular gambit sixty-years earlier. It would no doubt have succeeded had Britain and France not come to the aid of the Turks in what became known as the Crimean War. The British and French had sent an expeditionary force into the black sea. They’d landed on the shores of the Crimea and after a long bloody campaign had put Sevastopol to the flames. Now that the British and French had long since returned to their previous animosities and hostilities (their natural condition thought Nesterov), the two most powerful nations in western Europe were far too preoccupied with one another to do anything against Mother Russia. They hated each other too much to work together, and neither would act unilaterally for fear of driving the Rodina into the other’s camp, and so…

And so Mother Russia is free to do as she pleases. And that’s exactly what she was doing. In particular, she was settling an old score. For all the religious overtones the present war with the Ottoman Empire intoned, the Tsar had a very practical reason for wanting to “liberate” “Constantinople.” It would give Russia control of the Dardanelles giving Russian ships and naval forces free and unrestricted passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It would also give Russia a permanent warm water port, with direct access to the Mediterranean. It had been those practical strategic implications that had set Britain and France against Russia in 1853, far more than any real concern for “poor little Turkey.”

Nesterov stared down at the Ottoman soldiers that manned the defensive works below like ants defending their colony. Britain and France won’t be coming to your aid this time. They’re too busy with each other.

Even in his thick pilot’s jacket and sheepskin flight suit, Nesterov shivered. Like most Russians he was no stranger to the cold. He hailed from the northern region of Novgorod. His first posting as an officer had been to the far east in Siberia. His eyes went to the black and white photograph of a beautiful young woman that he had firmly secured to his control panel. He’d married young. Under normal circumstances officers in the Russian Army were not allowed to marry before the age of twenty-eight. The only exception was for officers who paid a massive fee to the state treasury or who agreed to serve in the far east. As he could not pay the fee he and his young beautiful wife had found themselves in Siberia for four years. The bitter cold he faced a thousand feet in the air reminded him of the frozen wastes and forests he’d seen there. Ironically, he’d been complaining about the incessant Romanian heat only the day before. At his current altitude and travelling at one-hundred kilometers per hour he felt as though he were back in Siberia with his face set against a strong winter wind blowing down from the arctic. Back in Siberia he’d had his wife to warm him most nights. He longed to be with her now, but she was back in Saint Petersburg. That left…

Vodka…I need more vodka… He’d knocked back a glass before takeoff. As far as he was concerned it had done more to keep him warm than all the layers of cloth and sheepskin that encased him.

Down below artillery boomed like thunder as the Russian army shelled the city of Silistra and its surrounding defenses. A few Ottoman guns roared in reply but it was clear to Nesterov that his own side received far less punishment than it was dishing out. From five-hundred feet in the air he could see that the city of Silistra was in ruins. Everywhere he looked below he saw smashed buildings—smashed churches, smashed mosques, smashed houses, smashed everything. Before the bombardment the outskirts of the city had resembled a labyrinth because of the many trenches. Nesterov had in fact helped map them from the air. Now that they were under bombardment, the trenches and fortifications around the city looked as though hell itself was erupting out of the ground beneath them. Explosive shells streaked down on the Ottoman defenders and exploded with tremendous force. From up above, Nesterov could see the fiery heart of each explosion. Black smoke and brown dust rose into the air so thick that it began to conceal the terrain, even from the all-seeing eye of an aerial scout. The only thing missing were the screams of torment, and Nesterov had no doubt that had it not been for the booming artillery, screaming shells, thunderous impacts, and the roar of the aeroplane’s engine he’d have heard those as well. As far as the Russian pilot was concerned, that was just as well. He’d been in battles on the ground before and had heard the sound of wounded and dying men. Nesterov had no desire to ever hear them again. He also didn’t mind the fact that the dust and smoke from the massed bombardment had concealed the Ottoman lines and positions around the city. In the first place it kept the Turks from shooting at him. For another, the Russian Artillery knew perfectly well where to train their guns, as evidenced by the storm of iron they had unleashed upon Silistra. For today, Nesterov had other concerns.

