Search This Blog

Sunday, November 29, 2015

In Search of an Outlet

Well November flew by and it's time again for my monthly guest post.

When I left off, I mentioned that I knew early on in life that I liked to write. I mentioned that my wife and I became sort of pen-pals before we met and through our writing got to know each other at a deeper level. For years people told me that they loved my letters and those comments always resonated with me that I probably have a knack for writing. But between the demands of trying to build a career and later, the rigors of fatherhood, it seemed I never had time, nor knew what to write even if I did. I did a little personal journalling, but nothing I'd ever want anyone to see.

One of the cooler things to come out of this time in the writing wilderness, were my "kid journals." When our first child was born, a friend gave us a blank journal and she recommended I journal about our kids' lives. I took the task seriously, so made journal entries after significant life events or emotionally memorable moments.

Three years later, when Ben was born, we bought one to track his life too and I have added to that over the years as well. The plan is to give them to them after they graduate from college. I've often said that, regardless of what else I publish or write, these are my two most important books. It's interesting to go back through some of the entries and read what we were going through at the time. Fatherhood was filled with such joy and trial.

After floundering around for years, not knowing how to tap into this love for writing, I finally enrolled in a class offered through the City of Waukesha continuing education program in 2005. It was titled Writing from your Life and it focused on writing memoir and creative nonfiction. We were encouraged to write stories from our past, so I started a couple of short stories about camping and fishing with my brothers. Little did I know these stories would form the groundwork for my book Dirty Shirt, which would be published nine years later.

I'd like to say that class broke my cycle of writing inactivity and everything came easy after that. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all. I didn't follow the class up with anything immediate, and eventually fell away from writing entirely, except for journalling. After all, I thought, who wanted to hear stories from my past anyway? There was certainly no market for it, of that I was certain.

At the same time, I couldn't silence the praises people had given me that rolled around in my head. After a year away, I finally contacted my writing instructor and asked her what she thought I should do. She asked me what I wanted from my writing. By the time I'd hung up with her we determined that I should probably take a class somewhere and see where it leads.

Next month I'll talk about how that call, and the action that came out of it, changed my life as a writer forever.

See you next month!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The First Iowa Volunteer Mounted Infantry

Social Media Head Shot Sean K. Gabhann 20150329When preparing the back-story for the characters in the Shiloh Trilogy, I found that I needed to identify a particular fictional Union regiment as the home for Jamie Harper, Josuah Featherstone, Gus Magnusson, Johnny Cooke, and the others.  I wanted to identify a unit which could plausibly have participated in most of Grant’s and Sherman’s major battles not only in the time period covered by the Trilogy, but extending from the earliest battles to the end of major operations in April 1865.
I had the particular good fortune to have chosen Sergeant’s Bluff, Iowa as Harper’s home town.  Using the constraint that Harper would have to join a unit from a state near his home town, this gave me the choice of Iowa, the states of Minnesota and Missouri, and the territories of Nebraska or Dakota.
Of these, Iowa proved to be the best historical choice having provided regiments for nearly all of the major battles in the western theater, from the First Iowa Volunteer Infantry at Wilson’s Creek, to the sixteen regiments of Iowans in the final battle for Sherman’s armies at Bentonville.   In particular, I wanted a unit which could plausibly have participated in the four battles described in the Trilogy: Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh.

The Civil War Archive TitleUsing Wikipedia as a quick reference source, I discovered that there were just five Union regiments present at Belmont, four from Illinois and the Seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry.  For a cross-check, I consulted the Regimental Index of The Civil War Archive website operated by Mike Northway.  Based on their regimental history, it seemed that the Seventh Iowa would serve quite well is a means for validating the feasibility of an Iowa unit participating in most of Grant’s and Sherman’s major battles.  Back to Wikipedia and a check of the Union orders-of-battle for the other battles confirmed this.

