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I’m writing the last chapter of Leo’s Story, my book connected to The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor. Have I mentioned it is due June 1?

Because today is Memorial Day, I could not think of a better blog than one I wrote in 2007, titled “Fallen Soldiers.” Who knew we would still be mourning fallen soldiers five years later?
Here is that blog, adapted for today.

Memorial Day is the day set aside by the US after the Civil War to honor military personnel who have lost their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day remains poignant for Americans today.

As the daughter of an Army officer, I have a particular regard for soldiers, which led to my Three Soldiers Series: Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady; Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress; Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy. In my other books some of the heroes are soldiers and I almost always mention the war with Napoleon.

I love my Regency soldiers. I secretly yearn to write some Napoleonic war romances, sort of like Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, only love stories. I own a brazillion books on the Napoleonic war and its soldiers. It seemed fitting today to tell you about one of them: Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula Letters and Diaries of Major The Honorable Edward Charles Cocks 1786-1812, Julia V. Page, editor (1986, Spellmount Ltd)

Major Cocks served in various capacities in the Peninsular war. He was attached to the regular Spanish army for a time and also with the 16th Light Dragoons. He worked as an intelligence officer behind enemy lines, performed special missions for Wellington, and was a field officer commanding soldiers. His family wanted him in Parliament, but Charles, as he was called, loved soldiering more than anything else. He was the consummate professional soldier, very much in his element in the war in Spain.

In a letter to his uncle, Charles wrote:

Few regard soldiers in their true light, that is as a body of men giving up many individual pleasures and comforts for a general national advantage, coupled certainly with the hope of personal fame and at the same time preserving more individual independence than any class of men….Men unused to war and ignorant of its ways regard slodiers as pernicious characters because they always figure them as intent on the desruction of their enemy, but a soldier only meets his foe now and then and he is every day engaged in reciprocal offices of kindness with his comrades….for my part I think there is much less ferocity in putting your foe to death when you see him aiming at your life, than in coolly rejoicing in your cabinet at home at successes purchased by the blood of thousands–Your dutiful and affectionate nephew, E. Charles Cocks

On October 8, 1812, Charles was acting as a field officer in the seige of Burgos. In the hours before dawn he led his men up a slope to regain the outer wall. When he reached the top, a French soldier fired straight at him. The ball passed through his chest, piercing the artery above his heart. He died instantly.

That morning Wellington strode into Ponsonby’s office, paced to and fro without speaking for several minutes. He started back toward the door, saying only, “Cocks is dead” before he walked out. Later Wellington wrote, “He (Cocks) is on every ground the greatest loss we have yet sustained.” When Wellington stood at his graveside, ashen-faced and remote, none of his officers dared speak to him.

Admiration for valor, gratitude for sacrifice, grief at loss. Today is not very different than 1812.

Each book in my Three Soldiers Series is dedicated to a relative who served in the military.

The first book was dedicated to my father. My father, Daniel J. Gaston, pictured here circa 1940s, was not called upon to make a soldier’s ultimate sacrifice. He reached an advanced age, long enough to see his daughters well-situated and happy, and his grandchildren grown. He died peacefully in 2001 before my writing career took off.
The second book was dedicated to my uncle, Robert Gaston, who served in WWII and who remains a proud veteran to this day, and to my cousin, Richard Witchey who served in the Vietnam War.
The third book will be dedicated to another cousin, James Getman, an officer in the Coast Guard who lost his life one winter over 30 years ago while readying his vessel for service.

Do you have a soldier, real or fictional, who deserves tribute?

Would you like more war romances? Do you have any favorites?

To all our soldiers……Thanks

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This is such an exciting day! Our guest today is none other than debut author, Susanna Fraser! Susanna’s been a great supporter of Risky Regencies and we can truly say we knew her when she was simply Susan Wilbanks. Many a time Susan and I have waxed poetic over the Napoleonic War and gushed over Wellington. So it is a very special thrill to announce Susanna’s new Carina Press release, The Sergeant’s Lady, a regency romance set in (what else?) The Napoleonic War!

Susanna is giving away a voucher for a copy of The Sergeant’s Lady to one lucky commenter.