He pushed his control stick to the right, and his VK-2 monoplane banked to the southwest. Black doubled-headed Imperial Eagles set upon roundels of white, blue, red, and gold, were emblazoned upon its wings and fuselage. Nesterov kept a sharp eye on the surrounding skies. Not for the first time, he wished for a second set of eyes. Larger aeroplanes that could carry an additional man were supposed to be in the works. As far as Nesterov was concerned the sooner the better. The Ottomans didn’t have as many aeroplanes as the Russians, but they did have them. Nesterov set a hand on his Mosin-Nagant carbine which was wedged between his seat and the interior of the cloth canvas fuselage, reassuring himself that it was there. If one of the bastards emblazoned with black squares instead of Imperial Eagles came after him he wanted to be ready. He’d traded shots with another aircraft just once before. He didn’t think either he or his opponent had even come close to hitting one another. Still… if someone was shooting at you, you at least wanted the ability to shoot back.

Silistra sat on the southern bank of the Danube. Knowing that the Russians were unlikely to launch a direct assault upon the heap of ruins that had once been Silistra, the Ottomans had begun extending their defenses further down the river bank. Nesterov’s mission was to survey those defenses and any Ottoman deployments that might have been made. It wasn’t long before he spotted signs of enemy activity. A large number of horses, wagons, and trucks were in a field just south of the Danube. On the bank, Ottoman troops were busily digging rifle pits and preparing field works to oppose any Russian crossing. Nesterov pulled out a map from underneath his seat and marked it with a charcoal pencil. Through the roar of the engine a series of popping noises reached his ear. Down below puffs of smoke indicated that the Ottoman troops were firing at him with their rifles.

Nesterov swore profanely. He knew the odds of their hitting him were astronomical, but that didn’t make him like it even one bit. More gunshots reached his ears. Swearing once more he brought his VK-2 about again and set a flight path that would pass directly over the position of the Ottomans whose fire he’d drawn. He knew he was improving their chances of hitting him, but he intended to let them know they couldn’t shoot at him with impunity. If he stood up in the cockpit and shot at them with his rifle he’d have no better chance of hitting his enemies than they did of hitting him. If anything they stood a better chance because they at least had numbers on their side. But the Mosin Nagant was not the only weapon he had at his disposal.

On the opposite side of the cockpit from his rifle were three slots, each of which held a short elongated bomb. They were little more than hand-grenades designed to be dropped from above and to explode on impact. When set beside the explosive force and deadly accuracy of modern artillery they weren’t much more than a nuisance but with luck (a lot of luck) they could kill. In any event he hoped they would at least teach the Turks below that aeroplanes were not things to be trifled with.

More rifle shots came from below. Nesterov wasn’t certain but he thought he heard the passage of lethal bullets through the air. He kept a close eye on his airspeed and the ground below. When he judged himself to be over his targets, Nesterov stood up in the cockpit and one by one dropped the bombs over the side. He watched them fall away and out of sight. A few moments later he saw the blasts. A second later he heard them. They were far less impressive than he’d hoped. He wasn’t sure if he’d killed any of the Ottoman’s but the sound of rifle fire did cease—for about thirty seconds. Then they started all over again, seemingly with renewed vigor.

Nesterov pulled back on the throttle and increased his air speed. Like any sensible army pilot over hostile territory he wanted to conserve his fuel, but he also wanted to get away from those Ottomans on the ground. They seemed a little to earnest about bringing him down. He thought he heard the hiss of more bullets passing through the air. Suddenly he felt a slight vibration just as another sound reached his ears. Above the roar of the engine in front of him and the racket of rifle fire below he thought he heard a tearing sound. A moment later he noticed a hole the size of a small fist in the fabric of his aeroplane’s right wing. At least one of the Ottoman bullets had found its mark. For a moment his heart jumped. A meter more to the left and the bullet would have hit him. The cloth and canvas of the VK-2 would have offered him no protection at all. For one horrid moment he tried to imagine trying to fly back to his airfield with a bullet wound. In all likelihood he’d wouldn’t have been able to manage. His heart rate had just begun to settle down when it abruptly sped up again as he realized that he wasn’t the only vital component of the aeroplane that the bullet could have taken out. He quickly made a check of his rudders and ailerons. He also checked his fuel gauge to make certain that there was no leak. He breathed a sigh of relief when everything checked out. He crossed himself, and then once again brought his hand reverently to the Orthodox cross he wore beneath his flight clothes. He then kissed his hand and applied it to the black and white photograph of his wife.

