Valverde not only tells a good story, but explores a segment of history that really needs exposure. There are lots of books and movies about the Civil War, but few of them consider the Southwest. Because of its unique history, culture and population, the Civil War in New Mexico wasn't concerned with the same issues as those that affected the East. Written at a 4th grade reading level, this book makes the Civil War accessible to students from the upper elementary through middle school, but it is also a quick and pleasant book for the adult reader. With your support, we can get this book into lots of hands.
Not everyone in Valverde is fictitious. Here are some of the real people who appear in this novel.
Jemmy ran to the sandy depression where he had seen the guidons for Green’s men. He searched the front line until he found Wade and Norvell among the 200 men lying against the hill. He threw himself down next to them, laying his shotgun by his side.
“What are you doing here?” Frederick Ward asked, frowning under his bushy mustache.
“Avenging my mules,” Jemmy answered.
“T’aint worth it, Little Britches. Get out now an’ go back to the carts,” Norvell said, but Jemmy didn’t answer. Norvell started sobbing, his breath coming in big gasps.
Jemmy looked back. Behind him, a second line of 250 men and a third of 300 squatted on their heels. Sergeants walked up and down, shouting at the men to make sure their firearms had a priming cap in place, to shoot low, and not until they were very close.
The whites of their eyes, Jemmy thought, then wondered where he’d heard that before. Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. Norvell’s hands were trembling. His eyes were as round as a rabbit’s. Plenty of white showing, all the way around: a fine target if the Yankees were looking for the whites of his eyes.
Jemmy looked past him at the other men. Some twitched in anticipation. Some used the backs of their hands to wipe away tears. Some prayed, their hands clutched together, lips moving with earnest intensity. Some lay so still that he wondered if they’d gone to sleep. The ghostly sun, pale behind thin, gray clouds, hung overhead, a little past the apex. Snow had started again, tiny dry pellets brought in almost horizontally. It bit his cheeks and made his eyes water. Why did the wind have to come from the west today? Why couldn’t it be at his back, pushing him on towards victory? It seemed like God himself was against him.
Behind him, Colonel Green called for the men’s attention. The line quieted. Everyone trusted “Daddy” Green to do right by them.
“Boys,” he called, “I want Colonel Canby’s guns! When I give the word, raise the Rebel yell, and follow me!”
All along the line, men cheered. Jemmy felt his resolve harden into a knot in his throat. Afraid his cheer would come out in a squeak, he merely nodded.
“Fred, we are whipped, and I will never see my mother again!” Norvell said in between wracking sobs.
Jemmy closed his eyes, trying to wipe the image of Norvell’s tears from his mind. He raised one shoulder and then the other, lessening the tension in his back. The sergeants’ 'shoot low' command bothered him. It was fine if he shot low. He was in the first line of men, and there’d be nothing in front of him except blue coats. It did not matter if he hit them in the head or the kneecap. Shot was shot, and a Yank with a ball in him would not be trying to return the favor. But Jemmy wasn’t so sure he wanted the second or third waves of men, the men who came behind him, to be shooting low. He didn’t cotton to taking a ball in the back. It might be mistaken as a sign that Jemmy was running from the Federal line instead of toward it. He didn’t want to be mistaken for a coward.
He peeked over the top of the hill. Eight hundred yards in front of him lay a line of limbers, two wheeled vehicles that had been pulled into place by horses. Some limbers held limber chests filled with rounds of ammunition and pulled other carts, called caissons, that held even more ammunition. There was a lot of firepower, all intended to keep him from crossing to it.
The other limbers held cannons, their open muzzles gaping at him like surprised mouths. Soon, he knew, those guns would belch fire and chunks of metal like those that had brought down Captain Lang’s Lancers. Jemmy shook his head hard. He had to stop scaring himself or he was going to end up like Norvell. Shaking his head didn’t dislodge the images that swirled inside. He needed to talk himself calm, like he did with Golfin and Griffith. “You ain’t got nothing to be scairt of,” he whispered to himself. “The men behind you is there to support you, not shoot you in the back. And the snow and wind’ll mask our sound, confusing the Federals into thinking there’s less of us. The grapeshot and canister’s aimed at the Generals. Them guns ain’t interested in a little guy like me.”
The story of the Battle of Valverde deserves to be told.
Many books and movies about the Civil War focus on the Eastern part of the country. Few consider any action west of the Mississippi, and fewer still concern the Southwest. New Mexico's unique history as an isolated Spanish colonial frontier created a culture that cared about different issues than states rights and slavery. The fact that New Mexico's opinions about and contributions to the Civil War have been ignored disenfranchises a segment of America from the historical picture. How can the children of the Southwest feel any involvement with the history of the Civil War when it is depicted as something that happened far away, in a distant place and time, over issues their ancestors cared nothing about?
