And then this happened: My novel’s cover art is HERE

Sometimes I think the notion of “being a published author” hasn’t firmly settled in my brain yet, you know, somewhere between the official name of a Civil War Napoleon (Model 1857 Light Gun 12 pound Howitzer) and the lyrics to the song “Cows with Guns” (We will run free with the buffalo or diiiiiiiiiie).  Yet this is actually happening.  This time next year, you can come see me at a bookstore or at a battlefield and hang out with me.  Buy my book.  Tell me how much you too love Evan Peters as Lobster Boy on American Horror Story: Freak Show and see absolutely nothing wrong with his lobster like hands and impish grin.  What’s up, Jimmy Darling?

coverBut I digress.

Here it is: the finalized cover art for Anything You Ask of Me!  I am so in love with it, to the point it leaves me speechless.  Speechless is the Sasquatch of my personality: it’s the thing of rumors or sketchy stories no one actually believes.  But this is fantastic.  Go ahead and judge my book by its cover: it’s awesome.

I’d buy it.

When I first saw it, I made this bizarre little noise in my throat (I’m congested, okay, I sound like Roz from Monster’s Inc. on the phone) that sounded something like, “Eeeeiiiiiiiigh” and pushed the phone so far into The Hubs face that he couldn’t actually see the picture, but as an all around good guy said, “Well, that’s awesome!”  Now I’ve recovered enough to post it on Facebook (it’s not real until it’s on Facebook) and blog about it.  It’s real now, guys.  Cover, release date: totally real.

So, with that in mind, it’s time to buckle down and really figure out my book tour plan.  Thing.  Thus far, my plan has been something like this:

  • Sign books in places.

That’s a legit start, right?  That’s like, determining your thesis before actually writing your paper.  This much I remember from my Communications Skills classes I had to take in college.  I’ve been in contact with someone/somewhere about a possible release party (more to come on that later), so that’s pretty exciting.  I’m not really sure what one does at a release party.  So far my plan is to have food and talk a lot.  And wear my go go boots because, yes, that is happening.  Do we serve snacks?  Do I bring free bookmarks and/or pens to giveaway?  Do I feel comfortable giving away pens and not keeping them for myself?  Questions to ponder.

Speaking of pens, this happened at Target in State College last weekend: I decided to treat myself with a new binder, college ruled paper and pen pack (because other than drinking a bottle of wine, that’s the literary way to treat yourself).  I like one, possibly two types of pens.  I had both in my purse.  I could not find them.  I spent like, fifteen minutes in the pen/paper aisle trying to find a suitable replacement, which yes, I probably would have done anyway.  There was a girl there who was….maybe in high school (I’m so bad guessing ages), also picking out pens.  Her dad looked at her and said, “It’s just a pen.”  She said, “No, Dad, I need the pen.”  I said, “I totally feel your pain.”  And, no, I didn’t find the pens I wanted but I got two anyway.  I’m expanding my horizons.

So, all I need is a book signing plan, places to sign books, and a heap of confidence in place prior to August 4, 2015.  Less than a year.  Let’s do this.

I’m going to buy a great pen for my first signing.  Just you wait.

Oh, and click here for my novel’s page at Knox Robinson Publishing’s site.  Buy it and I’ll sign it.  I’ll write something scandalous and then we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.  See, my signings will be rad.  I’m going to put my hair in a bouffant and that, on its own, is rad.

 

This weekend I was looked upon like an ancient relic

I’ve turned into this shamefully sluggish person. Guys, I’m so sorry for my abrupt hiatus. A month since I’ve blogged? You’d think I was getting some serious writing done!

And you’d be wrong.

That’s probably a hair dramatic, but here’s what I did in the course of the last few weeks:

  • Worked on two novels simultaneously!
  • Bought lots of vintage clothes!
  • Got a tattoo!
  • Went to my college Homecoming!

Ahhh, homecoming. That magical time when things happen. What kind of things, I’m not sure, because this was my first time going. And I went for one reason.

It was my ten-year college reunion.

