The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglass Lima and a giveaway!

The Gladiator and the GuardI’m excited to announce the release of a young adult action and adventure book that I had the honor of beta reading this winter. I enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Krillonian Chronicles, The Collar and the Cavvarach, so when the opportunity arose to read book two, The Gladiator and the Guard, and be involved in the later stages of production, I jumped at the chance!

Book one told the story of Bensin, a teenage slave skilled in the martial art of cavvara shil. Don’t bother looking it up. I already did. It’s not a real sport. But like JK Rowling’s Quiddich, it could and should be! I actually thought it might be. Anyway, in book one Bensin lays everything on the line to try and save his little sister from a life of slavery and abuse. (The book is fantastic. Here’s my review.) Now, in book two, Bensin finds himself battling for his own life, enslaved as a gladiator within the hugely popular professional sports “league”.

Here’s the official blurb:

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

The world Bensin lives in is fictional, of course, but I love that it is set in modern times. It feels just like today, which makes you take a good hard look at slavery with the patina of history stripped away. And the system is brutal, akin to the gladiator games of the Roman Empire. The stark circumstances Bensin finds himself in, however, make him more determined to be true to himself. I was reminded of the scene from Hunger Games where Peeta tells Katniss, “If I’m going to die, I wanna still be me.” The arena may own Bensin’s body, but they cannot govern his soul. It’s a fantastic background on which to display the nobility of his character.

But mostly, I love the action of the games! Annie has a way of bringing them to life and making me wish I could watch them on the big screen. I confess, if I could insert myself into the book, I just might be one of the spectators who made the whole system of enslaved athletes possible because the battles between gladiators is that cool. At the same time, Annie manages to solicit a great deal of sympathy for Bensin and the other athletes. I’d highly recommend you pick this one up. Ages 12+

Both books are usually priced at 2.99, but both The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard will be on sale for .99 on Amazon until May 30.

Giveaway alert!

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach! Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway.




Annie Douglass LimaAnnie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel. Visit her at, email her at




Blood Moon: Early Photography

This is the third post in a four-part series about writing and researching my upcoming young adult historical fiction novel, Blood Moon, the second book in my Ella Wood trilogy.

Photography plays an important role in Blood Moon. By the start of the Civil War, photographs had become common household items, but early methods of photography such as Daguerreotypes and tintypes only produced a single, positive image in reverse. Without a negative, mass production was impossible. In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer developed a process using glass plates which did produce a negative, making inexpensive paper copies possible. During the Civil War, enterprising photographers took advantage of this new technology. They printed thousands of collector cards with photographs of generals and politicians, as well as stereoscope cards, such as this example of General Ulysses Grant. Images of generals from both sides were in high demand.


Photography was first used to record military conflicts in a very limited sense during the Mexican War in the late 1840’s and the Crimean War in the early 1850’s, showing sites of battlefields after the fact. Early photographs of the Civil War showed primarily landscapes and posed groups of officers. But that was about to change. The images of the Antietam battlefield (below), taken only days after the battle and before the dead were buried, marked the first time the carnage of the battlefield was recorded on film.


Mathew Brady

On October 20, 1862, merely a month after the Antietam battle, Mathew Brady premiered his collection of battlefield images in his New York  gallery, which was open to the public. People were absolutely shocked. The morbid images showed the stark reality of the ever-escalating war and no doubt contributed to the New York draft riots six months later.

Interestingly, Mathew Brady recorded few, if any, of the many Civil War images attributed to him. He was, nevertheless, the primary organizer and financial backer of a staff of photographers. The Antietam images were taken by his assistants–Alexander Gardner and  James F. Gibson. Gardner broke with Brady in early 1863 over copyright issues, taking Gibson with him.

Below are some of the most notable images in Brady’s Antietam collection:

antietam 5


Gardner's caption for this photograph: "A Contrast: Federal buried, Confederate unburied, where they fell on the Battle-field of Antietam."

Alexander Gardner's original caption for this image: "A Lone Grave, on Battle-field of Antietam."



Clean Reads publishing


You know I don’t like to get political on here, but a fellow author has brought to my attention that the Clean Reads publishing company, through which he has published two titles, has come under fire by the LGBT community for declining to publish LGBT content. Their social media attack is doing significant damage to the company and to the authors it represents.

I’d like to support Clean Reads as an independent company that is entitled to set their own content standards without intimidation or interference by outside interests. In fact, I appreciate the fact that they publish titles appropriate for my daughter to read. I’m heading over there to purchase several now. I’d encourage you to check them out.

(Note that the Clean Reads publishing company is unrelated to the Clean Indie Reads blog with which I am associated and sometimes mention.)

Blood Moon: African American Soldiers

blood moonThis is the second post in a four-part series about writing and researching my upcoming young adult historical fiction novel, Blood Moon, book two in my Ella Wood trilogy.

