One of my main characters is mistaken for John Wilkes Booth in the flurry to hunt down the man responsible for killing President Lincoln. While researching the plausibility of this hook, I’ve become intimate with the movements Booth made today, 150 years ago. I’ve created a nifty little timeline free for you to download or pin, and in the days to come I hope to continue the timeline as it took the nation twelve days to find Booth.
Most people know Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. How many of you did the math to realize this was 150 years ago? While researching for my latest work-in-progress, I’m counting down the days from Appomattox (the Confederate surrender) to Lincoln’s death. Both because it is the hook that kicks off my work-in-progress, and in memory of the great humanitarian, Lincoln.
As part of my work-in-progress, I’ve wanted to include snippets from Columbus newspapers. This is most likely where my characters would have looked for information about the nation, and Lincoln’s killer. The timeline of Booth’s plans to “abduct” the president (I’ll get into this in a different blog post), the shooting, and the twelve day chase after Booth is a pretty anxious reading of the local newspapers.
Seriously, it’s like reading about 9/11, but without the benefit (or unfortunate awareness) of having watched the planes crash on the TV myself. No one knew what had happened for certain, except that Lincoln was dead. But! I’m getting ahead of myself. So far in history, all Columbus knows is that the war is over.
Think about it… today on April 11, 1865, Columbus had just heard the news that the war had ended at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. That would be like hearing today that the War in Afghanistan is finally over. That the first ever draft had come to an end. That the bloodiest war in the history of the United States had concluded.
Columbus, Ohio had plans to celebrate! You see, people had no idea what was coming, as you can tell from this snippet, which was published today 150 years ago…
GOVERNOR’S PROCLAMATION. The State of Ohio, Executive Department, April 8, 1865.
The God of Battles has blessed our armies, and the glorious cause of human freedom. Under His approving smiles the patriotic and brave men in the field have achieved unparalleled triumphs.
The rebel Capital has been conquered, and given back to the Union, and the army that held it in rebellion has been broken and scattered. The military power of the rebellion–the strongest obstacle to peace–has received a terrible shock, and our gallant armies are pursuing it to final extinction….
Daily Ohio Statesman. (Columbus [Ohio]), 11 April 1865 : 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Columbus had plans for a big parade, all the lights to be lit on homes at night, etc… and it was made known that every loyal citizen of the Union had the duty of making the celebration a success. Columbus was going to celebrate the results of what happened at Appomattox, and they were going to party hard.
Quite obviously, things were still pretty charged in the nation, including Ohio. Sure, Ohio was a supporter of the Union and sent the most soldiers of any Union state to support the Federal Army.
But Copperheads i.e. Northern Democrats who supported negotiations with the Confederate States, also wrote newspapers in the central Ohio area. They were not so excited about the Union victory, but what could they say?
After four years of dreadful and desolating war, we seem to be approaching peace. After four years of absolute and bloody disunion, we appear to be on the eve of a restored Union. Many have believed the thing impossible. We have not been of that number.
The idea of conquering, subjugating and territorializing the Southern States is about to be abandoned by the Administration North, while on the other hand the project of a separate government South, is being abandoned by the men there who chiefly have given dignity and importance to the struggle, and they who opposed secession at the first, and who have been reconstructionists ever since, are getting the control.
All that is wanting now, is fair and honorable terms–“the Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was.” That “true reconcilement” may yet grow between the sections and stronger bonds of Union than ever, all history attests….
Dayton Daily Empire. (Dayton [Ohio]), 11 April 1865: 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
A couple of days later, Lincoln and his wife would be attending a play, hoping to have a nice evening out after having won a momentous war. Columbus would be lighting candles and having parades, intent on celebrating the same.
It’s rather mind-boggling, how innocent the country still happened to be, before Booth aimed that revolver.
Looking for an alternative to lugging your laptop around to finish that novel? Frustrated with carrying your phone, your laptop, and your writing journal to make sure you have everything to reference when writing that next chapter? Let me tell you a story about abandoning my laptop, and using my new tablet instead.