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

Look, when did an entire year just zip on past, let alone a decade? A decade. Ten years since I got my diploma and refused to throw my cap in the air because I wanted to keep my tassels. I earned those damn tassels.

Anyways, there was also going to be free food, beverages, and t-shirts for the alumni in the celebratory years. What’s up, 1964? How you doing, 1989?

IMG_2449The Hubs agreed to accompany me. I made him park in commuter parking because, let’s be honest, I commuted for four years and have no idea where actual campus parking is located. In typical Western Pennsylvania fashion, it was cold, rainy, and gloomy. I pulled my old-timey college jacket out of the questionable depths of the closet because a) I’m perpetually freezing and b) despite the fact my college turned into a university my sophomore year, it was still a college when I started there in 2000. Note: remember this. This is key to my later oldness.

Our first stop was the bookstore. I’d decided I needed a school shirt. For reasons. We went up to the student center and…….and it was a barista. A huge, multi-aisled/multi-refrigerator case barista.

Um.

I bought bagels and cream cheese at the nookish barista in my day.

In my day.

It was bizarre and emotional to walk around campus. I didn’t weep (I know, I’m surprised too) but it was just weird to be there, like part of me was just picking up where I left off ten years ago. It was somewhat like that uncomfortable feeling I got when I watched The Great Muppet Caper as an adult and distinctly remember watching it as a child.  So then I had to turn it off because it was too unsettling to remember sitting in my childhood home watching this movie I’m now watching with my children…

If you’re just now tuning in, I’m weird.  Extremely, inexplicably weird.

Any how, we rubbed elbows with some recent graduates in Tail Gate Alley. “Has campus changed a lot since you were a student?” Asked a charming 2013 engineering grad.

“Yeah, what’s now the bookstore used to be our rec room!” I said. “In 2003, we watched the bombs fall over Baghdad down there.”

His equally charming friend and 2014 graduate said, “I was in 4th grade when that happened.”

Uhhhhhhh…..so, yeah.  Thanks for bringing that to everyone’s attention.

When we headed to the next event, I heard him exclaim, “She’s wearing a college jacket! Do you see that? College!”

Well, I guess it’s time to head back to The Home before the nurses notice I’m gone…homecoming 3

Eh, whatev. I had a blast. Our football team was beat to a pulp, but I hung out with friends I haven’t seen in years. I ate. I drank. I chatted with Olympic silver medal winning, women’s ice hockey goalie Brianne McLaughlin Bittle and wore one of her medals. Awesomeness! That doesn’t happen all the time. It was phenomenal.  Look at me wearing a medal.  This is as close to Olympic greatness that my sedentary butt is every going to get.  The Curling Curleys is not going to be a thing.

I’m totally going to homecoming next year.

Meanwhile, here’s a jaunty little tale for you that has nothing to do with homecoming.  So, my child and I were watching Sheriff Callie’s Wild West on Disney Junior.  That’s my life: Disney.  If it’s not happening on Disney or on Facebook, chances are I don’t know it’s happening.  But I digress.  So, this particular episode had the cactus, Toby, wearing a mustache.  It doesn’t matter why, just bear with me here.  The Preschooler looked at me and said, “Why does Toby have a mustache?”

“Well, some people have mustaches.”  I said.  “Poppa has a mustache.  My daddy had a mustache.”

“My daddy doesn’t have a mustache.”  The Preschooler suddenly turned very serious.

“No, Daddy does not have a mustache.”  I paused.  Sudden seriousness is never good.  “Do you want to have a mustache look Poppa when you grow up?”

“No,” he said, “I don’t want a mustache like Poppa’s.  I want a mustache like yours, Momma.”

Ba zing.

Inquiring about book tours: And still, no one cares about my GPA.

When I was a youngster and in my senior year of college, I reflected upon my GPA and how the stupid B- in Macroeconomics ruined it.  Mathematically, I couldn’t raise my GPA any higher, no matter how hard I worked.  Farewell, dreams of Summa Cum Laude.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a GPA of  3.93 and they even gave me an extra tassel for my cap (green and purple for the High GPA Society I was in, aka Alpha Chi) and a silver medal.  You know, silver.  First loser behind the gold medal winning Summas.