I’m certainly getting an education in the events of the Civil War. In particular, the events that took place in and around Charleston Harbor, where Blood Moon is set. One of the more unique aspects I’ve learned about is the role of Colored troops. As you know, racism against African Americans was extreme at this time, even in the North, and putting a black man in uniform was something of an experiment. As it so happens, some of the very first Colored troops served outside Charleston Harbor.

In May 1862, the first Black regiment, the 1st Carolina, was raised as part of a program to enlist newly freed slaves. It was begun by General David Hunter, an active abolitionist, who hoped former slaves would enlist to fight against their former masters. Here is a section of text taken from a book I found hugely helpful, Gate of Hell, by Steven R. Wise:

“Still suspicious of the white man, few slaves volunteered. Undeterred, Hunter decided to give the slaves something to fight for. On May 9, he issued a proclamation declaring free all slaves within his command in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Hunter then ordered his white soldiers to sweep the plantations for likely conscripts, which were carried to Hilton Head and formed into a 500-man regiment. Hunter had hoped that the government would recognize his deeds and his regiment, but President Lincoln was not ready for emancipation and the formation of black fighting units.”

Lincoln revoked the proclamation for fear of reactions in loyal border states. Hunter’s regiments were eventually disbanded, but his actions prompted Congress’s Second Confiscation Act and the Militia Act of 1862, which allowed Lincoln to raise black troops, free slaves whose masters were in rebellion, and use freed slaves in military service. In October, a remnant of Hunter’s conscripts formed Company A of the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry. They were taken into service on Jan. 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.

1st South Carolina regiment on review, listening to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863.

1st South Carolina on review, listening to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863.

The 2nd South Carolina was also formed of recruited slaves. Early in its service, it was used to raid plantations; burn homes, outbuildings, and farm machinery; and carry off slaves–actions that demoralized the Confederate citizenry, particularly because they were being perpetrated by former slaves who were armed and in uniform.

gloryInitially, the Black regiments suffered a good deal of abuse from their white counterparts. They were used for menial tasks and heavy labor. But by April 1863 they were gaining a reputation as able-bodied soldiers and were readied for the summer campaign against Charleston. They were joined by their Northern counterparts, the 54th Massachusetts, who won immortality when they led the doomed assault on Fort Wagner outside Charleston Harbor. The charge was featured in the 1989 movie Glory.

The assault on Fort Wagner turned into a protracted siege in which the Colored troops served alongside White regiments. Indeed, on the narrow Sea Island, they lived in very close quarters. The long assignment and shared dangers of the Charleston Campaign, perhaps more than anywhere else in the war, broke down barriers between the races, and most White units who served with them came to recognize African Americans as comrades and accepted them as fellow soldiers.

At first, the Confederacy would not recognize captured Blacks as soldiers. Colored prisoners taken at Wagner were handed over to the state of South Carolina to face trial as escaped slaves captured in arms, even though the vast majority of the 54th Massachusetts had been born free in the North. State law required that they be returned to slavery or put to death for leading a slave insurrection. They were were held separately from Whites and denied exchange. When the members of the 54th went to trial, Lincoln took a hard line against the South. He declared that Black soldiers were covered by General Order 100, which read “for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war a Rebel soldier shall be executed and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a Rebel shall be placed at hard labor…” As a result, the South reluctantly recognized Colored soldiers. (This trial will feature in book three of the Ella Wood trilogy, Ebb Tide.)

Men of the 54th Massachusetts

It is interesting to note that the Confederacy continued to refuse to exchange Black troops. As a result, Lincoln suspended all exchanges until they did. Prisoner exchange had been a common practice early in the war. After 1863, they effectively came to an end.

Because of the newness of African Americans in uniform and their extensive use in the Charleston Campaign, officers were asked to report their observations. They were overwhelmingly favorable. One wrote that he never had a Black soldier desert or shirk a duty. Another said blacks tended to work harder and longer than Whites. Some noted a difference between regiments formed of freed slaves as compared with Northern blacks, citing the superior education more aggressive spirit of the later. In fact, the 54th Massachusetts was praised again and again as being an exemplary unit in every way.

Racism in no way died out, but the successful integration of troops outside Charleston Harbor paved the way for the formation of more Colored regiments. It is estimated that nearly 200,000 Black men served in the Union army and navy.

Blood Moon: Women’s Education

This is the first post in a four-part series about writing and researching my upcoming young adult historical fiction novel, Blood Moon, the second book in my Ella Wood trilogy.

maryland institute 1Every novel I write takes me on a new journey of discovery–especially when I write in the historical fiction genre. Little did I know that when I chose the Maryland Institute as the school Emily Preston hoped to attend, I would be stumbling into the rich history of women’s vocational education.

