Researching Hiram’s War

 

 

Mine Creek 1
Photo of the location of the Civil War Battle of Mine Creek in Kansas taken July 7, 2018

The Civil War: Too Big for Me

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

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.

The Brochure

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.

What’s Next?

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.

 

Hiram’s Boy Book Launch

Hiram’s Boy is available
on Amazon and at
Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia

Best-laid Plans

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.

 

Book Launch Party at Ellen Plumb’s

Description: What and How Much

Snapshot Hazel Hart, for blog copyIn the first two books of the Pierce Family Saga series, my characters were on the go. Descriptions of surroundings could be brief. In this third book, much of the action in the early chapters takes place in Hidden Springs. Suddenly, the town and the people in it need more than passing thoughts. While mulling over how many and what kind of descriptive details to use, I came across an excellent Glimmer Train article  on the subject by Abby Geni.

As I read through the list of qualities for a good description, I compared the following paragraph from the rough draft of my novel-in-progress  and found it lacking in sensory details. In particular, I might add details that signal the general feel of the store (neat and well-kept or disorganized, bright or gloomy) that indicate the character of the proprietors.

General store description from Ambrose Pierce’s point of view:

Fletcher’s Emporium was straight across the street. As I crossed, I saw their door was open to catch what little breeze there was on this blazing hot August day. I stepped inside and stood for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the dimmer natural light within. Blinking, I looked around to find no one at the front of the store. There were some thumps and voices from the back, though, so I figured they were unloading freight and headed on back through the long center aisle. I was perhaps five feet from the door to the back loading dock when I heard Mr. Fletcher’s raised voice. “We’ve got a good life here. I hope Ava’s not going to mess it up for us like she did back in New York.”

Character description

One of Geni’s most interesting rules is to stay away from what she calls “police blotter” descriptions of characters. In my partial description of Hiram Pierce below, I manage to do that. However, I do make use of the “mirror reflection” which is an overdone technique. Hopefully, it works here.

Hiram Pierce considers his appearance:

I checked my clean-shaven reflection in the mirror, rubbing my hand across my smooth chin, and once again considered whether to grow a beard. I’d want a full one if I did it. No sense going halfway. But a full beard around a blacksmith forge could be a fire danger. Almost unconsciously, my hand went to my chest and the almost square four-inch area where the border ruffians had branded me with a blazing hot horseshoe. I shuddered at the thought of sparks catching a beard on fire, at the pain of the burn and the scar it would leave. The puckered flesh on my chest was ugly enough.

Change in point of view and overall progress on Hiram’s Boy

I recently changed Hiram’s point of view from third to first person. What sounded acceptable in third person doesn’t work as well in first. However, that is what revision is all about, something I’ll get to when I have a complete rough draft. I have sixty-five pages so far.

If you are a writer, I hope you find Abby Geni’s article on description helpful.

 

Beginning the third book

for want of a father final copy

Now that For Want of a Father is published as an e-book and I am waiting for the proof copy of the paperback to arrive, I have some downtime to start the third book in the series, Hiram’s Boy. I am testing out Bublish, a platform for getting the word out about my books. On this site, I am able to put rough cuts of my novel-in-progress online along with my comments about the process of writing the book. Please check out my profile page and tell me what you think.

For Want of a Father book promo May 27-29

for want of a father final copyI just got the e-mail from Amazon that the e-book version of For Want of a Father is live on Kindle. I have set a free book promotion for the Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29. While this free promotion is a “Thank you” to all of you who supported me during my Kindle Scout campaign, I hope anyone who enjoys frontier family fiction will take this opportunity to read the second book in the Pierce Family Saga series.

I’d love to hear from everyone who reads the book. Please come back to this blog and leave a comment about your favorite or not so favorite characters or scenes. Once more, get the book May 27-29 free.

My Kindle Scout Experience

for want of a father final copyYesterday, I received a survey from Kindle Scout asking for an evaluation of my campaign experience. One of the questions was whether I would recommend Kindle Scout to other authors. I would.

I chose to participate in Kindle Scout for several reasons: The possibility of an advance and a quick decision compared to traditional publishers, the opportunity to get some advance publicity for my novel, the ability to see where campaign views came from, and the follow-up announcement Kindle Scout will send to those who nominated For Want of a Father when it is published.

A Quick Decision

My campaign ran from April 1 – April 30. I received my rejection e-mail on May 12, which was within the turnaround time set by Kindle Scout. I appreciated the promptness.

Advance Publicity

I love to write and hate to market. During this campaign, I forced myself to do something almost every day to get the word out and ask for nominations. Fifty-four percent of my views came through my own efforts, and forty-six percent of my page views came from within Kindle Scout. I wish I knew the percentage of viewers who nominated the book in each case, but they don’t tell that in the statistics. However, many people saw the book who would not have done so if I had simply uploaded it without participating in the campaign.

