Coming Soon: Cordelia’s Journey

At last! The Kansas Authors Club convention is over, and I can write about Cordelia’s Journey, the first book in the Pierce Family Saga by title. I had entered the club’s first pages of a novel contest. Submissions were supposed to be anonymous, and my understanding was I couldn’t publish my connection to the book on the Internet until the convention was over, which was October 4. I am proud to say the novel received an honorable mention.

KAC 2015 award

Cordelia’s Journey is a coming-of-age novel set in Kansas Territory in 1855. It traces a thirteen-year-old runaway girl’s 150-mile journey down the Kansas River. Destination: her aunt in Westport, Missouri. Goal: To enlist her aunt in returning home with her in an attempt to save her mother’s life. Fear of discovery and a lack of funds slow her down, even as events on the trail shock her into breaking her word and finding quicker transportation.

My original launch date was planned for October 20, 2015. However, cover issues have made me move that date to October 25, 2015. If the permanent cover is still unavailable at that time, I will go forward using Create Space’s cover creator and shift to the final cover when it is finished. I love print on demand and the flexibility of making changes when needed.

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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.

 

Welcome to The Pierce Family Saga

After five years, I am coming to the end of my first historical novel and find myself unwilling to let go of the characters I have created. One way to keep them going is to continue their stories in future books: a family saga.

The book title choices are down to two. Critique group members and friends have helped me locate errors my eyes couldn’t find on their own.The book has been formatted for paperback. My friend and writing buddy, B.J Myrick, is working on a cover. I have uploaded the book and ordered four proof copies for additional beta readers. Those copies should arrive by September 2. The target date for publication is October 20, 2015.

My publication plan is a book a year. The purpose of this blog is to help me stay on task and to keep readers up to date on what is happening behind the scenes of a saga in progress. Here are some of the post categories you will see in the coming weeks:

Character: backstories and motivations

Each novel will focus on two to four members of the fictional Pierce family. Although there will be some similarity in the characters backstories, each will view events through their own personalities and experiences. In addition, not everything that happens can be shown in the book. Decisions have to be made about what goes in and what doesn’t.

Setting: time and place

The first novel is set in Kansas Territory, 1855. The second novel will take place in 1859 and cover a much larger area of the American West. Besides historical people, places, and events, I will be researching customs, clothing, language, travel options, jobs, and much more. I’ll be posting research sources and book reviews for those of you who want to know more about the  time period.

Writing issues

When a person spends days and weeks researching a topic, how much should be included in the actual novel? How many point of view characters can be used before readers are confused? What technique will be used to move from one character’s point of view to another? These are some of the questions I will explore as they come up during the writing process.

This blog, like the family saga, is very much a work in progress. At this moment, the blog is bare. It’s like moving into a new house. I’m not quite sure what furniture (widgets) I need or where to put them. If you have suggestions, leave a comment. If you want to follow the behind the scenes development of a series, please subscribe.