Category Archives: An Eternity of Four Years

Rachel Sees the Elephant

All of my excerpts from An Eternity of Four Years have featured scenes with Ethan. Rachel is still very much in the story and has an even stronger role than she had in The Last Day of Forever. In An Eternity of Four Years, the two are separated and have very different life experiences.

Why is that? Well, you will have to read the book to find out.

In this series of excerpts, you see her experiencing the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Until this point in the story, she has been largely isolated from any direct effects of the war, but it has now caught up with her. The battle was fought all around her, and in its aftermath, she gets to experience the horrors of a battlefield.


Book 2 115 July 1863 (From diary entries recording earlier events.)

Both armies are gone, and we are left with the remnants of the great battle. Words cannot begin to describe what awaited us as we ventured out of our homes and hiding places after the armies left. Broken wagons, gun carriages, caissons, abandoned muskets, canteens, sabers, ration boxes, ammunition—all manner of military equipage is everywhere, not to mention all the damaged or destroyed buildings.

Men must relieve themselves even during war. The smell of urine and human excrement can be encountered almost anywhere, unless it is overpowered by the smell of death, which is often the case. The entire town is permeated with the stench of corruption. Dead animals and dead men have lain out putrefying in the hot July sun, some for as long as five days! One cannot escape the smell. It seeps into everything, your home, your clothing, your very being, it seems.

The flies have descended upon the town like some Biblical plague. They are everywhere, and you cannot escape them! They are in your face, in your nose, and even your mouth if you open it too wide to speak. Eating a meal, if one can stomach food with the smell of death so strong, is a battle with the flies.

Rats! Rats are everywhere! Where have they come from and so soon after the battle? They feed on the dead and seem not the least concerned when humans approach them, sometimes even behaving aggressively if you venture too close.

It has been five days since the battle was joined; four days since Cemetery Hill, and three since the great Southern charge against the Union’s center that some are calling “Pickett’s Charge,” so named for the general who led it—and they are still finding wounded men on the many fields and in the woods and buildings all around Gettysburg. Poor hurt men incapable of escaping the heat of day, dying for want of a sip of cool water to quench their thirst, exhausted from crying out for help, or unconscious from the pain of it all.


The sun fully set and our charges removed to the church, we joined Doctor Anderson in an ambulance for the short ride to Cemetery Hill. As we approached, we saw men with lanterns moving over the north face and the top of the hill. With the weak ethereal light of the lanterns casting ghostly dancing shadows as the men moved about the hill and examined the many bodies there for some flicker of life, it looked like a picture out of some hideous nightmare.

We dismounted near the gate of the cemetery. They had tents set up, and in the light of lanterns, we saw litters of wounded men lying out in the open air for as far as could be seen in the weak light.

And the stench of death! It was even stronger there!

Doctor Anderson brought us inside a large tent set up as an operating room with several tables for conducting procedures, each held a wounded man with orderlies or surgeons tending to them. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to fall down and weep for what these poor men had been going through, but I steeled myself and called upon the Lord to give me the strength to endure what I knew I would be facing. And I needed every ounce of help He would give me.

Doctor Anderson assigned Doctor J to one of the tables. An orderly and I assisted. This went on through the night. As soon as one man was attended to, his wound treated, his arm or leg amputated, they carried him off and brought in another, one long stream of broken men, one after another.

With the coming of dawn, Doctor Anderson brought us coffee and suggested we rest for a while. I took my coffee to go outside and get away from the blood and gore to hopefully enjoy the sunrise. Doctor Anderson followed me. “Miss Rachel, I would suggest you remain inside,” he cautioned.

I ignored his warning. “I must see the sun!” But when I stepped outside, and my eyes adjusted to the light of the early dawn, I dropped my coffee! What was hidden by darkness during our arrival was now fully visible.

Death! It was everywhere! I looked to the north and saw the bodies of men clad in blue and gray, some stacked upon each other, some sprawled across broken gun carriages, some with their bodies twisted into positions God never intended them to ever assume, and still others only a part of a man with missing arms, legs, heads, and sometimes missing a whole half of his body, his entrails spilled out on the ground.

I fainted! Doctor Anderson caught me as I went down.


He literally took me by the arm and escorted me from the tent and instructed an orderly to take me home. I was too exhausted to resist.

Once back at the house, the mess in which we had left it days before was still there to greet me: dried blood on the floor, the table, and even the walls. Bloody bandages and sodden bedding had been left by the wounded. The house stank nearly as bad as Cemetery Hill. Tired as I was, I set about cleaning it up by first throwing open the windows to air the place out. I then set about scrubbing floors, disposing of the refuse left by the wounded, and changing our bedding.

I don’t know how long it took, but I got the house clean enough I could tolerate it (my standards of cleanliness were, by then, greatly reduced from what they had been before the battle). After getting a good fire going in the stove, I fried our last two eggs and very nearly inhaled them. I then boiled water, made myself a cup of tea and poured myself a steaming hot bath. With my cup of tea in hand, I slipped into the tub and sank into pure heaven on earth. That bath felt better than any I had ever experienced in my entire life. I soaked until the water was tepid then washed with soap from head to toe—three times to be sure I was completely clean! I put on a clean nightgown, fell into a freshly made bed, and was fast asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.


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Nostalgia – The PTSD of the Civil War

Recently I wrote a post about a malady back during the Civil War called “nostalgia.” I commented that both Ethan and Rachel ended up dealing with it. You may want to read that post before reading this excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years.


Book 2 1I lost consciousness after the fight and did not regain full awareness of my surroundings until I awoke in a hospital in Richmond nearly a week later. I had only some vague memories of being jostled around in an ambulance on the way to Richmond but nothing more of how I got there. Blue told me I had a fever much of the time and spoke nonsense about all manner of things, mostly Rachel and someone named Tom Sullivan.

