Today I talked to the middle school students at West-Mont about the history of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, my background with re-enacting and how, with God's blessings, it all came together in the writing of Russian Snows.

I had a great time and the audience was very well behaved and attentive.
On Thursday it was announced that Russian Snows has made the cut and is now in the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award contest.  Of the 5,000 entries, 1,000 are picked to go on to the second round.  The 1,000 are picked based on a 300 word pitch each contestant writes for their story.

The next step is when the field gets narrowed down to 250 on March 20.

Here is the 2012 pitch for Russian Snows:Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army is the fictional account of 14-year-old Henri Carle as he accompanies France’s Grande Armée from Paris to Moscow during Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia.

When his older brother Luc enlists in the army, young Henri follows and finds work in the camp bakery and later joins the supply train to stay close to Luc on the long march through Europe.  Shy and unprepared for life on his own, Henri is shaped by the people he meets.  As the French army crosses the vast plains of Russia in search of a decisive battle, he develops skills and confidence.  When the battle finally comes at Borodino, Henri is caught in the thick of the action and proves his bravery.  The victorious, but battered French army is now caught deep in enemy territory.  Henri and the devastated army begin the retreat in a desperate attempt to escape the Russian army and the Russian winter.

Henri is forced to use his wits, skills and quick thinking to survive. He experiences the horrors of battle, the heartbreaking agony of the wounded left behind and the death of those around him. As he is maturing and becoming a man, the army is disintegrating around him.  With a quiet determination, Henri triumphs as he becomes both the first Frenchman on enemy soil and the second to last Frenchman out of Russia. 

A cross between Stowaway and The Hunger Games, Russian Snows follows actual events and incidents from the campaign as Napoleon’s invading army was reduced from 500,000 to barely 20,000.  The story brings the disaster to life through the eyes of Henriin this sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting adventure that paints a picture of what life was like for the common soldier.

When I entered Russian Snows into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award contest, I had just finished writing the manuscript and my wife and I had each given it one pass of editing.  At 115,000 words, the story was too long for its intended Young Adult audience.  (I must throw in here that many adults have read and enjoyed the book, not just young adults).
Now that the book is trimmed to a svelte 51,000 words, it is a much better fit.  As a self-published book, Russian Snows is eligible for the contest and repeat entries are allowed.
Because the length of the story was given as one of the reasons for its elimination from last year's contest, I want to see how it will do this year in its final version.
I have begun to edit the sequel to Russian Snows, Paris Winter: Fall of the Empire. The process is slow as I'm still working on promoting Russian Snows and finishing my blog about the 1812 invasion of Russia.
Russian Snows has also been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award contest.  Last year, the barely edited (and much longer) manuscript made it into the top 250 (of a potential 5,000 entries).  The entries goi