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.
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.
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.
Here it is, a new month, and I am taking two more courses. The first is Blogging 201: Branding and Growth. That course is the reason I am writing this post. Our first assignment is to set three goals for the blog. Before setting those goals, we are to think about the purpose of the blog and what a successful blog would be in our wildest dreams.
Purpose of the blog
I’m writing a family saga, and I set up this blog to generate interest in the books before, after, and in-between publication. The first book, Cordelia’s Journey, is set in 1855 in Kansas Territory. It was published in October, 2015. I completed a rough draft of the second book, For Want of a Father, set in 1859, during this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). As I begin the revision of that book, I am wondering what part of the process readers might find interesting. What topics would appeal to readers, and just who are those readers?
I see my readers as people who enjoy stories about family, faith, and friendship in an American frontier setting. The main characters are young, but I see all ages as possible readers. The main character in Cordelia’s Journeyis 13. In For Want of a Father, my novel in progress, there are two main characters, one thirteen, and the second seventeen. They are both female, so girls and women will probably find the book more appealing than boys and men, which means girls and women age twelve and up are the most likely readers of the blog. However, the third book, which is in the planning stages, will be set in the Civil War and have three main characters, a girl of fifteen, a boy of sixteen, and a young woman of nineteen. In each new book in the series, the characters will mature, so the audience may broaden in age and gender as new books are added.
What do readers want?
I have published about a dozen posts to this blog already, but I don’t have many readers yet, so I haven’t had much feedback. I’m listing some ideas for posts below and would like your reactions. What topics, if any, would catch your interest and cause you to follow the blog?
Possible blog topics
Character biographies: What do the characters want and why?
Family relationships: who gets along and who doesn’t?
Quotations from actual newspapers of the times about the general events the characters face
Slang words of the day
Research and revision methods: the process of writing historical novels
Help! Do you find any of the topics above appealing? Can you suggest some I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment and let me know.
As for my wildest dreams, let the Pierce family become as popular as Harry Potter.
I really was crazy to commit to three things at once. I am here to report that I finished NaNoWriMo with the official count of 50,481 words, and I have a complete draft of For Want of a Father, Book 2 of the Pierce Family Saga. Now the revising fun begins. I also completed the Iowa Fiction MOOC. As for Blogging 201, I didn’t make it through the first lesson. I will have to repeat. All that technical stuff hurts my brain.
Besides beginning the revision of For Want of a Father, December commitments include marketing Cordelia’s Journey. It has been out for a month with no official launch or promotion. Needless to say, it is reaching the bottom of the Amazon ranking pit, so something has to be done. I will be putting the e-book on a 99 cent promotion from December 1 through December 7. Other 99 cent promotions for the rest of my e-books will follow. Warning: You will probably see more of my promotions that you would like, but I don’t know any other way of getting the word out beside Facebook and Twitter. If anyone has a marketing plan that works, let me know.
In December I will also be participating in three Emporia Farmers Market events with other local writers, so if you would like a signed paperback and are in the Emporia area, stop by 727 Commercial. Hours are Saturday, December 5 and December 19 from 10 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday, December 10 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Yes, midnight is correct. It’s a citywide event with “Madness” attached to it.
As you can see, if anything has “crazy” or “madness” attached to it, I am probably there.
Okay, so it’s not the Old West, but this picture of a stagecoach taken at Wichita’s Cowtown is the best I have.
Question: “What do stagecoaches have to do with NaNoWriMo word statistics?
Answer: I did what NaNo writers are advised not to do. Research.
While zipping toward my word count last week, I became obsessed with the size of Old West stagecoaches and what they would hold. Cordelia, one of my main characters, is heading to Denver on the Pikes Peak Express in 1859, and she has some annoying travel companions. How many? More than I had originally planned. You see, based on the western movies I have watched, I thought stage coaches had two seats. It turns out they had three. Each seat held three passengers, so the coach could hold nine. Also, up to three passengers could ride on top with the driver and shotgun guard. The amount of mail and other freight packed into and on top of the coach often left passengers scrunched against each other, making Cordelia’s approximate twelve-day ride from eastern Kansas to Denver uncomfortable to say the least. If you are interested in learning more about stagecoaches and what it was like to ride in one, check out History of the Stagecoach and Stagecoach Service in the 1860s. As a bonus, check out this map of nineteenth century Kansas trails, which includes the Express route through Kansas Territory in 1859-1860.
Question: So what about your NaNo statistics?
Answer: I’m proud to say that I’m keeping up with the daily word count. I’m actually a little ahead with 20,523 words as of this morning.
Question: Weren’t you taking two online courses at the same time? What about those?
Answer: I’m keeping up with the fiction MOOC, refining scenes from my NaNo novel for my assignments. When it comes to Blogging 201, I’m still at the starting gate. However, I am down to the last lesson in the MOOC, so I’m planning to spend the end of this week making blog improvements.
Thank you to Bonnie for taking the scenery photo and designing the cover, Arlene for taking the picture of the model, and Vicki for being the model. These same women and Bess, my friend in Boulder, spent many hours proofing my book. Also, thank you to Wes, an online critique partner, for his suggestions during the development of the novel. What? A guy? Yes, there was male input, too.
I am now working on the e-book format, which should be on Kindle by next week.