The fight in that bottom slowly began to come back to me, and I recalled what I had done. In my mind’s eye, I could see him lying there on the ground, bleeding out from my knife thrust to his heart, and I again became sick at my stomach and nearly threw up, which would have been exceedingly painful with my broken ribs. Of all the men in the world I could come face-to-face with on a battlefield, why him? I sank into a melancholy that was deep and long.


“I’m worried about you, Captain Ethan. The doc say you ain’t getting any better. In fact, he told me you was getting worse. I can tell something is paining you in the head. Maybe you should talk to Old Blue about it?”

He was right. I was getting worse, but I did not care any longer. “Not something I want to talk about, Blue. Just leave me alone.”

“You already alone—inside your head, and you need to come out where the rest of us are.”

I became angry and replied sharply, “I said, leave me alone!”

He snorted a half laugh. “That ain’t goin’ to happen, Captain Ethan. I told you way back in New Orleans I’m responsible for you now. I’m not going to let you just go crazy. Now, tell Blue what happened out there?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“I’m making it my bidness.”

“Well, don’t bother!’

“Then let’s try this: where is your God, Captain Ethan? You should be prayin’ and callin’ on Him right now”

I snorted a half laugh. “Why? He doesn’t care about me.”

“Look at you, a sorry mess of a man all soaked with sweat and talkin’ crazy. God does care ‘bout you! Where’d you get that silly notion? God loves you!”

I turned over and glared at him as hard as I could in my addled state …

“You need to get him out of here.” I heard a surgeon tell Blue. “This place is doing him no good.”

“I can see that, but where’ll I take him?”

“Some of the local citizens are taking in the wounded to convalesce, perhaps one of them? If he stays here, he’ll die—or go insane, if he hasn’t already. You need to get him out of this melancholy state he is in. To do that, he needs to be away from the war for a while.”

Then I heard a woman’s voice join the conversation. “And what have we here?”

“Ma’am, the captain here is badly hurt,” the surgeon replied. “His body is slowly healing, but his mind is not. He is suffering from nostalgia. There’s nothing more I can do for him. You know anyone who can take him in until he heals?”

“Oh, dear.” She bent over and touched me on the shoulder, expecting I would turn to face her. “Captain?”

“Go away!”

She paused, making no reply as she cocked her head.

“Somethin’ wrong, Missy?” asked Blue.

“I thought…” she started to say something then shook her head. “Captain, I’m here to help with the wounded. Won’t you let me help you?”

That voice sounded familiar. I turned over to face her, and she gasped, “Ethan?”


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“Nostalgia” AKA PTSD

Cover B1“Nostalgia” plays a significant role in the lives of both Ethan and Rachel in my books The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years. It was officially defined and named Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980 to describe the mental issues suffered by Vietnam veterans. But it existed long before that, at least as long as war and trauma have been visited upon mankind. It was known by other names during different periods of history. It was called “shell shock” in WWI and during WWII, it was called “battle fatigue.” In the mid 19th century, during the American Civil War, it was called “nostalgia.”

That term was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. It was described as a form of melancholy.

The Greek origin of the English word is nóstos álgos. Nóstos is usually translated “homecoming” but carries the idea of returning home after a long journey to find that everything is the same, yet just a shadow of what it had been before. Álgos refers to pain. Literally, we have “homecoming pain.”

I think that 17th century medical student had in mind the pain of a soldier returning home after a war to find that while everything may look as it did before he left, he sees things differently because stressful wartime experiences have changed his life perspective, usually not for the better. Depression, nightmares, and anger are often symptoms.

Book 2 1I believe nostalgia is related to the saying, “seeing the elephant,” often used by soldiers during the American Civil War and since. The idea behind “seeing the elephant” is that of the profound disappointment and disillusionment associated with having one’s “grand” notions about war dashed by the brutal reality of the killing fields. It suggests the soldier has seen enough, and he is sick of all the misery, pain, and death. He has “seen the elephant,” and it was an exceedingly ugly beast.

Nostalgia, or known by its current title PTSD, is not limited to veterans of war. It can be caused by any manner of stressful conditions such as rape, witnessing something terrible like an accident or death, a near death experience, or really anything that can leave a profound and lasting impression of fear or anxiety. Ethan suffered his first bout of nostalgia as a result of his witnessing the death of Cornelius as a child of three, and later as the result of losing Rachel, followed by what he saw and did during the war in places like the Shenandoah Valley, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and especially Gettysburg and its aftermath. Rachel also “saw the elephant” and it affected her as well.

Both Rachel and Ethan had come from a comfortable lifestyle of plenty in a time of peace to one of horror and death in a time of war, a war described by author Paul Fussell as “long, brutal, total, and stupid.” Should we not expect such might affect a sane person?

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The Last Day of Forever Update and Excerpt

Book 2 1Moving right along with the printed proof of An Eternity of Four Years, the exciting conclusion to the Catahoula Series. Not making promises, but looks like it will be available as soon as three weeks from now. You have seen two previous excerpts from An Eternity of Four Years here and here. This scene takes place during the battle of Port Republic in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862.


Taylor summoned me early the next morning, Sunday, 8 June, and I was given some dispatches to deliver to Jackson in Port Republic. I saddled Pepper and rode out of camp and headed for Port. The dawn was breaking clear and promised a day without rain for a change. I soon arrived at Port, crossed the North River bridge, and made my way down Main Street to Jackson’s headquarters at the Kemper Estate at the far end of town.

