Sailing into Your Corner of the Internet . . .

by wjw on August 3, 2012

The Macedonian, the sequel to Brig of War, has tied up to the pier at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  Feel free to come aboard.

As you can see from the somewhat altered cover, I took to heart comments on the mixture of serif and non-serif typefaces.

As for those of you who hoped for an cover design with greater uniformity to that of Brig of War, I can only wish I was able to oblige.  Unfortunately this would require my finding a piece of art as good as the previous book, and this I couldn’t do.

I have found some pretty good pieces of art, but those were more suitable to later works in the series, and that’s where they’ll go.

One of the things to note about The Macedonian is that it’s the middle part of what was once going to be a single volume.

I was originally going to write only a single book about Favian Markham, containing more or less everything that now exists in three rather lengthy volumes.  This is an early example of my inability to figure out exactly how many words it would take to tell a story (and it’s far from the last).

When Brig of War went well over a hundred thousand words, I realized it was time to bring the volume to a conclusion.  I found a good triumphal ending point, and planned the next volume.

Which actually involved signing a new contract.   So there was a modest delay before The Macedonian got underway.

And once again I ran into the same problem.  At 100,000 words, I found myself a cliffhanger and postponed the finale to the next volume.

Fortunately Favian’s story ended with the next book, Cat Island, because that was the last book Dell bought.  My plan for a ten-volume series died, if not in the cradle, at least in mid-adolescence.

The Macedonian and Cat Island appeared three years after the previous books in the series, just so that all momentum was completely lost.  In fact Dell’s right to publish them had expired by that point, a fact which I took pains not to point out for fear that the books wouldn’t be published at all.

(More detail on the publishing history of this series in one of my posts on the writer’s life.)

The major theme of The Macdonian concerns division and unity, and is introduced in the opening scene, where Favian is the defendant in a court martial so torn by division and anger that the President of the Court is damning the deputy judge advocate before the man can complete a sentence.  There follows a scene in which Favian witnesses Revolutionary Tories parading their allegiance to King George in the middle of Manhattan, then visits Robert Fulton’s experimental steam “oaken-clad” warship, Demologos.  The name translates as “Voice of the People,” but what are the people actually saying as regards this war?

The War of 1812 was an incredibly divisive conflict, and came close to tearing the country apart.  The declaration of war was a triumph of hope over experience— it’s not like our previous invasion of Canada had brought much glory, or Canada either.  New England threatened secession under the banner of States’ Rights (a political principle which they, not the South, then defended).  A subplot in the novel concerns  a group of spies sending signals to British ships from Groton Long Point— those signals were very much rumored at the time, and no one found it particularly surprising that Americans would be working for the enemy.  (New Hampshire and Massachusetts refused to place their militia under federal authority, and Nantucket went so far as to declare its neutrality.)

These conflicts are mirrored by conflicts among the ordinary sailors, when one of them is accused of being a witch on account of his being born in Finland.  (Sailors generally believed that Finns were witches well into the 20th Century, and enterprising Finns did good business selling charms for good winds.)  I had a bit of fun by casting my grandfather, Vihtori Kuusikoski, as the Finn in question.  (No, I am not so old that my grandfather fought in the War of 1812.)

In the novel, Favian is challenged to heal the divisions on his ship.  Healing the divisions in the nation were a little beyond his scope, but a sea-change seems to have been wrought by the burning of Washington.  With the capital (and capitol) a smoking ruin, the country seems to have decided to stop fighting each other, get busy,  and win the war.

(Which they didn’t do, actually.  Nor was Britain the victor.  If anyone won the War of 1812, it was Canada, the scattered provinces of which seems to have discovered something like a national identity.  And the Canadian militia performed much better than the American, which often refused orders or ran away.)

Cat Island, the third book in the Favian Markham trilogy, features the Battle of New Orleans from a naval perspective, which you don’t often get.  And it features Jean Laffite, because suave French pirates are pretty much irresistible from the novelistic point of view.

Incidentally, as part of the research for that book I read a biography of Laffite that claimed that he later moved to Alton, Illinois under the name Lafflin, opened a gunpowder factory, and later became a Socialist and donated his pirate booty to the First International.  Which is just weird enough to be true, for all that the documentation is not terribly convincing . . .