The last couple of years I have been traveling many weekends, which used to be my dedicated writing time. The reason for all the traveling was (and is) to attend lindy hop dance exchange and workshop weekends… kind of like mini-conferences about lindy hop dancing technique and methodology.
It’s been a frustrating process, trying to balance my dancing and my writing. Lindy hoppers are pretty obsessive about the hobby… and the culture itself isn’t super forgiving for those who want to dance but also maintain other passions. That said, I’ve been modifying my attendance at dance events (maybe I don’t attend all the classes, and write instead during the day so I’m fresh for the evening fancy dance). I’ve also been modifying the technology I take with me.
The last dance event I attended, I brought my pen+paper notebook, and my smart phone. I did research on my phone in the hotel room while The Boy taught dance classes, and wrote my amnesia character’s backstory in the notebook. It worked out pretty well.
I was excited to be able to do research and get inspiration on the road, and not have to bring an extra bag just for my laptop. We dancers bring at least three pairs of shoes for a weekend, just to give you an idea of how packing works.
But there was a gap. Even though I save my novel drafts to Dropbox (I love their versioning so I can compare differences between first draft and #25), it’s almost impossible to edit a Word docx on a smart phone.
I was determined to not carry my laptop around. But I couldn’t bite the bullet on getting a tablet because they were expensive, I knew I wanted an Android so I could utilize all my apps on my phone, and I wanted one known for handwriting recognition.
Enter my newfangled device, the Galaxy Note 8.
Writing by hand is very important to me. It gives me time to think. So I bought the Galaxy Note 8 because it comes with a stylus designed by Wacom. Those of us who are designers in our day jobs know Wacom is kind of the standard for a good stylus that recognizes pressure, proximity to the screen, etc. I figured if I found a tablet which recognizes my handwriting, I could mimic writing in my journal on the tablet. So far, it’s been pretty awesome.
Using a Tablet to Write a Novel
I created a handy-dandy infographic to illustrate my process, mainly because words can muddy what is otherwise a simple process…
Sync via Dropbox
Ensure your latest draft is on Dropbox, then install the Dropbox app on your tablet.
Immediately save a copy of your file to your actual tablet, in case you are ever without data or wireless. That way you can continue to work if you’re “unplugged.” When you’re done with editing/writing, navigate to your documents folder and share the file back to Dropbox.
I edit the file using Polaris Office, which apparently can read and edit the docx file format. This is awesome, because I can write and edit whenever I want on a thing that fits in my purse and will sync with my desktop so I’m prepared for the inevitable hours-long, binge-writing session.
* I have found that if I leave the file open, let the device sleep for hours, and then try to continue to work, the cursor jumps all over the place. I had to save the file, close it and the app, and re-open for the cursor to stop freaking out. Which then allowed me to stop freaking out, because for ten minutes I thought I’d have to scrap the entire process.
Build Your Digital Research Library
If you use the Chrome browser, you can install the Evernote browser extension. Makes it super easy to save research, articles, etc across the web. It’s like a scholarly, private Pinterest.
Also don’t be afraid to go to the library and take pictures of your research and upload those photos to Evernote. You can literally digitize your entire research journal!
Take Your Research with You
Install the Evernote app on your tablet. A tablet is kind of the perfect size for consuming the research clipped into Evernote due to its large paperback book size (5.5″ x 8″).
Evernote lets you save full PDFs, images, and copies website content so you don’t have all the distracting ads. I love that I can pinch-zoom the large PDF scans of the old Ohio Daily Statesman so I can pull quotes from the local newspaper.
Pretty simple, right? So far it’s working well for me. I like to write on the sofa, in a terrible slouched position, which just doesn’t work with a laptop. Having a tablet I can angle any-which-way to write on and then sync, is awesome.
The untitled work that I’ve been slogging through the last three years continues to morph as I try to figure out just what it is I’m trying to write. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done real research… I knew starting out I wanted the book to be set in Ohio, and I did a lot of research about Ripley as an Underground Railroad hotbed until I burned myself on all the sad stories of escaping slaves.
I didn’t want to write about Ripley, OH anymore, despite the rich history. I wanted to learn more about my city, Columbus.