It's time we make readers aware of the Civil War in New Mexico and assure that adult and young readers alike have access to this segment of our history. Valverde is written at a 4th grade reading level so that students from the upper elementary through middle school can read it, but it is also a quick and pleasant book for the adult reader.
As an independent, self published author, I've found that it's harder to market a book than it is to write it. Your support will help me create an advertising campaign that will target social studies teachers in New Mexico and Civil War enthusiasts everywhere. And since you can judge a book by its cover, monies generated through this campaign will pay a professional cover artist to create an attractive cover
With your support, we can get this book into lots of hands and the Civil War in New Mexico will no longer remain lost in insignificance.
If this campaign reaches $1,500, Jennifer will produce a large print edition of Valverde so that older readers may enjoy it more easily. Mrs. Bohnhoff has many older fans who appreciate the size and simplicity of her novels, and are big fans of historical fiction. She's been asked many times to produce large print editions. Backers who receive a print copy of Valverde may then have the option or a regular or large print edition.
For every $100 that this campaign earns above $1,500, the author will donate a large print edition to a nursing home.
If this campaign reaches $2,000, Matt Bohnhoff will create a map of the Valverde Battlefield to include in the front matter of the book. Maps enhance historical novels because they really help the reader envision battle formations and troop movements. They help teachers instruct in geography skills.
If this campaign reaches $2,500, an illustration will be added to the beginning of each chapter. Illustrations will either be created by Matt Bohnhoff or will be, like the ones in this Kickstarter campaign, pen and ink sketches from the Civil War that are now in the public domain.
If this campaign reaches $3,000, Matt Bohnhoff will create a map of the route Sibley took to reach New Mexico to include in the front matter of the book.
If this campaign reaches $3,500, Daniel Ward will work with the author and Heidi Swedberg to created an audio version of Valverde. Audio books extend a book's reach to a lot of people: to the blind, the elderly, those with visual impairment and/or learning disabilities, to those who cannot hold a book or e reader, and to commuters who can listen in their cars. It enables teachers to let students read along with an engaging voice (any teacher who's read chapter 1 five times to five different classes appreciates an audio version!). The audio book will be narrated by Heidi Swedberg, with an original theme song by Daniel Ward. Backers above $25 may have the option of receiving Valverde in print or audio versions.
For every $200 above $3,500, the author will donate a class set and teacher's guide of the paperback edition of Valverde to a low income school.
Thinking really, really big, if this campaign reaches $50,000 Jennifer will take a one year leave of absence from teaching and speak for free at every school and library that will accept her while she works on Glorieta, the second book in the series.
Risks and challenges
Backers to this project do not have to worry about whether this book will be published because the manuscript is already complete. Nor do they have to worry about whether the history presented is accurate. Historical fiction demands a high level of research. I teach New Mexico history at the middle school level, so I have a basic understanding of this time period and location. Before writing even an outline of this story I read diaries and reports from the period and toured Fort Craig. A member of the New Mexico Civil War Artillery Company proofed the manuscript for historical accuracy and a professional editor critiqued it.
Backers of this campaign don't have to worry about whether I have the time to complete this project, since I've already put the lion's share of the time in already.
I am more worried about whether this book, once published, will get into the right hands. How will students who have little knowledge of the Civil War in New Mexico learn about Valverde? How will Social Studies teachers learn about this book and the supplemental teaching guides and materials? How can I let Civil War enthusiasts know that this book is for them? Advertising is key. Your support will help me buy ad campaigns on Twitter and Facebook and some more specific venues, as well as target Social Studies teachers throughout the state with postcards, flyers and email campaigns. I hope to also place the book in the bookstores of historical sites, including Valverde itself.
Advertising won't help if the book is unattractive. A cover is, to a book, what a face is to an actress. If I am going to attract any attention to this book, it must be through an attractive cover that speaks to the market and projects what this book is all about. I am no professional artist, nor do I have a marketing background. The monies I get through this campaign will help me hire a cover creator with the graphic talents and marketing background to make this project attractive to readers. You really can judge a book by its cover.
Your support will also help me get books into the hands of New Mexico's neediest children, those who don't have the money to buy books. You can help me give books to them.
You can also help me extend the intellectual reach of Valverde by providing me the funding to produce teacher's guides and additional materials that will enrich the readers' understanding. I have written teacher's guides for my books before, and know how to create ones that will adhere to Common Core State Standards. In addition to the teacher's guide, I am compiling a Civil War recipe book that will expand and enrich the reader's experience. I'm enjoying the challenge and am testing recipes now.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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