A little background: Emily Preston is the teenage protagonist in the Ella Wood trilogy. She was born to wealth and priviledge on a Southern plantation, but her strong desire to attend a school of higher learning flies in the face of Southern Antebellum tradition, which was far behind the North in terms of liberties granted to women. More specifically, Emily seeks higher education in art.

By the 1860’s, when my series takes place, the Industrial Revolution had been ongoing for some time, but colleges and universities were, almost exclusively, still teaching classical subjects to upper class sons. But greater attention was starting to be paid to vocational training for the middle class, who needed new technical skills for an increasingly industrialized workplace. The Maryland Institute was established in 1825, the second mechanical (vocational) school of higher learning to open in America. Women were admitted in 1854.

maryland institute

Emily joins the women’s School of Design in 1862, a program that focused on fine arts education, textile design, illustration, and photography. I had no idea so many fields were open to women at the time. Training at the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanical Arts, as the school was officially called, would have prepared women for jobs designing print patterns for textiles (wallpaper, table clothes, curtains, clothing, lace, etc.), in the various areas of printing (wood engraving, lithography, etc.), in the up-and-coming field of photography (including the “finishing”, or coloring, of photographs in watercolor, ink, and oil), and as classical artists (portraitists, landscapists, etc.).

Fortunately for me, this has been a fabulous choice to add texture to my protagonist, to create conflict within her family, and to bring authenticity to my setting by illustrating such a little-known historical dimention. Of course, Emily is also navigating the complexities of family, education, and romance during the overarching conflict of Civil War.

See my sidebar and click on any of the Ella Wood images for more information about the series. Ella Wood is currently available. Blood Moon is due out in May or June. Join my New Release list for email notification as soon as it releases.

The Wind, by Lars D. Hedbor

the windBefore I start a four-post series about the research of Blood Moon next week, I’m sneaking in a review of my favorite book I’ve read since finishing the manuscript. And I’m reading a LOT of them right now.

I’ve become a dedicated Lars Hedbor fan. In his Tales of a Revolution series, he takes little-known stories of the Revolutionary War and brings them to life with flair and beauty. Each one has deeply satisfied the history buff within me. And The Wind, in my opinion, is his most dramatic novel yet. The military action is not as intense, but the sea adds an unpredictable element of danger. And I found the human story in this one to be the most compelling. But my favorite part of a Hedbor novel is always his incomparable vernacular. When I read one, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time and am listening to conversations taking place between the people who lived and loved and fought there.

The Wind tells the story of the action taking place in the Gulf of Mexico between Spain and England. I had known the Revolution was actually a World War, and I had known Spain had played a role. But I was very hazy on the details and the characters and the locations. Mr. Hedbor served the history to me with a nice side of humanity. His fictional hero Gabriel Llalandro Garcia y Covas was a quarter master aboard an Hispanic merchant vessel before a hurricane lands him in the middle of a small village where he finds purpose, intrigue, war, and love.

Gabriel has a wonderful quote near the end of the book that seems to me to capture the sentiment of many caught up in wars not of their own making: “I am…eager for this entire enterprise to be complete, that we may return to our homes and resume the lives that we pursued before the needs of kings upended everything.” The Wind gives a beautiful glimpse into the lives that made up that very human drama, the American Revolution.

The Wind is a clean read entirely appropriate for high schoolers who enjoy historical fiction. 14+

Other books by Lars Hedbor:

The Declaration
The Smoke
The Light
The Prize


Blood Moon update and…I’m a finalist!

blood moonI’ve been quite remiss at reading and reviewing MG books this year. Every spare second has been going into writing Blood Moon (Ella Wood, 2). At last count, I had over 600 hours into this manuscript. Wow. But I finished it this week. A final read-through and I’m sending it off to all those editing/beta reading brains who help make my books so much better. It’s still on track for that May/June release date.

My next focus is a spring break trip with my husband and kids. Yay and much needed! I plan to READ, READ, READ and will come back with some new reviews. I’ve missed that! I’ve also got some fun and interesting things to share from my recent research that I’ll be writing up into a few posts. So bear with me as I leap from writing a manuscript back to writing my blog.:)

TaylorDavis_FlameOfFindul_cover nookIn the meantime, I have an awesome announcement. My book, Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul, qualified as a finalist in 9-12 category of the 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is a really unique, UK-based contest. Entries are sent digitally to 72 participating school and judged by actual readers–kids!–the target audience. Brilliant. I’m thrilled to be among their top choices!

(Taylor Davis is free in the Kindle Lending Library. Also, the first serial episode–the first 1/6 of the novel–is free for everyone.)

And now, if you all don’t mind, I’m going to leave my computer on my desk and go OUTSIDE for a change. I’ll start fleshing out third and final book of the Ella Wood series soon, and may even get 10,000-20,000 words done this spring. But summer is for family and fun. I’ll start writing on it heavy come fall and have it done for you next year about this time. See you soon!