Don’t worry, my love, I will come back to you again.

Patton’s First Chapter

AS PROMISED, HERE IS THE ROUGH DRAFT OF GEORGE PATTON’S FIRST CHAPTER IN FLAGS AND HONOR! PLEASE NOTE, ITS ALL SUBJECT TO REVISION.

“That a boy, Windflyer!” George Patton urged his mount onward with a fury. The chestnut bay galloped with a vehemence nearly equal to that of his master. The gray uniformed young cavalryman was in as much earnest as if he were charging a Union held position in a blaze of glory, and not riding safely down a road on his own country’s side of the international border. Patton would much more have preferred the former. In any event, the line between Confederate Tennessee and the US state of Kentucky was less than a mile away.

Windflyer’s hooves pounded the ground with a sound like thunder. Patton sensed the vibrations of their repeated impacts on the earth beneath, allowing him to feel as though he were an inseparable part of the powerful animal. A few yards behind him, another young Confederate cavalryman struggled to keep up.

“Slow down, George!”

Patton let out a hearty laugh.

“Come on Sky, destiny waits for no man!”

Walter Schuyler let out a curse that was quickly carried away by the passage of the wind. The eccentricity of his friend and commanding officer sometimes got on his nerves. Nonetheless he set spurs to his own mount and moved up closer to his comrade. He wasn’t one to be easily outdone—not even by George Patton.

I just don’t understand what the blasted hurry is. It’s not as if war has finally erupted with the Yankees and we’re gonna miss the show! It was true, that tensions between the Confederate States and the United States of America were the highest they’d been in forty-four years but the shooting hadn’t started yet. And hopefully it won’t. Few men longed for war—at least among the rank and file soldiers who had to fight them, though Schuyler knew that politicians were different. For the stuffed shirts in Richmond, Franklin, London, and Paris war was a game. For the men who had to do the fighting, however, it was hell on earth. Though he was only twenty-eight years old, Schuyler had already seen his fair share of combat, fighting guerrillas down in the CSA’s Central and South American holdings. He and Patton had been there side by side for three bloody years. They’d only been back in the Confederacy for three months and now a far larger conflict was on the verge of eruption.

And George can’t wait for it to start. The two men had been friends since they’d attended VMI together as little more than boys, and the bond between them had only grown in the years since. They’d saved each other’s life on multiple occasions. And yet, in many ways George Patton remained an enigma even to those few who were closest to him.

“Whoa!” yelled Patton and abruptly reined in his horse, suddenly. Schuyler brought his own mount to a halt beside him. The exhausted animal let out a whinny. A canvas covered truck was off the side of the road and looked to have a busted wheel. Schuyler wasn’t surprised. The road on which they travelled—like the vast majority in the Confederacy—was unpaved.  Such roads were proving hazardous for the growing number of trucks and automobiles in the CSA. Patton leapt from the saddle and made his way over to the pair. Schuyler was right behind him. The two strong young cavalry officers took tight hold of the axel and lifted while the owner of the truck fitted on the wheel.

“We’re much obliged to you boys!” said the man after tightening the bolts. He then made his way to the front of the truck, reached under the seat and pulled out an unlabeled bottle of amber liquid. Schuyler’s eyes went to the back of the truck. For a moment he wondered just what the man was hauling. Tennessee had been a dry state since 1909. Prohibition made the preachers happy, and got the politicians lots of public praise from those same clergy. Legal or not, the booze was anything but extinct—especially in Tennessee where whiskey making had a long and productive history. Patton certainly didn’t raise any objection as he accepted the proffered bottle. “Ya’ll make sure and give the Yankees hell and stay safe.” He went back to the front of the truck, stooped down and turned the crank to start the engine. He and the boy then climbed back onto the front seat. He released the break leaver and the truck chugged forward and down the road.

Patton turned to Schuyler, held up the bottle and gave him a wry grin.

“See Sky, no good deed goes unrewarded.”

“Congratulations George. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.” Schuyler was mostly a teetotaler. As a devout Anglican he had no religious objection to alcohol. He regularly took communion wine, but that was the extent of his consumption.

