5 Great Books About Military Wives in 19th Century America

Since you all know I love history and historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well.Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉

Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!

BOOTS AND SADDLES

THE COLONEL’S LADY ON THE WESTERN FRONTIER

VANISHED ARIZONA

LIFE AND MANNERS IN THE FRONTIER ARMY

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD

 

5 Great Books About Civil War Soldiers

Since you all know I love history and historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well.Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉

Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!

THE STORY THE SOLDIERS WOULDN’T TELL

CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS

THE LIFE OF BILLY YANK

HARDTACK & COFFEE

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD (and series)

The Indian Wars: 5 Great Books About General George Crook

Since you all know I love history and writing historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well. Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉

Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!

GENERAL GEORGE CROOK AUTOBIOGRAPHY

GENERAL CROOK AND THE WESTERN FRONTIER

ON THE BORDER WITH CROOK

WOLVES FOR BLUE SOLDIERS

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD

Walt Whitman in the Civil War

I worry that a book like THE BETTER ANGEL by Roy Morris Jr.  in 2000 would not get written today because Walt Whitman, despite nursing thousands of young, suffering soldiers in overfilled hospitals who fought a war that freed slaves, expressed what we consider today to be offensive (and ignorant) opinions about slaves.  

Racism as a word needs to go. Its meaning does not allow for any complexity of feeling or thought. It shuts down avenues of reconciliation and fails to deal with the deeper issues which are basic: human hatred and ignorance. Cain murdered his brother as one of the first acts in the Bible. Anyone with maturity and experience lies to themselves if they think they are above nursing hatreds. Tell me at least one time when this hatred based on jealousy, past wrongs or misunderstanding ever brought peace to anyone, yet still we run to our little groups and cast hateful looks and words at others.

To take the argument away from American race relations for a minute I’d like to use the example of the long animosity between England and Ireland. Depending on who you talk to, people will bring up various battles and laws and wrongs reaching back a thousand years. Some people carry the bitterness of a lost battle between men generations ago into their daily lives today with no positive results.

How as honest humans can we not admit that we all have ingrained hierarchies of human importance? Some cheer for new late-term abortion laws while others like myself are sickened at the callousness and laughter on the faces of those signing infanticide into practice. Others decry borders and the mistreatment of foreigners. The hypocrisy of humanity is sickening. Yet I must remind myself that I am part of humanity.

I can be incredibly callous to suffering. I can make harsh and ignorant judgments based on race, class, religion and even the motives my husband has for doing something I don’t understand or like.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
 Matthew 7:3

I briefly entered the fray of blaming my insecurities and deficiencies on gender, genealogy and religion. Guess where it got me — nowhere.

People don’t like to hear it (I didn’t want to hear it until my sins could be hidden no longer) but seeking revenge or pity or money won’t cure bitterness. Only forgiveness does. People don’t like being humbled. It goes against the self-esteem religion. It goes against the I’m a star and you need to respect and idolize me religion.

What Jesus said is still as counter cultural and revolutionary today as it was two thousand years ago:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Be careful not to skim over these words. They are the keys to a life worth living.

Walt Whitman just before the Civil War was a man without a cause. He rode the city streets by day and spent the nights drinking and carousing. He was depressed.

His brother enlisted in the army at the start of the war. Walt left in search of him when he was hospitalized months later. He had planned to stay only briefly until he encountered the sick and dying young boys — thousands of them — in places we would never send our dogs to get well today.

Cynics might say Walt stayed because he had always had affectionate feelings toward younger men and maybe there is some truth to that, but anyone who thinks they are 100% altruistic is again living under serious delusion.

Forgotten Veterans

The many forgotten soldiers with no family to advocate for them adored Walt’s visits and the man himself. Evidenced by the letters he received late in life from grateful veterans, they believed without his small kindnesses they would not have survived the disease-ridden and terrifying hospitals.

As some of you may remember, I’m researching my young relatives who fought and died for the Union. Two died of disease early on but one was injured at Second Bull Run and spent months in hospital before being discharged only to enlist again and die a few days before Appomattox. Every wrecked young man  Walt showed special kindness to could have been someone very much like my cousin Waldo who enlisted when he was only fifteen.

The Civil War Dead

We so often think in terms of big numbers and so little do we ponder and appreciate the individuals whose tiny lives flickered so briefly. Their hopes, their mannerisms, the things that made them laugh and cry — Walt saw to those things and loved the boys “like father, like mother, like lover and friend.” He saw these suffering boys made in the image of God — fearfully and wonderfully made — and mourned for them and with them. He brought ice cream on hot days when no one wanted to be in the stinking tents of human waste and rotting flesh.