So I switched my location from Ripley to Columbus in general… but back during the Civil War, Columbus was much more spread out and disconnected than it is today. Clintonville, Westerville, Grove City… they weren’t suburbs, though perhaps still part of Greater Columbus, they were areas in their own right.
I knew I wanted to write something referencing Camp Chase. What’s left of the Union barracks turned Confederate prison camp consists of the largest Confederate cemetery north of the Confederacy itself. Isn’t that fascinating by itself?
I didn’t want to write about the sad and scary conditions of the prison itself. I wanted to learn about what happened to those men after the war ended, after Lincoln was assassinated. And how did that effect people living in Columbus?
Bust mostly, it’s becoming clear to me I want to write something fun and escapist. This has been a challenge for me, because I’ve had some personal issues the last couple years which make it difficult for me to keep spirits high consistently. How would I write cheeky characters if I didn’t feel cheeky myself?
Is this what happens when a teenage writer grows up? She loses her “I don’t care, I do what I want and I’ll be funny while doing it” attitude?
I was trying to research Clintonville, OH because it’s near where I live and I figured, hey, it should be easy to find information online as a start, and then hit the libraries for in-depth research. No such luck! I couldn’t find anything very helpful about Clintonville.
On my birthday, however, The Boy took me to tour historic Grove City. This is an area south of Columbus, and has been teased over my years in Columbus as “Grove-tucky.” Ohioans have this thing for making fun of people from Kentucky; I don’t get it, I guess it’s because it’s south of us and oh, by the way, Kentucky didn’t ratify the 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendments until 1975? Your guess is as good as mine.
The fact is, Grove city has a lot of historical pride. An art gallery is housed in the first bank (1st floor) and telephone (2nd floor) building. A number of shops are in the old Gantz mill. History was within reach, and I was able to walk on floorboards and peek into old safes that might have been around during the time I’m trying to write about.
If I’m intending to write about a prisoner of Camp Chase who manages to escape before the prisoners were set free as a whole, then it would make more sense for him to escape south to Grove City, rather than north to Clintonville, wouldn’t it? Oh logic, how thee loves to play with mine heart. Anyway, Grove City has a pretty cool genealogical section in their library, which is how I took the photo of the image in this post. I haven’t had a chance to drive to Grove City in about two weeks, so I’m hoping to get there soon to continue research.
So yes. I’m writing a book that is set in Grove City, for now. I think this could work. I’ve already gotten some anectdotal stories about people’s reactions to Lincoln being re-elected, etc. Oh, the possibilities!
When you’re in school in the States, it’s really easy to make it seem as though the Civil War was Yankees vs Rebels, North vs South, Unionists vs Confederates, Abolitionists vs Slaveholders. As if Yankee = North = Unionist = Abolitionist and Rebel = South = Confederate = Slaveholder. Without question.
It’s only after doing a (very little) bit of digging that I’ve realized this is not the case at all. You could be a slaveholding Unionist, i.e. supporting the federal Union that made the USA government. You could be a Confederate abolitionist, i.e. someone who supported state rights but disagreed with slavery. And on and on. It’s a fascinating mess.
Anyway, The New York Times is continuing its great series about the Civil War, chronicling the four years on its 150th anniversary. Today it’s a great article about Kentucky during the Civil War, this time about a staunch Unionist family who also happened to be slaveholders.
Though the Underwoods, like Kentucky, stayed loyal, their staunch Unionism made them outsiders at home. Josie’s father campaigned across the state for peace, leading to charges that he was under the sway of “Lovejoy and the abolitionists” and thus not a “consistent Southerner.” Crowds of secessionists shouted “hurrah for Jeff Davis” at trains passing through town on the L and N. “Every man on that train will think Bowling Green is Rebel — when she’s Union,” Josie lamented, “though the Union sentiment is much the greatest in Kentucky, the Rebels have so many rowdies they make the most noise.”
Make sure you read the entire article. It is certainly eye-opening and great material for The Rebel’s Touch, since Tempest is a slaveholding Unionist.
