"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My blog is moving to Fridays!

At the Indiana monument ~ Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner

For the summer, I decided to change my blog day. Starting this week, I will no longer be posting on Tuesday. I will be posting on Friday. It's just easier for me this way. Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.

See you on Friday!

Between you, me and gatepost,


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memorial Day…a day of honor and remembrance…

Private Lars (Loree H) at the gravesite of 80 Indiana soldiers
Gettysburg National Cemetery - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner 
Yay! I have my BLOGGER powers back again! Apparently I wasn't the only one having BLOGGER troubles since Wednesday. I'm hearing of a few others. You can go to the link : http://knownissues.blogspot.com/2011/05/were-investigating-issue-which-is.html  if you're having problems. You can get a Blogger update on the situation. They're having problems with comments, sign ins, and posting.

We’re less than a week away from the Memorial Day holiday weekend that kicks off the summer season. I can’t believe how fast it’s upon us already.
When I was a kid, the holiday was a morning of going to the gravesites of family members who had passed on and decorating the graves. In the afternoon, we enjoyed a picnic or cookout with aunts, uncles, and cousins. I also remember watching old war movies with my dad and brothers. We would always watch the classics, The Longest Day, Sands of Iwo Jima, along with all the John Wayne-John Ford cavalry movies that happened to be on TV.
I’ve got to say, I love this holiday. We celebrate it differently now that I’m older and have my own family. My hubby’s birthday falls very near and sometimes on the actual holiday, so we have a double celebration all weekend long. It’s a three day event of visiting family and friends, cook outs, and outdoor activities. I also keep the old family traditions and visit a few graves of loved ones, along with watching a good war picture such as, Saving Private Ryan, Gettysburg, or Glory, at some point over the weekend.
As Civil War reenactors, our units are usually called to come shoot a volley, or partake in a cannonade at a few local Memorial Day services for those who have given so much for our freedom.
I always feel so honored to be a part of these events at cemeteries and courthouse squares. We not only salute the Civil War soldiers, but ALL AMERICAN SOLDIERS and VETERANS, who sacrificed and gave so much of themselves for our freedom. I always get extremely emotional during the speeches and the salutes...especially, when TAPS is played. As a proud American, I have freedom that I wouldn’t have otherwise, if not for them. I take a moment, under God...to say:

I salute and thank all the good men and women who serve our country, guarding us and our freedom…during war time or peace…now and back then. Huzzah! I remember and salute the ones who were fortunate to make it back after war. Some came back from war with painful memories and shell shock. Some came back without arms or legs. Some didn’t come back. I take this day, under God...to remember all of you…
This year, Eric and I plan to march in a parade on Monday morning with our artillery unit. Even though it’s not our hometown, I look forward to a good old parade for the awesome people in a lovely Indiana town near South Bend. We've also been invited to shoot a few volleys during a special Memorial Day program at the courthouse in Porter County with our infantry unit.
How are you spending the holiday weekend? Got any special plans? How did you spend the holiday when you were a kid? I would love to hear from you.
Have a great and safe holiday weekend!  YAY SUMMER!
Between you, me and the gatepost,

Private Sven (Eric H) in Gettysburg National Cemetery
Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the town of Joplin, Missouri, and all the American towns ravaged by killer tornadoes this spring. We keep you close in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An old book…a new feeling of joy…

Beach at Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan
Mother's Day 2011
Photo by Loree Huebner

