Tag Archives: Civil War

Promises by Ardyce Durham

As many fans of history know there are several ways to keep history alive and to record the events of the past. Author Ardyce Durham uses just one of those ways by researching the life of her paternal grandfather to find out the man had lived a very interesting life. She used these historical findings to put them into a very well told story that, although fiction,  gives us glimpses to a period many have forgotten.

Promises takes the reader back into the 1800’s prior to the Civil War and up thru and beyond.  The book opens with the reader getting an introduction to both the Walker and Cartwright families. The main characters are going to be a set of boys who were born just days apart. Their names are Owen Cartwright and Wes Walker.

The story will follow the lives of these two young men as they grow up into adult hood, and go off to war. The story will be filled with things from moments of comedy, to that of sorrow. One of the comedic pieces that stuck out to me is when the young men try chewing tobacco for the first time. I could almost imagine what they went thru as who has not tried something they shouldn’t as a child only to have it backfire and cause sickness.

There is also heartache and tragedy within the pages as often happened in the mid 1800’s whole families could be uprooted from their homes as they must move to where the work is to survive. This happens to both families when the local sawmill where both men work, shuts down. The families are forced to travel and find jobs and we find a lot of the original grit of the human spirit on how they react to these changes. We have to remember there are no paved roads, no cars and worse of all no CELL phones at this time. A trip that today, could be a few hours to a day trip by car on an express way took days, maybe weeks or months during this period.

The story will follow the boys as their families must move to a new town, a new way of living and how they adapt. We will read how they take up fighting in what can only be called an early fight club. The reader will have to take time to see how they do as I want to avoid a lot of spoilers. There again though we get a glimpse at the bond between the boys and also their families.  The bond forged thru their youth will take them into the Civil War and be part of what comes after that conflict.

Readers will get a sense of the bond the boys build throughout the book as they read the stories before and after the Civil War. I am sure there will be some who may suffer with the language used in the book. It’s in no way something you need to have fear about, it’s just that a lot of the language is period based. It fits the story and is something I enjoyed as it took me even more into the story.

There are some great characters developed within the pages of Promises by Author Ardyce Durham. She does a very good job at not just building the story between the boys but the scenery of the era the book takes place within. The backdrop of a strong bond between families, to that of the conflict that put families against families was brought to life with the writing. There are some moments of sorrow, love and anger within the pages but the book is a great telling of a story that is based on the life of the author’s grandfather.


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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Reviews


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Cabin Fever by James M. Jackson

Cabin FeverMichigan’s Upper Peninsula is known to many locals as God’s Country. It has this title due to the beauty that can be found across the UP. The forests, streams, waterfalls, lakes and endless beauty are something that can be difficult to be found and rivaled. There are year round activities for people from hiking, boating, camping and of course snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. I type those words as one who called the UP home for a good part of my life and was happy to call myself a Yooper during part of my life.

The book, Cabin Fever, by author James M. Jackson will take the reader to this beautiful landscape. The book will remind readers that amongst the beauty there can be dangers. Snow measured not so much in inches, but in feet. Temperatures can drop dramatically and get below zero during the winter months. Snowmelts can turn dirt roads more into mud pits as the snow melts away creating a near bog. These are things brought beautifully to the readers mind within the book.

Cabin Fever is book two in the Seamus McCree Mysteries and as I did not read the first book I went in not knowing much about Seamus. The reader is introduced to a man that loves the solitude his cabin in the woods brings him. He is able to sit back enjoy his large number of books, snow shoeing or just enjoying the beauty of the desolate lake. Winter has him snowed in but that is no matter to Seamus, as he is up to the challenge. It’s only when after a trip through a heavy snowfall that he will find a surprise that will change his solitude and not for the better. The surprise is an unconscious woman who is naked and in obvious need of help.

Seamus must make some hard choices if he is going to help this young woman live. He has no way to get to a nearby town, no phone or any real form of communication. His next supply drop is not due for several days so he must try all he can to get her help. He’ll try spelling SOS in the snow, blowing a horn three times and all he can. As you read what the man will do you will get an idea of his character and what he will do for what he thinks is right.

As the book progresses you find out what happened to the young woman and the mystery around her. The one thing that I want many to take away is also the sense of togetherness you get from those who call the UP home. Seamus will find himself being helped by many of the locals as the book unwinds. There help may cost some of their lives, but the important thing is that these communities who will help their own. It’s one of the things I really loved about growing up in the UP, the people and how they come together for those in trouble.

