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Archive for 2010


Written on Monday, April 19th, 2010 [permanent link]

I just got reprints of three Chester Comix titles off the truck from my Virginia printer. It feels great to be selling enough that I need to get thousands more copies of

Slavery’s Storm

Reconstruction Junction

Lewis & Clark Transportation

Of course there are little tweaks in each of these new editions (Slavery’s Storm is on its third run) — but they’re so small that only I would notice them. Unlike the edits I made to “Jamestown Journey” for its reprint a few months ago, these changes are simpler — a spot of color cleaned up, a word or two trimmed, a verb made more active. I can always make my writing better!!!

It’s fun for me to go back to storytelling I did 8 or 9 years ago to make it better. I’ve learned a lot more about storytelling than I knew then. And I’ve learned more historical details, too. I’m 43, and I’m still learning — I want the books to reflect that, not turn into museum pieces themselves.

If you want to see how I’m constantly working and reworking my storytelling, jump on my Creative Trail through this website. Start here with some rough drafts, then follow Chester’s claws — you’ll see that my books are never completely “done.” 😉

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Reading comix boosts vocabulary

Written on Thursday, April 8th, 2010 [permanent link]

Here’s a cute and personal take on the many studies that have shown comix boost the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills of young readers. (You know, like reading just about ANYTHING boosts vocabulary and reading comprehension skills!) This blog on NPR’s website falls apart at the end, as the writer strays from the vocabulary theme and gets into a bunch of obscure comic book themes that, well, OK, I GET, but they aren’t important to his main point.

PS – Interesting to me that he is almost exactly my age. I still remain devoted to Sesame Street and the teaching power of simple and bold ideas. Like comix!

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Battle of Bentonville, NC

Written on Friday, April 2nd, 2010 [permanent link]
My son Truman and I watch Confederates after the battle.

My son Truman and I watch Confederates after the battle.

In March 2010 my sons and I did our first overnight Civil War reenactment. The first big battle of this year had gorgeous weather and a good location, so it drew thousands of reenactors from as far away as Maine and Florida, and I got a good feel for some of the history I’ll be drawing soon for the 150th anniversary of the war.

Samuel and Truman and I have camped for years with the Boy Scouts. For the Civil War reenacting, it was fun to be in a campsite with no Coleman stoves — cooking over an open fire the way I did when I was a teenager in Boy Scouts back in the distant 1980s. There were so many campfires that by Saturday night the NC woods were thick with blue smoke — I had to go out onto an open field to clear my eyes. Now THAT’S getting a feel for history!

At Civil War events I portray a freelance cartoonist who draws battlefield scenes for the New York papers and magazines — not too big a stretch for me! The Battle of Bentonville was so big that it had a great diversity of reenactors. I mixed in with many women and children in period clothing, and near the sutlers row was a mobile blacksmith! I was fascinated to see him work out of this cart. That must have been a vital skill to bring along with an army, which would have needed frequent repairs to equipment.

The Battle of Bentonville lasted three days in March 1865, just a few weeks before Lee’s surrender to Grant in Virginia. Bentonville was the Confederate attempt to stop Gen. William T. Sherman from getting to Grant to help surround Lee — and the Confederates succeeded, but by the end of the three days Sherman still had about 90,000 men on the field and the Confederates had only about 20,000. Everyone knew the end of the war was near. Sherman was criticized for not attacking harder on the third day of fighting, to completely smash the army opposing him, but Sherman didn’t want further bloodshed.

The Civil War tactic of lining men up shoulder-to-shoulder and blasting away from just a few hundred feet was butchery. The reenactment gave me a good feel for that — and it’s hard for me to watch it even when the men are shooting just gunpowder without projectiles.

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Posted in Author's Purpose, Civil War, Historical Travel | No Comments »

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