Mother's Day weekend, I pulled out a book that I had written about five years ago. This story is an inspirational, historical romance that takes place at the end of the Civil War. I had queried this book back then and got quite a few nibbles. I was told by one agent that I was near publishable, but there was too much back story and some problems with the conversation. (I was still a novice at rejection back then and thought I knew it all!)  At that time, I took her words with a grain of salt and hastily fixed what I could. I entered the book in a contest in 2008. Needless to say, I didn’t win or place in that contest. The judge who read the book called it “too wordy in places.” Too wordy??? Excuse me! What the heck? Don’t give me…too wordy!! You just don’t understand the time period! Feeling harshly rejected, I put the book on the shelf and started a new novel.
After final edits and revisions on my most recent two novels, I opened up the file on this older book. I kept saying to myself that I would read through it this spring…but I kept putting it off. I think I was scared. Scared of what? Reliving the rejections?? Maybe? My hubby always says, “If you’re afraid of something…turn and face it!” I got brave and pulled those rejection letters out too. Yep, I save them all. I read through each one from this particular book. Most were your basic, “Thanks, but not my cup of tea” or the always lovely “Dear Author” rejections. Then were the rejections from those who requested material. I even had a phone call from an agent who said that she could tell that I “write from the heart”…BUT, Civil War was not selling so she didn’t want to take me on at that time. She told me to consider self publishing. I thanked her for her time. From the other rejection letters, I got no hints on what was wrong except by one kind agent who looked at a partial. She took the time to give me some real insight in a few paragraphs. She was the one who said that I was near publishable. Anyway, I read her rejection over and over…come to me wisdom, come.
After a lovely Mother’s Day afternoon with my son and hubby, walking the southern shores of Lake Michigan and a beach picnic, I came home and started reading the book. Much to my surprise, it was better than I had remembered. (I love those special moments when were stunned at our own good writing – Wow! Did I write that?!?!) I couldn’t stop reading the book. I found that after some time and distance, I could see what the agent was talking about. I could also see what that “too wordy” judge was talking about. After taking some time and studying the craft, I can now see the problems where I couldn’t before. Over three years, I had grown as a writer and grown in my writing! They were right—there is too much back story…there are some problems with the conversation…and it was too wordy in places. I have a whole new feeling about this book. I can take the constructive criticism and learn from it, instead of pouting and pitching a fit that “nobody understands!
I’m setting out to do what needs to be done to this book. Then I’m going to query it again. We’ll see what happens, but in the meantime, I have a new feeling of excitement—the joy of writing has returned from an unexpected source!
Have you ever picked up an old story that you have shelved? What were your feelings when you read it? Was it salvageable? Did you get excited about it again? When do you feel the joy of writing? Have you ever gone through old rejection letters for hints on your writing? Did you learn from them? I would love to hear from you…
Between you, me and the gatepost,


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Doing novel research by living history...

Miss Loree - Christmas 1864 - Photo by Eric Huebner
Doing novel research by living history…this is one place that I get my inspiration to write about the Civil War.
Last week I went to the doctor for my allergies. As this new nurse checked my blood pressure and took my temp, she asked me what I was there for. I replied, “My allergies are acting up, and I have a reenactment coming up.
She looked at me and asked, “Reenactment?”
“Yes, I’m a Civil War re-enactor.”
I smiled and shook my head as she left the room. Just what exactly did she mean?!? “OH, YOU'RE ONE OF THOSE.”
~ Civil War Reenacting 101~
Most of you know that I’m a mainstream Civil War re-enactor. I do this to teach and promote the history, to honor those who fought during this difficult time in our nation’s history, and for my own research purposes for the novels and articles that I write.
The people (THOSE) among my reenacting units and friends come from all different walks of life and occupations. We have a lawyer, several teachers, two pharmacy techs, a scientist, a professor, an appraiser, a chef, a couple of college students, a lab tech, a social worker, a behavioral specialist, a mechanic, writers, a preacher, and a policeman. We have several retired military personnel. We all have that kindred spirit…that love of the era and the history that brings us together.
The word re-enactor means exactly what it says…ACTOR.
Now you will probably never see me grace the silver screen, but there were a few times that I could be in the running for an Oscar…let me explain.
Of course, it’s fun to get all dolled up in my hoops and skirts, go to a ball and dance with my handsome soldier hubby, or spy for the Union, (yes, I’ve done my share of fanning my face while passing written reports of troop locations and numbers from my skirt pockets) but there is another side of my acting abilities…

