Ever since publishing Hiram’s War in May, I’ve been searching for a working title for the next book in the series. Somehow a title helps me focus on the story. A few mornings ago, I had an “aha!” moment. I was so impressed with the idea that I headed over to Canva and made a temporary book cover. Emphasis is on “temporary” because maybe the title isn’t as good as I think.
The thought process that led me to Hiram’s Girls went like this. I wanted to focus on Jennie and Ella and their lives after moving in with their father. For several days, all that came to mind was Life with Pa. Ugh! Then I thought of the previous two titles in the series: Hiram’s Boy and Hiram’s War. So why not Hiram’s Girls?
Question: Does my “aha!” moment appeal to readers as much as it did to me? Should I keep searching? Do you have a suggestion for a title?
What? You need to know what Book 5 will be about before you suggest a title?
Here’s what I know: It is November 1864, and I’m thinking the book will extend to the end of the year, so Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will be in the book as Jennie, 12, and Ella, 14, adjust to their lives in Hidden Springs with their three little sisters, ages 3 months to 2 years, and, of course, their father, Hiram Pierce. What could possibly go wrong? I’m making a list. Check back later for more developments.
Those who have read Hiram’s War have a common question: What’s next for the Pierce family? It’s a question I’m asking the five older siblings. Let’s see what they’re telling me.
Cordelia: I’ve spent the last four years as a traveling photographer for Mathew Brady. I’m not sure what I’ll do when the war is over.
Ambrose: I’m heading to New York City to get my wife, son, and stepbrother, then we’re heading for Kansas and a new life.
Lucy: I’m on my way to Cairo to resume nursing duties, but I want to do more, to know more, to save more lives. I want to be a doctor, but I’ll have to fight to make that happen. Women are usually barred from medical schools.
Ella: I’m looking for a husband and a permanent home for me and Jennie. My older siblings say I don’t know what marriage is all about and I’m asking for trouble, like being fourteen means I don’t know anything. We’ll see.
Jennie: I always wanted little sisters, and now I have three of them under three years old. Ella and I have split the responsibility: she takes care of the house and I take care of the little ones. It’s only been a week, and I already think I’m in over my head. Help!
Another Option: Aunt Hannah
Hannah True is sister to the Pierce siblings deceased mother. She took the girls in after their mother’s death and raised them until 1860. Then Hannah’s mother died and her brothers-in-law sold the hotel she ran and left her uprooted. At thirty-eight, she is on her own for the first time in her life. In 1848, she was a suffragette. Now, on her way to New York City and a new life, she meets a man who runs a detective agency and gives her an unexpected option. Will she take it?
So those are my choices. Which one appeals most to you and why?
Today is the official launch date of the eBook version Hiram’s War on Amazon. I had planned for the paperback to be available too, but due to cover creation difficulties, it will be another day or so before that happens. I should be receiving my proof copy today or tomorrow, and if all my corrections look like they’re supposed to, I should be making the paperback available by Monday.
After their mother’s death in 1855, Ella and Jennie went to live with their Aunt Hannah, a single woman who ran the family’s hotel in Westport. When the hotel was sold in 1860 and Aunt Hannah left town, the two sisters went from her loving care to a cold, judgmental existence with Aunt Hilda and her husband, Reverend Graham Russell. Now it is 1864, and their world is falling apart as war rages around them.
What Jennie wants in her own words:
I’m twelve years old and the baby of the family, and that’s all my sisters and Ambrose see when they look at me: a child who needs protection. They all have advice about my dreams: mainly how I should keep quiet about them. I did that once, and my baby brother, Mark, died. And now I’m having dreams about Pa, and I know he’ll die if I don’t find him, so I have to make my siblings believe me. While I was trying to convince Ella, Uncle Graham and Aunt Hilda overheard us, and Uncle Graham beat me to get rid of the demons he said were working inside me.
Ambrose and my sisters rescued me, but now Ella and I have no home, and she feels responsible to get us one. I’ll have to think about that later because right now, the most important thing is to save my father’s life. I didn’t save my baby brother’s life. I was only three years old then. Pa thought I smothered him when I crawled into his cradle to get him warm, but he was already cold. He didn’t move. Ambrose says Mark was already dead. All I know is I didn’t tell anyone about my dream and Mark died. This time, I have to tell. I have to make people listen. I don’t want to be responsible for another family death.
What Ella wants in her own words:
I’m fourteen years old now. I remember when our family was all together, and Jennie and I were the little sisters. We lived in our cabin in Hidden Springs: Ma, Pa, Ambrose, Cordelia, Lucy, Jennie, and me. Those were good days. Then Mark, only one week old, died and Ma got in the family way again, and Delia ran away to get Aunt Hannah. Then Ma had to stay in bed and Lucy took over the cooking and cleaning and taking care of us. I was five and tried to help, but the best I could do was keep track of Jennie. That’s been my job ever since.