I was not more than two squares down Main Street, when I heard the unmistakable scream of an artillery round overhead. I looked up and, to my utter shock, saw the shot falling directly towards me! There was no time to do anything but close my eyes in preparation for meeting my Maker. It crashed into the street right between Pepper’s legs and exploded with a deafening roar, knocking both Pepper and me to the ground.

I rolled clear and could do little more than lay there stunned by the blast with my ears ringing. Pepper struggled to his feet screaming to wake the dead. From the sounds he was making, I was sure I would find his gut torn open, and I would be forced to end my noble steed’s agony with a shot from my Colt. My terror-stricken warhorse found his footing and bolted like a cannon shot in the direction from which we had just come. I rolled over and looked up the street to see my faithful mount deserting under fire. He slowed just long enough to decide he wanted nothing to do with that bridge and turned left and headed up the road following the North River. I whistled for him to come to me, but he did not stop and only whinnied back in answer, which if it could have been translated into English, I am sure he was saying something to the effect that I could go straight to the Devil. I figured, if he could move that fast, he couldn’t be hurt all that bad, and I turned my attention to my own wounds.

To my immense relief, I found only a minor scratch on my left forearm. Except for that and ringing ears, I was unhurt. Meanwhile, I heard another round coming in and turned over onto my belly, covering my head with my arms. It exploded down the street, and I scrambled to my feet to get away from my exposed position. The second round was followed by two more, one of which slammed into the steeple of a church we were using as a hospital.

As I stood, I saw Federal cavalry crossing the Upper Ford and cursed Pepper for leaving me there like he had. Our own cavalry were in retreat and scampered through town in their haste to get away from the advancing Federals and very nearly ran me over in the process. I ran up Main Street as more artillery shells careened into the town. I took cover near the church, and Jackson came riding by. Doctor McGuire was busy loading wounded into wagons and swearing at the slow moving orderlies, as was his usual manner. Stonewall reined in his mount and admonished the doctor, “Sir, don’t you think you can manage these men without swearing?” McGuire nodded and promised to try. Satisfied, Jackson spurred his mount into action and headed for the bridge at a gallop. Most of his party barely escaped capture and crossed the bridge just as Federal cavalry entered Main Street at that end of town. Colonel Crutchfield, Jackson’s artillery chief, was not so quick and was taken prisoner only to escape later.

I drew my revolver and prepared for a fight as Union cavalry thronged the bridge end of town. Soon two cannons were brought up and unlimbered at the entrance to the covered bridge, their muzzles pointing across the river. I figured we were in a real fix then. Jackson and his army were across the river, cut off from their escape route by Union artillery and cavalry sitting on the only bridge. I knew I couldn’t storm their position alone and wasn’t doing any good staying where I was. I figured the Federals would surely go for the supply train sitting conspicuously out on the road at the other end of town and made my way toward the Kemper Estate as fast as my legs would carry me in the hope that I could find others with whom I could make a stand.

In Kemper’s yard, I found Captain Sam Moore of the 2nd Virginia and his small company of only twenty muskets, which had been assigned to guard the fords. He was preparing to make a stand at the Kemper house and had already placed his company along a plank fence that surrounded it. I attached myself to this small band, and we set ourselves for the charge that was sure to come. We had not long to wait. Blue Coat cavalry came up Main Street at a walk and turned the corner headed straight for Kemper’s house and our ambush. We crouched behind the fence and allowed them to get closer. When he felt they were close enough, Moore stood and yelled, “Fire!” And twenty muskets barked. I stood and fired with them. The startled Yankees never knew what hit them, and we emptied numerous saddles. They retreated in haste back up Main Street but began regrouping for another go at us.

Captain Joseph Carrington and his Charlottesville Light Artillery with a battery of two guns joined our little group. Carrington ordered both guns unlimbered moved them closer to the fence. He loaded with double canister as the Federals came up Main Street towards us. Carrington hadn’t the time to take down the boards on the fence in front of his guns. He aimed them as best he could, point blank, and moved to rip down the boards. “Leave them,” I yelled. “Just shoot through them!” He nodded and stood by his pieces, as the Yankees came at us again, at a gallop this time. With a jerk of the lanyards the two guns roared, blowing big holes in the fence boards, and we fired with pistol and musket, emptying more Yankee saddles. Once more they retired in disarray, leaving more dead and wounded on the street.

Major Dabney of Jackson’s staff arrived from the Kemper house and did little but encourage us. Carrington limbered up his guns and moved them closer to the river for a shot directly down Main Street. Moore and the rest of the infantry moved to support the guns. The Yankees charged again, and once more we let them have a taste of canister and Minié. The canister swept the street and sent the survivors running for cover at the far end of town.

Across the river, the 37th Virginia Regiment, under Jackson’s instructions, was preparing to assault the covered bridge, while the Rockbridge Artillery pounded the Federal positions from the far shore. Meanwhile, Taylor had been ordered to bring his brigade on the double quick. At least a regiment of Federal infantry was moving for the fords, but artillery fire personally directed by Jackson from the far side of the river forced the Federals to quit their positions at the covered bridge, abandoning their guns just as the Virginians charged. To my astonishment, the retreating Federals failed to burn the bridge. Had they done so, the events of that afternoon and the next day might have turned out very differently.

We pushed them back across the fords, and our artillery pounded their retreating ranks. We had won the day. That surprise attack could have been a disaster for us had they burned that bridge and separated Jackson and his army from his supplies.

The brief little fight over, I was standing near the Kemper’s house fence reloading my Colt, when I heard a familiar whinny and looked up to see my wayward steed standing there, looking for all the world to be as contrite as the most repentant sinner on a Sunday morning. “So, you came back! Skedaddled and left me to face a Yankee horde alone!” I fairly yelled at Pepper. He whinnied and shook his head as if he understood what I was saying and was making his defense.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Jackson had returned and was witnessing my outlandish verbal attack on my horse. “Cowardice under fire! Ran from the enemy you did! I cannot believe that you would do such a thing to me after all I have done for you!”