Corporal Eric and Miss Loree - Christmas 1864 - a tearful goodbye
I’m not the authentic campaigner (hardcore) type – one who stays in character (in the bubble) the entire event - barefoot, eating rotten apples and salt pork. And I’m not the fresh fish – a newbie wearing my jeans and hiking boots into battle instead of wool and brogans. I’m the kind who is right in the middle. I wear the proper uniform or clothing, but I fall in and out of character, have a stash of bottled drinking water and Cheetos in my tent, and eat Campbell’s soup (a present day luxury) cooked in a mucket over fire. I carry my cell phone (turned off, of course)
Now you may say that this sounds more like a soldier than a proper 19th century lady…well, I do portray both.
Frequently, I portray a soldier because they need numbers on the field. Believe it or not, women did fight in the Civil War. Some fought for the same reasons women serve in the military today—because they felt the call to duty to defend their country. Many rural women could shoot as well as their brothers or fathers.
Some women found themselves in hard times if their spouse went off to war…so some of those ladies went to war with their husbands. If he left, there was nothing but starvation or being a burden on relatives—another mouth to feed during the difficult times. Some of these ladies worked as laundresses in camp, others became “a brother”…a real soldier in the army. I could go on and on here, but I will save that for another blog post.  

Private Lars in the Union trenches - Spring Hill, TN - Photo by Eric Huebner

Back then, it was easy to fool the government. There was only a rudimentary physical exam to join the army. They looked at your teeth much like they would examine a horse. You needed teeth to bite a cartridge. They also examined your hands. That was about it. No gender checks, stress test, blood pressure, heart rate…it you looked healthy, you were in. There were many women who cut their hair and joined up. (I tuck my precious locks up under my hat)

When I tote a musket, I portray Christian soldier, a boy soldier (that’s what they called them…no facial hair) who is really a woman, fighting for the Union with her husband. I know, I know, it sounds like a Victor/Victoria plot.
I did want to say that when reenacting, in your mind you know you are not really shooting people, and that you really won’t be shot or killed yourself, but it gives you a clear impression of what it felt like to live it and struggle with it. I’ve cried many times after leaving a battlefield, or reenactment. My emotions touch on the lives of those who gave so nobly. I always pray for them. 
The tale of Private Lars ~
My character’s story is that she left and chose to fight for the Union out of patriotism, and she couldn’t stand to be parted from her husband, so she joined up with him. My hubby, Eric, and I pretend to be a married couple, pretending to be brothers in the war, Lars and Sven. (I’m not even Swedish! I told you it was acting!) Yes, I share a tent with him…he is my husband after all. Are you keeping up?
In the war, women who were caught as soldiers were sent back to the state that they were mustered in at. Some large re-enactments I’ve attended have a policy of any women caught in ranks will be sent out of camp. I’ve never been caught yet…ah hem, although I was at a reenactment a few years back with about 500 re-enactors. I had been in drill, marched, and been in a battle in the morning, and was back in camp when I took off my hat. My braid fell down and the colonel came over to me. He looked mad. He said, “Soldier, have you been in the ranks all day??” I stood up and said, “Yes, sir!” The captain of our unit looked very nervous, of course, he knows I’m a woman. The colonel looked me up and down and said, “With your hat on, you give a fine impression.” He handed me my hat and said, “Well, I’ll be.” He walked away and didn’t kick me out. That was the most awesome, AND yet, devastating moment in my reenacting career. I passed all day as a boy soldier in the ranks…what does that tell me?!?!? Heh heh. I visited with that same colonel that night around that campfire. Most of my comrades nearly fell over as my hubby and I waltzed over from the ball. I was dressed in my lace and hoops, and the boys couldn’t believe that I was the same person that had been in the ranks with them during the battle. Lars and Miss Loree had become two different people. Anyway…

Private Lars - Battle of Spring Hill, TN - Photo by Eric Huebner

I want you to take a look at the posted pictures. Also, scroll down to the very bottom of the blog for another picture. I live the history and know it well. That picture above, (not my prettiest moment) I’m facing Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry at a National reenactment in Tennessee…ask me if I was scared. Even though it was a reenactment, I was petrified! I can still taste that red earth and gun powder in my mouth.

What kind of research do you do for your writing? What kind of unusual research have you done for your writing? I would love to hear from you.
Between you, me and the gatepost,
 ~ I leave you with a quick video of Private Lars below. Yep that’s me, arm in the air, Gunner # 4, pulling the lanyard, firing the cannon at a reenactment in Kentucky. I’ve got to work on my masculine, soldiers voice, "Gun number 2 ready"…haha. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you. Have a great week!

Video shot by Eric Huebner