“I certainly will,” said Patton and safely tucked the whiskey into his saddle bag before remounting his horse.

They rode on at a more leisurely pace. A few yards up the road Schuyler spotted the small border post. It wasn’t much. A small border gate blocked the road. Immediately beside it stood a tiny guard cabin that housed a field telephone. It was just large enough for the gray uniformed sentry to take shelter in in the event of a rain storm. To look at the border guard, you would have had no idea that the two most powerful nations of the North American continent were threatening to blow one another to Kingdom come. The corporal stood with his Richmond rifle slung on his shoulder, and smoking a cigarette as though he didn’t have a care in the world. Above him, the Blood Dipped Banner fluttered from a flagpole in the light breeze. About a dozen yards further north, was an almost identical installation except that its flag pole flew the Stars and Stripes and its sentry wore US Drab and Khaki instead of Confederate Field Gray.

Patton eyed the foreign border guard with snake like eyes and his hand went down to one of the ivory handled pistols he wore on his belt.

“I’ll bet you twenty dollars gold that I can blow that Yankees head off with one shot.”

Schuyler had no intention of arguing with him. He knew that given the right circumstances, Patton might just be crazy enough to prove it. In any event, he had nothing to prove to Schuyler. Patton had represented the CSA at the Pentathlon of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. To hear Patton tell it, he’d put twenty shots into a target twenty five meters away. The judges had only counted seventeen hits and had therefore given him third place. Patton had cursed a storm, and insisted that the other three shots had simply “passed through” the holes of the previous impacts due to his “near perfect” skill. The judges hadn’t bought it. Schuyler wasn’t so sure. Patton was prouder than a peacock, but he’d seen firsthand how deadly accurate the cavalryman’s aim could be. Thankfully he changed the subject.

“I’d love to go across the border and get a look at the lay of the land.”

“I don’t think the Yankees would care much for that.”

Patton nodded.

“It wouldn’t be a problem if we went over in civies. We have passports. We could make out like we’re a couple of good ole boys going over to see our kin.”

Ordinarily Schuyler would have agreed. With tensions as high as they were, however, he didn’t care to take any chances.

“They’re too likely to be suspicious the way things are now. If they figured out what we were doing they’d hang us as spies.”

Patton nodded.

“An ignominious end for a soldier. We’ll just have to make do with observing what we can from our side.”

Schuyler took a deep breath, removed his gold trimmed kepi and ran a hand through his short red hair. It was an unusually hot day.

“It don’t matter anyway, George. You and I know that if the fighting really gets started it’s all gonna be on this side of the line.” Like all young officers in the Confederate Army, Schuyler had been reared up on the “Longstreet Doctrine.” The War Department in Richmond had reasoned for years that since the United States so heavily outweighed the CSA in men and materiel, and since modern warfare so favored the defense, the Confederacy’s best chance for victory lay in blunting Union attacks and not squandering its limited supply of soldiers and ammunition by launching costly attacks. Patton, however, was more prone to think like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, than the Confederacy’s “Master of Defense.”

“The best defense is a good offense, Sky. You’d best believe that Marse Rob and Ole Blue Light understood that. You don’t win wars by “holding your position,” you win them by going right at the enemy and kicking the hell out of him. You’d best believe that’s how we seized the high ground at Gettysburg and won our independence.” Schuyler reflected that Patton spoke almost as if he’d been there half a century earlier to see it happen.

“War has changed a lot since then, George.”

Patton swore derisively.

“Men are still men. You mark my words. We’ll be going on the offensive. Here especially. He pointed north and swore blasphemously enough to give a preacher’s wife a heart attack. “Hell, half the folks in Kentucky would rather be on our side anyway. We’d be fools not to attack here.”

Schuyler let out a sigh of resignation.

“Well, we’re not going to be able to see much from here.”

Patton nodded.

“We’ll just have to get to higher ground.” He flicked the reins and got his horse moving again.