Sources of Campaign Viewers

I have already mentioned that 46% of viewers came from Kindle Scout itself. Of the 54% that came from my own efforts, 17% of the traffic came from Facebook and only .05% from Twitter although I spent much more time on Twitter. During the last week of the campaign, I discovered Kindle Scout groups on GoodReads and KBoards. Both groups were supportive and together were the source of 26% of campaign views. This blog and my other blog, Seasoned Aspirer, accounted for 10% of the traffic. This knowledge is helpful as I go forward with marketing my books.

Follow-up Publication Announcement

I plan to publish the e-book version of For Want of a Father by June 1. The paperback will be available by June 30. Kindle Scout will send an announcement when the e-book is available. Within a few days of the e-book publication, I will be doing a free download promotion, so check back here and on Facebook for dates.

Thank you to all who supported me during the campaign.

Not for Them

for want of a father final copy

The word didn’t come at midnight, but at nearly noon instead. Kindle Press did not accept For Want of a Father for publication. I was disappointed but not surprised. After all, I have nominated half a dozen books by other authors for publication and only one has been accepted, so my reading preferences are not the same as the editors. Or maybe the non-acceptance was for another reason than whether an editor considered the book a good read. Reasons are not a part of the rejection message.

Even though my book was not accepted for publication, I did learn a great deal from the campaign process. I will be sharing some of those learned lessons on this blog in the days to come and also at the June 11 District 2 meeting of the Kansas Authors Club in Lawrence.

What happens next for the book? I will be doing a final revision of For Want of a Father and then formatting it for e-book and paperback publication. Projected publication date is June 30. If you nominated the book, Kindle will send you an e-mail when it is available for publication. I will also be running a free promotion during the launch and posting the dates on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you to everyone who nominated For Want of a Father during my Kindle Scout campaign. I appreciate your time and your vote.

Expectations and What We See

I used the tagline, “Fathers, Daughters, and Expectations,” for my For Want of a Father Kindle Scout campaign. As my character, Lucy, let expectations color her memories, my own expectations caused me to read what wasn’t there in today’s e-mails.

This is the second week since my campaign closed, and I have been checking my e-mail compulsively every half hour of so throughout the day, hoping to hear from Kindle Scout. This morning when I got up, the first thing I did was check my e-mail. I scrolled through the overnight messages until I saw it: Kindle Scout in the sender column. I barely noticed the “Thank you” in the subject line in my eagerness to get to the message. When I did read the first line of the message, all my eyes saw were the words at the end of the sentence: “was not selected for publication.” It was not until I got to the words “The author, (name,) wanted to. . . .” that I realized that the name was not mine and the book title was not mine either. It was a notification for a book I had nominated, not my own book.

We hear all the time about how we see and hear what we expect. This experience reinforced that lesson for me in my own life, and I will remember it as I write fiction. It’s such a great conflict creator.

As for expectations, now that I have received a notice at midnight, I won’t be able to go to sleep until after that tonight, expecting that the next Kindle Scout message may come then; this time one telling me about the acceptance or rejection of my own book.

Kindle Scout Campaign: Two Days Left

CJ_FWF twitter promo2 copy

After four weeks, I am tired of promoting. The Kansas Authors Club Convention theme this year is “Imagine.” I am imagining having the money to hire someone to do the promoting for me. An even better thing to imagine is getting that Kindle publishing contract, so here I am making a last push for nominations. The problem: Most of you wonderful people who will read this have already nominated me, and you can’t do it twice. However, if you didn’t get the free download of Cordelia’s Journey, Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga, you can do so now through April 30. And if you suddenly think of anyone who hasn’t gotten the word about my Kindle Scout campaign, For Want of a Father, please pass the word along.

Stats update

As of today, my campaign page has had 226 views. Fifty-five percent or 124 of those came from those of you who saw my promotion and clicked through. Thank you.

 

Kindle Scout Campaign Update

 

CJ_FWF twitter promo2 copy

Only six days left! I am using my limited Photoshop skills to create a new graphic for the last three days. Any feedback on changes to improve the above image will be appreciated. However, remember my skills are limited.

Links

The first book in the series, Cordelia’s Journey,  will be on a free promotion from April 28-30 only.

For Want of a Father is up for nomination for publication on Kindle Scout until April 30. If Kindle chooses this book for publication, you will receive a free copy of the e-book. If you like American frontier family fiction, take this opportunity to make your reading preferences known.

To everyone who has already nominated For Want of a Father, thank you. Also, a big thanks to those who have re-tweeted my Twitter posts and shared my Facebook posts. My Kindle Scout campaign has had 195 unique viewers so far. I’ll give a final report at the end of the campaign. Also, Kindle Scout will send an e-mail to all who nominate the book, letting you know whether the novel has been selected for publication.