The book will take the reader into a darker side of Michigan, and that are the militias. These are groups that feel part of the Federal Government are misleading the country and needs to change. They are prepared for war if they must and some will put the lives of others secondary to get what they want, or need. In the case of Cabin Fever, their need is money to move closer and closer to the civil war they want. The leader is only known as The Boss and this person is someone no one will see coming, and is blood thirsty.

Author James M. Jackson uses the beauty of the Upper Michigan winter to set a great backdrop to Cabin Fever. The book will take you into characters that are well developed and will become likeable as you read the book. There will be a wide range of characters from a diner waitress to a local older man who goes out of his way to help Seamus. The fact is that the book delivers not just from the plot from the characters that you read. I still like to think of the UP as the silent character that is featured in the book. This is a great mystery with characters that you will want to see again and a plot that involves Michigan and nearby Wisconsin. The fact there is intrique, death and murder within the beauty of this setting adds so much more to the book. All are at risk with what may be coming and it is possible if The Boss wins, the militias could come into a lot of funding for their war. The book is published by Barking Rain Press.

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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Reviews


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Ten +1 Questions with Author John Hazen

John HazenJohn Hazen is the author behind the book Dear Dad. He took time to answer the new set of Ten +1 Questions that I have put together. So without more comment please check out John’s answers to the questions.

Question 1: When did you realize first wanted to be a writer? 

I can’t remember when I didn’t want to write novels, but it was always one of those things I “never got around to do”. I put forward a couple of efforts earlier in my life but they never went anywhere. Every time I did it all seemed so daunting and overwhelming, but it still didn’t dampen my dream of writing a book, someday. It wasn’t until I got myself my first laptop that I started to get serious about it and began to put my ideas down and fashion them into stories. The result is that I’ve now written four novels, one of which I self-published (Dear Dad) and two that have been published by a small independent publisher, Black Rose Writing (Fava and Journey of an American Son).

Question 2: How did your friends/family take the loss of your time as you wrote the book?

Most of my writing is done on the train back and forth from work or early in the morning hours so there hasn’t been a lot of lost time away from friends and family.

Question 3: What inspired you to write Dear Dad? 

I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and have especially been fascinated by the Civil War. Many people at the time viewed the Civil War as a just war that needed to be fought. Juxtaposed with this is the fact that I grew up in the Vietnam War era with the nightly televised antiwar protest images being pumped into my brain. I thought it would make for a great novel to somehow contrast the two wars (with a nod being given to World War II in the process), but I’m a novelist and I didn’t want it to come off as a dry history lesson. That’s when it occurred to me that what better way to compare the wars than to have to same person participate in both wars?

Question 4: During the initial writing process where did you get the idea for the book and its characters?

When I get an initial idea for a book, I can’t say that there is very much in the way of specifics. I have a general concept of what the book is about (e.g., comparing two very dissimilar wars or what would happen if a person who lost someone on 9/11 was suddenly able to extract ultimate revenge), where I ultimately want to end up and perhaps the lead characters but beyond that, the rest comes to me as I write. I have great admiration for those authors who can outline their books ahead of time. Me, I make it up as I go along. I always tell people that some of my favorite characters are minor characters that I originally introduce to help move the plot along but then as I’m writing they grow in importance and become pivotal characters in the book. In Dear Dad, Doc and Jon were that way. I just love the way these characters develop before my very eyes.

Question 5: Who were some of the authors that inspired you as a child growing up and their books? 

Would it be going back a little too far to cite Virginia Lee Burton who wrote Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel as a profound influence? It’s the first book I recall reading. Seriously, my favorite all-time book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it first in either Junior High or High School and I’ve re-read it a number of times since then. In high school and for years afterward I would latch onto an author and read everything I could by him or her one after the other. I did that with John Steinbeck, James Mitchener and Robert Ludlum. As you can see, my tastes are rather eclectic.

Question 6: What was the feeling like when you saw the first completed version of your book? 

It was quite a rush, I must say; quite a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I must say that even now I look back at my books and say to myself: ‘Wow, I did that?’

Question 7: Do you continue to write and in what genre? 

Oh yes, I’m still writing. I write in the suspense/thriller genre. All my books have some sort of historical component but I like to have some sort of twist. Dear Dad, for example, has a time travel component to it. Presently, I’m working on revamping the first novel I ever wrote but was never released. It’s called Aceldama and has a fantasy aspect to it, asking the question: What if someone were to stumble across one of the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas to betray Christ?

Question 8: Who do you imagine being the people reading your book? 