I know.  Talk about your problems.

Anyway, there was this salacious rumor that went around college: that being, the higher your GPA, the better it’s going to look on your resume!  The faster you will be hired!  Study, study, study, undergrads!

HAHAHAHAHAHA, lies.

No, employers didn’t care how high my GPA was.  They didn’t care I graduated with honors.  Apparently what employers for entry-level Communications jobs were looking for was experience.  Experience I didn’t have, since my only so-called professional experience was a promotions internship at ESPN Radio and a public relations internship at a Catholic Convent.  And four years of college.

“Wait.  Communications is a real degree?” said Shocker Mess extraordinaire and facial hair god, Mark.  “That’s not just what football players fall back on?  So, what are you going to do if you don’t make it as quarterback?  Oh, somethin’.  I’m majoring in Communications.”

Laugh it up.

So, here it is ten–TEN–years later and I find myself once again applying.  Not for a job (I secretly love Day Job), but for places to hold book signings for the Heather Hambel Curley 2015 Book Tour Extravaganza, also known as “Girl Peddling Book.”  Be there or be square.

It’s horrifying.

Maybe not as horrifying as the letters I sent trying to get peer reviews/endorsements for my book.  But this ranks right up there, rubbing shoulders with the likes of “Going to the Doctor” and “Spiders.”  Inquiring about book tours.

I’m coming to find out that peddling books is a lot less glamour and a lot more professional/business/uncomfortable shoes.  These are things Stephen King and JK Rowling aren’t telling us.  I have one business suit that I last wore when I interviewed for Day Job.  Actually, that’s a lie because I don’t have the skirt anymore.  When I interviewed for Day Job, I was seven weeks post-partum from having The Preschooler and I couldn’t squeeze into a skirt to save my life.  I even tried lacing myself up in a corset and I still looked like a chocolate éclair with frosting bursting out the sides.  Terrible.  Anyway, look, this has nothing to do with book signings.  The point is, I bought a new skirt for the interview and Lord knows I’m going to end up buying a new outfit for the book signing.  Hopefully book signings, because it’s going to be a pitiful book tour if I go to one place and the only people who show up are the people in my family.

Now, that’s something else to worry about.

Anyway, to kick off the 2014 “I have nothing to wear” Tour, I bought Go Go Boots.  Yes.  You read that right, Go Go Boots.  White ones, to be specific.  I’ve always wanted Go Go Boots and, at some point this week, I realized I was an adult and can do what I want.  Take that!

So then I bought some vintage dresses–one of which I plan on wearing to my book release party along with my white Go Go Boots.

My mother inquired why I would wear Go Go Boots to a Civil War book release party.  My top three reasons:

  • I have the legs to pull it off
  • I’m not dressing in my 1860s gear for an 1860s era book because that’s cheesy and, although I’m pretty cheesy, I refuse to be cliché
  • I’m not wearing a business suit to a book release party because it’s hard to dance in a business suit.

I doubt there will be dancing.  But, if any of you want to take me out for drinks afterwards, I need to be ready to get my groove on.

shirt photoThis shirt also topped my list of things to wear, but it’s possibly too casual.  And yes, I totally own this shirt.  I freaking love Alice in Wonderland.

But I digress.

I’ve sent out numerous queries at places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia for possible book signings.  I contacted a place about a release party.  So, now we wait.  In the meantime, I’m starting to write my press information for when the book is released, such as biographies, book information, and information for press releases.  I’ve talked to someone about getting professional headshots taken.

Exhausting.

It’s a good thing I’m medicated, but this is turning into Book-nado.  Sure, it’s a little less than a year away, but there is still sooooooo much to do.  And, before I know it, I’m going to be sitting at a place somewhere (totally specific, I know) freaking out that no one is going to show up for my signing.  It’ll be like getting stood up for prom.  Or ordering a Primanti’s sandwich and dill pickle, then opening up your bag and realizing they forgot to give you the pickle.  Sads.