Honestly, the more I read about the Civil War, even though I’m focusing on one year around the Ohio River at Ripley and across the river in Kentucky… I keep learning so much. It is a real struggle to know what to include in the book and what to keep out. Which real people to I add as supporting characters, and why? How does it support the story of a man trying to regain his memory during a tumultuous time in history? My brain hurts just thinking about it. Goodness, why do I have to make everything so difficult…
I have stumbled upon an amazing discovery where a letter from a former slave to their former master’s request to “return home” has surfaced in blog format. This is such a great find for me as I continue to do research for The Rebel’s Touch, and I wanted to share the experience with you. Below is the first paragraph. So fantastic.
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance…
I sit here at my desk eating a McDonald’s McGriddle and pondering the odd combination of a sandwich that uses pancakes for bread. The rain is pouring though it is the middle of January in Ohio. The world is an odd place.
Last night, I decided I would redesign the cover for my short story, Mad Maxine. The first cover was, admittedly, thrown together. I thought I needed a photo-realistic cover for whatever reason, and that it needed to match my historical fiction covers.
Fact is, Mad Maxine is a contemporary short story that is so different from my historical fiction, I’m certain I was confusing readers. Maxine is a smoker, she’s just lost her husband and the story location is at his grave site. The original cover showed none of that.
Should be live on all those sites and propagated across Kobo, Sony, etc, over the coming days.
While at Smashwords, I noticed they have a beta “gift a book” option. The way it works is when you purchase the book, you submit the recipient’s email and they get an automatic email with instruction to get their copy.
This is a great option not only for readers giving gifts to readers, but also for authors who are holding contests! I hate the fact that when I want to give a free book to a reader, I usually have to send them this email stating “here is a 100% coupon for you to download the book.” Now, it seems Smashwords takes care of it for me. Huzzah!
Underground Railroad Stealth
In terms of my research for The Rebel’s Touch, I hit a gold mine while reading John P. Parker’s autobiography. Parker was an escaped slave who became a very successful businessman in the Cincinnati and Ripley, OH areas. He also happened to be a primary operator for the Underground Railroad. First off, this book reads like you are sitting at an old southern man’s kitchen table, listening to him tell his story. It is FANTASTIC! I often find myself reading a passage out loud, slowing down my natural rhythm, trying to hear how he would have said that particular sentence.
Parker’s attention to detail and storytelling is the kind that gets passed down in storytelling families. I know, I’m in one of them. My father once told me a story about how a crocodile used to eat lying children that sounded so plausible, I really thought he lost a brother who lied to this super smart, Peter Pan-esque crocodile.
Anyway, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Ripley, OH during the Civil War years and those leading up to it. He gives names, describes where the houses were, and the terrain he had to cross when leading contraband (what the Union army called escaped slaves) across the Ohio River from Kentucky.
I have at least three more books I want to read about Ripley Ohio and John Parker. Because I live in Ohio, and Ripley is only a couple hours from me, I want to visit the town and get a feel for the landscape. Many of the original houses still stand, sentinels on the river. I need to write to the local historical society to get additional resources, and I plan to visit the Ohio Historical Society to see what else they can tell me.
I want to get The Rebel’s Touch out sooner rather than later. But I also want to do a good job of it; I commonly hear that Haunting Miss Trentwood felt a little rushed, and maybe it was.
So yes, with the new year comes lots of grand plans. I mean to enjoy this research process, though, and I hope to translate it into a great book.
We have some housekeeping to do here at the blog, namely that we had a contest with Sean MCartney’s book in the Treasure Hunters series. We had a number of submissions, and the winner is…
da dah-dah-dah DAH dah-dah DAH…
Judy Cox, commenter numero tres! The winner was selected using the Random.Org number generator. There were six commenters expressing interest in the book, and the generator returned the number three. So there you have my transparent, incredibly technical process for determining contest winners. I will email the winner and author later.
Those of you who didn’t win a copy of the book, I highly suggest you buy a copy anyway.
In other news, I wrote lots of words last week. Somewhere over three thousand, I think, which has left me feeling pretty good. I have this method where as I’m writing a chapter, I just force it out. Then I leave it for a day or so only to re-read that chapter with historical facts and figures, as well as all of my senses on high alert.
