The first draft of my query for Black Iron Mercy, minus the personal touches tailored to individual agents

Opinions and critiques are desired from professionals and amateurs

It is okay to be harsh

Imagine your finest moment being ripped from history, rewritten by those who would use your remarkable instant for their own personal gain, forever omitting you and your brethren from the day that defined you as men, as soldiers, as victors.

Black Iron Mercy is a historical novel that follows the life of Arlis Jenkins from his days as a boy in the mining town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin through and beyond his exploits with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, a reputable regiment that served with distinction in the famed Iron Brigade during the American Civil War.  I am seeking representation for the manuscript, which is complete at 99,000 words.

Today, 18 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, Arlis doesn’t care about fame.  Wanting nothing more than to live in quiet solitude, he is content with putting the war and his troubled past behind him, living the life of a farrier on a livery in small Wisconsin town.  But now, a new kind of war arouses him… a war of words, written and spoken by glory seekers and those seeking to make a dollar from the experiences of others, and Arlis realizes that one fight remains:  The fight for truth and vindication, accuracy and exoneration.

Told in a series of flashbacks, Black Iron Mercy is a story of love, loss, courage, and the triumph of the human spirit, where every day our champion struggles to hold onto hope.

Black Iron Mercy was inspired by the post-war experiences of Mickey Sullivan, who spent much of his later life correcting false histories.  It is for him that I took up this crusade, and it is to him that I owe my gratitude for my enthusiasm.  Mickey is one of my principal characters.  And although Arlis is fictional, nearly all of the characters that wear the blue suit of the Union Army in my novel were real people. It is a heavy responsibility, using real people in fiction.  Because of this, I asked this generation’s foremost expert on the Iron Brigade, Mr. Lance J. Herdegen, author of five books on the subject and the former head of Civil War Studies at Carroll University, to read, edit, and endorse my manuscript.  He has done all three.

I write a popular blog with over 2,600 followers at  Additionally, I wrote the script for “Align on the Colors, Close up on the Colors,” a nine-part documentary on the charge of the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment on the railroad cut at Gettysburg, filmed and narrated in 2013 by Gettysburg Battlefield expert, Frank Marrone Jr.  I also manage and edit a Facebook fan page, “The Iron Brigade in Media,” a site that is dedicated to all mediums preserving the memory of that brigade.  My second novel, “Working Title,” is in its infancy.

When I’m not writing on subject matter relevant to this project, I’m often copywriting for various websites or speechwriting for local political candidates, for whom I’ve been known to manage campaigns.  In my spare time, I provide for my family by working as a firefighter and EMT for the village in which I live.

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read my query.  I’d love to send you a sample or the entire manuscript, should you be interested in reading further.


Subject to Editing

He raised his head and held it with the palm of his left hand. Lightning flashed, and he borrowed its luminance to steal a glance at Mama’s face, ashen and smoky, the eyes still open. A memory of a distant bible study flared through him, and he softly quoted from the book of Daniel.

“Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” He continued to stroke her forehead, gingerly, lovingly. “We have a lot in common with Daniel, you and me, Mama. That one… Daniel, chapter ten, verse eight… it describes both of us. See, when you’re dead and gone, Mama, I’ll have lost the last person that means anything to me, and I’ll not seek the affections of another.” He swallowed hard. “With no one to love, I’ll never have another to mourn.”

As he went silent, he noticed her breathing slow, stop, and then resume its quick pace. He let go of his head and lay it upon his arm, which he stretched out beneath the pillow. Exhaustion took hold, hard and quick, and he closed his eyes and allowed the fatigue to set in. He hadn’t been aware of how tired he’d been, thinking now about this day’s events and how they’d probably aided in his drowsiness. He was struck by how affected a body could be from emotional stress, how a few hours of strain could collapse a man’s vitality more than a full day of army drill. This line of thinking caused him to slip back to Camp Randall, the company dressed in their grays, stumbling around like the rough recruits they’d been. Sergeant Westcott was yelling at somebody for turning right when they should have turned left, and Arlis snickered in his mind – perhaps in the flesh, too – at the common mistake so many had made in the early days of training.

Suddenly, Westcott was in his ear, screaming at him to “get up that hill and bring back yer friends!” Chamberlain. Arlis tightened, looking at those around him… Talty, Sullivan, and the Hairy One, offering no assistance, no judgment. They stared at him blankly, until Harrison gestured to the hill that had materialized in front of the company.