To combat all this, I started plotting out a new book.  Because, you know, I still am under the impression I have loads and loads of spare time.  And I’m over two hundred pages into my current historical.  So, you know.  Keeping busy.  These days if I blink too long, I just fall asleep anyway.

The moral of this blog post is: Come to my book signing.  Please.

 

Things I have not been doing over the last few weeks

So, I’ve evidently been living under a rock for oh, say a month.  I thought the dog days of summer meant lazily sitting around, drinking a sweet tea and trying to avoid collecting too much dust.  For me, the dog days of summer are more like some kind of 1920s era dog race: I’m the rabbit zipping around trying to avoid the snapping jaws of responsibility.  Or something.  Did they have dog races in the 1920s?  Meh, no matter.

I’ve been working overtime at Day Job with gusto, practically to the point I can’t remember what day it is.  Now that things have slowed the slightest bit, I’m back to some kind of normalcy.  As if life was normal before; anyway, here’s a few juicy tidbits I’ve learned this past week:

  1. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (the actress equivalent of cardboard drying in the sun) are no longer dating.  This apparently happened a long time ago.  So…yeah, there you go.  Good for you, RPatz.
  2. CSI is apparently still on television.  Who knew?
  3. Windows 8.1 is like some kind of Technicolor beast ready to suck you in with apps.  But, I named my computer and that was exciting.

I made the executive decision to buy a new laptop, solely for the purpose of writing.  Whereas my brain likes to think the 1990s really weren’t that long ago, it’s 2014, a new century, and Windows has graduated to Windows 8.1, because apparently 8 is not enough.  (Hahahaha, hilarious.)  So, here I am.  Armed with a thin pamphlet of “set up” information which, basically, is just a picture of the laptop and a bolded suggestion to “log on to the server” or something equally unhelpful.

Let’s step back for a moment and examine who we’re dealing with here.  I have used a computer since I was three years old.  I grew up using a Commodore 128.  I could program games in DOS when I was eleven.  DOS, guys.  DOS.  I’ll *.* your .exe file and cd/ your d:/ any day of the week.

I am from a time before the Internet.

So, enter Windows 8.1 and its pamphlet.  I turn the computer on and the screen says hi.

Well, hello.

I’m not entirely sure what happened next, but pertinent questions like, “What’s your color?” and “Name your computer!” and “What’s your name?” were asked.  I responded and was suspicious.  At that point, it seemed like little was actually happening with the computer.  It seemed a little like, possibly, the computer was just taking a very long time to start-up.  My mother and I were sitting there talking, likely about tuna fish or kumquats or something (side note: I have a friend, Ingrid, whose nickname in high school was Kumquat Bing), when all of a sudden, the computer was on and ready to go.  No changing floppy discs.  No entering pass keys or validating stuff.  I literally named it, told it my name, and we’re off.

I think I like Windows 8.1.  I keep forgetting where to put the cursor and click so I can get the toolbar back or back to the desktop from the apps screen and vice versa.  I haven’t changed my background to Tom Hiddleston’s face yet, but it’s a jaunty shade of pink and somehow I managed to make all the other tool bars pink, so all in all I’m pretty excited.

So, now I’m armed with a new computer, a new season of Doctor Who is just *days* away, and I’m rolling right along on my current historical.  And another contemporary (I know).  School starts for my boys next week and, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to home school them because apparently I’m under the impression I have loads of spare time.  No matter.  I’m sure it’s going to go well, because my kids totally listen to me.  An example:

*The commercial for Kraft Mac and Cheese, featuring Vanilla Ice, was on television during the original TMNT movie*

Me:  This is the only TMNT that matters.  Trust me.  It’s the 90s and you can trust the 90s.

The Toddler: I want mac cheese.

Me: (dancing) Go ninja, go ninja go!  Go ninja, go ninja go!

The Toddler and the Preschooler: *walk away*

It’s going to be totally fine.  Education!

 

 

On taking happy pills and writing fiction

And, I’m back.

