Ever since publishing Hiram’s War in May, I’ve been searching for a working title for the next book in the series. Somehow a title helps me focus on the story. A few mornings ago, I had an “aha!” moment. I was so impressed with the idea that I headed over to Canva and made a temporary book cover. Emphasis is on “temporary” because maybe the title isn’t as good as I think.
The thought process that led me to Hiram’s Girls went like this. I wanted to focus on Jennie and Ella and their lives after moving in with their father. For several days, all that came to mind was Life with Pa. Ugh! Then I thought of the previous two titles in the series: Hiram’s Boy and Hiram’s War. So why not Hiram’s Girls?
Question: Does my “aha!” moment appeal to readers as much as it did to me? Should I keep searching? Do you have a suggestion for a title?
What? You need to know what Book 5 will be about before you suggest a title?
Here’s what I know: It is November 1864, and I’m thinking the book will extend to the end of the year, so Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will be in the book as Jennie, 12, and Ella, 14, adjust to their lives in Hidden Springs with their three little sisters, ages 3 months to 2 years, and, of course, their father, Hiram Pierce. What could possibly go wrong? I’m making a list. Check back later for more developments.
Those who have read Hiram’s War have a common question: What’s next for the Pierce family? It’s a question I’m asking the five older siblings. Let’s see what they’re telling me.
Cordelia: I’ve spent the last four years as a traveling photographer for Mathew Brady. I’m not sure what I’ll do when the war is over.
Ambrose: I’m heading to New York City to get my wife, son, and stepbrother, then we’re heading for Kansas and a new life.
Lucy: I’m on my way to Cairo to resume nursing duties, but I want to do more, to know more, to save more lives. I want to be a doctor, but I’ll have to fight to make that happen. Women are usually barred from medical schools.
Ella: I’m looking for a husband and a permanent home for me and Jennie. My older siblings say I don’t know what marriage is all about and I’m asking for trouble, like being fourteen means I don’t know anything. We’ll see.
Jennie: I always wanted little sisters, and now I have three of them under three years old. Ella and I have split the responsibility: she takes care of the house and I take care of the little ones. It’s only been a week, and I already think I’m in over my head. Help!
Another Option: Aunt Hannah
Hannah True is sister to the Pierce siblings deceased mother. She took the girls in after their mother’s death and raised them until 1860. Then Hannah’s mother died and her brothers-in-law sold the hotel she ran and left her uprooted. At thirty-eight, she is on her own for the first time in her life. In 1848, she was a suffragette. Now, on her way to New York City and a new life, she meets a man who runs a detective agency and gives her an unexpected option. Will she take it?
So those are my choices. Which one appeals most to you and why?
Today is the official launch date of the eBook version Hiram’s War on Amazon. I had planned for the paperback to be available too, but due to cover creation difficulties, it will be another day or so before that happens. I should be receiving my proof copy today or tomorrow, and if all my corrections look like they’re supposed to, I should be making the paperback available by Monday.
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.
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.
For more about me and my books, visit my author page on Amazon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In January, 2016, I made a New Year’s resolution to submit For Want of a Fatherto Kindle Scout by March 29, and to campaign for the book’s publication. I have met the first deadline, my submission materials have been approved, and the campaign will be live on Kindle Scout from April 1 – April 30, 2016.
Now it time for the campaign. Kindle Scout gives readers the opportunity to nominate books for publication. Like the current presidential campaigns, a nomination does not guarantee the outcome, but votes/nominations matter in the final selection process. If you would like to see more frontier family fiction, your nomination may help that happen. As I recently told some friends, I’d like to see frontier family fiction become “hotter than Harry Potter.”
What happens after the nomination period?
After April 30, the end of the campaign, Kindle Scout will take approximately two weeks to review the submission and decide on whether to publish. Once their decision has been reached, those who nominated the book will receive an e-mail giving the results: publish or not publish. If Kindle Scout says no, I will still publish the book on my own, so you will be able to get a copy. If Kindle Scout says yes, then you will get an e-book copy free when the book is released.