“…entertaining and a delight for readers.” Top Pick! Night
Owl Reviews

“Absolutely delicious and a wonderful reading
experience” The
Reading Reviewer

“If you want to read a great romance and learn
something about the Napoleonic wars, pick up this book!” The

That’s not all the buzz for The Sergeant’s Lady, either. Barbara Vey of Beyond the Book is a great fan of Susanna’s new website. Take a look !

Welcome, Susanna! Tell us about The Sergeant’s Lady.

The lady of the title is Anna Arrington, an aristocratic heiress who, two years before the story opens, marries a handsome cavalry officer after a whirlwind courtship, hoping that life as an officer’s lady will bring her the adventure and significance she’s always longed for. Unfortunately, their relationship quickly sours as he reveals himself to be an abusive, misogynistic jerk. He’s been forcing her to follow the drum in Portugal and Spain because, for reasons it would be spoilery to reveal, he doesn’t trust her very far out of his sight.

When he dies, Anna just wants to go home and put her dreadful marriage behind her, so she joins a convoy of wounded bound for Lisbon. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Sergeant Will Atkins, one of the soldiers escorting the convoy. They know anything more than friendship between them is impossible…but when the convoy is attacked, they find themselves alone together as fugitives trying to escape across the Spanish countryside to their own army. Under such circumstances, temptation becomes much harder to resist…

We love debut authors. Tell us something about your journey to publication and especially about “The Call.”

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Riskies! Really!

I’d been writing seriously since 2001, and I finished my first manuscript in 2003. I had a full measure of newbie arrogance and was confident that publication and success were right around the corner. I was 30 in 2001, and I remember setting a goal of being published by 40, thinking that was just ridiculously easy and maybe I ought to say 35.

As of this writing, I’m 39 years and 8 months. Go figure.

I wrote the manuscript that became The Sergeant’s Lady back in 2005. With it I got an agent in 2006, and she shopped it extensively to print publishers. It came close at a few places but never quite sold. I got positive feedback on my writing, but a strong message that the story itself just didn’t fit any of the niches they were looking to fill.

So I decided that maybe there wasn’t a place for me in romance, parted company with my agent, and tried other things. I spent the better part of 2007-09 on the same alternative history manuscript, which never quite became what I wanted it to be. I think that’s the biggest mistake I made on my road to publication–too much time on that one story. If I had it to do over again, after my second draft I would’ve said, “You know, it’s still not close to right, and maybe that means that the idea wasn’t as wonderful as I thought or I just wasn’t ready to write it yet. I’ll set it aside and do something else, and if I ever want to come back to it, it’ll still be here.” If I’d done that, I’d have 2-3 more manuscripts under my belt by now.

Anyway, back to The Sergeant’s Lady. I happened to re-read it in January, and I thought, “You know, I still love this book. And the historical market seems to have shifted and broadened these past few years. Maybe I’ll submit it to a few more places.”

Here’s where the Riskies come in–around that time, the Riskies posted a Call for Submissions from Carina, with descriptions of what the editors were looking for and a Q&A with Angela James. I liked what I saw, so I decided to submit.

Fast-forward to April 1. (Yes, really, April Fool’s Day!) I didn’t get The Call, I got The Email, because Angela James was home with a coughing, sick child and was doing all her business by email that day. And it was just as well, because I had laryngitis and was letting all my calls go to voicemail anyway!

Hey, we’ll be glad to take credit for your success!
What has your experience been like with Carina Press?

So far it’s been nothing but wonderful! I feel like I’m part of a team with the staff, I enjoyed working with my editor, Melissa Johnson, and I felt like my input on the cover was truly listened to–which, from what my print-published friends tell me, is by no means the industry norm.

I’m also impressed by Carina’s marketing push, particularly how they partner with their authors to get the word out about our books on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.

Also, I was amazed by how quick the turnaround from sale to release date was for me. The Sergeant’s Lady released less than five months after Carina acquired it, which meant, among other things, that editing was a whirlwind and I had to scramble to build a web presence under my pen name. I don’t think it’s going to be quite as quick going forward, though, because their submission volume has increased. They’ve just acquired my second manuscript, with an exact release date TBD but probably Spring 2011, which feels positively leisurely by comparison!

We’re all about risky here. What is risky about The Sergeant’s Lady?