You see, when I write a first draft, I do a lot of telling. A lot. The second time through ensures that I’m delving into the minds and emotions of the characters. I start to describe smells, scents, sounds. I become my own editor, asking why and what does this mean?
In doing so, I will expand a 750 word chapter into a 3000 word chapter, which means I will most likely split it into two chapters.
So there you go. That is my secret. Turns out I’m not a magician after all.
Historical fact of the week!
I often find it interesting (and a bit disturbing) how many southerners hold close to their heart this hope that the “South will rise again!” Though the events of the Civil War occurred 150 years ago, the memory and impact are very much alive today, but moreso in the south, or so it seems to me.
My theory behind this phenomenon is because 1. the Confederacy lost to the Union and 2. the Union did its best to destroy the spirit of the Confederacy. You see, everyone loves the underdog. And there wasn’t a bigger underdog than the Confederacy.
People seem to forget, however, that the Confederacy had some major wins of their own when it comes to scaring the pants off Union civilians.
Brigadier General Morgan, a Confederate, did enter the Union during the war in 1863. He cut a swatch with his raiders starting in Tennessee, up through his home state of Kentucky, further still into southern Indiana, and into Ohio along the Ohio River. He got as far north as Salineville, which is around 90mi south of Cleveland. That is really far north! Morgan terrified the Union civilians, who until that point hadn’t really suffered from the war.
So there you have it. Your historical fact of the week. Will it end up in The Rebel’s Hero? I have no idea. It might. The heroine is from Kentucky and has suffered from slight starvation due to the Union blockade, and one of the two family slaves has already run across the Ohio River by the time the book starts. Maybe the heroine knows Morgan’s family. Maybe she’s rooting for Morgan. Maybe she thinks he’s a brigand. We won’t know until I write it.
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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.
Last week I started The Rebel’s Hero over again. Yes, again. This is the third try, and I already feel much better about it. I’m keeping to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week in these crazy creative bursts that leave my head aching afterward.
Case in point: I’ve written about four thousand words so far, using much of what was already written, but rearranged and with more sensory detail. I got some critique from Haunting Miss Trentwood where readers wanted more description to really feel immersed.
Writing is becoming fun again, because this is a fun concept. The Rebel’s Hero is about a young woman who stumbles onto a runaway attempt and gets kidnapped by the Underground Railroad agent determined to keep his operation secret. Things start to heat up when physical contact triggers memories from his lost childhood.
This is still in keeping with the original plot I’ve been talking about for The Rebel’s Hero, with some tweaks. This should be a fun read, because I’m having fun writing it. I’ll probably be asking newsletter subscribers whether they would like to
Facts of the day
Slaves had been escaping captivity since the peculiar institution was established in America back in the 1640s. The Revolutionary War was a huge boon for slaves bent on escaping… according to my sources around 100,000 Africans and African-Americans took the war as an opportunity to run away.
Around 1500 slaves escaped successfully each year between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, i.e. not including the slaves who were recaptured.That’s a much larger number than I expected!
As the nation expanded westward, the Ohio River became pivotal for escaping slaves. In fact, the river gained such nicknames as the “River Jordan,” and the “Dark Line” between slavery and nominal freedom.
Fascinating stuff, right?
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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.
Last week I came to the point in The Rebel’s Hero where I realized I need to do more research because I was operating on assumptions. I kind of freaked out and ran to the library to check out fifteen Civil War books. It was rather a sad event, actually. When I wrote Catching the Rose, there were two more shelves of books. For whatever reason, they have thinned the herd a bit. And this being the 150th anniversary year of the Civil War!
Anyway, one of the main events in Catching the Rose was the First Manassas battle (Bull Run to Yankees), so I got out a bunch of books about the first two years of the war. I got home, started looking through the books in detail, and realized if I wanted to give my characters any hope of a happily ever after, I needed to shift the timeline and location.
I’ve shifted the timeline back a year or so, and moved the location from a house in Richmond, Virginia and a plantation in South Carolina to farms in western Virginia and Ohio. Sadly, I know just about nothing about what the Civil War was like in these areas… except:
- Any battles in Ohio were in the Cincinnati area when Confederates tried to take over supplies etc and break into Union territory, and
- In 1861 western Virginia had seceded from Virginia to be its own state and in 1863 the Union welcomed West Virginia to the fold.
