Ebenezer Allen – Statesman, Entrepreneur, and Spy

pile-of-paperI am happy to announce that the unredacted edition of Ebenezer Allen – Statesman, Entrepreneur, and Spy has been delivered to a potential publisher. The edition is 443 double-spaced pages with over 90 illustrations, and 700 footnotes.

Now I begin the difficult task of obtaining permissions to use material from books, webpages, and newspapers. Some material is in the public domain or federal government publications, which do not need permissions. The other category is fair use, which allows a portion to be used without the publisher’s approval. Now, the slope gets slippery. Fair use can be anywhere from 300 to 600 words depending on the publisher. As little as possible is desirable. It is a painstaking process. Permission fees can run up to $1,000.

I think I’m going to need a larger recyling container.

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Oh, the Joy of Editing

The public has this image of the writer sitting at his desk or her computer composing brilliant prose. It looks effortless. Perfect writing at first touch of fingers on keyboard. Oh, I wish it was that simple.

As Charlotte Ahlin put it, “Letting the words flow freely and getting a first draft done is an excellent, necessary first step, but it’s just the beginning.” Yes, it’s just the first step in producing a final manuscript.

“If you’re a writer, you’re an editor. The great writers are thorough. They dissect their drafts ruthlessly and repeatedly.”

Here are some methods used by famous authors from the three sources at the bottom of this blog.

  • “Write drunk, edit sober” – Ernest Hemingway
  • “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie
  • “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain
  • “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” – Stephen King
  • “If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.” – Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Avoid cliches, avoid generalizations, find your own voice, show compassion, and ask the important questions.” – Amy Tan
  • “… cardinal rule of showing and not telling the story – Anton Chekhov
  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia E. Butler
  • “The final pass is when I read through a printed version of the chapter on paper. Reading on paper is necessary if you’re going to root out odd constructions or minor errors.” – Cal Newport
  • “When I’m done with the chapter, I print it and go through it with a pencil, and do the same for the entire manuscript when it’s done. I also read the finished work aloud.” – T.J. Stiles
  • “What I like to do is edit a chapter before I move onto the next one.” – Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • “For me, editing is as important as writing. No, probably even more important. I’ve never been able to sit down and write the perfect sentence. I re–write constantly.” – Andrea Wulf
  • “I edit every morning, every day. Cut cut cut cut cut cut — as much as I can. I want my stuff lean and mean, with no wasted words.” – Bryan Burrough
  • “I go from being kind to myself to being brutal. Every word is suspect, every sentence a potential embarrassment. Every idea has to be interrogated, every bit of dialogue examined, every scene put the to the test of ‘What does this contribute to the story? Why? Do I need this scene? What does it add?’” – Sabaa Tahir
  • “I print the beast, grab my sharpie, and go somewhere other than behind my computer. I read, mark, sketch, slash, draw arrows, and slash on the page.” – Joe Ballarini


  1. 17 Of The World’s Best Writers On The Editing Process, Writing Routines, https://www.writingroutines.com/tips-for-editing/
  2. The Fascinating Work Habits of 18 Famous Writers (Infographic),
  3. How To Edit Your Manuscript, According To The Advice Of 11 Famous Authors, https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-edit-your-manuscript-according-to-the-advice-of-11-famous-authors-7594285
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World Book Day

Today is World Book Day! Please get a copy of one of my books.

The Analyst – $16 for paperback and $0 for Kindle Unlimited members

Teacher of Civil War Generals: Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant  – $35.67 for paperback and $19.99 for Kindle e-book

Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith – $15 for paperback and $0 for Kindle Unlimited members

Charles A. Marvin – “One Year, Six Months, and Eleven Days” – $10 for paperback

Preparing for Disunion: West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders – $25.97 for new paperback and $22.47 for used paperback

Please post a review on Amazon.

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Another Review of Teacher of Civil War Generals

I just learned about  new review of Teacher of Civil War Generals on the StrategyPage – The News as History.  A. A. Nofi’s review reports, “Mesch does an excellent job of telling Smith’s story, while helping the reader get a better grasp of the military practice of the day.”

I do take one exception to Mr. Nofi’s comment, “Although not definitive, given the sparsity of original sources, this is an interesting book about an important and influential officer who ought to be better known.” This book would not have been possible without the wealth of personal letters, military orders, and diaries.

Please see Teacher of Civil War Generals: Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant.

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Civil War Art Work

Please allow me to brag about my brother-in-law, James Irwin. Jim is an excellent painter and asked me to supply some Civil War photographs as subject matter for his art work.

Today, Jim sent me three of his paintings.

battle of chancellorville, va Battle of Chancellorsville,  VA

11×14 oil painting

federal hill park baltimore, md

Federal Hill Park Baltimore MD

16×20 oil painting

antietam battlefield

Antietam Battlefield

16×20 oil painting

These would make excellent additions to any Civil War Collection.

Please contact me if you would like to learn more about Jim Irwin’s artwork.

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Preparing for Disunion

I am pleased to announce that Preparing for Disunion – West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders is now available from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Amazon.

Cover_Preparing_for_DisunionBetween 1817 and 1864, sixteen officers were assigned as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. They played an important role in training the officers who would serve as senior commanders in both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Six former commandants also served as general officers in the Civil War – Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith, and Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds for the U.S. Volunteers and Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker Major, and Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in the Confederate States Army.

Historians criticize the West Point military program as antiquated for its time – a course in Napoleonic strategy and tactics that failed to account for the advent of rifled weapons or the scope and terrain of the Civil War battlefield. Yet these commandants made changes to the program, developed new textbooks, and instructed many cadets who became field generals during the Civil War.

Preparing for Disunion presents the commandants’ biographies, their significant contributions to the military instruction, and the notable cadets they trained in drill on the West Point plain and in the military academy classroom.

Preparing for Disunion is available from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Amazon.

Please contact me if you would be interested in a presentation on this subject.

This book would make a great gift for former, current, and future West Point cadets, students of the Civil War, and military history scholars.

FUMC Plano

Allen at First United Church in Allen, Texas

B&N Louisville

Allen at Lewisville, Texas Library









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Author vs. Writer

I know some of you have been staying awake all night wondering about the difference between an author and writer.  Consider the following definitions:

A writer is a person who writes a book, article, or any literary piece, while an author is essentially the person who originates the idea, plot, or content of the work being written. At times, the author and writer can be the same person.

Often the distinction is between having a published work, which makes you an author, and writing, which makes you a writer. Just for the record, that would mean that as soon as you start writing, you become a writer. As soon as you publish, you become an author.

I prefer the later definition. So what is a published work?

A work is published when tangible copies of it are made available to the public at large.

This means writing from a newspaper or magazine article, fiction and non-fiction books, sections written as part of a book, editorials, and blogs.

You can be an author even if you are not widely read. Consider the following three examples.

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Check out this link to see America’s 100 Best Authors.

I hope this explanation will help you understand the difference between an author and a writer and help you get a good night’s sleep.

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