Pepper snorted forcefully, and I heard laughter coming from behind me. I turned and saw Jackson and his staff watching the show and realized what a spectacle I was making of myself by talking to a dumb horse in such a manner.

Jackson’s expression was as stern as ever. “Shall I have him court marshaled, Captain?” asked Old Jack without cracking a smile.

I grinned sheepishly, and I know I was red in the face. “No, sir,” I replied. “It’s the first time he ever did that. With your permission, I’ll give him a chance to redeem himself.”

“Very well. As you wish, Captain.” Jackson nodded and rode on up to Kemper’s house, his staff following, some still laughing. To this day, I believe Jackson was serious about the court martial.

I turned my attention to Pepper and examined him for wounds but found only some minor scratches on his belly and two of his legs, nothing of any consequence. “Scared you, didn’t it?” I grunted at him.

“Sure did!” he replied in a high-pitched whinny. It at first startled me, but I heard snickers coming from the other side of Pepper and looked under his belly to see one of Carrington’s gunners about to split a gut laughing. Others who had been in on the joke burst out laughing then, and we all had a good belly-grabber at my expense. Lord knows we needed it.


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Ethan the Christian

Ethan6B REDUCEDIt should be obvious from reading The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years that Ethan’s faith plays an important role in his character. Sometimes he succeeds as a Christian and sometimes not. Christians are not perfect, although some critics of the faith suggest we ought to be so 100% of the time. For them, seeing a Christian fail can be a moment of triumph when they can point a finger and loudly exclaim, “Hypocrite!”

If you have ever read the Bible, one fact should strike you: It is full of “hypocrites.” Of the many characters in the Bible, only one is without flaws. All the rest in some way fail, often spectacularly. They are, after all, fallen individuals, not plaster saints, and God lays out their failures for the rest of mankind to see and learn from.

One of the most interesting examples of this is King David and the Bathsheba affair. I believe, having assumed the throne after so many years of being hunted by Saul, he became arrogant. Success can do that. I think 2 Samuel 11:1 suggests this when it says, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah.” David’s place was with the army in the field and not back in Jerusalem strolling on the roof of the palace to become involved with Bathsheba.

You would think someone like David, “a man after God’s own heart,” would have admitted his lapse in judgment immediately following his night with Bathsheba. But no, when she became pregnant, he doubled down and arranged the death of her husband in a misguided attempt to hide what he had done. Arrogance begat lust, and lust begat adultery, and adultery begat murder. Sin is like that.

It was roughly a year after the event before David finally had a “wow” moment concerning what he had done. A year later! Along came Nathan the Prophet to tell a story that backed David into a corner, and he ended up convicting himself. Only then did David finally recover from his denial and accept his own failure—and face his discipline. I have no doubt that during that year, David frequently had moments where he considered what he had done was wrong, and I have no doubt but that each time he rationalized it away somehow. To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

Christians are not perfect, and Ethan is not Jesus Christ. He loves God much like King David did, and like David, Ethan sometimes fails to measure up to God’s expectations. And like David, sometimes Ethan gets a little smug and full of himself, and it catches up with him. He refused to accept responsibility for his failures and more importantly, he refused to seek the remedy, preferring instead to seek relief in a bottle. When a Christian is out of sorts with God, he can sink so far down that there is nowhere to look but up.

I intentionally wrote Ethan’s character as “flawed” and “human.” After reading an early manuscript for The Last Day of Forever, my wife commented, “Ethan is too perfect.” My reply was, “Wait until you see him in An Eternity of Four Years.” After experiencing success out west and returning home to find Rachel waiting for him, he seemed in command of his world and his life. His smug “victory dance” before the mirror in the closing chapter of Last Day is a hint of “pride goes before the fall”—and of things to come.

One point I wanted to make in these two books is God orchestrates our circumstances. How we react to them is our choice. As Blue tells Ethan in Eternity, “Adversity makes you bitter or better, but you choose which.” And also in Eternity, Rachel summed up the underlying theme of the books when she challenged Doctor Johnson with Romans 8:28. (I’ll let you look the passage up.)

So, surprise! I am a Christian, and like Ethan and David, I admit I am not perfect. I admit I sometimes don’t seek the solution I should seek. I admit my faith is sometimes weak, and even on occasion, I choose “bitter” over “better.” In other words, I’m a work in progress that will see perfection only in eternity. If you wish to call Ethan or me a hypocrite, that is your choice, but at least do so with the understanding that none of us are claiming the status of deity.

To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

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The Perfect Sazerac Cocktail

SazeracCocktailThis is a continuation of my recent post A Short History of the Sazerac Cocktail.

The Sazeracs Ethan drank in The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years were not as sophisticated as the modern versions. Sazeracs in the 1850s and 1860s were probably only Sazerac Cognac, a couple dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and some sugar. While ice was available then, the drink was more likely served at room temperature.

The modern Sazerac is not an easy drink to make and requires a bit of ritual. While a well-made Sazerac is a delightful drink, a poorly made Sazerac is truly awful. Many bars and restaurants in New Orleans make good Sazeracs, and some not so good. A safe bet to have one is at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. You can use theirs to gauge what a good Sazerac should taste like. Or, make one according to my recipe.