TJIC August 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

> When Brig of War went well over a hundred thousand words, I realized it was time to bring the volume to a conclusion. I found a good triumphal ending point, and planned the next volume.

I’d love to hear more about this in one of your “on being a writer / on writing” posts.

I’m writing my first SF novel right now (have been for 18 months now). I’m on draft 2, and the thing is – ahem – 213,000 words.

Clearly it’s two novels, and there is a very clear thematic change, and a HUGE denouement / conclusion at the end of what will be the second book. There’s a moderately big climax at the end of what will be the first book, but I’m not sure if I should punch it up a bit, and then add an act 3 to the first book and a new act 1 to the second book.

Brian Renninger August 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

The dream to incorporate Canada in the US did not die with the end of the War of 1812. I recently read about a whole string incidents of US militia bands (known as Huneters) invading Canada in 1837/1838 inspired by the success of the Republic of Texas. It all culminated with the Battle of the Windmill which was a total debacle resulting in numerous hangings and even more shipments of Hunter Patriots to Australia.

On the naval side the Hunters hijacked a couple steamships to cross the St. Lawrence and were opposed by tiny Royal Navy steamships that were civilian vessels converted to military use. There were several groundings on sandbars, drunken pilots being beheaded by cannonballs, cowardly militia “generals” pretending to be ill once the fighting started, a swedish conman pretending to be a polish independence fighter, a British Colonel getting stuck in the buttocks of his own troops bayonettes, and the deaths of innocent civilians. The whole incident is all very odd, darkly comedic and tragic.

–Brian R.

wjw August 4, 2012 at 4:50 am

Brian, I’d never heard of that invasion. It sounds about as comical as the various attempts the Republic of Texas made to annex New Mexico.

TJ, I think you’re on the right track. Punch up the finish of Book I, and start Book II with a scene that will get the reader into the action.

Foxessa August 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Canada won — we never invaded Canada again, though the dream of doing so persisted in southern minds for some reason.

The other winners were the 9,000 slaves who got their freedom by aiding and assisting the Brits and / or escaping to their lines / ships.

Though freedom wasn’t so easy either, for a lot of them. Yet they weren’t sorry to no longer be slaves.

Somehow their story is always left out of the War of 1812, whether it’s told from the northern perspective or the Chesapeake perspective. I deeply embarrassed a ship historian (one who provides snappy historical info to the passengers who pay for cruises on the historical replicas of privateers and naval ships of the War of 1812 era in the Chesapeake). He concluded his presentation to the audience of mostly middle-aged white ladies who support the Kent County Public Library system with the declaration there were no winners of the War of 1812. One of my friends who was up front and didn’t see me come in late, heard a voice say, “Well there were some winners ….” and “I knew Constance was in the house, and I knew it was going to be great.” I also mentioned Andrew Jackson, who was the Biggest Winner of all in the War of 1812, and the Native Americans, who were the Biggest Losers of all in the War of 1812. The historian hummed and hawed and said, “Well, that’s true of course, but none of that is important to U.S. history.”

So, Andy Jackson, take that! You and your wars and your presidency weren’t important in U.S. history!

The good ladies of Kent County — where the only land battle was fought that the U.S. won — had a few things to say then, in rebuttal ….

Love, C.

Bruce Arthurs August 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Another very-weird legend that I’ve always thought had great potential is the one that the Japanese hero Minamoto no Yoshitsune actually escaped his reported death in Japan, made it to Mongolia, and ended up becoming Genghis Khan.

Anonymous August 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Best source about the Battle of the Windmill is DOnald Grave’s “Guns Across the River”.

Also for a free e-book the memoirs of Daniel Huestis (who was prominant actor in the Battle of the Windmill) can be found here. Lots of unedited bad OCR but still has some interesting info.
–Brian R.

John F. MacMichael August 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Having finished “The Macedonian”, I am eagerly awaiting “Cat Island”. Any idea as to when you will have it available for Kindle?

wjw August 11, 2012 at 6:18 am

John, I reckon it will be in September. Right now it’s a horrific raw scan loaded with typos, garbage, and awfulness.

John F. MacMichael August 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Thank you for answering my question. I shall look forward to it while doing my best to exercise the the virtue of patience.

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