To the east and west of the border post was barbed wire fencing. To the east it went for a few hundred yards until it disappeared into a wood. To the west it seemed to go as far as the eye could see. The fence wasn’t tall at all. A boy could easily climb over it and if he was careful enough not even snag his trousers. It existed, more or less, to make sure people and most especially soldiers of the respective sides didn’t “wander” into one another’s territory. From 1869 to 1895 the USA and CSA had more or less enjoyed a “de-facto” open border. Union and Confederate citizens had officially been obliged to cross only at official points and only with a passport but on the majority of the border the rules had been flagrantly ignored and both governments had quietly turned a blind eye. When things had heated up in ninety-five at the end of the Spanish-Confederate War, however, everything changed. USA and CSA each found themselves on opposite ends of the world’s two great alliance systems. In the past nineteen years the border had become more militarized then it had been since the War of 1869.

There was a hill three miles to east, just on the other side of the woods. It wasn’t particularly tall, but it was high enough to allow the two Confederate officers to gaze across the border into the United States. The land in Kentucky looked… a lot like the land in Tennessee. Grassy fields, woods, farmland and here and there the occasional hill.

Patton pulled out his binoculars and surveyed the landscape. Schuyler did the same. Off to the west they spotted a road that was almost certainly the same one that the border posts sat on. Immediately north were a few farms. Off to the east was what looked to be the outskirts of a small town.

“I’ll tell you what, George. You talked about getting to higher ground, but I’d sure like to get one of those new aeroplanes, and fly it over the border. Just think of the recon and intelligence we could get.”

Patton blasphemed himself excitedly.

“I didn’t even think of that Sky!” said Patton and let yet another blasphemy roll of his tongue. “They had one when we were fighting down in Panama and Columbia but the jungle was too blasted thick to let it do any good. Wouldn’t have much of that problem here though. There’s a lot more open spaces. Let’s hope the brass have the same brains you do.”

Schuyler’s eyes went to the air. As much as he hoped the Confederacy was slipping aeroplanes over the border, he hoped the Yankees hadn’t had the same thought. If war broke out and Patton got his way it might not matter. If not…

Schuyler let out a sigh and looked northward with a great sense of apprehension and foreboding.

Character List

As promised here is a list of all the POV characters in my upcoming novel “Flags and Honor.” Let me say that, yes, I know its a lot of characters, and yes I know some people don’t like books with this many characters. All I can say is in order to more fully explore this alternate world and tell a story as massive as the one I am telling it is necessary to have a large cast. Be aware that some of the names are not final. Also beware that there are a few SPOILERS but not too many.

Cole Allens: In By Force of Arms he was a young teenage newsboy who became a war correspondent. In Rebel Empire and Reaping the Whirlwind he was an older and wiser newspaper editor and committed isolationist who again took on the role of war correspondent in an effort to remind his countrymen of the horrors of war. In Flags and Honor, Cole is now in his sixties. He is a founding member of the “Reform Party” which is dedicated to scrupulous armed neutrality. He is also one of Kentucky’s Senators and finds himself opposing the hawkish policies of US President Joseph Foraker.

Joshua Winslow: Now much older, wiser, and some might say cynical, Joshua is one of the only negro surgeons in the United States and the only one in the US Army. He has spent years being looked down upon and belittled for the color of his skin. In the years since the Spanish Confederate War he has been sent on expeditions to South America where he has seen yet more death, misery, and destruction. Now on the eve of the most horrible war in history, he has all but lost faith in humanity.

John “Jack” Reed: Jack is member of the far US left. He writes for a US socialist paper called the Masses based in New York City. He is a labor organizer and Communist agitator. He militantly opposes a new war with the CSA.

John “Black Jack” Pershing:  As one of the most experienced officers in the US Army, General Pershing has been promoted to the General Staff. An angry, embittered, vengeful man, Pershing’s one desire is to see the Confederacy “burned to cinders.”

Charles “Chuck” Archer: As a reconsance pilot in the new US Army Air Corps, Archer is adventurous and daring. At the forefront of a new era of warfare, he knows that the simple  cloth and canvas, propeller driven mono-plane aerial scout that he flies is only the beginning of what lies ahead.

James Harvey: A Kansas farmer with an affinity for Pacifist and Socialist politics, James finds his pacifistic ideals put to the test when his farm is pillaged by Confederate raiders at the start of the war.

Abigale Kight: In a world where the United States has no labor laws and workers who are hurt on the job have no legal recourse, Abigale’s husband is disabled by an industrial accident on the eve of the war. To provide for her disabled husband and her children she must go to work in a factory.