It kind of ticks me off, having to pause writing until I know more about the war and how it affected the areas I’m writing about. This is time I’m losing! But on the other hand, it has to be done. I’m excited to travel to some of the locations I’m writing about because they are within driving distance. At the very least, I need to make friends with the historical societies in Ohio and West Virginia, and chat up my friend who got his undergrad degree in History focusing on the war. I have a plan. It’s a plan that is pushing my deadline out, but it is a plan.
Have you ever had a project, writing or otherwise, where you were excited, going gangbusters, and then had to stop and backtrack to get more information?
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Remember, my goal for ROW80 was pretty simple: write 750 words a week. I like achievable goals. They make me happy. Here we have the second chapter of The Rebel’s Hero, something that I wrote three times because each time I wasn’t hitting the right tone. Read the first draft of chapter one.
What do you think about this chapter? Is the characterization over the top? Is Tempest unbelievable, given that she’s a tomboy during the Civil War?
After they finished their silent dinner, Tempest followed Howard and Sophronia to the parlor. Still stinging from Howard’s remark of her “wildness,” Tempest made sure to float across the room and sink into her chair with no more noise than a soft sigh. She kept her posture rigid, her eyes narrowed, and her hands clenched in her lap.
Howard paid no attention, which meant she was giving herself a headache for nothing. Sophronia lounged on a chaise in a dark corner, a handkerchief laid across her eyes. There would be no help from that corner, of that Tempest was certain.
Tempest’s mind raced. Howard had been serious at dinner, she knew he had been serious. And her mother had sat there, sipping her soup because Howard had instructed her to. Tempest worked her jaw in an effort to fight the telltale growing pressure of impending tears.
Of all people, why Walter?
Fifteen minutes passed as the three of them listened to the grandfather clock ticking from the hallway. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Tempest cursed her heart for the way it continued to beat, keeping time with the clock, as if the world had not just ended. Tick. Tock. Everything slowed and Tempest just knew if she did not leave at that instant, she would scream. At the chime of the quarter hour, Tempest jumped to her feet.
“Pardon me, I have a headache,” she said in stiff tones. She held her chin high and refused to look at either Howard or Sophronia as she sailed from the room, her wide skirts swaying with the speed of her escape.
She walked to the front porch of the house and stared out at their farmland. No doubt this was why Walter was agreeing to marry her. It was always about land with these stupid men. Tempest shook her head. She would never understand it. How could a man marry a woman he knew didn’t love him, didn’t even like him, would prefer to spit on the ground than speak to him, just for some dirt?
Howard is hiding something.
Tempest sat on the swing that hung from the rafters of the porch and with smooth, practiced motions, lifted her skirts high, and dropped the hoop skirt then and there for all the world to see. Not that anyone could or would see, it was just her and the slaves and the farm and the black sky. Not even the stars dared shine tonight, not under the threat of Tempest’s furious frown.
Freed of her hoops, Tempest crouched easily to remove her shoes and stockings, discarding them where Howard would be able to see them when he came out for his evening smoke. Might as well. He already thought she was wild, and one evening of perfect behavior wouldn’t change his mind. Tempest tucked the hem of her skirt into her waistband so she could do what she had been wanting to do since hearing Howard’s awful news. Run.
Why now? she thought, knowing she would get a stitch in her side if she ran as hard as she wanted to, thanks to the stupid corset she was forced to wear. I’ve been of age for two years, why now? And why Walter?
Leaping from the front porch, Tempest ran. She ran from the house in her bare feet with sure strides that belied the way her stomach sloshed with every step. The tears she refused to show to Howard now flowed freely, hanging in the air like rain drops as she sped to her tree by the creek.
Walter. The name sent shivers down her back even though the air was thick with hot humidity. Her hair curled at her temples at at the back of her neck. Her arms became slick with sweat. Walter the Breaker, she had once heard him called on a bright morning before Sunday church. Breaker of spirits, horse and human. Another shiver.
It’s because I’ve been asking questions.
