Dumpsters and Dinosaurs, by Lois D. Brown

Just a quick note before I get to today’s review to let you know that Blood Moon is FINALLY available in paperback!

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dumpsters and dinosThis is a fun new release by fellow Emblazoner Lois D. Brown who, as you may recall, wrote a fantastic young adult series I really enjoyed. (The first book, Cycles, was a top 5 finisher in the 2012 Kindle Book Review Book Awards and is now priced free everywhere. Here’s my review, written before I knew her.) This new one is my favorite middle grade title by this talented writer.

Silly, funny, and just a little outrageous, Dumpsters & Dinosaurs has true kid appeal. Twelve-year-old Steven Walker has just moved to Vernal, Idaho, but making friends isn’t easy for a kid who works part time as a janitor and wears jeans from Goodwill. Fortunately—or unfortunately?—a bit of rubbish he saved out of the museum’s garbage bin is about to change everything.

The story is cute, and the word pictures Ms. Brown created made me chuckle. (ig. Three wiener dogs could fit inside of it.) She speaks like a kid without sounding absurd and nails those awkward tween moments, like trying to chew in front of cute girls without making funny noises. A story that will keep kids entertained and turning pages. My only caution is some evolutionary science that doesn’t jive with a Creationist point of view. Recommended for kids ages 8+.

Grab a copy from Amazon!

Peak, by Roland Smith

PeakI thoroughly enjoyed this teen boy adventure. Peak Marcello is a 14-year-old boy, the son of two well-known mountaineers, so he hardly can help it that climbing is in his blood. But when he’s caught climbing a New York skyscraper, he only escapes jail when his father, Josh, shows up and offers to take him back to Thailand with him until things cool down.

But Josh has never been part of Peak’s life. He left when pregnancy and then a serious fall caused Peak’s mom to give up the sport. Peak hopes for a meaningful time with his dad, and he’s stunned to find out Josh’s motivations are primarily financial. Josh wants Peak to climb Mount Everest. If he succeeds, he’d be the youngest climber ever, which could only benefit Josh’s guide business.

This is a fantastic adventure novel. Not only do we have a well-rounded character in Peak with a tough predicament, we get to climb Mount Everest with him! The context is a virtual crash course in procedure, equipment, hazards, glories, geography, and topography. It got my blood pumping, I’ll tell you! In addition, we’re introduced to several sherpas, those unsung heroes who guide climbers to the top, making the trip again and again. It was an interesting look at the local people who live, work, and often die tragically on Mount Everest. We even get a taste of the restrictive politics of China (Tibet), which shares the mountain with Nepal.

Peak becomes close friends with a local Nepalese boy named Sun-jo whose grandfather is a sherpa. Without giving away anything, let me just say the friendship does much to drive the story into deeper levels and illustrate who Peak really is, deep down. Peak’s classic quote, the great takeaway at the end of his emotional journey, is: “The only thing you’ll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below.”

I loved Peak. I enjoyed his story, and I liked his conclusions. Moms, there are a couple mild swear words, but I still highly recommend for boys (and girls who like a good kick-butt adventure now and again). Ages 12+.

Blood Moon has released!

blood moonI am thrilled to announce that after 1 year and 5 days, 672 hours, and 95K words, Blood Moon, book two of the Ella Wood trilogy, is now available! Here’s the blurb:

Charleston lies in ruins and so, it seems, does Emily’s future. She has sacrificed everything for a chance to attend university—her family, her home, even her relationship with Thaddeus Black. But without her father’s blessing, how will she afford tuition? With hostilities raging between North and South, how will she gain acceptance at a school in the Union? She’s lost so much already. What will the war claim next? In the midst of such uncertainty, Emily finds that hope can rise from ashes, determination grows with adversity, and love can take root in even the most stubborn of hearts.

Ella Wood coverI’m currently working on the paperback version, but I’ve decided to postpone the Nook and Kobo editions until I try a run in Amazon’s lending program. If you haven’t read book one, Ella Wood, it’s currently free for Kindle. Now…on to the conclusion, Ebb Tide!

Here are both Amazon links:
Blood Moon
Ella Wood

Blood Moon: Military Innovations of the Charleston Campaign

blood moonThis is the final 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.