Joseph Foraker: President of the United States. A veteran of both wars of Rebellion, Foraker is an old War Hawk who has longed for the USA to be avenged on the CSA. Like many he believes that war with the Confederacy is inevitable and that there is not room on the North American Continent for both nations. He is willing to resort to any means necessary to achieve victory and bring the CSA to heel once and for all.

Douglas Audrey: The son of Republic of California hero, Nathan Audrey, Douglas is one of the only foreign students at the US Military Academy at West Point. With his fathers imprudence, raw courage, adventurous spirit, tenacious independence, and personal enemies, only the desire of the United States to build an alliance and possibly reunification with California keeps him from being dismissed from the Academy.

Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson: Leveson is one of the most experienced officers in the British Royal Navy. As military tensions between the British-US alliance and the French-Confederate Alliance come to a climax, Leveson is dispatched with a fleet of  warships to the flashpoint of the coming conflict.

Winston Churchill: The young First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill believes that war between Britain and France and their respective allies is inevitable. Once the Confederates and French repudiate their previous agreements concerning the new Panama canal, Churchill plans a naval operation to insure that neither France nor the CSA will ever be able to use it.

Fraser Sutherland: Sutherland is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. At the present he is stationed on the border between British Canada and Russian Alaska which brigands have been using as a refuge from justice with the apparent blessing of Tsarist Russia, which everyone fears has designs on British lands in North America.

Jacob Dickinson: The President of the Confederate States of America. Dickinson is the CSA’s first Progressive President. He managed, against great odds, to get a voluntary emancipation bill through the Confederate Congress. Despite this, the UK and US decided to launch a full embargo upon the CSA until such time as slavery is fully ended. In response Dickinson repudiates a longstanding agreement that had guaranteed the US and Britain access to the new Panama canal which had originally been signed in the late 1890s to avert war. The repudiation brings about the present crisis.

Jefferson Case II: Jeff is a young Confederate Marine who grew up in Cuba. While he looks like a “pure white” his deep dark secret is that his mother was a Mullato. If it ever got out he would lose all the rights and privileges that come with being a White  person in the CSA and be regarded no better than the darkest negro. He is stationed in Panama where France and the CSA are about to open their new canal.

Brock Cartwright: Brock is a black freedman living in New Orleans and working as a cook. At the mercy of his employer and like all free negro men in danger of being arrested and put in the service of the state on any charge they might deign to think up he is considering emigrating to Liberia until war erupts and he finds himself drafted into the Confederate Army.

Patrick Ramsey: The son of Confederate Naval hero and now Admiral Blake Ramsey young Patrick finds himself in Command of one of the CSA’s new submarines. A capable naval officer he is out to prove to his father that he is worthy of the trust the admiral has placed in him and to everyone of his peers that there is more to him than just being an Admirals son.

George Patton: The Grandson of a hero of the War of Confederate Independence and the War of 1869, Patton is one of the most promising young officers in the Confederate Army. Though seemingly born for war, there is little room for traditional Cavalrymen in this new war of trenches and machine guns until he is given a new assignment…

Elias Finney: A thirteen year old boy in North Carolina, Elias and his brother are orphans who live with their aunt. Mischievous, imaginative, adventurous with no knowledge of the true nature of war, he longs to go to war and tries to join the Confederate Army by lying about his age.

John Wilkes Booth II: An intelligence officer with the Confederate Army, John has spent his entire life trying to win the affection and approval of his father, the infamous head of the Confederate Secret Service John Wilkes Booth. A more honorable man than his father, John must tow the line between honor, his fathers methods, and doing what he must for his country.

John Victor Slater: Johns father was killed during the slave uprising of 1895 when he was only 13 years old. He is now a grown man with a wife, and is a ministerial student at a Baptist Seminary. He despises negroes and believes the Bible justifies keeping them in a state of perpetual slavery. To support himself and his wife he also works as a part time guard at a local prison where negroes from the majority of the inmates.

