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The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.
Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.
Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.
Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.
McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.
Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.
Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.
I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL
Posted in Five Stars
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Phoenix tells the story of Sonam and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. What was your inspiration for this heart-felt novel?
I have been inspired by experience and observation. My family background has been similar, and I have closely observed the lives of urban well-educated women in India. Despite a progressive education and multifaceted skills, they are expected to conform to obsolete family norms and not allowed to make life choices. This is especially true for the year 1983, when the protagonist Sonam wants to extricate herself from an abusive marriage. Indian society then was full of paradoxes: on one hand was the evolution of a knowledge society and unprecedented technological advancement and on the other deeply entrenched dogmatic beliefs in gender stereotypes. Instead of sympathising with a woman who was a victim of circumstances, her family and friends blamed her for her misfortunes and ostracised her.
I felt that this novel confronted gender stereotypes in a bold way. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?
I have always felt strongly about the unequal playing field provided to women, even in the educated elite class, and the perception that they are appendages to male family members, whether father, brother or husband. Why should women be accorded respect only if they have empathetic men to battle for them? This discrimination is especially difficult to combat since one is pushing against one’s parents and closest family members whom one loves and respects. Through this novel, I wanted to highlight the need to cherish and support daughters as individuals regardless of the presence and status of their life partners.
I felt that Sonam was a multilayered character that was judged by her failings rather than her success. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
While her parents despair of what will happen to Sonam after she leaves her husband and judge her by her failure in relationship, she demonstrates exceptional skills and shines in her workplace as an achiever. Her personality growth from 1983 to 2017 despite all odds illustrates the triumph of the spirit over ostracism, bigotry, negativity and injustice. She is rejuvenated from the ashes, just like the mythical bird, phoenix.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book, tentatively titled ‘A Journey Within’ has a very different story though it also deals with women’s issues. The lives of 16 Indian women of varying age groups intersect when they go on an all-women’s trip to Spain and Portugal. As events unfold during and after the trip, each of them reaches a realization that changes her life forever.
Caught in an abusive marriage, Sonam Aggarwal finds no family support when she struggles to break free. However, with unwavering grit, she makes a place for herself in the world and rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her dead marriage to discover true companionship and professional success.
The evolution of a knowledge society in India that places a premium on human knowledge and skills regardless of gender finally bequeaths her a coveted place in the sun. The novel focuses on the core strength of a woman that asserts her value despite external trappings and women characters who go through their individual struggle with the inevitable challenges that threaten their existence.
Phoenix, a novel, traces the life of Sonam and her upper class family in South Delhi from 1983 to 2017. It highlights the curious paradoxes in Indian society: its global leadership in digitalization contrasted with antiquated prejudices and gender stereotypes.
Posted in Interviews
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Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?
Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.
The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.
It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.
Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.
Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.
I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.
Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043
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A wave of crime grasped center stage at the beginning of the volcanic summer. The often abused by police, misused by society, shunned, and stereotyped patrons of the “hood” decided that their reparations would no longer be paid by the normal “Smash and grab”. Gun laws had changed. Stiffer penalties and mandatory time was a constant reminder whenever, The Felony Lane Gang clocked in. Blue collar crime was now at an all time low. White collar crime was their new way of life. Three siblings stormed into a world of destruction when the youngest known as Crackaboi decided to part ways with his modest upbringing. For the love of her baby brother Glory unknowingly stepped into a web of drugs and exotic entertainment. Tjohnnie, the oldest and the coldest felt a need to protect his siblings. After losing their parents to unfortunate circumstances, TJohnnie secretly led two lives. A college football player by day. A counterfeiter and money launderer for the Infamous Seminole Indian Tribe by night. Tired of the gruesome torture for hire jobs, Crackaboi teams up with a longtime friend and brutal killer Lil Turk. Together they mastermind the greatest heist in United States history. Surpassing Al Capone and Jon Gotti, the ruthless duo targeted every financial institution that was federally insured. Their lavish lifestyle enticed other potential members. Dodging the Feds, ducking the local authorities and slaughtering anyone who wandered down their path, they notoriously became known as, ” The Felony Lane Gang”. With crooked cops on their trail, the street rogues decide to take on one last heist. Crackaboi and Lil Turk burglarize a century old abandoned warehouse, in search of a quarter of million dollars supposedly stashed inside an old safe. They embark on a journey that leads to their beloved Glory, on life support fighting to stay alive. A bloody street-war against the Mexican Cartel Assassins and a trail of bodies that lead down a sea of destruction. With ties to the Illuminati and a billionaire oil tycoon, the double steel door safe tightly held secrets that would send chills through a psychopath’s spine.
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Panther Across the Stars is a stirring historical novel depicting the detailed life of a Shawnee Indian warrior who is fighting for his people’s freedom. What was the inspiration for this fantastic novel?
Bear with me, as the answer to this question has several layers. I know there are some among us who find history to be dry, boring, and just written text in schoolbooks; but to me it has always been so much more. History is fascinating when you understand it is made up of living and breathing people who are just as flawed as we are. And for but one step this way or that, all the many things that come after can be altered for good or ill for all of time. I think there is also a smugness in that us here today kind of take things for granted that the world is as it is, as if it was somehow preordained or something. But I think the truth is that the past history, and the one unfolding before our eyes, is fragile in that one act, this way or that, and it can all be rewritten.