I love Jennie, but keeping her out of trouble hasn’t been easy, especially since Aunt Hannah left and we had to go live with Aunt Hilda and Uncle Graham. I’ve told her over and over that she can’t talk about her dreams, but sometimes she blurts them out—and they come true. Now we are homeless. I know Ambrose will find a place for us, maybe with Aunt Gertrude, but that would be only temporary. I want a permanent home. I want to get married, but with a war on, how will I find a husband.
Lucy complained that five years ago when she went to live with Pa, he wanted to find her a suitable husband, someone well-off and respected in the community. If we find Pa and he’s alive, I’m going to ask him to do that for me. I want a real home for me and Jennie.
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Lucy’s back, nineteen years old now, and she’s been to war with the boy she loved and served as a Civil War nurse with Mother Bickerdyke. She’s taking a break from a battlefield hospital to join her sisters in Westport and do what she can to protect them from Confederate General Price and his soldiers who are planning to march through the town on their way to Ft. Leavenworth.
Lucy in her own words:
I’m almost twenty, and I’m a widow. I married Jake when he was dying from dysentery like so many other soldiers. No one knew the cause or what to do, so all I could do was sit with him. Now I will devote my life to healing the sick in honor of my one true love. But first, I must make sure my sisters are safe from Price and his rebel marauders.
I convinced Cordelia we must go to Westport and watch over them. Now that we have arrived, I see the situation is much worse than I imagined. Jennie is still having visions of the future, and Uncle Graham has beaten her with a belt until her back bled. I have put iodine on the cuts, but there will be scars, and it will be some time until her bruises heal.
Jennie insists she’s had a vision of Pa being hurt, and we must help him. After the way he treated me, Cordelia, and Ambrose, I am resistant to the idea, but Jennie won’t stop pleading, so we must do it for her sake. Once we have found him, I will move on to the next goal: finding a home for Ella and Jennie. Ella’s marriage idea is so misguided. She doesn’t remember how bad things were between our parents and how bad an arranged marriage can turn out to be. Once my sisters are taken care of, I will return to the Sanitary Commission and see where my nursing skills are most needed. Please, let this war be over soon.
Hiram’s War is available for pre-order on Amazon and goes live on May 15. If you enjoy American historical fiction dealing with family struggles, order your copy now.
If you have read Hiram’s Boy, you may remember the incident that caused Hiram to disown his only son. Despite Ambrose’s attempt to show his father the truth in January 1860, they have not reconciled. It is now October 1864, and Ambrose’s main concerns are his wife and children and his younger sisters who may be in the path of General Sterling Price’s Confederate forces on their way to Ft. Leavenworth.
Ambrose in his own words: I’m twenty years old and married. Susan and I have a son who is four, and we hope to adopt my stepbrother, Daniel Carstairs. His mother never wanted him and left him on a doorstep. He was sent to an orphanage where Cordelia and I found him when I was trying to prove to Pa what a liar his new wife was.
Lucy and I have given up on Pa, but Jennie hasn’t. I don’t know about Ella. She has some plan about Pa finding her a husband. I can’t believe she wants to do that, but she doesn’t have as much personal experience with him as Lucy, Cordelia, and I do.
I came to Westport to protect Ella and Jennie from Price and his soldiers, but I found out they needed more protection from Uncle Graham. Now that they’re out of his house, we’re on our way to find Pa at Jennie’s insistence. No matter what happens with that, I need to find my sisters a new home, and then I need to get back to my family. If Ella would give up her nonsense about getting married, she and Jennie could come with me, and Aunt Gertrude would take her in.
No matter what decisions my sisters make, as soon as I can, I’m going to bring my wife and son to Kansas and start our life together. Will this war ever end so I can make that happen?
Hiram’s War is on pre-order on Amazon and will be live on May 15.
After two years, I have finally finished Hiram’s War. What made it so rough, other than I don’t like war, is that I didn’t like Hiram much either. After a year of not liking him any better, I asked him what he wanted out of life. Below is his answer in his own words.
All I ever wanted was respect for me and my family. I wanted a successful business, and when my father passed me over because I was the youngest son, giving me work for a wage instead of part of the business, I did my best to get the money to start over in a new place. It took years, but in 1854, I finally made a home in Hidden Springs, a new town in Kansas. A blacksmith is an important part of any community on the frontier, and I soon became of the town leaders. From there I made friends with territorial legislators and worked to make Kansas a free state.
I was disappointed that I had only one son, and more disappointed when it turned out he had betrayed me. I had already experienced family betrayal. My oldest brother, Duncan, slept with my first wife, Constance. She died giving birth to a child. Had it been mine or my brother’s? Unimportant, since the child died too.
Then I married Minerva, knowing she had another man’s child in her belly. Her father paid me a dowry to keep his family from having the shame of an unmarried daughter bearing a child. Minerva was young and I expected sons, but Ambrose was the only boy she bore who lived beyond infancy.