Adi Schicklgruber: Adi is the son of Austrian immigrants who moved to Mexico because their home was devastated during the Second Austro-Prussian War and in response to Mexican Emperor Maximillian’s offer of free land to any Austrian who came to settle in Mexico. A struggling artist, Adi is suddenly captivated by what he sees as the glory of military service when the new war gives him an opportunity to serve.

Lucy Ferrier: Lucy is a thirteen year old girl in the Mormon Nation of Deseret. She is distraught when her sister (who is only two years older than her) is married to a much older man who already has several wives and when her brother is forced to join the Mormon Army.

Janka Gabor: Janka is a Hungarian who serves in the French Foreign Legion. Stationed in French West Africa he finds himself fighting British Colonial Troops at the outbreak of war. His only friend, a black man who comes not from Africa but from America.

Pyotr Nesterov: Nesterov is a daring recon pilot in the Russian Army. While the rest of the world prepares to go to war, Mother Russia is already at war with the Ottoman Empire.

Kohana: A Lakota Indian, Kohana’s people have seen their lands stolen and their culture all but destroyed. Now while the US prepares to fight a war without, Kohana and his people plan to rise up from within and take back what is there’s.

For my next post, I’ll post the opening chapter for one of the characters. Let me know which you’d like to read. Still on course for a late July release though it might be August. Editing is neither fun nor easy.

Update on next book

Hello all!

Just wanted to give everyone an update on my next alternate history book. First off, the book is coming along very well. It should be done by July. There have been a few changes. First a change of title. It was provisionally titled Flags and Glory. This has been changed to Flags and Honor. Second there has been a change in how many books will compose the World War I story arc. I had originally planned on a four book arc. I plotted all four at the same time and together they have a total of over 400 chapters. At the rate the manuscript is growing the four books would be extremely long over 100 chapters each. I toyed with the idea of telling the story in eight books instead of four but decided that that would make them too short. In the end I have decided to publish the 400+ chapters in six books. Their provisional titles and the years of the war they will cover are:

Flags and Honor (1914)

Guns and Glory (1914-1915)

Blood and Earth (1915-1916)

Iron and Fury (1916-1917)

Death and Hell (1917-1918)

Dust and Ashes (1918)

The first book will deal mainly with the build up to the war  and its start. The last will deal with the end of the war and its immediate aftermath. My idea with the titles is to reflect the way people view the war at each particular stage. I’m also considering giving the world war I series an overall name. My early idea: THE WAR TO END ALL WARS.

Next, I thought I’d let everyone know who the Presidents of the CSA and USA are.

Jacob Dickinson is President of the Confederate States of America

Joseph Foraker is President of the United States of America

I hope to have Flags and Honor out by July of this year.

For my next post, I’ll give a character list.

Thanks to all my fans and readers!

 

Who will be President of the Confederate States at the start of the World War?

Vote for DickinsonVote for Vardaman

LET’S HAVE AN ELECTION! Who do you vote for for President of the Confederate States? One of the funnest (and most difficult tasks) of writing alternate history is determining the fates of real historical figures. One of the things I’m trying to determine is who will fill the roles of various government officials. Chief among the decisions I must make is who will be the Confederate President at the start of world war 1? I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates. Jacob Dickinson and James Vardaman. This also gives me a chance to reveal the two main political parties of the CSA that develop in the nearly twenty years between Reaping the Whirlwind and World War 1. The Populist Party organized in the aftermath of the slave revolt of 1895 on a platform of White Supremacy, the preservation of slavery, the forced deportation of freed negroes, and the repeal of the Negro Conscription Act. Nicknamed “Rednecks” and “Wool Hat Boys”  the Populists have chosen as their candidate James Vardaman. On the opposing ticket, the Progressive Party has nominated Jacob Dickinson. The Progressives evolved from former President Stonewall Jackson’s supporters and have a platform of economic and industrial development, the gradual compensated emancipation of negro slaves, and the development of a fully segregated society in the Confederacy where blacks are treated benevolently and are protected from mistreatment and abuse. Unsurprisingly the Populists have dominated the Presidency since 1898. But by 1910 Populist hardline policies have largely brought the Confederate economy to shambles by further alienating foreign markets giving the Progressives their best chance yet to win the Confederate Presidency. So alternate history fans, read up on these two men and tell me who will make the most interesting President of the Confederacy at the start of world war 1!