Walt wrote once about Private John A. Holmes,  a man I assume most of us have never heard of. Like 54 percent of the Union soldiers and 99 percent of the Confederates, Holmes was stricken with diarrhea — “a disease that would claim the lives of nearly one hundred thousand men.”

After weeks in camp Holmes was sent by steamer to Washington. On the boat he was too weak to open his bag to pull out a blanket. When a crew member refused to help him, Holmes was forced to sleep exposed to the elements with chills and fever. At the Washington hospital he was stripped naked and scrubbed under a cold shower until he fainted in the nurses’ arms.

For days he suffered in anonymity and hopelessness until Whitman noticed the poor boy’s look of despair when he stopped to make some encouraging remark.

“‘I saw as I looked that it was a case of administering to the affection first, and other nourishment and medicines afterward … I sat down with him without any fuss … wrote a letter to his folks … and gave him some small gifts and told him I would come again soon.’

“Holmes said he would like to buy a glass of milk from the woman who peddled it in the wards and Whitman gave him a little change. The young man immediately burst into tears.”

John Holmes credited Walt’s first visit that day with saving his life. I like to think that my cousin Waldo had someone beside him during the 24 hour period between receiving his mortal gunshot wound to the thigh and the time he spent suffering in the hospital before he died. On reenlisting he had not gone back to the regiment from Cortland, NY (his home) so I have no idea if he had any close friends near by in the end. He was only 18 or 19 when he died. He was buried on a plantation far from home as his parents celebrated Lee’s surrender.

Walt Whitman considered his Civil War days to be the most important of his life.

His collection of poems from that time are his best. Long after the country moved on and long after the thousands of young men  were buried and forgotten by all but genealogists,  Whitman’s poems live on as a testimony to the uncomplaining bravery and suffering of a generation of young men and their families.

THE BETTER ANGEL Walt Whitman in the Civil War is a book to inspire the most calloused heart. How many of us give so freely of ourselves as Whitman did? He’s always been my favorite poet, but now he is one of my favorite men.

A Twilight Song by Walt Whitman

As I sit in twilight late alone by the flickering oak-flame,
Musing on long-pass’d war-scenes—of the countless buried unknown
soldiers,
Of the vacant names, as unindented air’s and sea’s—the unreturn’d,
The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the
deep-fill’d trenches
Of gather’d from dead all America, North, South, East, West, whence
they came up,
From wooded Maine, New-England’s farms, from fertile Pennsylvania,
Illinois, Ohio,
From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the Carolinas, Texas,
(Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless
flickering flames,
Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising—I hear the
rhythmic tramp of the armies;)
You million unwrit names all, all—you dark bequest from all the war,
A special verse for you—a flash of duty long neglected—your mystic
roll strangely gather’d here,
Each name recall’d by me from out the darkness and death’s ashes,
Henceforth to be, deep, deep within my heart recording, for many
future year,
Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or South,
Embalm’d with love in this twilight song.

51B-9ZBe33L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

DRUM TAPS by Walt Whitman

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About The Tenafly Road Series:

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her books down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

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“I love this series of books. You never know what’s going to happen next. It’s sad at times, but then it turns around and you see the love of family.” ***** Amazon Review

 

“You always think the next phase is going to provide answers and while it does often do that, it then brings a whole new set of catastrophes to worry about. I love that this series has a subtle humor to it, similar to that of a private joke you have with yourself. I’ve cared for each character almost equally, kind of the the way I would love those in my family. They each provide a different perspective that I can find myself relating to in some way, even if I completely disagree. Definitely my favorite in the series so far.” ***** Amazon Review

 

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The Dew Series

READ THE SERIES TODAY!

The Gilded Age saga of the tumultuous Crenshaw and Weldon families continues!

Unwed and pregnant, Thankful Crenshaw comes home and makes a tragic and life-changing decision. She misses the close relationship she once had with her newly religious brother, Buck, who spends his days in the Arizona desert converting drunks and Indians. One drunk, William Weldon, is Buck’s special case and Thankful’s true love.

Little does Thankful know that Buck’s religious fervor is fading. A violent encounter in the sandy wilderness brings her brother and William back to Englewood, New Jersey to mourn their lost innocence and lack of personal integrity in the third book of The Tenafly Road Series.

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

What Is Love?

smiling father and child

Worldly Love …

I’m not going to lie. I hate rejection and am far too fond of the world’s approval. When a person doesn’t like something about me I’m often too thin-skinned. I’m in awe of people who let things  roll off their backs.

Lately I’ve been realizing that my definition of love — what I really believe it to be deep down — is something related to people telling me I’m great in exchange for me telling them they’re great. So basically take-take relationships have been my thing.