So, when we last left The Rambling Jour, I was causing trouble in Monocacy and charming the fine gentlemen of the Shocker Mess.  Prior to that, however, I had a wee bit of health issues.  Spoilers: I’m fine now.

Before being fine, I was having heart palpitations and chest pain.  I attributed this to the fact that I sit at a desk, hunched over paperwork all day long, and I hold a lot of tension in my chest.  The heart palpitations were more of a concern, because my heart would just start to race and pound really, really hard.   And really, really fast.

So I went to the doctor.

Things first started to go wrong for the doctor’s appointment when I a) left work twenty minutes late because a meeting ran long, b) hit an insane amount of traffic, which resulted in it taking me an hour and twenty minutes to get to the doctor.  I literally arrived at the appointment the second it was supposed to start.  Needless to say, I was a bit on edge.

Then the doctor was running late.

Fine, fine, whatever.  I’d brought a notebook and a pen with me (because I never move twenty feet without bringing a notebook and a pen with me) and started working on my novel.  My current historical novel (sorry Random Contemporary II, but historical novel is winning out on word count at this moment in time) deals a lot with addiction, post traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks.  Sitting in a small, stuffy exam room was giving me a panic attack.  It was akin to Chekov’s Gun: using everything around me, introducing something small and forcing it into a story line and making it work!  No plot device left behind!  Experience it–write about it–make it work!  In between thinking my heart was going to bounce right out of my chest, I felt like A Real Author.  Living the dream!  Using my emotion and slapping it down on paper!

When the doctor came in, we had a delightful, albeit rambling, chat.

And then I had an EKG.

And then a second EKG.

And then a third EKG.

And then the doctor came in and said, “Well, I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.  But based on the results of the EKG, I have to send you to the ER.  I’m so convinced though that it’s not a heart attack that I’m going to let you drive to the ER instead of calling the ambulance.”

Um.

“Don’t worry,” she said.  “I’ll call ahead.”

Um…..

Okay, so what started out as some heart palpitations turned into “well, we can give you anxiety medication but let’s do an EKG first” which then turned into “I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.”  I’m surprised that I stayed as calm as I did, but I drove myself to the ER, handed the keys of my vintage 2003 Chevy to the valet parking attendant (“Don’t worry, we validate.”), and strolled into the ER like I owned the place.

What up, bitches?

And let me tell you what.  When you show up at the ER with chest pain, they just waltz you right into triage and give you a room.  No waiting.  No intake.  Just “take off your clothes and put this gown on, opening in the back.”

I got yelled at for accidentally putting the opening in the front.  Whatever.  Chest pain, remember?

They hooked me up to a heart monitor, popped in an IV, and starting asking me all these supposedly pertinent questions:

  • When was your last period?
  • Are you having chest pain?
  • Are you anxious?

I just looked at the nurse when she asked if I was anxious.  Finally I said, “Perhaps a little.”

She entered something into the computer.  “I guess that was a silly question.”

Yeah.

So, then I had a chest x-ray.  Then they drew blood.  Three more medical personnel asked when my last period was.  Finally, an absurdly young doctor came in and said, “I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.”

Well, this is excellent news.

“I think you’re just anxious.”

This goes without saying.

“We’ll just monitor you for a bit and run some tests.  We’ll have you out of here in no time.”

Two hours of watching Walker: Texas Ranger and working on my novel, weaving my horrible chest pain/palpitation symptoms into the main character’s own panic attacks, he finally came back in and said, “Well, I think we’re wasting your time.  Your tests are fine.  You might as well go home.”

Fantastic!  So, I said, “How can you tell the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack?”

“You can’t.  That’s why they pay me the big bucks.  You come in and we’ll tell you and, if you come in too much, we’ll call you crazy.”

Thanks a lot, asshole.

So I went home.  And then I went to Monocacy.  And I didn’t die.  Then, I went back to the doctor and saw a different doctor who said, “I think you have an issue with anxiety.”

Yes.  Yes I do.