And as you walk through the pages of history there are those that rise up from time to time to do extraordinary things. Tecumseh is one of those few. Though I think many of the living do not know his name or who he really was – they should take the time to find out, for he was truly remarkable for the way he carried himself, how he inspired others, and what he tried to accomplish and came oh so close to doing. He was an exceptional human being and certainly one of the very best among us, and that was according to the people who were trying to kill him . . . think about that for a moment. You will find no better patriot for freedom in history’s pages, regardless of the race, creed, country, or age of mankind. Even now, some two hundred years since his passing from the world, his words and deeds are an inspiration to find the highest form of ourselves. Every day that we arise with breath, we should seek the strength to do what is right, even if it is not the easy path to follow. If we could all endeavor to such a thing, the world would truly be a better place.
And also, the core theme of the book is that there is nothing more precious to a living thing than freedom. The book is trying to explore the notion that freedom is more than just the physical and on the outside of the world, but that there is just as great a struggle for freedom on the inside, within the mind. In fact, the story proposes that being free within from all your masters (i.e. anger, fear, doubt, and hate, etc.) may just be the most important of all. It is my humble opinion that as Tecumseh fought for his freedom on the battlefield against musket and bayonet, he also waged this fight within against his fear, doubt, anger, and hatred; for who among us would not be filled with those masters when faced with such pain, hurt, and loss, and the tremendous burden of trying to find a way out for his people.
And lastly, as I read about Tecumseh’s life story there was a mention of a strange red comet in the sky of March 1811, as Tecumseh was trying to gather the many tribes together into one pan-Indian confederation to fight back against America’s invasion. And the thought occurred to me that what if that streaking comet had been a crash landing of a few survivors of some alien race, which fate had steered to his world to help his people find their freedom. What if. . . .
Panther Across the Stars is an intelligent and spiritual person. Was there a historical person that you modeled his character after?
None other than Tecumseh himself. I first learned of him several years back and he was simply a remarkable human being who faced an impossible situation. I tried to write the novel to make the reader feel like you were with Tecumseh two hundred years ago . . . and what would you do when faced with such trials, tribulations, and impossibilities.
I enjoyed all the history woven into this story. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the books accuracy?
The book is loosely based on the accountings here and there of things that are said to have occurred in Tecumseh’s life. I read several books, watched documentaries, and spent many long hours of internet research to gather up as much background information as I could. This helped to provide the bones to the story, before the layering of the fictional elements. And of course, all good tales deserve some embellishment.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Well, the intention has been all along to write a sequel to Panther Across the Stars, regarding what happens in the here and now; to see what happens when fate calls again and through their undying spirit of freedom, the scattered Shawnee descendants find the lost Ithreal stone at last some two hundred years later. And what happens when the Jhagir find their way back to this world. In fact, they may already have arrived as we conduct this interview.
As far as the planned timetable, presently there is not one. Being a first-time self-published author, and all that is entailed to try and create a high quality novel, in addition to my day job, time is at a premium and I am still in the early stages of writing the first draft.
Author Links: GoodReads
A larger-than-life tale of one man’s courage, sacrifice, and unyielding defiance to fight for his peoples’ freedom against those that would take it, and in this great struggle he finds friendship with three alien beings fallen to Earth that stand with him.
He is Panther Across the Sky and his world is fading. He takes all the hurt and pain a lifetime gives him and stares into his soul to face the greatest master he will ever know. Just a man among a dying people, he inspires his kin beyond all limit of mind and body in their outstretched and desperate grasp for freedom against overwhelming odds and the mighty nation arisen to the east in the early 1800s – America.
And along the way, he forges a bond with three alien beings fallen to Earth from a distant star, the Jhagir. Together they must find the courage to rise up against the swirling dark sea of blue jackets, muskets, and cannon fire that comes for them. It will take all their strength and spirit, and cost them more than they know, to break back the angry waves of a young nation that would devour a people and wash them away forever. And just maybe, Panther Across the Sky and the Jhagir can give rise to a peoples’ real hope for today . . . and what is to come.
Posted in Interviews
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Lon Brett Coon’s Panther across the Stars is a stirring historical novel depicting the detailed life of a Shawnee Indian warrior called Tecumseh otherwise known as panther across the stars that was a brave and intelligent warrior who is able to inspire loyalty, devotion and admiration from all that knew him. He battles the palefaces who are his sworn enemies even though he is curious about their strange way, and even befriends the few he could respect. This is a visceral tale of power, passion and one man’s destiny to unite his people in the struggles to save their land and way of life from the white settlers.
Tecumseh, being a proud man, is relentless in his efforts and travels for many months trying to gather support and warriors from other chiefs. Unfortunately the other chiefs do not join the alliance because many of them end up being short sighted. Tecumseh is driven by myth and hope as he battles again and again even though he is not sure whether peace is possible.
This book is a fantastic read. Lon Brett Coon writes in a way that puts the reader in the scene. I felt like I was walking alongside the triumphs and trials of the members. The attention given to the customs of the Shawnee and other tribal nations was enjoyable and detailed. The writing style was both engaging and entertaining. The author excellently paints a portrait of these people’s lives. It is interesting to read about the Shawnee and how they coped with the intrusion of white settlers. Their bravery and courage was outstanding though it leaves one wishing they had had been treated better.
It was heartbreaking to learn about the lies and deceit from the Americans and seeing the Shawnee native land disappearing slowly. We get to watch as they are constantly being moved west as treaties are broken constantly by the white people who are driven by their hunger for more land and ownership of it. This is a novel that deftly portrays the injustices brought upon Native Americans.
I would definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the history, culture, and battles of American Indians. The author has clearly done his research and kept it as accurate as possible. Tecumseh’s passion for his people is clear and earns him extraordinary friends. Although this novel sheds light on some dark historical times, there’s an undercurrent of optimism that inspires hope in the reader that maybe the Native Americans will win, and save their land.
Pages: 315 | ASIN: B076Y8BTF2
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