Selfless Love …

I do occasionally have  true moments of unselfishness but I have to admit they are moments when I am kind to animals or people who won’t tax me too much. Animals, in particular, aren’t able to write negative reviews of the home-cooked meals I make for them but then they don’t mind eating trash and roadkill either so …

The other night I decided to look at the  book reviews that had just been posted on Amazon. A few weren’t as wonderful as I always want them to be. Here I will also admit that people who leave one star reviews on free books are very taxing to me (hey, I’m human).

I whined to my husband. He always brings me to the heart of the matter. “You want to put yourself out there, so you have to be able to take the heat. Do you think Trump spends time worrying about reviews?”

Yeah. Let’s not talk politics, but my husband of course was right. People write negative reviews on everything from pavement sealer to the Bible. Why should I expect to be liked all the time? Some of you remember that I don’t leave negative reviews online but that hasn’t stopped me from trashing movies, books, politicians and so on to friends and neighbors. I’ve also fallen out of love with people.

Anyway, since I’m reflecting on life’s purpose these days I’m reconsidering my definition of love as that happy feeling when everyone likes me and I like them. It turns out, that in general, I’m not even marginally good at selfless love.

 

I basically love the following reader who left this review of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD:
“This is a love story from the first. So much love between two people. The story is wonderful. I want to read the whole series.”
Yet I find it harder to love this reader:
“I have never read anything so dreary, sad, depressing, and frustrating in all my life!! It took me forever, I had to force myself to finish it.”

Yet these two opposing views made me consider love even more. I get the desire for uncomplicated feel-good stories about love, but I’m incapable of writing them. I’ve never found love easy. Surface romance is fun but it ends so quickly. It ends because romance is always about drawing attention to oneself until that point when you can no longer keep up the facade of being a truly marvelous soul.

Romantic Love vs. Biblical Love …

On that day or soon after both partners have to decide if it’s better to run or stay. Staying means you have to enter into the Biblical meaning of love which can be not only difficult but also horrible in many ways. Yes, you begin to discover that your partner is so damned selfish and too hard on the kids. He’s quite possibly insane (or so you think when he disagrees with you). When this person isn’t spending all of his time reflecting you back to yourself in a positive way and begins to question your sanity, well then, it’s no rom-com.

Possibly because I have such trouble sacrificing my desires in acts of love (and also find that my passions are fleeting and that my eyes wander), I’ve always been interested in the after stories of the happily-ever-after stories. You know, when things get real.

Tortured Love …

But getting real means you have to be strong enough to deal with people who won’t like what you have to say. On second thought I have compassion for the reviewer  who just couldn’t like my story about a love that endures great hardship. I couldn’t  endure a similar relationship in real life and I really, really loved the guy (or thought I did).

Now that I’m older I see the promise in sacrificial love. I’ve done it once or twice and wonder in those moments why I don’t do it more often. Laying down every expectation comes with a weird peace that goes against my controlling tendencies. It usually brings about better outcomes (in the long run). For me I can only do it with God’s help in the form of daily digging into Scripture. My worldly self sees no reason to give myself to anything that doesn’t reflect back on me glowingly.

The Creator’s Love …

The gift that God has given me in writing  novels is an insight as to how God loves us despite our miserable behavior and hardened hearts. I tell the truth about my characters because I’m  compelled to do so in search of  greater truth. This may sound pretentious but why do we tell ourselves stories anyway? I told the Tenafly Road story because one day I was asked to let surrender my romantic ideas about love and let a different kind of love flow in — a love that believes that the lowliest sinner is offered a place in the kingdom.

Redeeming Love …

I write about these lowly people because I know where I come from (and it’s pretty low). I write because I know that deep love is hard and miserable sometimes. I’d always had a hard time imagining a God who really loved people until He showed me a creator’s love for the created. God in His wisdom and with His sense of humor got my attention when I first set out to write against Christianity years ago. No matter how I tried to get around it, I kept bumping into my own desire to redeem John Weldon and the rest.

And so after a few days reflection I’m ready to admit that I still have a lot to do when it comes to loving people who leave negative reviews or critique my cooking. Deep love brings with it risks, but I want to take God at His word that loving deeply is worth it.

Finally I got this review and it kind of sums up my feelings about life which  makes sense since I wrote the book. 🙂

“Not sure what I think of this book on its whole. A list of dysfunctional characters all so full with faults. But so well written I had to keep reading. Characters so frustrating one wants to slap them but so human one keeps hoping for the best for them.”

I want to know what you all think LOVE means in the comments. Have any of you survived a tortured love story? Do you like reading them?

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”