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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Release - Jason Kilkenny’s Gun by Kit Prate - Giveaway!

Legendary bounty hunter Rance Savage is dying of pneumonia. As luck would have it, he is discovered by two brothers, Will and Josh Kincaid, and brought into town to be cared for by Doc Harper. Once he’s recovering, Savage plays on young Josh Kincaid’s starstruck admiration for him by giving him his first real taste of manhood.

But when Savage kills a man, he’s put under lock and key—unfairly—to young Josh Kincaid’s way of thinking. To make matters worse, it’s Josh’s own uncle, Jake Kincaid, who is responsible for bringing the bounty man down. Josh has a skewed view of who the real Rance Savage is—and he’s determined to help him get free—no matter the cost. 

In a deadly twist of fate, Savage finally is in the position of power he’s been seeking for twenty years—to kill the man he blames for making him a cripple. A chance discovery of a long-hidden rifle is the catalyst that brings freedom from a terrible secret—and death in its wake. How many lives will JASON KILKENNY’S GUN destroy?


The entrance to the cavern was plainly visible. Something lay on the ground in front of the black hole. Dark, furry, like a small bear, yet somehow different. Whatever it was, it sprawled across the corpse of the old wolf.
Josh rose up on one elbow. He was a good hundred yards from the wolf’s den, and he lay quietly, debating his next move. In his mind’s eye, he drew fantasies of what must have happened, the way the old wolf must have died. The animal would have fought to his death to defend his secret place, and would have taken his attacker with him. Using the rifle as a staff, the boy rose up on his knees and pulled himself erect. There was a sadness in him as he approached the creatures sprawled on the ground.
He reached the pair, realizing for the first time that the thing he had thought an animal was a man in a buffalo-hide coat. A big man, six feet or more in height, with immense, well-muscled shoulders, and long-fingered hands. Laying the rifle aside, Josh reached out, his fingers probing at the long artery in the man’s neck. Suddenly, a hand closed around his lower arm, a vise squeezing against the fragile bones in his wrist.
     And then the voice came, weak, barely above a whisper. “I need help, boy.” The fingers tightened, and the man repeated the words, louder, “I need help.”

Be sure an leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Seward vs Toombs: British and French Recognition of the Confederacy

William H. Seward
As an amateur historian of the American Civil War, I believe myself to be well schooled in the military aspects of that war. Recently, a good friend gave me the book: Statesmen of the Lost Cause: Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet which he purchased at an estate sale for $0.50. Published in 1939, the book offers biographic sketches of these political leaders and draws out their characters through examples of their statesmanship. It sat in my To Be Read pile for several months because it appeared to be an academic tome written to conform to the publish-or-perish mandate of university professors between the World Wars. Frankly, I did not have a great deal of interest in the civilian side of the Confederate government. It was much more fun to do the final edits of Harper’s Rescue and get that in to Sundown Press.
Eventually, I did crack the front cover of the book and discovered a wonderful world of political farce nearly equivalent to the American political campaign of 2016 but for far more lethal stakes.
The book was written by Burton J. Hendrick, a Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer of politicians and other great men. It is written in the literary style of its time and reflects the prejudices of that time as well.  Hendrick also published a companion title: Lincoln’s War Cabinet in 1946.

Moving past the venerable nature of the prose, I was actually able to get into the stories of these men and I continue to learn of the political half of the War Between the States. For example, Jefferson Davis was not the first choice for most of the delegates to the Confederate Convention in Montgomery, Alabama. That honor goes to Robert A. Toombs, a former U.S. senator from Georgia. Davis himself felt he was better suited to the role of Secretary for War or Army Commander-in-Chief because of his military background and by virtue of be the Secretary of War during the Franklin Pierce administration.
Robert A. Toombs

In the event, however, Toombs’ candidacy was destroyed by late-night rumor that, instead of Toombs, the Georgia delegation would nominate Howell Cobb for the Presidency, a man under much suspicion for having sided with Unionists during a brief attempt to secede in 1850. The rumor was not true, however, the delegates from the other seceding states had voted for Davis before the error became known. As a consolation, Davis selected Toombs for the prestigious position of Secretary of State. It is this position that Toombs came against the Federal Secretary of State William H. Seward, best known for "Seward's Folly", the purchase of Alaska in 1867.