Now I’m heavily medicated.  Well, maybe not heavily medicated.  But I’m medicated enough that I’m no longer overwhelmed, stressed, panicked, or slumping around with chest pain.  Meanwhile, though, the doctor said, “Just to rule out everything, though, let’s do some blood work and a holter monitor test.”

Damn it.

photo (10)This kid makes holter monitor tests glamorous.  Low rise jeans.  Always attractive sports bra.  Heck ya, that’s how a kid on happy pills rolls: Facebook ready, just living the dream.

I hadn’t had heart palpitations since I started my meds.  Until, you know, I was wearing the holter monitor and having every heartbeat recorded.  Then I had two.  So that was nice.

The good news is, the results of the blood work and the monitor came back fine.  I’m just this much over the line separating normal and crazy.  I haven’t been this laid back in years.

And I’m using every feeling, every twitch, and every flutter for my novel.

Granted, in 1912 we weren’t aware of PTSD and the effects of stress on people.  World War I gave us shell shock.  But the feelings are there.  I know those feelings and I can use it in my novel to better describe what the main character, Ava, is going through.  My med-pocolypse will be financially expensive (don’t even get me started), but invaluable for enriching my writing.  Right?  Right.

I’m about 165 pages into my novel–which actually has a title, Since April–so it looks like it’s actually happening.  Exciting!  Now, if I could only find time to work on it.  That’s the one set back to the so-called happy pills: about an hour later, I’m asleep.  Of course, that could also be old age setting in.  I just recently celebrated the third anniversary of my 29th birthday.  So…yeah.  Old age, heart palpitations, varicose veins, and asleep before 9pm.

Totally hot.

 

I’m going to rock you like a gravel road: A weekend at Monocacy!

I have a confession.  I don’t wear underwear when I do Civil War living history.

No, instead of underwear, I wear period correct split leg drawers that come down to my knees.  There was this deliciously bizarre moment this weekend when the guys were pulling up their trousers comparing socks and drawers and I was showing off the blue ribbon at the bottom of my drawers, which led to me asking, “Can I touch your sock?”

Yes.

IMG_0987.JPG (1)This weekend, the sesquicentennial rolled into Monocacy National Battlefield for their 150th Anniversary event.  The decision had previously been made that we would “rough” it this weekend, meaning, instead of getting a hotel room, we were going to sleep on the battlefield.  My initial response to this was “ehhhhhhh” followed by uncomfortable laughter.  But, whatever, I’ll be a good sport and try it.  Frederick, Maryland is practically within spitting distance, so in the event of frog sized spiders, rain, plagues, whatever, there’s always the means for escape.

Just like the Gettysburg sesquicentennial event.

But, unlike the Gettysburg event, we didn’t have rain, park rangers showing up at midnight shining flashlights into car windows looking for medical emergencies, or heat/humidity to the point of sleeping in underwear and/or passing out in the middle of the demo.  So, you can call that a success.  No hotel rooms needed.

Upon arriving, once we were checked in with the park rangers and all official like, we were given gold medals.  Which, frankly, is a great way to start any event.  Welcome to Monocacy: here’s your medal.  Sure, they were just our volunteer identification medals and mine spent the weekend jammed in between my boobs in my corset, but it’s awesome.  I want to wear mine to work tomorrow.

The Hubs, a member of our group Kevin, and I promptly traversed what appeared to be a soybean field and checked out thephoto (5) position of the artillery pieces for the event.  That’s what you do.  We were delighted to see we had an entire battery–four guns–for the weekend.  Yes!  Section fire!  Battery fire!  Boys, black powder, and a sassy little Napoleon light gun howitzer.  My three favorite things.

As much as I love watching artillery demos and swooning over the boys who fire said artillery pieces, I am also an incredibly huge fan of just hanging out in camp, laughing and talking.  This weekend we compiled a list of our top pickup lines.  Of note:

  • I’m going to rock you like a gravel road
  • Step into the stairwell and I’ll show you where your kidneys are
  • Can I palpate your liver?
  • Well, if you need an ambulance one can be here in three minutes.