The original (modern) Sazerac consists of five simple ingredients: Sazerac Rye Whiskey (I use Sazerac Rye 6YO), simple syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters, a sliver of lemon peel (the yellow part, not the pulpy white part or the juice), and good quality ice. You will also need two heavy-bottomed, Old Fashioned glasses, a teaspoon to measure and stir with, a two-ounce jigger, and a cocktail strainer of some sort. There are variations on this ingredient list; some use Angostura Bitters along with the Peychaud’s. While that is a common practice these days, that is not the original (modern) recipe.

You must prepare ahead. One of the two glasses needs to go into the freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill down. In a pinch, you can pack it with ice and let it chill that way, but the freezer method is much preferred. You must also prepare the simple syrup far enough ahead so it can come to room temperature or even be chilled. I make small batches and store mine in a jar in the refrigerator. They say it keeps for up to a week, but I have kept it a bit longer.

Lane’s Sazerac Cocktail Recipe Secret #1: Most make simple syrup using white refined sugar, but I have recently experimented with Organic Turbinado Raw Sugar, which is partially refined sugar. It retains some of the natural molasses flavor of raw sugar. That little hint of molasses adds a wonderful subtle bouquet and flavor to the Sazerac. I make all my Sazeracs with Turbinado Raw Sugar simple syrup these days.

Simple syrup is easy to make, but you must be careful or you will have a sticky mess to clean up. I make mine in the jar I am going to store it in, and I suggest you use a cooking container that you will not fill to more than one fourth. (Why in a moment.) Mix one part Turbinado Raw Sugar (or white sugar) with one part bottled or filtered water by volume. I usually make only a two-tablespoon batch (two tablespoons sugar and two tablespoons of water). Using only a teaspoon of simple syrup in each Sazerac, this is more than enough for my relatively infrequent needs. Mix it as best you can, but much of the sugar will not dissolve. Next, the mix goes into the microwave or on the stove. I use the microwave because it is faster.

VERY IMPORTANT: You must not leave the cooking simple syrup unattended. Once it starts boiling, it is like a volcano erupting, only much faster. You must stop the cooking before it erupts all over the inside of your microwave! This is why I suggest the total contents not exceed one fourth of the cooking container.

Cooking time will depend on how much is being made. Stop the cooking as soon as it begins boiling. Take it out and stir it to dissolve the sugar. One trip through the microwave will probably not be enough to dissolve all the sugar. Stick it back in and bring it to a boil again. It will boil sooner this time. Take it out and stir. Make sure all the sugar is completely dissolved. Twice usually does it for me, but if a third trip into the microwave is needed, then do it. You can, of course, make simple syrup the old fashioned way in a pot on the stove. Bring it to a very low boil and stir as it cooks. Once all the sugar dissolves, take it off the heat to cool.

If made with Turbinado Raw sugar, the resulting simple syrup will have the color of motor oil. That is because of the molasses content of the sugar. This has to cool before you use it. Once it reaches room temperature, I cap it and stick it into the refrigerator to be used when needed. It will hold for at least a week.

The third ingredient that needs pre-prep is the lemon peel and use good fresh lemons. As mentioned, you want only the yellow part of the peeling and none of the white pulpy part. You are after only the oils in that yellow peel. Use a sharp knife and carefully shave off a strip about a quarter to a half-inch wide and an inch to two inches long. You can experiment with size. I prefer a larger peel.

Lane’s Sazerac Cocktail Recipe Secret #2: Recently, I started experimenting with orange peel instead of lemon peel, and I like the very subtle flavor the orange peel adds. Lemon peel is traditional, but try both and see which you prefer. Whether lemon or orange, you need good quality fruit to harvest the peel from.

Gather your ingredients and get ready to build a fabulous Sazerac. Everything should be at hand and ready to grab except the frozen glass, which I leave in the freezer until the last possible moment.

Step 1 – In the unfrozen Old Fashioned glass, add one teaspoon of your simple syrup, three dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, and two ounces of Sazerac Rye Whiskey. I use Sazerac Rye 6YO (SPAR did the package), but their Antique Collection Sazerac Rye 18YO, the winner of American Whiskey of the Year (SPAR did this package, too), makes a Sazerac to die for. However, you may have to arrange bank financing to buy a bottle of the 18YO, assuming you can even find it. It is usually released in October and gone before the end of the month. If you want a bottle, make friends with your local liquor store owner. (You might want to consider bribing them.) And expect to pay above MSRP. It is that good and that popular.

Next, fill the Old Fashioned glass containing the ingredients to the top with a good quality clear ice and stir (not shake) vigorously until the ice is partially melted. This usually takes about ten seconds. I stop when I see the ice has melted enough the cocktail is nearly covering it. Obviously, more melt means a weaker drink. Experiment and find your perfect melt level.

Step 2 – Now, you must move fast! Retrieve the frozen glass from the freezer (or dump the ice from it if you chilled it that way). I usually have my wife hovering near the freezer awaiting my call for the glass. Best to do the following over a sink, because you might spill some of the Herbsaint. Put about a tablespoon or less of Herbsaint into the frozen glass. Rotate the glass so the Herbsaint coats all around the inside of the glass as far up to the rim as you can get it. (This is where you are likely to spill some.) Work fast; you want that glass to stay cold! Dump any remaining Herbsaint out. You want only a hint of the Herbsaint remaining in the glass. Too much will ruin the drink.

Step 3 – Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixed cocktail into the frozen Herbsaint–coated glass. Some drink it “on the rocks.” That is not the original, but if that is “your perfect Sazerac,” go for it.

Step 4 – Wipe the rim of the glass with the lemon (or orange) peel then twist the peel over the drink to squeeze out some of the oils. I toss it in for good measure, but that is not the original. Some say never toss it in but hook it over the rim of the glass as a garnish giving off a citrus aroma as you sip the drink.