Arlis, in a panic, held his musket at the ready and bolted to the base of the hill. Here, he realized something wasn’t right, as he was still wearing the state issued gray uniform they’d worn so long ago. We never fought in these, he thought, recognizing the unmistakable outline ahead as that of Turner’s Gap, the ground growing hard and rocky, as he made his way up the battlefield at South Mountain. The Rebs were firing at him now, the balls whizzing and buzzing passed his head, ricocheting off of the rocky formations… formations that were larger and rockier than any he’d seen his first time here. The elevation increased, and the vegetation transformed, changing from prairie grass to tall, winding weeds and then, Oh God, no, cornstalks. Arlis pressed onward, upward, searching for familiar ground, the ground he’d last seen George Chamberlain lying upon, bloodied and frightened. He saw him now, laying between the cornstalks… stalks that were far taller than they had any business being, at nearly twice the height of a grown man.

“Badger,” Chamberlain said as Arlis approached. “The corn’s alive, Badger.”

Of course it is, Arlis thought, squatting next to Chamberlain. “I’m gonna get you out this time, Maid,” he said, calling him by the nickname the boys had given him. Chamberlain hated it.

“I ain’t yer chambermaid,” George said, frowning. “Careful of the leg, now.” He reached out and grabbed Arlis by the front of his coat, gripping hard, pulling him close. With their faces just inches apart, George said, “This is your last shot, Badger. Don’t fuck me this time.”

Arlis pulled away and slid his arms beneath Chamberlain. “I couldn’t even get to you last time, Maid. I’ll save you this time.” He easily picked the man up, as one might pick up a knapsack or a bushel, as he weighed next to nothing, far less than he should have, anyway. He turned to head down the mountain and the gunfire increased. It was close and loud, chilling. Arlis took two steps and was forced to stop, as something had caught on Chamberlain and was impeding his movement. Arlis turned and watched as the cornstalks moved and grabbed, collapsing around the man, taking hold of Chamberlain’s arms and wrapping around his neck.

NO!” Arlis screeched, taking hold of his bayonet and slashing at the leaves, cutting them at their origins on the stalks. As one was cut free another would take hold. Arlis increased his cutting speed, thrashing wildly at the stalks while pulling, and finally both were free, the sudden release from the bondage of the plants causing him to fall to the ground, Chamberlain sprawling out next to Arlis.

“Hey,” Chamberlain said, “I told ya ta watch the leg!”

Arlis gave a quick look behind them, expecting the corn to try again. But the corn was gone, allowing a full view of the Rebel line, a fortified trench about 75 yards to the front. Rebel heads poked up from behind the walls as their owners fired muskets at the men, who seemed to be the only Union soldiers on the battlefield. He felt his heart racing, beating as fast as his mother’s had been, and now his breathing rate matched hers as well. This time, he’d have no problem keeping the respirations at that measure.

“Okay, once more,” Arlis said to Chamberlain, picking him up. He held him like the man was a toddler, with one arm under his buttocks. As he started to the rear again the Rebels fired a full volley, blowing Chamberlain’s head clean off and knocking Arlis to the ground again. Sitting up, Arlis settled next to the headless corpse, the top of the neck cut clean, bloodless, looking like a round log that had been sawed in half. The firing ceased, causing Arlis to look toward the Rebel line, but the Rebs were gone, the terrain altered again. He realized he was no longer on the South Mountain battlefield, but in the courtyard of the hospital, the crazy old woman yelling at someone for getting blood all over her antique rug. He was abruptly surrounded by the familiar faces of Company K, who held their heads low in shame or disappointment or plain old disapproval, their body language matching their heads in agreement.

Then, Violet Rhys, fourteen years old and dressed in an elaborate red calico dress, resplendent with a repeating, white maple leaf pattern, pushed her way through the crowd of onlookers to stand at the feet of the corpse on the ground. Arlis sat wide-eyed, his eyes fixed on the girl.

“You stupid, stupid boy,” said Violet, refusing to make eye contact with him. “Can’t you save anybody?”

Arlis followed her gaze to the corpse on the ground, his eyes scanning it from the feet upward. The body was dressed in white bedclothes and slippers, wrapped in a quilt. Mama!


It is for us they signed the muster, the ledger, the roll. It is for us they served, they fought, they struggled. It is for us they suffered, they bled, they sacrificed, they died.

Today, it is for them we reflect, we ponder, we display, we honor. It is for them we congregate, we commemorate, we lionize, we appreciate.