Ambrose was a good son until he betrayed me, trying to take liberties with my third wife, Ava. He was loved by the townspeople for his good nature and good work. Loved more than I was because they all sided with him when I tossed him out for his betrayal. Of course, I didn’t say what he’d done. I didn’t want that gossiped about. And he didn’t say either, so no one knew what he’d done, and the men I’d thought were my friends and respected me showed their true opinions.
So I’ve gone to war because it is my duty to Kansas, for my own self-respect and for revenge in some way against border ruffians who had burned a horseshoe shape into my chest with a branding iron. None of my neighbors will be able to say I am a coward or that I didn’t fight for my state and country. I will protect what is mine personally and patriotically. I’m fifty-three years old, and the governor’s call is for all men between eighteen and sixty. I will answer that call and regain the respect of those who have turned away from me.
What other characters want
Hiram’s children–Ambrose, Lucy, Ella, and Jennie–have their own goals, which I will share with you in future posts. In the meantime, Hiram’s War is available for pre-order until May 15 on Amazon.
Thank you to writing buddy and Photoshop whiz Bonnie Eaton, aka B.J. Myrick, for creating my historical research graphic. I supplied the list of resources, and she put them together with a picture of me hard at work. Bonnie knows what is involved in research as she has her own historical novel, Nelly of No Man’s Land.
The Library Book Collection: My First Research Stop
Once I settled on the Battle of Mine Creek, my first stop was the Emporia Public Library to see what it had on the topic. Out of a half dozen books that looked promising, I found They Deserved a Better Fate by Roy Bird to be particularly helpful as it sparked the idea for the main character and part of the plot. Learning that the Confederates had taken prisoners at the Battle of the Blue near Westport and marched south with Price’s wagon train past Mine Creek all the way to Newtonia before being set free, I knew that Hiram Pierce would be my main character and that he would be one of those prisoners. In previous Pierce saga novels, we’ve seen Hiram’s dark side. Will being a prisoner of war change him? If so, how? All of that is still to be determined as I delve into Hiram’s character, his motives for voluntarily joining the militia, and the conditions of his capture and time as a prisoner.
I knew as I was writing the final pages of Hiram’s Boy, that the next story in the Pierce Family Saga would have to include the Civil War. The thought was intimidating. How many battles should my characters be part of? How would I ever do all the research? Then, sometime in January 2018, I started thinking about Civil War battles fought in Kansas. A bit of research led me to the Battle of Mine Creek, which took place on October 25, 1864.
The Research Trip
When I mentioned my brilliant idea to a group of writer friends, Cheryl Unruh said, “Road trip!” I immediately said, “Yes!” We had thought to visit the Mine Creek Museum in April, but time passed without a definite date. Then on Saturday, July 7, I got a text from Cheryl saying the day was the coolest we would probably get for a while, so let’s go. And we did.
The museum is in a rural area off Highway K-52 near Pleasanton, Kansas. Upon signing in, we were greeted by a member of the museum staff. I explained my interest in the battle and was handed a fabulous brochure, which I will say more about later. Then we wandered through the indoor exhibits, which included fashions, bullets, and a cannon replica, as well as large information posters about the battle sequence and soldiers involved. Then Chery and I went outside to view the battlefield. By that time, it was mid-afternoon and too warm for me to make the hike through the field and read the signs, but as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, it was a beautiful Kansas day.
I didn’t look at the brochure I was given until that evening when I got home. My first reaction when I opened it was “Wow!” I still keep saying “Wow!” every time I look at it. This has got to be the absolute best, most informative brochure ever. The entire Price Campaign of 1864 is shown, along with the battles and dates from September through November. Below that map is a brief description of what happened at each point in the campaign. On the reverse side of the brochure is a detailed accounting of the actual Battle of Mine Creek. there are two large maps and two small ones, each showing different views, along with a summary of the action on the day of the battle. This one brochure gives me a wonderful timeline for presenting the action in the novel.
Given what I’ve learned about the Battle of Mine Creek and what happened in the days before it was fought, I’ve found a title for Book 4 of the Pierce Family Saga: Hiram’s War. I’ll be writing more about that in the next post.
In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about this little-publicized battle on Kansas soil, check out their museum page. The research links are going to be high-priority for me as I gather more information for Hiram’s War.
I was so excited when I arranged a book launch party for Hiram’s Boy, the third book in the Pierce Family Saga series. I made sure to order copies in time for the December 6, 2017, launch date. Hiram’s Boy is my seventh novel but the first to launch in a brick and mortar bookstore. The promised arrival time for the copies was December 4. When December 1 arrived and I still had no word that the books had been shipped, I contacted the printer. Due to a flood of orders, printing had been contracted out. It seemed there was a glitch with my shipment. I should have the books by December 6, the day of the launch. That didn’t happen. What to do?
A Book Launch without Books
Marcia Lawrence, the owner of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore, advised me to continue with the party, so that’s what I did. I used my proof copy of the book for readings, and Marcia took orders. The party was come-and-go, and many friends and fans of the series showed up to help me celebrate the launch of Hiram’s Boy. As I begin book 4 in the series, I have made a resolution: I will not order books after Halloween for anything happening before Christmas.