Three of these have happened to me (the last one happened this weekend and was not, I felt, an effective means of flirting).  The top one is my favorite and one I kind of want to have made into a t-shirt.  That’s not just a pickup line.  That’s a life motto.

Interestingly enough, my forthcoming novel takes place in Frederick, Maryland and, up until this weekend, I’ve never actually been to Frederick, Maryland.  I relied extensively on Google when writing my book.  Anyway, so, after Saturday’s events I was kidnapped by three Confederates and one Union artillerymen and whisked away to Landon House.  Landon House (which is currently under extensive renovation) features in possibly the longest chapter in my book and was site of the 1862 Jeb Stuart extravaganza, The Roses and Sabers Ball.  Union artilleryman Jeff said, “You’re going to be disappointed because it’s being renovated.  Just remember that.  It’s under construction.”

photo (8)Maybe from the road looking down the lane and thinking, “I’d imagined it further away from the road” was me being disappointed, but up close the history nerd broke loose like some kind of scholarly Hulk-esq transformation and I squealed.  Took a selfie.  And I think I jumped up and down several times.

Rumor has it I also said things like, “Jeb Stuart was HERE!  Omg.”

Weird doesn’t even begin to describe me, I know.

Also weird was our discovery of Babar murals and an extremely sad koi fish/overly happy frog murals in the exposed basement of Landon House.  I’m not…I’m just not really sure why someone would paint a sad koi fish on the wall of anything.  “The koi fish is sad because you don’t put away your toys.”  Bizarre.  And why is the koi fish so sad but the frogs are happy?  If we’re consumed by Landon House, do the frogs disappear and the koi fish is suddenly happy?  It’s another novel entirely, I suppose, but somehow we eventually segued from my Confederates trying to scandalize me with salacious talk, Union Jeff apologizing profusely, me able to hang on par with salacious talk, and then being accepted as one of their own.  There was talk of camisoles, one-handed soldiers, roosters named Meatball.  And then someone said, “We probably aren’t supposed to be up here.”

“We’ll just drive away really fast.”

“Yeah, because no one would ever be able to pick us out of a lineup.  What were they wearing?  Three Confederates, a Yankee, and aphoto (6) chick in a hoop skirt.”

“Oh.  Well.  They’ll just think we belong up here then.  I’m sure it’s fine.”

I’ll tell you what, it was an insanely fun time.  It reminded me a lot of Gettysburg last year, with the laughter and eating dinner with my guys at the Trostle Farm.  Doing living history for the frank love of history is awesome, but hanging out with friends like these are the best.  We share a mutual love of history, shenanigans, and inappropriateness.  We make obscure references and get really, overly excited about standing in historical places.  We know more than you want to know about how artillery pieces are made and tactics and the historical applications of mercury and how prostatitis may or may not have affected AP Hill at Gettysburg.  As my friend Luke said, “We’re all cut from the same cloth.”  Not everyone wants to run around in the heat, humidity, ticks, and spiders the size of sparrows but we do.  These are some of the coolest people I know.

I’m completely bummed out that our living history schedule of events is blank until October.  We’ll possibly be at Cedar Creek, but definitely at Harpers Ferry.  Halloween at the Heights!  More on that to come.

photo (7)So, Monocacy was awesome.  The battery fire was awesome.  Running around with The Hubs and my artillery guys was awesome.  My strangely shaped sunburn is not awesome and looks ridiculous with a tank top.  My lips are chapped.  But it was completely worth it.

As confessions go, I don’t wear underwear when I reenact.  I run around with artillerymen and Yankees and laugh at dirty jokes and have the mouth of a well-educated sailor.  I may have been in a closed area this weekend looking at weird murals.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

(Special shout out to my guys: She just had really good muscle control and he had a wrist.  You know,  because of the war)

Of book releases and girls in corsets

Well, it’s official: my novel, Anything You Ask of Me, will be released on August 4, 2015!  Yes.  So, mark you calendars and get your wine in the fridge because it’s going to be epic.  I have no idea what I’m doing for a release party but look: with thirteen months of planning, it’ll be awesome.  Or it’ll be in my backyard with dip recipes I found on Pinterest.  Whatev.  More to come on that.

