A Hannah True Prequel

Hannah True, a popular character in the Pierce Family Saga novels, now has her own series, The Adventures of Hannah True. A romance that didn’t work out was hinted at in the Pierce books. In Uprooted, the first book in Hannah’s series, we learn that she was once engaged to be married, and that the man, Paul Simmons, has learned she will be back in New York sometime soon–and he wants to meet with her.

In Undercurrents, book 2, which is still in progress, Hannah makes it to her Aunt Gertrude’s in New York City and re-connects with Paul Simmons. This book, like Uprooted, has a mystery to be solved, so I didn’t want it to get bogged down with flashbacks to the past. Still, I thought some readers would like to know what happened back in 1848 when Hannah met Paul at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Therefore, I have written a prequel, The Courtship of Hannah True, which I will make available as soon as I figure out how to distribute it for free. My goal is to resolve the distribution question before Christmas. Until then, a sneak peek at the prequel appears below.

The Courtship of Hannah True

February 1848

It was a normal winter day with a few snow flurries but nothing threatening until we finished our evening meal. Then Papa touched a napkin to his lips, sent a meaningful glance at Mama, and then they both turned their stern faces on me.

Papa cleared his throat. “Let’s retire to the parlor. Your mother and I have something to discuss with you.”

My nerves tightened as the determined glances they exchanged told me I wasn’t going to like what they had to say. I was a grown woman of twenty-six and earned my keep by working in the hotel, but me being unmarried gave Mama and Papa the illusion that they should direct my life toward a more desirable situation.

We rose from the dining table in unison. Papa stood back and motioned me forward, Mama followed me, and then he fell in behind. I felt as though I were being herded to my destiny.

It turned out, I was.

In the parlor, a fire crackled in the hearth, casting a warm glow on the room, but outside the wind howled, and a bit of cold seeped into the room around the window frames. Papa turned up the flame of a lamp on the table between his chair and Mama’s. I sat in the third chair that formed a semi-circle in front of the fireplace.

Again, a serious look passed between them that set my nerves on edge.

“What is it?” I asked. “Is someone ill?”

“Not exactly,” Mama said, “but we’re concerned about Aunt Gertrude.”

“Why?” My stomach knotted. Aunt Gertrude was Mama’s older sister, and though I hadn’t spent a great deal of time with her, she was dear to me, encouraging me in the many letters we had exchanged over the years.

“Because of Uncle Stanley’s passing,” Papa said.

My forehead furrowed as I tried to make sense of their reasoning. “That was last April, ten months ago. Why are you concerned now?”

“Well, of course, my sister is still in mourning,” Mama said. “She’s rattling around that big house all alone except for the servants. She really needs some companionship.”

“Why me? Why now?” I asked. But I was certain I knew. My parents were eager to have me marry, and I had just broken off a relationship with a possible suitor. In their eyes, I was an old maid and needed a husband to take care of me. In my eyes, I needed nothing of the sort.

Would you like to read more of this prequel?

Please click on Leave a Comment at the top of the post and give me a yes or no.

An Update and a Question

As you can see from the blog header, Uprooted, the first book in the Pierce family spinoff series, The Adventures of Hannah True, has been published. I am about halfway through the first draft of Undercurrents, the second book in the Hannah series. The time is July 1860. Hannah has left Chicago and has at last arrived at Aunt Gertrude’s in New York City.

A jump back in time

In Hiram’s Girls, I left the Pierce siblings during Christmas season, 1864. That means in Uprooted and Undercurrents, everyone is four years younger than they were at the end of Hiram’s Girls. Hopefully, that isn’t a problem for you, dear readers. In some ways, it is like reading a prequel. This is what happened that wasn’t in the other books. My plan is that by the fourth book in the Hannah series, the story will be in 1864 again, and we can see the events of the search for Ava through Hannah’s eyes.

The ending of Hiram’s Girls

In the Amazon comments, a few readers have voiced their dissatisfaction with what they considered a quick ending to Hiram’s Girls. I want to assure everyone that you have not seen the last of the siblings. They will be part of the new series, and they may even have more books of their own as the Civil War ends. Ambrose must decide where his family will live, Lucy will study to be a doctor, and Jennie will have to decide what to do with her psychic abilities. And then there is Cordelia. The first book in the series was hers. Should she have another?