The greatest conflict between Seward and Toombs was the attempt by the Confederate government to achieve recognition of their independence from Great Britain, France, and Mexico. This was the most delicate task facing the new Confederate government. Success might mean immediate triumph for the Secession, since it would have involved the Federal government in war with Great Britain and France which would lift the blockade and open European markets to cotton, the Confederacy’s “white gold”. Continuation of sales of cotton to the European powers would give the Confederate government a financial strength which could have secured the Southern cause.

I’ve always know that recognition never happened and after reading this book, I now know why. For a political junkie, this is a fascinating story.

Wiiliam L.Yancey
From the outset, Confederate orthodoxy held that the loss of cotton imports from the Gulf states posed such an economic threat to France and, especially, Great Britain that these countries would become natural allies despite their avowed hatred of slavery. Toombs selected a legation of three representatives for the mission. Of the trio, William Lownes Yancey of Alabama, a former U.S. congressman and long-time pro-slavery man was the only man who possessed the essential reputation and distinction.

Pierre A. Rost
Pierre A. Rost of Louisiana, was a lawyer and judge, not known on the national stage. His chief recommendations were his French origin and a supposed familiarity with the Gallic tongue. Both of these supposed assets actually worked to his detriment. His broken creole-French became the object of ridicule in Paris and led to a second criticism that the Confederacy had sent him to patronize the French rather than send an authentic American.

A. Dudley Mann
Nor did A. Dudley Mann prove any acceptable to British diplomats. Here we see the hand of Seward who injected into the reports being sent from the British minister to the U.S. the notion that Mann was of low family origins and a man of bad character. These allegations were untrue, however, Mann’s actions in England showed that he lacked judgement and good sense and was too unobservant to understand events occurring around him.

Napoleon III
In addition to the threat of loss of cotton to mills in Normandy, the Confederate approach to France included pandering to the ambitions of Napoleon III for an empire in the Americas. At that time, Mexico was in a state political disorder as a result of revolution. However, by attempting to conspire in a French invasion of Mexico, the duplicitous nature of the envoy revealed itself when the French learned of the Confederacy's parallel mission to ally with Juarez’ government. The final, fatal flaw in the Confederate strategy to France was Yancey’s out-spoken advocacy and defense of slavery in the parlors of Paris, which most Frenchmen found abhorrent seventy years after the French Revolution.

In Britain, Seward had fouled the water well before the Confederate envoys arrived. In a truly astonishing chapter in American diplomacy considering the state of the United Sates in Spring 1861, Seward was able to convince the British Foreign Secretary that recognition of the Confederacy would mean a war with the United States. As a senator in the later 1850s, Seward had proposed that the United States could reunify a people fatally divided over the issue of slavery by finding a pretext to go to war with some European power. As Lincoln’s Secretary of State, Seward drafted an extremely bellicose statement of position in an open letter to be read by the American ambassador to the Foreign Secretary and posted in British papers. This letter announced under the Monroe Doctrine the intent of the U.S. to declare war on any foreign power which attempted to interfere with the suppression of the domestic enemies of the United States (the secession). Although Lincoln later moderated the tone and directed the U.S. ambassador to deliver it in a more respectful manner, Seward laid the groundwork for this presentation by inviting the British ambassador to a dinner where he read the full text of his original letter. Having been prepared by his ambassador, the foreign Secretary received the American ambassador’s presentation with deference. He had decided to pacify the high-tempered Yankees. Britain cut off all further formal correspondence with the Confederate delegates.

Lord Palmerston
Given the fact that a war with Britain and France concurrent with an internal rebellion might eventually spell total disaster for the Federal government, Seward’s actions were a huge gamble but Seward knew his man. Fortunately, the Liberal government of Lord Palmerston was not prepared to engage in a trans-Atlantic war just five years after the end of the Crimean War, with the Wars of Italian Unification continuing, and nationalist revolts simmering in the Russian and Austrian empires and becoming a force in Germany. Especially, if such a war required an alliance with a rebellious population dedicated to the preservation of slavery.

Having failed in this most important diplomatic ploy, Toombs resigned as the Secretary of State and accepted a commission as a Confederate brigadier general. He led a four regiments of Georgians through the Peninsular and Antietam campaigns until he was wounded at Antietam. At the end of the war, he fled to Cuba and thence to Paris. In 1867, he returned to Georgia but never took the Loyalty Oath, thus ending his public life. He died in 1885 at 75 years.

William H. Seward continued as United States Secretary of State until 1869. He died three years later at 71 years.

Although I love to read about the military history of the American Civil War, I cannot help but be intrigued by these behind-the-scene high-stakes machinations and the subtle and overt factors which affect the outcome. It adds another, huge dimension to the story and begs for a new respect to these little-know personalities.