Step 5 – After all that work, you must be tired? Head for your favorite recliner and rest from your efforts while you enjoy your perfect Sazerac Cocktail.

I think I hear a Sazerac calling me now?

The Sazerac Cocktail name is a trademark of the Sazerac Company of New Orleans.

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A Short History of the Sazerac Cocktail

Both The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years mention a drink called the “Sazerac” but give only minimal information about how it is made. I am going to boast that I make the finest Sazerac in the world, maybe even the Universe.

But first, in the interest of full disclosure: The Sazerac Company of New Orleans is one of my clients at Spar, Inc. In fact, the man who owns the Sazerac Company and the five distilleries that Sazerac owns, starting with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY, plus two others in Kentucky, another in Virginia, and one in Canada, also owns SPAR, Inc. I have worked for SPAR since I got out of the Air Force in 1973. Started as a graphic designer, and now I am the general manager and creative director. SPAR designed most of the packages for the Sazerac Company, such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sazerac Rye Whisky, Herbsaint, W.L. Weller, Old Charter, Elmer T. Lee, Nikolai Vodka, and a ton more. You get the picture?

So, I have a financial interest in the Sazerac Company, so to speak. They generate my paycheck. But that isn’t why I mentioned the drink in my story. I mention it because the Sazerac Cocktail is such an integral and beautiful part of New Orleans history. It was created here, and its ancestry goes all the way back to the eighteenth century when Antoine Amedee Peychaud, a refugee from the slave uprising in Haiti, landed in New Orleans in about 1795 with his family recipe for bitters and eventually set up shop as an apothecary.

CoquetierAs the story goes, Peychaud served shots of brandy laced with his bitters in a little double-ended eggcup called in the French a cocquetier. Legend has it the term “cocktail” comes from the Americans arriving in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase, tripping over the unfamiliar French word, and anglicizing it. To be fair, that is under dispute. Some claim the term “cocktail,” describing a mixture of whiskey, bitters, and sugar, came into usage around 1800 before Peychaud started serving his coquetiers, but I am sticking to the New Orleans version.

The Sazerac name came from the brandy that was originally used to make the drink. That would be Sazerac Cognac Brandy imported from Sazerac des Forges et Fils in France. That Sazerac Company did exist until fairly recently. Evidently, they have folded, because I cannot find them on the internet anymore.

People in New Orleans always seem to do things just a little differently. For example, we had lots of coffee houses back in the nineteenth century, only they weren’t really coffee houses. Oh, they served some coffee, usually laced with brandy or rum and later American bourbon, but they were, in reality, saloons. By 1859 there were 204 saloons coffee houses in New Orleans. In the early nineteenth century, New Orleans entered its coffee house gem period, with owners naming their saloons coffee houses after various precious stones. Each new saloon coffee house tried to top the other by selecting a more valuable gemstone for its name. One named the “Gem” opened in 1851. The Gem featured the Sazerac, as did most other saloons coffee houses in New Orleans, but this one became famous. It was located in the first block of Royal Street with another entrance on Exchange Alley. Its name was eventually changed to the Sazerac Coffee House. This is where Ethan with Morgan and later his friends, when he enlisted in Wheat’s Battalion, shared many Sazeracs. Don’t bother to look for it, because it isn’t there anymore. The Sazerac Bar eventually moved into the Roosevelt Hotel and remains there to this day. The Sazerac Bar is not owned by the Sazerac Company.

Originally, the Sazerac was made with Sazerac brandy and Peychaud’s Bitters, but American rye whiskey began replacing the brandy around 1870 because of the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France, making brandy scarce (brandy is made from grapes). Kentucky had been settled by many of Scottish origin and they were converting their corn crops into whiskey, because it was easier to move whiskey to market than corn. Packed in barrels, Kentucky whiskey made its long trip in flatboats down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Storing the whiskey in barrels and the long trip actually aided its flavor, and the product that arrived in New Orleans was less like the raw fiery spirit that left Kentucky. About the same time, a bit of absinthe was added to the recipe of the Sazerac, and the recipe was sealed until the 1930s when Herbsaint, a New Orleans product, came into common usage in the Sazerac.

Herbsaint Absinthe was produced using a recipe ­­­­New Orleans native Marion Legendre brought back from his service in France during World War I. Legendre began producing his Herbsaint during the mid-thirties and ran afoul of government regs that had banned absinthe back in 1912. He was forced to change his recipe to suit the government bureaucrats. Only recently has absinthe reappeared in America again, and that is only because it was discovered the law banning absinthe was written in a way that actually allowed its production as long as the amount of wormwood, a botanical, was below a specified amount, and absinthe’s wormwood content is well below that point. With that, the Sazerac Company, owners of the Herbsaint brand, dug into their archives and came up with Legendre’s original formula. The Original Herbsaint is back (and SPAR did the retro package).

The Sazerac Cocktail, now enjoying something of a revival, is served in bars and restaurants all over New Orleans and many other cites, as well. But I must warn you. Not everyone makes a good Sazerac, and a poorly made Sazerac is truly awful, usually because they put in too much absinthe. But I am going to tell you how to make a good one, in fact, a perfect Sazerac Cocktail. You will have to wait for the next post to get my “secret” recipe.

Wikipedia absinthe page.

Absinthe deserves its own post. It is featured in the opening chapter of An Eternity of Four Years, and will get that post eventually.

Coquetier photo credit: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0


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AT LAST! It is published!

Cover B1Well, almost. The digital version of The Last Day of Forever will be released for sale on Friday May 8! It is available as a preorder NOW. To order it now for delivery May 8 (digital versions) go here.

BUT, the paperbacks are available for purchase NOW. To get your copy go here.