Question

Would you like another Pierce family book, and if you would, whose story would you like me to tell?

Please answer in the comments section.

The Monster Tornado of 1860

From The Press and Tribune, Chicago, June 5, 1860

Combining History and Fiction

Uprooted is set in Chicago in June 1860. As I searched for a way to describe the city, its newspaper, The Press and Tribune, seemed an excellent place to start. I didn’t expect to find an event that would become part of the novel, but being from Kansas and having lived in two towns that experienced tornadoes, the story of the tornado that wiped out Camanche, Iowa, and other towns in its path caught my eye and my heart.

It caught Hannah True’s heart too. Her life had been uprooted because her father’s will left her without a home or income, but when she read about the death and destruction caused by the monster tornado, she understood what true loss was.

Then as now, communities came together to help the survivors of this monster storm, originally reported to have traveled one hundred miles, but days later, the distance was corrected:

“…each day has added to the news of the disaster, each mail has brought us fresh accession to the horrors of a Sunday evening when a fiercer tornado than ever in the memory of man visited the tropics, passed over an extent of country, as it now seems from Western Iowa across Illinois, across the lake and thence into the heart of Michigan, a distance of upwards of four hundred miles.”
“The Great Tornado,” The Press and Tribune, Chicago, Monday, June 11, 1860

Woven into the novel are some of the efforts Chicagoans made to help the victims of this devastating event.

My Friends Have Me Covered

With the loss of my best friend, Bonnie Myrick Eaton, to COVID in January 2021, I was left on my own to make a cover for the last book in the Pierce Family Saga series. Bonnie had warned me many times that she wouldn’t be around forever, and I needed to learn to make book covers, but even if I had listened, images are not at the top of my skill set. With no cover skills, I was dragging my feet on finishing Hiram’s Girls.

I knew what I wanted the cover to look like, so I turned to Dave Leiker of Dave Leiker Photography for the photo. He enlisted the help of Greg Jordan, Executive Director of the Lyon County History Center and Lisa Soller, Deputy Director who opened the Howe house and arranged the lamp in the window. Many thanks to them for the wonderful cover photo.

Photo of the Howe house, Emporia, Kansas, by Dave Leiker Photography

So now I had a great photo, but how was I going to transform it into an eBook cover? With my limited Photoshop skills, I gave it a try. Here is my attempt:

My best effort

Still not satisfied, I sent my file to friend and publisher, Tracy Million Simmons of Meadowlark Press. Lucky for me, she couldn’t resist playing with the file and making it better instead of just giving advice.

Final eBook cover by Tracy Million Simmons

With an eBook cover completed, I turned my attention to the paperback. Tracy had offered her help, but I didn’t want to put too much on her, so I went to another friend, Gordon Kessler, who has created many covers for various authors over the years. We used to be in a critique group together and members of both Kansas Writers Association and Kansas Authors Club. He was kind enough to take the original photo and Tracy’s eBook image and create the paperback cover.

Final paperback cover by Gordon Kessler, with the help of all who came before.

So a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the book cover for Hiram’s Girls. The book is currently on preorder on Amazon and will go live on September 4. If you liked the previous books in the series, I hope you will enjoy this one, as well.

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.

 

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.

 

For Want of a Cover

for want of a father final copy

One of the requirements of the Kindle Scout campaign is that the book must have a cover. In addition, one of the Author Q&A questions I could choose to answer in 300 characters (includes spaces) or fewer was “Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.” In 300 characters? Really? Read on and you will see why that was an impossible task.

 

When you don’t have a budget, a talented friend can save you.

FWF5cover blogYes, my initial cover budget was zero dollars. What saved me was Bonnie Myrick Eaton, my friend and talented Photoshop guru. She spent many hours working through all my ideas, even the early ones that were truly unworkable. Those of you who have been following the blog may remember the empty picture frames. My idea was that the empty frame signified the missing father. The picture frame is one that held my grandmother’s picture, and the background is my kitchen cabinet door. It is easy to see why this didn’t work.

 

FWF small frame cover

Not to give up to easily, Bonnie took a picture of one her frames and tried that. It still wasn’t quite right.