The Civil War provided the turning point from the old European style of fighting (massed armies standing in a field with inaccurate, bayonetted muskets) to modern warfare. It also marked the origin of many of the weapons and techniques that would be so strongly associated with World War I fifty years later. The sieges of Vicksburg (May – July 1863) and Petersburg (June 1864 – March 1865), especially, are noted for their extensive use of trenches, but it would be the Siege of Fort Wagner (July – Sept 1863) outside Charleston harbor, and the harbor itself, that would prove the testing ground for many innovations and improvements.

Barbed Wire

Wagner marked the first time wire entanglements were used on a wide scale. Five wooden stakes were driven deep into the ground and strung tightly with wire. The resulting quincunx made an effective obstacle against advancing Union forces. These were the baby brothers of the barbed wire barriers of WWI.

WWI razor wire obstruction

WWI razor wire obstruction

Rifled Artillery

Rifling had been around for several centuries, and conical ammunition since the early 1800’s, but it was the Civil War that truly tested this combination in high powered artillery. The Battle of Fort Pulaski in April 1862 in the mouth of the Savannah River proved the effectiveness of rifled cannons at close range against the brick masonry that was the standard in coastal defense works up to that time. During the Siege of Fort Wagner, the strength, range, and accuracy of rifled artillery was further tested when prolonged bombardment reduced Fort Sumter to a pile of rubble. Shells were also accurately fired into the city of Charleston from a range of over four miles. This also marked the first time a city with a present civilian population was specified as a military target.

Two 30-pound Parrott rifles

Two 30-pound Parrott rifles used against Pulaski and Sumter.

Machine Guns

I’m going to quote from Steven R. Wise’s Gate of Hell again in describing the next innovation. Requa batteries “were intended to replace the short-range field guns in defensive positions. They consisted of twenty-five rifle barrels arranged horizontally and attached to a field carriage. Operated by three men who fed in a clip consisting of twenty-five cartridges, the gun was effective up to thirteen hundred yards and a good crew could fire 175 shots per minute. The engineers, impressed by these accurate and efficient weapons, placed them liberally among their trenches” outside Wagner. The Requa gun was, of course, a forerunner of the machine gun.

Requa gun

Requa gun. Note the fellow in the background holding the 25-bullet clip.

Mines

Rains Barrel Torpedo (underwater mine)

Rains Barrel Torpedo (underwater mine)

Confederate General Gabriel J. Rains developed the first landmine, a simple barrel filled with gunpowder and fitted with a fuse and detonator. Condemned as unethical by the North, they were used to good effect by the South throughout the war. Underwater mines first appeared in Virginia’s James River but received a far more thorough testing in Charleston harbor. General Beauregard, in charge of the defense of Charleston, was especially keen on exploring the possiblities of these “torpedoes” and used them extensively. In fact, they generated such fear in the Union navy that they almost single-handedly prevented the takeover of Charleston in 1863 after the Union army took Fort Wagner and decimated Fort Sumter in the harbor mouth.

Submarines

It was also General Beauregard who championed the use of torpedoes as offensive weapons. Ram class warships were steamers fitted with a long underwater spar and used by both sides in the war, but it was the South’s Captain Francis D. Lee who, encouraged by Beauregard, experimented with the placement of torpedoes at the end of the ram. The limited success of these torpedo rams was due, not to lack of effort, enthusiasm, or ingenuity, but to the South’s painful lack of reliable engines. The first tests were conducted with rowboats!  Of all attempts, only the David accomplished anything when it disabled the Union ironclad, New Ironsides. But experiments continued. Beauregard and his engineers eventually fastened a torpedo to the ram of a new submarine prototype, the famous H. L. Hunley, and in 1864, after the loss of several crews during trial runs, the Hunley became the first submarine to sink a ship when it destroyed the Union’s HousatonicThe Hunley disappeared in the attack with all hands lost. It was discovered in 1995 and raised in 2004.

HL Hunley

HL Hunley

Cooperation Between Military Branches

Finally, the Siege of Fort Wagner marked the first major amphibious assault using the combined forces of the army and navy. While the army dug in and battered Wagner from the trenches, the navy’s ironside and fleet of monitors pulled along side the island fort and provided fire cover for the army’s operations and assaults. (Note the role of the battleships in the illustration of the storming of Fort Wagner below.) This proved a template for later cooperation between the armed forces.

The Storming of Fort Wagner, an 1890 painting showing American soldiers attacking the Confederates at the fort.

“The Storming of Fort Wagner”, an 1890 painting showing the charge of the 54th Massachusetts Colored regiment.

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.

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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 http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com, email her at AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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.

grant

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.

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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:

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antietam 5

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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."

antietam5

 

Clean Reads publishing

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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.)