The setting and the hero. About 3/4 of the action takes place with Wellington’s army in Spain during the Peninsular War, a long way from the normal Regency world of London ballrooms and the pastoral English countryside. And Will is a sergeant who’s exactly what he appears to be–he doesn’t turn out to be the long-lost son of a duke or anything of that sort, so he and Anna have to find a way to face and move beyond their difference in station.

I’m loving Will and the Penisular War setting! Did you come across any interesting research when writing The Sergeant’s Lady?

Too many details of army life to possibly count, though I’d recommend anyone wanting to write Peninsular War find a copy of Antony Brett-James’s Life in Wellington’s Army.

One thing that surprised me was that the army didn’t issue tents for the soldiers till 1813 or so. The Sergeant’s Lady is set in 1811-12, so Will and his fellow soldiers sleep in the open, make do with whatever kind of shelter they can rig for themselves, or occasionally get billeted under whatever roof the army could commandeer from the local population.

What is next for you?

As mentioned above, Carina will publish my other Regency historical, currently titled A Marriage of Inconvenience, sometime in 2011. It’s a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady with Anna’s brother as the hero.

I hope you are excited as I am about Susanna’s The Sergeant’s Lady. I already have it on my Kindle and I’m well into it. Do you like Napoleonic War stories? Do you have any questions about the Napoleonic War, because Susanna can probably answer them. Did you read Barbara Vey’s blog about Susanna’s website? Comment for a chance to win a voucher for The Sergeant’s Lady.

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Memorial Day, the last Monday in May and a US Holiday, began as a day to remember those soldiers lost in the Civil War. It was later expanded to include all men and women who died in the service to their country, and many people use this day to remember all their departed loved ones. Every day we are heart-wrenchingly reminded of the sacrifice our brave soldiers make for the rest of us when we hear the names of the latest soldiers lost in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those aches are too raw, so I’m looking back to “our” era, the Napoleonic War and the War of 1812.

The Napoleonic Series has an article about one Battalion in 1809, listing the names of the officers and the biographical data they were able to piece together on as many of them as possible, lest they be entirely forgotten. (look under Biographies) They include men like Captain Joseph Bradbey, who among other things, was wounded when a general ordered his company of 470 men to attack French forces of over 2500. Bradbey was lucky. Most of his company died that day. Another was Lt. Charles Ward, unique among the biographies because no information existed of him before or after his military service. It is as if he existed only as a soldier.

The Napoleonic Series article quotes a lyric from a Stan Rogers song, “Macdonell on the Heights:”
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.

Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk singer, wrote this song of an officer who fought valiantly in the war of 1812. Canadian Lt. Col. John Macdonell lost his life during the Battle of Queenstown Heights. Seeing his name engraved on a plague on a rock near where he fell inspired Rogers to compose this song. Rogers lost his own life tragically at the age of 33, in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 at Cincinnati airport. Here’s a YouTube tribute for both Macdonell and Rogers:

About 4,000 soldiers died in action in the War of 1812 (another 20,000 died from disease). Estimates of soldiers lost in the Napoleonic War are about 2.5 million, a staggering figure. When lists of casualties were printed, only the officers were listed. Can you imagine how many mothers, sisters, sweethearts, waited and hoped and ultimately despaired of ever knowing the fate of their private or sergeant?

The US Military honors those soldiers who previously (now with DNA testing almost all can be identified) could not be identified, at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery. Today, as on every Memorial Day, a wreath will be placed at the Tomb, to honor all soldiers.

I’ll bet each of us have lost someone tragically, maybe not to war, but someone who “falls short of fame,” someone who led an ordinary life and who lives on only in the memories of those who loved him or her in life.

My choice is my cousin, Jimmy Getman, a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy, who died of a sudden heart attack in his 30s while working long hours to ready the boat he commanded for service during a very frigid winter in the 1970s. I just searched the internet and found nothing about him except a citation of an article he co-wrote in 1976. But I remember him from long before. I remember him as older and smarter than me and clever enough to fix my doll’s shoe. He was a hero to me that day and ever since.

Who do you want to remember this Memorial Day?

Don’t forget to visit me tomorrow on Diane’s Blog for the announcement of last week’s winner of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, and on Thurday as well.
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