God Bless the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that others may inherit and enjoy the freedoms of this great country.

– Eric Schlehlein

As posted on “The Iron Brigade in Media.”


I visited with my good friend, co-worker, and former tennis partner, Ricke Treleven last Wednesday. Ricke has been fighting a long, painful bout with cancer and is now a resident at Angels Grace in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Ricke has had a positive and profound influence on all that have been a part of his life, and I’d like to share what his friends at WISN Radio have done for him… a truly wonderful and well-earned permanent tribute. Congrats and thank you, Ricke, for being the kind of man that God intended all of us to be.



When most of us get a packet of silica gel enclosed in a pair of shoes or a new bottle of over-the-counter medicine, the instinct is to toss that baby into the garbage can.  After all, it says right on the packet “DO NOT EAT.”  But there are a lot of other uses for these packets besides keeping your Omeprazole and your beef jerky dry… uses that savvy do-it-yourselfers have been practicing for years.  Below, you’ll find many useful ways to put these packets to work for you!


  1. Protecting your photographs – Put silica gel packet wherever you store your photographs to keep them safe and dry.
  2. Keeping luggage dry – Silica gel packets do a great job of keeping luggage dry. You can simply toss a few silica gel packets into your luggage to keep it moisture and odor-free, especially if you store your luggage in a storage unit or a basement. This could really help to extend the life of your luggage.
  3. Windows – Placing a few silica gel packets between the panes on your windowsill, especially in the winter and the rainy seasons, can eliminate much of the condensation that forms on your windows, keeping your view of the world outside much clearer.
  4. Dry bulk pet food – Storing your bulk pet food in a bin with some silica gel packets taped to the lid can help keep the food free of moisture, leaving it fresh and tasty for your pet to enjoy.
  5. Jack-O-Lanterns – Implanting a few beads of silica gel into the rind of your jack-o-lantern can help lengthen the life of your pumpkin, keeping moisture and mold at bay for much longer than if you hadn’t used silica gel. If you’re not planning on lighting a candle in your pumpkin, or if you’re using artificial light rather than a flame to illuminate your jack-o-lantern, then impaling a packet of silica gel to the lid of your pumpkin with a toothpick is a fantastic idea!
  1. Protecting documents – Keep moisture away from your important papers by including some silica gel packets wherever you store your documents.  Keeping your papers dry will also help to prevent yellowing.
  2. Keeping fabric dry– Keeping a few packets of silica gel inside your sewing kit will keep your fabric in a dry, pristine condition and will also help to keep your metallic objects from oxidizing.
  3. Saving your cell phone – This one is HUGE! If you drop your phone in a sink, toilet, or pool, immediately remove the battery and any memory cards from the phone and place them in a bowl filled with silica gel packets overnight to dry them out.  Dry, white rice will do the trick, too.
  4. Preserving razor blades – Following your shaving ritual, blotting your razor on a towel and then placing it in a bag with a few silica gel packets will help lengthen the life of your razor!
  5. Protecting Silver – Tarnish and corrosion on your silver can lead to a lot of work and wasted time!  Placing a silica gel packet or two in your silver chest or jewelry box will keep those items tarnish-free and looking great!
  6. Gardening – Keeping your seeds dry is vital to protecting them from mold.  Placing your packets of seeds or baggies of seeds in a shoe box with a single packet of silica gel will ensure that your seeds will remain healthy until planting season!
  7. Protecting Christmas Ornaments and lights during storage – Storing your Christmas decorations with a few strategically placed silica gel packets will ensure that they’ll be moisture free for the next 11 months, ensuring that your family will be able to enjoy them for generations to come!
  8. Preserving your collections – What is it that you collect?  Stamps?  Baseball cards?  Butterflies?  Placing a silica gel packet between the card stocks in your collections will go a long way in protecting them from the dangers of moisture.
  9. Drying Flowers – Use silica gel packets to help speed up the process of drying your flowers!
  10. Keeping tools dry – Throwing a few packets of silica gel into your tool chests will help prevent oxidation and rusting!
  11. Keeping ammunition dry – Placing a silica gel packet inside your ammo cans or your gun safe will ensure that moisture has no chance to damage your goods.
  12.  Storing cameras and film – Silica gel packets can help to lengthen the life of your cameras and help keep your film fresh and ready for use!

 Keeping engines dry during storage – Put the gel in plastic 35-mm film canisters and then drill holes in the canisters that are smaller than the beads so they don’t come out.  Then, put one canister inside each carburetor intake to help keep moisture out of the engine while it is in storage. This helps keep the bearings from pitting and the internal parts of the engine from rusting. Snowmobilers could benefit from this during the summer while their sleds are not being used.