I’m hoping that Dear Dad has an appeal to a broad spectrum of people. I could see history buffs liking it. I could see the time travel crowd having an interest. I can the family-values set taking a look at it because of the father-son bond you mention in your review. Most importantly (and I want this to apply to all my books), I see people being attracted to the book because they just plain like to read a good story.

Question 9: Any good suggestions for those who want to try writing their own book? 

Perseverance. You can’t let yourself be overwhelmed at the outset but construct it as you would if you’re building a house. Just like you wouldn’t start doing your interior decorating until you got the structure and plumbing and electrical in place, neither should you rush the building of your story. Don’t get ahead of yourself but put the book together bit by bit and scene by scene. You also need to have a thick skin and accept constructive criticism gracefully. In Dear Dad, for example, an early draft had a whole family that one of my readers said really did not add much to the story and in fact distracted the reader from the main plotline. I really liked the family and I miss those kids, but I had to agree and they were expunged from the final version of the book. Lastly there’s an old writer adage that I think writers should always keep in mind: ‘Show, don’t tell’. The example I remember is instead of saying ‘Ted was filthy rich’ say ‘Ted glanced at his Rolex’. It gets the same point across but in a more descriptive way that helps the reader paint a picture in his mind

Question 10: When not writing how does you like to spend your time? 

I just like spending time with my wife of 35 years, my best friend, Lynn. We love to travel and play tennis but more likely than not we’ll just enjoy each other’s company doing about anything.

The + 1 Question

If you had any one place in the world you could travel to for a book tour, where would that place be, and why?

I’d love to retrace the trip my grandfather made in 1920 when he was sent on a business trip from Boston to Calcutta, India. He wrote a diary of that trip which I subsequently used as the setting into which I wrote my most recent novel, Journey of an American Son (how’s that for a shameless plug for one of my other books?) As you can imagine, a trip that today would take less than a day at that time took months as he took a train across Canada, then steamers to Tokyo, Singapore and ultimately Calcutta. Along the way he also rode on rickshaws, dinghies and Model Ts. After he concluded his business, he got back on trains and steamers but headed west to go through the Suez Canal up through Europe and then across the Atlantic back to Boston. Now that would be a book tour!

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Interview


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What is Memorial Day to Me

At this time I aFlagm usually getting ready to post the follow up questions from a book review. Well, you get to wait a few more days for that to be posted as it is Memorial Day in the United States and I wanted to put a short post out regarding the day.


Today is Memorial Day. A day we are to remember those who have gone before us in the service of this great country, The United States. If you turned on television, the radio, or looked at the news there were not a lot of stories about this day. In fact many are talking about the unofficial start of Summer, the weather, the idiotic Kardashians, or anything but the truth of this day.

If I was to ask when Memorial Day truly started not many would know. They may guess and get it right but in truth it was the Civil War that brought this holiday to our minds. It isn’t hard to believe when you look at the number of dead and wounded during that period. It was a war that brought family against family and the death toll was over six hundred thousand. As it was so many generations ago it like many other conflicts has left the conscious of many.

The same can be said for those who died in World War I and II, Korea, and dare I say Vietnam. There are those who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam that are still with us. If you ask them they will undoubtedly remember their friends they left behind.

In war, in conflict, and even in peace there are service men, and women, who are dying wrapped in a piece of fabric called a uniform. They are all fighting for each other, their lives, their family and their country. Their lives ripped from them earlier than all can fathom. These are people who could have done so much with their lives but went and followed the orders they were given. It is why we have a Memorial Day. It is a day to remember those who we have lost, those who fought for what we believe in.

To give an idea of the cost of live and the families impacted the below graphic will show what has happened in some of the major wars the US has fought. This is just a small listing as there are events all over this world that have cost a life of a US soldier. To all of them and their families I hope a simple day of remembrance helps, but in truth they will always be in the heart of those who thank them.


Major U.S. War Casualties U.S. Deaths Wounded Date
Iraq War 4,800 31,965 2003 – 2011
Afghanistan 2,229 18,675 2001 – Present
Gulf War 258 849 1990 – 1991
Vietnam War 58,209 153,303 1955 – 1975
Korean War 36,516 92,134 1950 – 1953
World War II 405,399 670,846 1941 – 1945
World War I 116,516 204,002 1917 – 1918
Civil War 625,000 281,881 1861 – 1865
American Revolutionary War 25,000 25,000 1775 – 1783
Statistic Verification  
Source: Washington Post Database of U.S. Service-Member Casualties, McGavock Confederate Cemetery  

Graph from:


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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Personal


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