Hiram’s War: What Ella and Jennie Want

Live on Amazon May 15,2020


Homeless

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.

 

First book in the series


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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Hiram’s War: What Lucy Wants

Remember Lucy Pierce, Hiram’s oldest daughter, from For Want of a Father?

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.

Hiram’s War: What Ambrose Wants

Ambrose: the disowned son of Hiram Pierce

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.

 

Hiram’s War: What Characters Want

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.

Hiram

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.

19th Century Fashion: The Unmentionables

Imagine you are a fashionable woman getting dressed in the nineteenth century. You might put on your clothing in the following order:

First, stockings made of silk, wool, or cotton. Hold those stockings up with garters above the knee. Then add shoes. If stocking and shoes  are not put on first, you might not be able to fight through all the layers of clothing to don them once you are fully dressed.

Second, drawers, open-crotched for elimination purposes. They are often made of cotton, are knee-length, and button in the back..

Third, an undershirt or chemise.

Fourth, a short, knee-length petticoat.

Fifth, a long petticoat.

Sixth, a corset that begins under the armpits and goes all the way to the hips.

Seventh, a corset cover.

Eighth, as many extra petticoats as your fashion sense and budget allow.

Now that you have donned all the underwear, or unmentionables as they were then called, you will need to fix your hair and put on your hat before you put on your dress.

Why?

Because the sleeves of the bodice are so tight that you cannot lift your arms above your shoulders.

Who in For Want of a Father would wear all of the above? Aunt May, the society-conscious banker’s wife. Aunt Hilda, the minister’s wife would have fewer petticoats and dresses of more subdued colors. Aunt Hannah would wear even fewer petticoats and sometimes leave off the standard form of dress and wear bloomers.

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for want of a father final copy

 

Character in Progress: Justin Quinn

I’ve made some changes to Justin’s life as I imagined it in my previous post. The great thing about filling out character profiles is that changes are easy to make. If you make up lives as you write the novel, there are dozens of places background facts are tucked in that have to be ferreted out in case of a change of mind (the author’s). I am using a standard character sheet that begins with personal, professional and story goals, and then goes into physical appearance. From there, important childhood events are listed along with the size of the family and the character’s place in it. Religion, education, best friends and worst enemies are some of the other details to fill in. Most of the information will never make it into the novel, but it is necessary to know what motivates the character and have ready those tiny pieces of life that can be used to evoke the reader’s emotions and empathy.

Changes

As I began filling out Justin’s biographical information, I realized 43 was too old for his current age. Somehow, I had messed up on my math. (That math thing is why I became an English teacher.) Justin is now 40. He was born in 1819 in Illinois. I also decided that being the son of a soldier wouldn’t work because in Book 1 of the series, he is uneducated, which would not have been the case for a soldier’s son living at a fort.  Instead, Justin is the oldest son of a farmer and his wife. He has three younger siblings: a brother and two sisters. His father dies when he is seven, leaving his mother to support four children by sewing and doing laundry. She barely makes enough to feed them, so something must be done.

Circumstances

When Justin is eight, his mother learns of a farmer a few miles away who needs help. She signs papers making Justin an indentured servant. He is to work for the farmer, Ezekial Boggs, until he is eighteen. In return for Justin’s work, he will receive room, board, education, and farming knowledge. It turns out the room and board is meager and the education non-existent. He does learn farming, something he grows to hate.

Abandonment

His mother visits Justin only twice in the year following his indenture to Boggs. The first time, she says she has come to make sure he is being treated well and adjusting to life with the farmer. She stays only a few minutes. The second time she comes, she tells him she is remarrying and going to California with her new husband. They are taking his brother and sisters, but since he is bound to Boggs as a servant, he cannot come with them. It is the last time he hears from her or his brother and sisters. When he was first bound to the farmer, he had felt some pride at being able to relief the hunger of his younger siblings by working elsewhere. When his mother leaves him behind to move to California, he feels loss that turns to resentment as years go by with no word from her or anyone in his family. Mixed with the resentment is the feeling of somehow not being worthy of love, a feeling that affects all future relationships.

Runaway

At 16, Justin runs away.  The year is 1835, and he has heard trappers are making piles of money and wants his share. Little does he know that the heyday of the fur trade is almost over.

Who is next?

Now that I know something of Justin’s background, I will leave these facts to stew around. In the next post, I’ll explore one of the three other major characters in For Want of a Father: Cordelia (Justin’s biological daughter), Hiram Pierce (Cordelia’s stepfather), or Lucy Pierce (Hiram’s biological daughter). I’m not sure which one at this point.

What else would you like to know about Justin Quinn?

You can help me develop Justin’s character with your questions and comments. Please ask, and I will answer in an upcoming blog post.

 

Creating Characters: Justin Quinn

I know a few things about Justin Quinn from Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga (coming out on October 20). He was thirty-nine years old in 1855, so when Book 2 begins, he will be forty-three. He has a two-inch scar on the left side of his face as the result of an argument over a card game. He is Irish, six feet tall, and has red hair and green eyes. He is Cordelia’s biological father, and he deserted her mother, Minerva, before the woman knew she was pregnant. He was a fur trapper and trader when he met Minerva but has likely changed professions since the decline of the fur trade.

How are you feeling about Justin so far? Interested or not so much? Is he a hero or a villain? Hard to tell. We know some physical details and a few actions but there isn’t much in what I’ve told you to capture emotions or imagination.

How about this? Near the end of Book 1, Cordelia asks Aunt Hannah if her father knew about her. The answer: He could have figured it out if he’d wanted to. So now, we really have to dig in to Justin’s character. Did he want to know? Why or why not? Did he figure it out when Cordelia was a baby? Did he never figure it out but was told years later when he met someone? Does he not know until Cordelia is on his doorstep–if he has a doorstep? How does he react when his seventeen-year-old daughter finds him? But wait? Does he find her instead? Which course of action will produce the best story? There are so many decisions to make, and many of them  will come out of what happened in Justin’s own childhood since those experiences will have shaped his morality and thoughts about what it means to be a father.

Currently, I am considering having Justin’s father be a military person, perhaps stationed at some fort on the frontier, at least near the time when he would have left home at the age of seventeen or eighteen. I am currently reading Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience by Marilyn Irvin Holt in an effort to learn more about how children were treated at the time, information that will allow me to develop childhoods for all my major characters.