Tempest’s toughened feet paid no mind to the grass, twigs, and bugs they crushed. Tempest was the very embodiment of her name, dust flying, birds squawking, as she reached her tree. She caught a low-hanging branch without bothering to slow down. She swung around and kicked off the side of the tree trunk to jettison upwards. She caught another branch, and another, scrambling up the tree with the speed of a squirrel. She stopped when she was high enough to see the farmhouse.
Plopping onto a branch that was thick enough to hold her weight, Tempest leaned back against the tree trunk and crossed her arms over her panting chest as she wheezed.
Things had not been right since her father’s death. Everyone said Reginald Granville died via an unfortunate accident with the drink, but Tempest knew better. Reginald had never had problems with drinking. Even Tempest, at eight years old, had known that her father wasn’t a drinker, that he couldn’t have smashed his head into the cellar floor because he had tripped over his own feet. But that was what Howard had insisted, with tears in his eyes.
Tempest scraped the back of her hand against her traitorous tears. She should have known better than to ask Sophronia about Reginald’s death the other day. She should have known her questions would send Sophronia into ten years of latent hysterics, and Howard would come running. Tempest hadn’t expected to trigger Sophronia’s bad habit of sleepwalking to the cellar, though. No doubt that was why Howard was trying to get rid of her. To silence her questions and stop causing her mother’s hysterics and sleepwalking. Things could be peaceful at the farmhouse, if only Tempest wasn’t around.
Her chin jutted out. If Howard wanted to get rid of her, he didn’t have to marry her off.
A plan began to form. Hadn’t Sophronia received a letter not too long ago? They so rarely received letters these days. Tempest had been surprised at how dismissive her mother had been about it. If only she could find that letter. Someone knew they existed, even though as a principle, the family refused to leave the farm for anything but church.
Maybe, just maybe, Tempest could find that letter, and find the writer of it, and get some of the answers her family refused to reveal. No doubt this person had a history with Sophronia, one that went longer than the last ten years, and lived far enough away to not know how she had changed.
Everyone in the village knew Sophronia was not of this world any longer. She floated through it, suffered it, paid no mind. Someone knew her before Reginald’s death, and cared enough to write. Whoever this person was, whoever it was that cared about her mother, this was Tempest’s best option.
“One of these days, Howard,” Tempest muttered as she climbed down the tree, “you’re going to regret pushing Reginald Granville’s family around.”
All the best,
– – –
So far I’ve kept to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week! Huzzah! To celebrate, here is the (first draft) of the first 850 words of the new book, The Rebel’s Hero. I would love your feedback. Are you getting a good feeling of the era, the setting, the situation?
One night, when the dense Virginia farm air buzzed with gnats that spoke of a heavy summer rain, Howard announced he had found Tempest’s husband at long last.
Tempest cocked her head to the side and shook it as though she had gotten water in her ear. Everything was as it had been mere moments ago, yet she had the distinct feeling of the world tilting on end.
Though it was dusk, and the orange sun sank lower still into the farm’s horizon, the dining room was brightly lit by candles perched in silver stands, and in the chandelier that swayed overhead. The combined brightness of the candles burned Tempest’s brown eyes so tears gathered at the corners. She cleared her throat and glanced meaningfully at the old slave Elijah who stood in the corner of the dining in his typical hunched fashion, pretending he hadn’t heard a word.
Howard never spoke of such things before the slaves. Said it was none of their business, his private matters. Which meant Howard felt far too comfortable with where he led the conversation.
“I hadn’t realized my supposed husband was lost,” Tempest quipped, smoothing butter onto her bread before dipping it into her chilled mint soup. She popped the sopping piece of bread into her mouth, focusing on the clarifying mint scent to help her stay alert to Howard’s newest scheme.
Across the table from Tempest sat her mother, Sophronia, just to the left of Howard. Sophronia pulled her lace shawl over her stooped shoulders and smoothed the fabric of her hooped skirt across her lap. Her pale face looked especially wan in the candlelight, and her white-blond hair had all but lost its luster in the ten years since she had married Howard.
Howard glared at Sophronia rather than Tempest for her outburst.