Hot and Trending
I appreciate any nomination at any time during the campaign, but in order to gain maximum exposure, I am trying to get as many votes as possible during the first five days: April 1-5. A rush of votes during a short period will put the book in a separate category, “Hot and Trending,” and give it more exposure. To encourage readers to do this, I have put the first book in the series, Cordelia’s Journey, on a free promotion during that time. So please nominate For Want of a Fatherand download a free e-book copy of Cordelia’s JourneyApril 1-5. Note: You do not need a Kindle to download a free e-book. You can get a free ap on Kindle book pages that will allow you to read a Kindle book on your computer, tablet, or other device.
I have spent the past week revising pages in For Want of a Father that show main character Cordelia arriving in 1859 Denver. In the original Nano manuscript, I had her check into a hotel. Then I got worried. Were there hotels in Denver on or about June 1, 1859? I made several online searches and poured over my personal research library of western history as well as the public library’s stacks. One reference indicated there were about twenty houses in Denver at the time. Another mentioned the first newspaper being published in April, 1859, but I could find nothing on hotels. After complaining to writer friends about this lack of information, someone said, “It’s fiction. If you want a hotel, make one up.” So I did.
The trouble with details
There was little description of the hotel in the first draft. Cordelia got a room and had a pitcher of water delivered so she could wash off the grime from her twelve-day stagecoach journey. The writer in me said, “You need more details,” so I added them.
Cordelia reacts to her hotel room:
When I opened the door to the cramped cubicle, my nose was assaulted by the stench of tobacco, whiskey, and sweat. Smoke stung my eyes. Seeing what appeared to be a window on the outside wall, I crossed to it, pushed the wooden slat open, propping it with a board and pressing my face close to the opening, filling my lung with fresh air. Hoping the room would air out, I stepped away from the window and took in the furnishings. A bed of sorts made of board slats on top of nail kegs stood along one wall. On inspection of the mattress, I concluded it was straw stuffed into a stained cotton ticking. The two woolen blankets smelled of tobacco and sweat but seemed otherwise clean.
Be careful what you describe
For a short time, I was proud of my description. It sounded like the kind of accommodations Cordelia might find in a new, rough mining town. Then I got worried. Would Cordelia sleep here? Several already written scenes depended on her doing that. Obviously, I needed to give her a good enough reason to stay in spite of the unsavory surroundings, so I attempted to do that.
Cordelia struggles with staying:
My impulse was to leave, but where would I go? This was a new mining town. Other accommodations might be worse. I did not know Miz Wilma’s situation, and I did not want to inconvenience those who were caring for her. Best to stay here. It was only for one night.
Now that I’m reading the motive for staying again, it doesn’t seem good enough. But then this is only the second revision. A few weeks ago, a new writer asked, “How many times do you revise a novel?”
Answer: I revise as long as each reading of a scene gives me a deeper understanding of character and better ways of presenting the story. The end of the process does not come with a number but with a feeling that I have told the story to the best of my ability.
I’ve been spending the morning preparing for tomorrow’s Emporia Farmers Market. This is my first time as a vendor, and I’m trying to make sure I have everything. This first thing was to decide on the books to take and how to display them, so I tried out an arrangement at home. One possibility is pictured above. Cordelia’s Journey is in the middle.
I like the order the books are in on the table, but I think I’ll move them back a few inches and put a little more space between books to make room for the business cards in one space and maybe a dish of peppermints in the second space.
In addition to choosing the books, I’ve priced them and packed them in the car. I also updated my business cards. When the cards were printed, I didn’t have this blog, so I used address labels to put new blog and contact information on the back. I got change from the bank yesterday. All that’s left is working on my autograph. Any book signing suggestions?
I almost forgot to tell you: The Emporia Farmers Market is Saturday, December 5 from 10 a.m. to noon at 727 Commercial in Emporia, Kansas. There are two additional market dates this month: December 10 from 8 p.m. to midnight and December 19 from 8 a.m. to noon. As you can see on the webpage, several authors are participating.
Can you think of anything I’ve forgotten? Leave a comment and let me know.