Meanwhile, this week marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and one year since I was running amok with The Hubs and The Baltimore Light Artillery in Gettysburg.  Which was awesome.  This week, though, we’ll be in Monocacy for their 150th Anniversary and, pending passing out from the heat and lack of shade, will also be awesome.  So, if you’re around Monocacy National Battlefield July 5 and 6, come on out and see us.  I’ll be the one with purple hair.  You know, trying to hide it under a hat or fake hair or something.

Anyway, I’ve been under the weather this week (read: stressed out to new levels of stress I’ve not experienced in all my well advanced years of living) and frantically working on my latest novel (read: the historical is winning out over the contemporary), but in honor of Anything You Ask of Me officially having an official release date, I bring to you This Republic of  Suffering: my ode to my blatant adoration of the Civil War and historical fiction.  One year to go, guys!  Then you’ll really be faced with my unhealthy obsession with Jeb Stuart.  Be warned, kids.  Be warned.

 

I’m a history girl with a writing problem.  Or, maybe a writing girl with a history problem; regardless, I have an out of control passion for the American Civil War.  I am a Civil War reenactor.  I like Civil War trivia.  I like running around Civil War battlefields.  My blog, The Rambling Jour, is actually named after an obscure firsthand account of the clerk of the provost marshal’s office in Harpers Ferry during the war.

And I like writing about the Civil War.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things about the Civil War I don’t like.  I’ve never read Gone with the Wind.  Tactics and strategies put me to sleep.  I thrive in the effect the war had on civilians and medical procedures.  I’d rather read about the role of women and how that role changed as the war changed.

artilleryMy recently completed novel, Anything You Ask of Me, is about all three of those key elements.  In 1862, a society girl turned spy must decide which is more important: the married general who asks her to risk everything for him, or the man tasked to stop her at any cost.

There is a monument in Gettysburg, near the copse of trees on the third day’s portion of the battlefield, inscribed with a few simple words: Double canister at twenty yards.

Canister shot.  Canister shot is basically a tin can full of golf ball sized steel balls; it turns an artillery piece into a giant shot-gun.  Double canister is two rounds of canister shot jammed into the barrel of the piece.

The effect of the human body is devastating.  These are the men listed in the ominous “missing” column in the ranks of casualties.  These are the men who simply disappear in a pink mist.

We have a nasty habit of referring to the Civil War as “the last gentleman’s war” or the last war before the initiation of modern warfare.  But this is so far from the truth.  Soft lead bullets, like the Minié ball, enter the body the size of a quarter but come out the size of a pancake.  If a soldier survives his wound, it is more than likely he will die of infection.  In the 1860s, we could see bacteria under microscopes—we knew it was there—but we didn’t understand how it impacted the human body.  This was the cusp of medical breakthroughs.  The war forced us to understand.

This is why I write historical fiction.

I’m a twenty-first century girl.  I drive an SUV to work.  I sit in front of a computer all day long.  I listen to Swedish Death Metal (I know, this actually surprised me too) on my iPhone while I edit my novel on my laptop.  I talk on a cell phone and wear jeans and eyeliner and take for granted all of our modern conveniences.

But I’ve also been cinched into a corset.  I’ve ridden in the back of a temperance wagon and marched in a temperance parade.  I’ve sat in a dry goods store and hand sewn a quilt by kerosene lamp and sewn on a period treadle sewing machine.  I’ve felt the rumble in my chest when a 12 pound light gun howitzer artillery piece was fired near me.  I’ve done archaeology of an antebellum house and held shattered pottery in my hand, textiles not handled by a human since, in one moment one hundred and fifty years ago, it broke and was discarded.  I’ve been touched by the past and it haunts me.  I refuse to forget the sacrifices of those who came before us and stared death in the face—and chose to march forward anyway.

This is why I write historical fiction.  Because those who are remembered, never die.

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