This post was originally written by Eric Schlehlein for the Facebook page of Emergency Disaster Recovery, for whom Eric writes frequently.  Visit their Facebook page here:  or see their website at:



My blog has reached the 2000 follower milestone.  I am grateful to each and every one of you… and should you stop over at my house anytime soon I’ll have a cold beer or a bottle of Ketel One waiting for you.  Seriously, I actually have more than Hamm’s on hand.

Thanks, one and all.




A US Airways Airbus 319

I don’t fly much.  I’ve taken to the sky a few times in the last couple of years, which is more than in the previous eight years combined, but I generally don’t travel much and when I do, it’s in a car with me behind the wheel.  With me in control.

My nephew, of whom I’m so very proud, graduated from Pitt this last weekend. Since I was so graciously invited to attend the festivities, I flew out there for a three day jaunt.  I had a great time, thank you, but I’ll admit that the events that held my attention the most throughout the weekend all involved airplanes.  The closest airport to me is Mitchell International in Milwaukee, and there are no direct flights with any airlines from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh so the entire round-trip required four take-offs and four landings.  We stopped in Chicago, at O’hare, on the way there… then flew to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh to catch another flight home.  This caused some minor amusement for me… as Philly is farther from Milwaukee than Pittsburgh.  Hee-hee.  So be it.

But like I said, I don’t fly much.  And although I am not really afraid to fly, I have found, in the past as well as now, that the longer I go between flights the greater the anxiety I feel for the act.  I still marvel at the fact that human beings can fly at all, let alone at 30,000 feet at a speed of Mach 0.78.  Sometimes I think it’s all just a grand illusion… or a trick… that planes are just advanced elevators or something.  Maybe once you board, an experienced ground crew just changes the scenery so that you think you’ve gone somewhere new.

Anyway, there have been several occasions — one this last weekend — when the plane is barely off the ground and climbing, maybe at an altitude of two thousand feet, where I have mildly freaked, my mind racing, thinking, “Holy Shit!  What the fuck is keeping us up here??!”

Of course, nobody can see my irrational thoughts, and I have a great poker face.  No one can tell by my body language or a look on my face that I nearly just shit my pants at the very beginning of a two-hour flight.  It’s now that I casually look about the cabin at the faces of those people that obviously travel all the time, because they’re already lost in a book, or an android-game, or they’re already asleep, as their gaping mouths are a tell-tale sign of slumber.  Asleep!  Already??  The damn gear isn’t even up yet and you’re already approaching REM?  I snicker.  No way.  That guy just shit his pants and he’s hiding it by pretending that he isn’t scared to death.  He’s got a better poker face than me.  Well done, fella!

Once we’ve leveled off I generally feel better.  Then the turbulence starts.  Tiny potholes in the sky.  Just where does our tax money go, anyway?  I’ve heard of turbulence being so severe that passengers have hit their heads on the ceiling.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me, in fact, I think I’ve been truly blessed on the flights I’ve taken, but a particularly moderate bout of turbulence on the way from Chicago to Pittsburgh caused a kindergarten-age boy across the aisle from me to exclaim, “Gee, the roads in the sky sure are bumpy!”

That’s right, kid.  I blame congress.

So what’s the worst part of the flight for me?  The part when we get back to earth.  Airplanes are built to fly.  And if you want to stop flying, then you need to alter the plane in ways that the plane doesn’t want to be altered.  You need to put the nose down for the gradual descent.  You need to reduce speed… a thing that seems like a horrible idea to me.  And then once you’re down, the flaps on the wings get into crazy positions and the engines reverse thrust and you pray that this monster of a machine will stop before it goes off the end of the runway.

Well, I pray for that, anyway.  Apparently, the guy that shit his pants at the beginning of the flight has just shit them again.  His eyes are closed and his mouth, agape.  What a wuss!

But not all of my childish feelings toward flying are negative.  I get the science for the most part… lift, torque, ailerons and wing flaps… but I’m always in awe of the engineering of it all.  Smart people — people waaayyyy smarter than me — found a way for an animal that can’t fly to fly.  To use an overused word, it’s awesome.  Awesome, as in, it inspires awe.  Only things like the science of flight should be allowed to attract the use of the word, “awesome.”  I feel like a kid again when I’m in a plane… and there are few things in life that do that for me.

