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.
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.
I know a few things about Justin Quinn from Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga (coming out on October 20). He was thirty-nine years old in 1855, so when Book 2 begins, he will be forty-three. He has a two-inch scar on the left side of his face as the result of an argument over a card game. He is Irish, six feet tall, and has red hair and green eyes. He is Cordelia’s biological father, and he deserted her mother, Minerva, before the woman knew she was pregnant. He was a fur trapper and trader when he met Minerva but has likely changed professions since the decline of the fur trade.
How are you feeling about Justin so far? Interested or not so much? Is he a hero or a villain? Hard to tell. We know some physical details and a few actions but there isn’t much in what I’ve told you to capture emotions or imagination.
How about this? Near the end of Book 1, Cordelia asks Aunt Hannah if her father knew about her. The answer: He could have figured it out if he’d wanted to. So now, we really have to dig in to Justin’s character. Did he want to know? Why or why not? Did he figure it out when Cordelia was a baby? Did he never figure it out but was told years later when he met someone? Does he not know until Cordelia is on his doorstep–if he has a doorstep? How does he react when his seventeen-year-old daughter finds him? But wait? Does he find her instead? Which course of action will produce the best story? There are so many decisions to make, and many of them will come out of what happened in Justin’s own childhood since those experiences will have shaped his morality and thoughts about what it means to be a father.
Currently, I am considering having Justin’s father be a military person, perhaps stationed at some fort on the frontier, at least near the time when he would have left home at the age of seventeen or eighteen. I am currently reading Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience by Marilyn Irvin Holt in an effort to learn more about how children were treated at the time, information that will allow me to develop childhoods for all my major characters.
Estimated arrival date for the proof copy of Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga is September 2. In the meantime, I am getting a jumpstart on plotting Book 2, which has a working title of For Want of a Father. I plan to use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to write the rough draft. I participated in NanoWriMo when writing the rough drafts of Possessing Saraand The Survivalist’s Daughter. While I didn’t reach the goal of 50,000 words in a month, I did go on to finish the books.
I tend to procrastinate when it comes to any project not in front of my nose, so I taped a poster board to my office door and started putting up stick-on notes for areas in need of development. For years, I have avoided using the mapping/clustering method of prewriting because deciding where to put a circle on a board and what text to put in the circle makes me freeze. My current method allows me to change my mind about topics and their placements. I have chosen poster board from a dollar store and pads of various stick-on notes I have accumulated from conferences and fairs as the medium for my project map. If I don’t like the position of a topic, I can move it. If I change my mind about the topic, I can throw the note away and my basic poster in still usable.
The board so far
The year is 1859, four years after the end of Book 1. I originally thought the year would be 1858, but I decided Lucy should be a year older, so the first change I made was the year. The two main characters are Lucy, 13, and half-sister Cordelia, 17. Above each girl is a stick-on note about her father. Lucy’s father, Hiram Pierce, 48, is a blacksmith and city council member in the small town of Hidden Springs, Kansas Territory. Readers of the first book probably have strong opinions about Hiram. Cordelia’s father, Justin Quinn, 43, is something of a mystery. She has never met him, but knows he was a fur trapper when she was conceived. The first order of business is research. The blue notes down the side contain the various items I need to know more about. They range from the major events of 1859, including the Colorado gold rush, to everyday items like food, clothing, transportation, and occupations.
Justin Quinn: The backstory
I have chosen Justin Quinn as the first character to develop. I know least about him, and Cordelia’s story will hinge on the kind of man her father has become. He is probably not trapping since that trade diminished in the early 1840s at about the same time he met Cordelia’s mother. To get a better sense of mountain men and the life Justin might have led, I am reading Give Your Heart to the Hawks by Winfred Blevins. I’ll let you know what I learn from the book and reveal Justin’s backstory in future posts.
The mail just came!
The proof copies of Book 1 have arrived. Time to get to work.