This is what will be available:

Digital versions of The Last Day of Forever – Right now, it is only available on Amazon for Kindle devices. You can download free Kindle reader apps for other devices like iPads. There is a link for that at the Amazon page for The Last Day of Forever.

Print version of The Last Day of Forever – The link will take you to CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. (Eventually, it will be listed on the Amazon page also.) These books will be PoD (Print on Demand), meaning they will be digitally printed as they are ordered. They will be 6×9 paperbacks, but the quality is very high. Sorry, but I will not have any to sell direct, because I will not be applying for a retail sales tax license from the parish and state. If you simply must have it signed, I will be glad to do so. Contact me, and we will work something out.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Buy a copy now.
  2. Read it and enjoy it.
  3. Go back to where you bought it and post an honest review.
  4. Tell all your friends.

What is next?

Assuming you like The Last Day of Forever, you will probably want to read An Eternity of Four Years, which continues the story. While The Last Day of Forever is mostly a coming of age love story, An Eternity of Four Years is much darker since it takes place during the Civil War, and both Ethan and Rachel are, of course, involved in it. The Last Day of Forever will probably appeal more to women; An Eternity of Four Years will probably appeal more to men. Not sure that was a good idea or not, but it is where the story went. I expect to release An Eternity of Four Years very soon.

Will there be a Book 3? Working on it. Working title is The Avenging Angel, but it has a long way to go. There may also be other stories in the Catahoula Series based on spin-off characters, like Silas Riddle, whom you will meet in An Eternity of Four Years.

Lastly, I want to thank you, my friends and relations, who have been supportive of me and patient during this process, especially my bride. I truly enjoyed telling this story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it. By all means, email me with your comments and suggestions. The nice thing about digital publishing is if something is broken, it can be fixed. I can simply correct the digital file and upload the new one. I did my best to rid the files of issues and had several beta readers review the story and edit it, but I am sure something slipped past all the eyes that were on it.

As my teachers in school used to say, “Put down your pencils and turn in your papers.” Pencils are down and the papers are turned in—warts and all.

Thank you! Enjoy!

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An Eternity of Four Years – Excerpt 1

I am moving right along on An Eternity of Four Years, Book 2 of the series. Took three days vacation from work. Since we are real close on The Last Day of Forever, I thought I might start teasing you with Book 2. This is from the first chapter titled The Duel. I also made some changes to the cover.


Book 2 1The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. Its feeble rays stabbed fitfully through the dense morning fog to give the gray monotones of dawn an ethereal glow. The chilling mist that hid the features of the so-called “Dueling Oaks” along Bayou St John restricted my visibility to but one hundred paces or so. The oak’s massive branches, touching the ground in places, had the appearance of being overly burdened and unable to lift up to reach the sun. Spanish moss dripped from those branches like ghostly fingers probing towards the earth.

As I stood upon the Field of Honor and awaited the arrival of my opponent, my clothing was damp from the fog, and my head throbbed from the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed the previous night and well into the morning.

My Second, Jean DuBassey, having arrived only a few moments before, seemed irritated that I had sent for him to act in that capacity. He arrived in a bit of a huff.

“Forgive me, Ethan, for I’m a bit confused. The last time I saw you was five years ago at your father’s plantation in Catahoula Parish . . .”

I interrupted him, “More or less, and the plantation is also called Catahoula.”

He shook his head, frustrated at my response. “No matter! And now, five years later, you want me to act as your second in a duel? And you do realize dueling is illegal in New Orleans?”

“As I recall, Jean, five years ago you said if I needed anything just ask, or words to that effect. Besides, you are the only person I could think of.”

“You’re drunk!”

I dismissed that accusation with a wave of my hand. “Maybe a little.”

“Maybe a lot! How do you expect to fight a duel while drunk?”

“Actually, I was hoping you might help with that. You did claim you were an accomplished duelist, did you not? And don’t you teach the use of the sword and pistol?”

“You want me to teach you how to kill someone in ten minutes?”

I nodded. “Personally, I have not found killing someone anymore complicated than that?”

“Who have you killed?”

“Just a few renegade Indians out west when I was in the Army.”

He leaned in and smelled my breath. “What have you been drinking?”

“Absinthe. Say, did you know there is a saloon on Bourbon Street—oh wait, you call them ‘coffeehouses’—and it sells mostly absinthe, and you drip water from these marvelous little marble fountains over lumps of sugar­­…?” I paused and considered what I had said. “Well, I guess you do know; you live here, don’t you?”

Jean shook his head again. He was becoming quite exasperated with me. “You dragged me from my bed, which I was sharing with a beautiful lady, by the way, to help you fight a duel? Who did you insult?”

“An arrogant fellow by the name of Toutant.”

“Emile Justin Toutant?”

“The same. Friend of yours?”

“Not hardly. There are two people in this city you do not want to get into a duel with. I am one, and he is the other. What did you say that caused him to take offense?”

“He called me a coward, so I punched him.”

“And why did he call you a coward?”

“Because I said the South is likely to lose this war.”

“And he took offense at that?”

“That—and maybe I called him a name.”

“This is like pulling teeth! What did you call him?”

“An ignorant buffoon.”

Jean sighed in resignation. “What is the choice of weapons?”


“Not ten pound mauls in five feet of water on a sandbar in the Red River?” he said sarcastically to remind me of our “almost” duel five years before.

“That worked for you because you are only just over five feet tall, but the buffoon is as tall as I am.”

Jean looked past me and said, “The buffoon here.”

I turned and saw nothing at first but heard the trod of the horses, the rattle of the harness, and rumble of the carriage wheels. It appeared like a specter drifting out of the swirling fog and came to a stop under a gnarled and sagging oak thirty paces or so from where my second and I stood.