Now it's time to speculate about the impact on Jamie Harper and the men of the First Iowa if things had gone differently and to figure out how to shoe-horn some of this information in future Harper's War Stories.

So thanks, John, for a great read.

Sean Gabhann


Sean Kevin Gabhann is a Vietnam-era combat veteran of the US Navy. He first became interested in American Civil War history during the centennial celebration and he owns an extensive library of primary and secondary material related to that war. He especially likes to write about campaigns in the West because of a fascination with the careers of U.S Grant and W.T. Sherman. Gabhann lives in San Diego, California.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Be Inspired

This post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Every day is a fresh beginning. Every morn is the world made new.” – Susan Coolidge

That quote is on the January 2017 portion of my new calendar, a lovely creation by Blue Mountain Arts given as a gift by one of my friends. The calendar is titled “Follow My Lead – How dogs teach us to live a life of kindness, faithfulness, and unconditional love.” For the month of January, the heading says “Be Amazed.” Future months encourage taking time to be curious, to be in nature, and to relax – each one a bit of wisdom and an inspiration. My friend knows me well – nature and dogs inspire me. This calendar is now part of my home office, and each time I look at it, I will be inspired – by the headings, the various quotes, and the beautiful artistic drawings.
As I mentioned, dogs inspire me. Whether my own pets, the dogs of others, or the rescued ones I’ve assisted, they have been, and are, a focus of my writing. I enjoy cats, too, and recently I’ve created some cat stories, ones that have run in my local weekly paper as a reading for children. However, dogs seem to be more my forte’ so I continue my quest to create inspirational short stories and books with canines as the main character.

Her name was Jazmine. She was on a journey, and I was part of that adventure. When she arrived at my car in Casper, Jazmine had already traveled more than four hours from her foster home in southern Wyoming. I was taking her another two-plus hours north, and someone else was taking her an additional two hours into Montana. Her final destination? Calgary, Canada, where her adoptive family awaited her. That would take another full driving day.
As I gazed at the elegant, yet scarred face of this rescue dog, a gentle giant who had been abandoned in the wilds of Wyoming’s Red Desert by someone she once trusted, I marveled at the tenacity, not only of Jazmine, but of most rescue dogs. Going from one family to another, having to adjust not only to new humans, but to a different home, oftentimes with new rules and expectations, at times to once again be left behind at an animal shelter filled with strange voices, other sounds, and smells: all that takes courage and perseverance. Then waiting, whether in cages or in foster homes, for yet another family and try again to settle in and be accepted – that, too, takes bravery and tenacity. And, here was Jazmine, me the third person in a day she’d accompanied: her foster parent, transporter #1; me transporter #2, and her journey had barely begun. She had thousands of miles yet to travel, and would encounter yet another five transporters at least before finally meeting the family who had adopted her. How would she fare once she arrived ‘home?’ How would she be treated? And how confusing all this must, and would, be for a dog who sought only to give devotion and love.

Jazmine and her adoptive family in Canada.
So starts a short story I’m working on for an anthology about dogs; deadline is later this month, and I’m hopeful for its acceptance. But, Jazmine didn’t just inspire a 1,000-word story; she’s inspired a children’s book that I’m also currently working on. The story is told from her perspective, much like the award-winning children’s book A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin. I read a segment of my manuscript during a writer’s open mic night in my community; many people came up to me afterwards with encouraging sentiments. One woman even had tears in her eyes and told me about the rescue organization in another state that her daughter operates. My goal with this book is to teach as well as to inspire: to teach children about the plights of homeless animals and about the people who rescue and help them, and to inspire those children and their parents to help pet rescue organizations through volunteering, donating, and educating their friends. Jazmine’s story, her life, is one of courage, perseverance, love, and second chances (see above photo). Her life is an inspiration, and I look forward to sharing her story – whether as an article, a book, or both – this year.

A new year has dawned. May you find many wonderful treasures to inspire you in 2017, whether it’s pets, nature, your family, even strangers. Inspiration is all around us – we only have to be aware through our senses and our intuition and to open our hearts to the wonderful discoveries. 

Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults. She is also a contributing writer for six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and she has a story in Sundown Press' summer 2016 release Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart. She helps several Rocky Mountain region pet rescue organization with events, by transporting rescued pets, and through donating a percentage of her book sales to these groups. Gayle enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and believes people can learn a lot from animals. Learn more about Gayle and her work at