10/30 Progress Report

Walked a mile and a half. Wrote 5100 words on fantasy novel, the Big bad revealed herself and the plot is starting to shake into place, maybe, kinda. As is the basic idea of the sequel.

Artist started on cover for Elizabeth and Empire, so still estimate a mid-November release date. The interior map is finalized as well.


Chasing Prince Eugen

Not the ship, the historical personage.  For some few years, I’ve been intrigued by the figure of Prince Eugen of Savoy. His name is very familiar to European historians, especially those who focus on pre-Napoleonic warfare. He rides a rearing stallion in front of the Hofburg in Vienna, and stands guard over the Danube on castle hill in Budapest. He fought the Ottomans out of Hungary and with the assistance of John Churchill, the Duke of Marlboro, singed Louis XIV’s fingers on several occasions. He left four lovely baroque palaces, a phenomenal art collection, and no written records, no personal papers, nothing. His friends and associates destroyed what they had from him after his death.

I’ve been, unintentionally at first, following Prince Eugen across Europe for the past five or six years. Southern Bavaria, near Hochstadt, is the site of the battle English-speakers know as Blenheim. Eugen saw his first serious action in the relief of Vienna in 1683, and participated in most of the subsequent battles against the Turks along the Danube as far as Belgrade. I have not tracked him across northern Italy, but there’s still time.

Why? I’m not certain. He’s a fascinating character, in part because of what we can’t know. All sorts of historical rumors circle around him, and always have. Was he a homosexual? Why didn’t he ever marry? Why was he such a good field commander? What motivated him? Did he have any good friends? Apparently he and Marlboro got along very well, but beyond that we don’t have any information.

Based on descriptions and portraits, we do know that he was, ah, well, homely, short and lightly built, and apparently an absolute terror on the battlefield.

I think one of the things that I find fascinating is his loyalty. He fled France and served the Habsburg dynasty for all of his adult life. He pulled the emperors’ chestnuts out of the proverbial fire more than once, and he never seems to have tried to use his position for his own gain, at least that historians can tell. Of course, given the rewards the Habsburgs showered him with, and the loot he captured, he didn’t need to skim the army budget. In an age when the top military personnel moved from army to army as finances and the desire for experience took them, Eugen stayed with the Habsburgs.

He seemed to have a gift for finding weak spots and for doing the absolutely mad, insane thing that saved the day. One of his best known victories, at Zenta in 1697, came when he led his cavalry into the Turks just before sunset, when you were supposed to be making camp and settling down for the night, and fighting them back across the river before they could finish establishing a secure bridgehead. No one in their right mind fought at night in those days. Eugen did. At Belgrade in 1717, his men sick with dysentery, he got caught between the walls of the city and two Turkish armies. Most people started writing his epitaph, but when the fog and smoke cleared (literally in this case), he’d won. he wasn’t known as an original thinker, but he was very, very good at improvising and at reading the battlefield and finding the key point, the moment when he could turn the tide. he was defeated more than once, but always came back. I admire that.

It’s been a fascinating five years, chasing Prince Eugen.

Progress Report: New Book

Since I’ve reached a stopping point with the WWI book (I need to do more battlefield research before I can go farther), I started the word-magic fantasy that’s been kicking around. 3290 words and the first three chapters kinda sketched out.

Centuries ago, invaders swept down from the eastern mountains, driven by a terror they refused to even name. They killed or enslaved all who resisted them, and renamed the land and it’s inhabitants. Now the queen rules with a firm but wise hand, and her people prosper. But strange things have begun appearing in the far northeast, and the land seems tired, the crops weaker and harvests smaller. As the queen’s hunters know, memories die very hard, and when the guardians of an ancient secret find a woman with the gifts to bring the power of the past back to life, a battle begins for the very strength of the land, pitting the queen’s hunters against the magical rebels. Little do any of them know that new names can be magical, too.

It’s a Human Wave fantasy set in a steampunkish world.

Wednesday on the Wing

Auction Song

Despite sinking weather we got into Lamoni, IA. The forecast fifteen hundred foot ceiling and five miles of visibility had sunk to eight hundred scattered to broken, a little low for my speed and mass that morning. Fortunately, the layer turned more scattered then broken, revealing lush green pastures, tree-lined creek beds and a small north-south airstrip. The tan Seneca landed neatly with room to spare, but filled most of the “ramp.” The auction owner and his wife suggested that I come along with them to the sale barn and wait there. Since I couldn’t see anything that looked like a line shed or other terminal-sort of thing besides some hangars, I agreed and piled self and stuff into their waiting pick-up. Continue reading

10/21 Progress Report and Reader Call

3400 words on WWI novel.

1) I need a alpha reader(s) for Fountains of Mercy, the Colplatschki novel about the Great Fires and the founding of the Babenburg family. Please contact me at AlmaTCBoykin at AOL dot com if you are interested.

2) I’m trying to decide if I want to release Elizabeth and Empire in Kindle Select or regular KDP so I can release it on Kobo and Barnes and Noble at the same time. How many of you prefer to shop through epub outlets versus using the ‘Zon? The release date is still mid November as of this moment.


A Book in the Hand

A somewhat battered box arrived on the Brown Truck of Happiness (TM) earlier this week. It contained author’s copies of a non-fiction book. This is my first solo monograph. I’ve done articles and contributed chapters, illustrations, and sections to edited volumes, but this one is all mine, for good or ill.

I opened the lid, cut the tape on the protective wrapper around the stack-o-books and lifted out a rather slim volume. It’s amazing how small the page-count gets once all is set and done. But there’s the correct picture on the cover, and my name on it and *gulp* my non-fiction writing has been loosed upon the world once more.

It’s strange. After so much fiction, all electronic, to have a “real” book, a history book, with my name as the only one on the cover is a shivery feeling. I can stand in a bookstore, or look on the library shelves, and say “mine.” I’m now up there on the row with authors I admire, use as sources, or despise.

I’ve made it another step up the academic ladder, except the ladder goes . . . nowhere, not really, not for me at the moment. I have academic “street creds” while standing on the sidewalk watching things go by. Which is not entirely a bad place to be, given the uncertainty of adjunct life these days.

So I sit here, book in hand and a goofy grin on my face, petting my author’s copy and working on three fiction projects, another non-fiction work, and getting ready to teach next week. For this moment, life is good.

W(h)ig School of History

Daniel Hannan Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples made the Modern World 2013 (HarperCollins/ Broadside Press)

According to the story everyone in the English-speaking world learned before 1970, history was made by men with powdered hair or funny-looking wigs, knee-breeches, and is a story of constant improvement, with medieval barons forcing King John to sign Magna Carta so their descendants could be elected from rotten boroughs and eventually found the United States. Later students discovered that the men (all men) did this while happily oppressing the poor, the Catholic, the female, and the brown. Right? Oh, you said Whig history, not Wig History. Sorry. Let me step outside and try again . . . Continue reading