So, I now knew it was feasible.  But I didn’t want to use the actual Seventh Iowa because I didn’t wish to trivialize the accomplishments of the men who served in that regiment nor did I wish to be constrained by that unit’s known, recorded history and personages.   I also knew that I want at some time in the future to write a prequel which covers the campaign in Missouri during 1861.  So, I looked at the Union order-of-battle of Wilson’s Creek and discovered the First Iowa Volunteer Infantry, a ninety-day unit, whose only major battle was Wilson’s Creek – ten days prior to the unit being mustered out of service in August 1861.

I had my fictional unit.  What if, instead of returning to Iowa, a number of the veterans of the First Iowa re-enlisted for three years and they are permitted to retain their unit lineage?  Some of the officers would need to be changed and I still wanted to avoid using real soldiers' names.

Iowa Genealogy Project Logo
During an internet search, I had the great good fortune to find the Iowa Genealogy Web Project.  In these pages, I found the initial muster rosters for every Iowa unit in the Civil War, provided by Guy Logan.  Now I also had access to thousands of authentic soldiers’ names which I could (and would) manipulate to fill out the roster of fictional Iowans in Harper’s War Stories.

The story of Jamie Harper and the others begins with Harper's Donelson which was published in September 2015.

Harpers Donelson Front Page for Web 20150901
Harper's Donelson: A Novel of Grant's First Campaign

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Prairie Rose Companion

Greetings from the northern prairies of Wisconsin, the land of cheese, bratwurst and beer! My name is Jim Landwehr and this is my first guest blog post for Prairie Rose Publications. When the call was put out to Prairie Sun authors I was excited to be considered and eventually chosen as a participant. I’ve been blogging for about nine years, and have really come to enjoy the feedback I’m getting from followers. My blog is not topical, but rather jumps from subject to subject. I describe it as the noise that’s in my head, which is more truth than fiction.

If you want to check it out, go to:

The focus for my posts to the Prairie Rose blog will be my writing journey. I’ll talk about the people, processes and events that brought me to where I am; a published author of two books and contributions to several magazines, journals and anthologies. My most recent successes were with Sundown Press, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications. I’ll also try and highlight what I’ve learned along the way and point out some of the challenges I’ve faced.

Because this is my first post, I’ll start by telling you a little about myself. I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. After my father was murdered in 1967, my mother was left to raise six of us on her own for many years until she remarried. Those single parent years, and the house I grew up in during the seventies, are the source of my next memoir, an as-yet untitled work in progress. They are also the source of two of my entries in the Memories From Maple Street, USA anthologies being offered on Sundown Press. (Leaving Childhood Behind and The Best Christmas Ever.)

I first realized that I loved to write in fourth grade. I used to make short story booklets out of half sheets of paper. Most of the stories were about adventure or disaster, and, for some reason, all of them had a moral. I remember Sister Patricia noticing that I was writing these on my own time and asking if I would mind sharing them in a shared classroom special projects drawer? To me, it was no big deal, but it was really then that I realized that not everyone liked writing as much as me.

My love for writing actually led me to my wife, in a roundabout fashion. When I first moved to Wisconsin in 1985, I was writing letters to my brother Rob, a student at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. As a joke, he told four of his female friends to write me a letter. They did and he included all four of them in one of his letters to me. I replied to all of the young ladies, and only one kept writing back. We got to be pen pals and after a year and a half of writing, Donna paid a visit to Milwaukee. We spent the weekend together, fell in love and, well, the rest is history. We celebrated 25 years together last June.

We have two children, Sarah (20) and Ben (17) who are the source of all my pride and joy. We also have a dog Toby, a cairn terrier who is as stubborn as an old man, and two cats Chester and Isabelle. Unlike my children, these animals are the source of all my carpet and furniture ruination.
Toby at 12 Weeks.

So that is a bit about me and my story. In my next post I hope to share more as well as talk about how I began to take my writing seriously.

Thank you so much for following me. If you’d like more information about my writing, it is all on my Author page at:

See ya next month!