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.

My Research Graphic

HISTORICAL RESEARCH3roundpic

First a “Thank You”

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.

 

 

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.