 

 

 

Old pictures and copyright woes

I can’t show you the next effort, but the cover was wonderful. Karen Overturf let me borrow two old photographs, and I used them as inspiration for my main characters, Lucy and Cordelia. I was ready to purchase the pictures and use them for the cover when I ran across a disturbing article titled “Copyright and the old family photo.” Besides explaining why a photo of one’s grandmother taken over 100 years ago may still be under copyright, the author includes a chart showing what photos may or may not be under copyright law. Since I had to swear to Kindle Scout that I had the rights to everything I submitted and I couldn’t do that with the photos of the young women, I had to pass on a wonderful cover.

A search for symbols

Next, Bonnie and I brainstormed for symbols of the fathers. We thought about pipes, pocket watches, and boots. I suggested an empty place at a dining table. Nothing seemed right. Finally, I realized we had been looking at fathers when we should be looking at daughters. The girls were traveling to be united with their fathers.

The stagecoach on the cover

Cowtown stagecoach, Wichita, Kansas
Cowtown stagecoach, Wichita, Kansas

I remembered a picture I had taken several years ago during a visit to Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas. Since the girls were traveling by stagecoach, I saw this image as my best option. I sent the photo to Bonnie and she did her Photoshop magic. I also got permission from Old Cowtown Museum to use it. I wasn’t sure if I needed permission since I took the picture, but I wanted to be certain I wasn’t violating any laws. So ends the story of my search for a cover.

If you have not nominated For Want of a Father for publication, please do so. If you have, thank you for your support.

 

 

 

For Want of a Father’s Kindle Scout Campaign

For Want of a Father Final Cover

 

In January, 2016, I made a New Year’s resolution to submit For Want of a Father to 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.

For Want of a Father needs your vote.

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 Father and download a free e-book copy of Cordelia’s Journey April 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.

Which Book Cover: Please Vote

 

I’m still revising For Want of a Father, so it may seem a little early to worry about a book cover, but I need something to visualize. Thanks to writing buddy and Photoshop whiz, Bonnie Myrick Eaton of Keyhole Conversations, I have the above three possibilities. Now I need your opinion, so there is a poll at the end of this post. Before you take it, though, here is a back cover blurb in process.

Back cover blurb

1859, Kansas Territory

Half-sisters Cordelia, 17, and Lucy, 13, suffer from the lack of a father in their lives.

Cordelia has never met the man who dazzled her mother Minerva with promises of love and a life together, then disappeared, leaving Minerva with child. To save her parents from the shame of a daughter bearing a baby out of wedlock, Minerva marries a man who demands sons, but she produces only one living boy. She dies in childbirth, trying to fulfill his demands and leaves Cordelia, the bastard child, without a parent.

On their mother’s death in 1855, Cordelia, Lucy, and their two younger sisters go to live with an Aunt in Westport, 150 miles from Lucy’s father. In the four years since she last saw her father, Lucy has idealized the life she could have with him if he would only send for her. She has grown up and is ready to take on the work of running a house, certain her father will appreciate what a fine daughter he has in her.

Two events occurring within ten days of each other give the girls the opportunity to learn more about the men responsible for their existence. Cordelia gets word that her father is prospecting near Denver; Lucy’s father wants her to return to his home in Hidden Springs. Cordelia cautiously decides to search for her father, unsure of the kind of man she will find while Lucy is overjoyed that her father wants her home. Will either father live up to his daughter’s fantasized image of him, or will each father break his daughter’s heart?

Cover ideas

I considered a couple of possibilities on the way to the picture-frame images in this post. I thought of a split front cover showing a miner panning gold (Cordelia’s father) and a blacksmith (Lucy’s father), but I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the appropriate images and the cover would be too busy. Next, I thought of an empty chair at the head of a dining table, but I’d need furniture for that. Finally, I settled on the empty photo frame, which is not to say it is the best idea. If something better comes to mind before publication (I’m planning on June or July, 2016) I will use it. I know it is asking a lot, but if you choose none of the above, I’d love to have you leave a comment with your opinions of a cover that might work better. Thank you for your help.

 

 

 

November Results and December Commitments

Two out of three isn't bad.
Two out of three isn’t bad.

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.