This elicited an apathetic, “Tempest, don’t talk to your step-daddy like that,” from Sophronia in her velvet southern drawl.
“I’ll stop if he does,” Tempest muttered.
It wasn’t funny anymore, the way Howard talked about her lack of a husband when all the other girls her age had married and born a child already. She was eighteen. She had more than enough time. Didn’t she?
Sophronia straightened her shoulders in a half-hearted shrug and sipped soup from her spoon.
“You’ll want to know the unlucky man’s name,” Howard said with a self-satisfied smile. His voice was deep with the relief of a thousand nights spent racking his brain with plans to get Tempest married and off his hands. He laced his fingers together and leaned back in his chair so the wooden legs creaked beneath his paunchy weight.
Tempest flicked her head to the side so one of her blond ringlets flew from where it rested on her shoulder. She did not particularly want to know, but she had just stuffed her mouth full of bread and couldn’t bring herself to say anything to stop him from speaking.
As long as it was not the one man Tempest could not stand to be in the same room with, no, the same house, the same county, to be honest, all would be well. She would find a way out, as always, and continue on her merry, pampered way.
“Walter Leonards’s agreed it would be beneficial to all if you were to marry him.”
Tempest choked on the bread in her mouth, audibly. Throwing her napkin in front of her mouth, she coughed up the bread, wincing at the way Sophronia half-frowned at her. Sophronia did not need to say a word, Tempest knew what she was thinking.
Come now, Tempest, you know better than to do such things. Surely you have outgrown such tomboyish behavior. You are a lady. Act like one.
Or rather, the Sophronia of old might have thought such things. Funny, how Tempest missed the sound of Sophronia scolding her. So many years had passed since Sophronia had cared enough to scold.
“In fact, Walter’s right pleased. I think this will be the match of the decade!”
Tempest glared at Howard, enraged by the way he could speak that sentence as if he and Walter were doing her a favor. Howard had to go and pick the one man she could never marry. Of course he would. Just to see my reaction.
“You’re pulling my leg,” Tempest said, shoving her chair away from the table before Elijah could help her. “You’re making fun of me.”
Howard put his hands behind his head. Damn the man, he enjoyed watching her squirm. “Walter,” he confirmed.
Tempest closed her eyes. She licked her lips and gasped her air. Walter. He used to poke her with lit matches when they were little. He once put a centipede in her shoe when they had been playing by a crick. To this day, she swore Walter had lamed her pony just to have it put down. Did one grow out of such meanness?
“No,” Tempest said, her voice breaking over the word.
Howard half-stood, resting his palms on the table that pressed into his stomach as he leaned over it. “You will marry him, or be thrown from this house. I’m not like your daddy, I don’t tolerate such wildness from females.”
Tempest looked at Sophronia, who kept her gaze on her soup. Sophronia’s hand shook as the spoon it held hovered over the bowl.
“Say something,” Tempest whispered.
It was on this solitary day that a rose petal fell. It was not known whether it happened to be dropped by a hand, or whether it had fallen by the properties of gravity. Suffice it to say, it began this story.
So, what do you think? Don’t forget to check out the other ROW80 peeps.
In March, I wrote the first 14 chapters of The Rebel’s Hero. Within this first week of April I’ve discovered a problem: I don’t know why my characters are doing what they are doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know their motivations better than when I wrote Catching the Rose, so much so that I was able to write the first 14 chapters without a problem.
Still, after reading the first two books of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, and absolutely loving (as always) his well-developed subplots, twists, and surprises, I looked at my manuscript and sighed. I have work to do.
In a fit of creativity during my lunch break at work on Monday I sketched out a table on a scrap sheet of paper with the column headings: Character, Initial Goal, Roadblock, Recovery, 2nd Roadblock, 2nd Recovery, 3rd Roadblock. The rows of this table are the main characters, whose goals, roadblocks, and recoveries complement and clash.
When I came to one of the supporting characters, I realized I had no idea why he had his initial goal in the first place. To get outside my head, I posted a question on Facebook and got so many wonderful answers and theories that I feel totally inspired.
If you missed out on the conversation, that’s ok. I have a new question for you.