New Day

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,


An amber dawn, radiant, rich.

Optimism personified,

an idea is born.


Posted: April 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

Honor and Empathy in Triumph and Humiliation

There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant… and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” – Gen Robert E Lee, Appomattox Court House, VA – April 9, 1865

On they come, with the old swinging route step and swaying battle flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?” – Maj Gen Joshua L Chamberlain, after receiving the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.



Chamberlain was clearly moved during the surrender ceremony, causing him to order his men to give the marching salute as the Rebels marched past. Confederate Major General John B Gordon was momentarily stunned, then he and his mount pivoted to face General Chamberlain. Removing his hat,  the General and his horse bowed, as one, before Gordon ordered his men to return the salute. This moment marked the beginning of the healing of our nation, and it is my favorite tidbit from all that is our Civil War. Revolutions, failed or not, do not normally end this way. It ranks as one of the most beautiful moments in our history.



This is a re-blog of a story I wrote four years ago and finally blogged in February of last year.



I am a Green Bay Packer fan.  At times, I claim to be the biggest, greatest, most loyal Green Bay Packer fan of all time, even though I know that I’m not.  I don’t have time to be anyone’s biggest fan.  Having been born in 1970, the year the Packers went on a thirty-year hiatus from greatness, I endured the worst years in Packer history, save the 1950’s, and bonded with a team that could seldom finish better than 8-8.  I loved them anyway.

I am a Packer owner.  I own one share of Green Bay Packer stock… an investment which shall never earn me a dividend, unless you count bragging about owning a piece of my team as a dividend.  In this aspect, the purchase has made me rich.  Yes, monetarily, it is a worthless piece of paper.  But Packer owners don’t buy stock in our team for personal financial reasons.  We buy stock in our team because the team has asked us to do so, and because our investment has helped the team survive extinction, bankruptcy, and being forced to disband because our small town market couldn’t keep up with the big market teams.  We buy stock in our team because we love our team.  Most of us will do it again the next time the Packers come calling.

Pack1 pack2

Pack3 pack4


The NFC championship game that the Packers lost to the Seahawks on January 18, 2015 is still sitting in the bowels of Packer fans like a bad batch of pinto beans.  To have watched your team hold the lead for the entire game, only to give up 15 points in 44 seconds, plunging the game into overtime and then to lose that game in overtime is painful beyond belief.  But that pain isn’t just from the loss.  It isn’t ONLY because that loss kept your team from the Super Bowl and a possible 14th world championship.  The real pain is in the realization that such a loss shall go down in your opponents annals as their greatest win of all time, and that we Packer fans will have to endure the media discussing the game and its miracle outcome for the rest of our lives, much like Cowboy fans have had to endure the endless discussions of the infamous “Ice Bowl.”

Even so, many of the Packer fans I know were pulling for Seattle in the Super Bowl last week, largely because most of them are tired of the Patriots and their decade of success.  That said, a general neutrality fell over the state of Wisconsin during Super Bowl week, and many Packer fans refused to watch the game at all, as the pain was still far too intense to even get close to a football game.

We all know how the Super Bowl ended.  There needs to be no discussion here about play calling or blah, blah, blah.  But in the week since the Seahawks blew their chance at a second straight championship there has been a lot of talk and discussion — especially on social media pages — about karma.

The Cowboys shouldn’t have beaten the Lions; the Packers shouldn’t have beaten the Cowboys; the Seahawks shouldn’t have beaten the Packers; the Patriots shouldn’t have beaten the Seahawks.

Karma was responsible for all of it, evidently.

I’m not much of a “Karma” guy.  Generally, I treat people like I want to be treated, not because I think karma’s gonna get me if I’m an ass.

For a good example of the karma pitch, have a look at this link:

I find no comfort, no solace, no endearing emotions whatsoever in Seattle’s Super Bowl loss.  I’m not smirking, feeling smug, or resisting an urge to yell, “In your face!” to the Seattle faithful.  Likewise, I feel no sympathy, no remorse, and certainly no empathy for the Seahawks’ fans.  What is, simply is.

For a true fan of any team of any sport, there is never any real joy in the demise of another team.  Real happiness always comes from your team’s success, not another’s failure.

If there is ANY possible good that comes from the outcome of this football season, it’s that there’s a slight possibility that Packer Nation won’t have to endure Seattle’s version of the “Ice Bowl” quite as often as we would have if they’d have beaten the Patriots.

I doubt it, though.