A gaudily dressed black man of immense size drove the rig. He was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds or more. He was dressed in sky-blue, silken, knee-length pantaloons and matching swallow-tailed coat, vest and cravat, with a ruffled shirt, white silk stockings and black pumps. He wore a matching blue ostrich-plumed turban on his head. Costumed so, he looked like some eunuch from the Arabian Nights. He jumped down from the driver’s seat with a grace that seemed in stark contrast to his huge size and opened the door for his master.

A man I assumed correctly to be my opponent’s second stepped out of the carriage. The surgeon followed, identified by his black bag.

Then Monsieur Toutant stepped arrogantly up to the carriage door and stood there for a moment smiling sardonically before dropping to the ground, alighting like some bird of prey. He drew a dainty, lace-trimmed handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed his lips, and with a flourish, returned it to its place. He was handsomely dressed in a very fine, white linen suit and a ruffled shirt, a white silk brocade vest, and maroon, silk cravat. He carried a silver handle cane, using it more as an extension of his arm and part of his costume rather than for any assistance while walking.

He stabbed the ground with his cane, and with his other hand upon his hip, struck an arrogant pose. His head thrown back, he looked down his long slender nose at me and said, “Good morning, Monsieur Davis.” He took a deep breath and pursed his lips before saying, “A good day to die, is it not?”

I suppose that statement was meant to unnerve me. It did not, because I was in an absinthe-induced daze. Quite frankly I was so distressed as the result of other matters, matters of the heart that is, that I really didn’t much give a damn if I lived or died. As a result, I stood upon this so-called Field of Honor to answer my insult to this finely dressed, pompous ass, and I was totally unafraid of the outcome. In retrospect that attitude likely saved my life that morning. Events that had brought me to this state of depression were out of my control. I was, therefore, forced to place the whole miserable affair into the hands of the Lord—along with my life. As it were, He had plans for me but had not seen a need to take me into His confidence concerning them.

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It is such an ugly word, but one I was forced to deal with while writing The Last Day of Forever and the second half of the story in An Eternity of Four Years.

Cover B1I began this project over 20 years ago, and when I wrote the first draft of The Last Day of Forever, never for a moment did I really give much thought to the issue of slavery. But the writing process forced me to think about it.

The story concept began simply as one about the exploits of the Louisiana Tigers during the Civil War. Everything else was written around that and ultimately pointing to it in some way. That isn’t how it ended up. First, it morphed into a love story, and while I tried to keep the focus on Rachel and Ethan, dealing with the character’s relationships with the slaves gradually emerged as an important underlying theme that had to be developed better.

I grew up in the South during a very uncomfortable period in our history. Racism was common, acceptable, and never given much thought. My father’s doctor’s office waiting room was initially separated “white” and “colored” by a wall and an aquarium. My family on my mother’s side owned slaves prior to and during the Civil War. I am not proud of all that, rather I state it simply as a fact I must live with and to give the reader a frame of reference for where I am coming from.

My first draft of the story presented the subject of slavery in a way that, in retrospect, was not honest. It was the Old South, white man’s view of the subject, and the slaves at Catahoula Plantation weren’t really mistreated but lived happy and productive lives leisurely picking cotton all day. But as I wrote the story, it became obvious that was not only dishonest, but it was wrong. As the attitudes of the main character, Ethan, and his issues with slavery began to more strongly emerge in the numerous rewrites, I was forced to face the uncomfortable truth that the issue of slavery had to be dealt with in a more honest manner.

Gradually, the story was changed to more accurately reflect the truth of the times, but I did not want it to become a story about slavery. It is really about Rachel and Ethan and how people and the world around them so profoundly affect their lives and their relationship to each other. The question became how to balance that.

Book 2 1It needed some stronger black characters dealing with the issues they faced during this time. That became Mammy, Old Zeke, his son Little Zeke, and Brandy in The Last Day of Forever, and Blue in An Eternity of Four Years. Brandy was the most interesting because of her plight, being mostly of white lineage yet still a slave. Her story brought the absurdity of the institution into sharp focus for me.

I felt Ethan’s issues with the peculiar institution needed a root source, so I added the opening scene in The Last Day of Forever of the killing of Cornelius the slave. Some of my beta readers found it disturbing. That was my intention, although it was not included just for shock value. It plays an important part in Ethan’s developing attitudes towards slavery, and it comes back into the story later with an explanation of what and why it happened to flesh out the story arcs of other characters. Not only did the event profoundly affect Ethan and Brandy, but it also helped to define Morgan’s character.

I also wanted the reader to understand how conflicted Ethan must have felt to hold views not commonly held by those around him. The story was written as if the events were being viewed through the eyes of Ethan and Rachel and told by them, thus one would naturally expect that perspective to be somewhat biased towards the prevailing attitudes of the times, and it is; intentionally so. In the beginning, slavery is simply a fact of life Ethan must live with and does so perhaps a bit too comfortably at first. But as the story progresses, he is compelled to face how he really feels, and he is forced by circumstances to act on his beliefs.

It takes Ethan almost nine years to come to a full realization of where he stands on the issue, but we are yet to see a full manifestation of that. That will come in Book 3 (working title: The Avenging Angel), which takes Rachel and Ethan into the period after the war known as Reconstruction. There, the two of them really come face-to-face with the racism of the times.

Where am I going with all this? I guess I want the reader to understand that although the story sometimes seems to treat slavery in a somewhat stereotypical manner, that is because Ethan is the main author, and he is telling the story in the context of the times and his own personal growth as a person.

It was also a journey for me to have to explore my own feelings on the subject and in considerably more detail than I had ever done before. I can no longer look at a cotton boll in quite the same way I did before I started this.

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