In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

Am I a Racist Author?

Dear Reader,

I got a nasty surprise yesterday when, idly browsing my sales, I decided to see if any new reviews had been submitted for my books on Barnes and Noble. Lo and behold, I got a one star rating for Catching the Rose and the title of the comment was “Racist?”

Believe me, when you see that word, in bold, associated with your book, especially when that was not the intent of it, you are fully aware of how silly you sound when you say “…whoa” while blinking at your computer screen.

The comment went on to say,

I’m sure “SLAVES” had a name so pray tell why didn’t this writer choose to use one. I couldn’t believe how many times the word was used. It really ruined the storyline.

Rather than taking this comment personally, I’m now trying to see it from the reader’s perspective. Yes, I do use the word “slave” multiple times in the first chapters of the book as a stylistic choice. I don’t name any of the main characters until they begin to meet one another:

  • Amy Williams is the “young woman in the blue bonnet.”
  • Veronica Vernon is the “blonde southern belle” with Nan, her quietly disapproving slave.
  • Mrs. Beaumont is the “woman sleeping upstairs” while her “housekeeper slave” Maum Sukie throws open the parlor drapes to the morning sun.

I’ve gotten comments on both sides about whether this nameless introduction was a good decision. The book, especially by today’s reading standards, begins very slowly, and I’ve been accused of being long-winded in my description. Obviously, the opening offended one reader, for which I am sorry. Surely that wasn’t my intent. However, I feel as though the reader should realize that Catching the Rose is set in the Confederacy during the opening months of the Civil War.  Slaves were slaves. They didn’t have names. Not ones their masters would bother remembering should the slave, for whatever reason, no longer be there. At least, the masters I was writing about acted that way.

Hell, in one account I found during my research, there was a woman who named all the female slaves one name and all the male slaves another just to make it easy to remember. I know people who treat their dogs like that. The family dog Bingo dies, they buy another dog of the exact same breed, and name it Bingo. Not Bingo the Second, because that acknowledges that there was a precursor Bingo. No, just Bingo. As if Bingo had never left.

I know I will never have a chance to discuss this issue with the reader I offended. I doubt they will ever read another of my books, which is a shame, and the risk one takes when deciding to become an author. But I do want to make it clear that I’m not a racist. If anything, I wanted to be true to the era.

I would like to mention that I am, according to the US Census, a black woman. Well, I’m mixed race, but if you were to see me walking down the street, your gut reaction, if you were thinking about the race of a woman walking past you, would be, “Now that’s one nerdy black woman. But man, has she got a quirky style.”

Ok, maybe not the nerdy part, or the quirky part. Though I will say my plastic-framed glasses are pretty awesome. But the point is, I am a woman of mixed race who is acutely aware of the way in which strangers perceive me. It isn’t a big deal, it’s happened my entire life whether I pay attention to it or not.

I understand that one could argue that simply because I’m this mixed race doesn’t mean that by default, I am not racist against one half of me. I could very well be a black woman racist against black people. It happens.

But if that is all you got out of Catching the Rose, then I’m guessing you didn’t read past the first two chapters. That’s ok, that’s your prerogative.

Just so you know, Nan, Veronica’s slave, plays an important supportive role when Veronica feels like she has been cut off from the world. One which enables Veronica to take an important, decisive action.

The fact is, I am disappointed that one reader felt so strongly that they wrote this comment in a public arena. I have had readers compliment this book for close to ten years; the re-release last year has been slow, but steady. How disheartening, to have someone accuse me of racism, when the point of the book is how important it is to fight for freedom of choice, whether it is in love, occupation, or simply living.

There is nothing I can do to prove I’m not racist. By saying I’m not, I come off as defensive, and if I don’t say anything, it’s seems as though I’m guilty by staying silent. So I come here to my blog to have a public record of my concerns on the matter, for better or worse.

All the best,

Belinda

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This is part of the ROW80 blog hop. I’m keeping my goals (750 words per week), are you? I’ve sucked at being a sponsor, though. Haven’t been leaving comments like I should. Will try to do better!

Worderella Around the Web

Dear Reader,

We’ve been busy here behind the scenes, researching and writing and preparing for contests and such.

I’m also continuing to do research for The Rebel’s Hero. As I learn, I’ve been going back through chapters to better describe the situation of the Civil War at the timeline of the book. This gives me a much more solid understanding of who the characters are, and why, which will help me write the best of the book. It stinks to backtrack, but it’s worth the effort.

And that’s everything that’s happening in my part of the world! Tell me, how are things going for you?

Best,

Belinda

Getting Schooled about the Civil War

trh_smallDear Reader,

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:

  1. Any battles in Ohio were in the Cincinnati area when Confederates tried to take over supplies etc and break into Union territory, and
  2. 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?

Best, Belinda

– – –

This is part of the ROW80 bloghop

The Rebel’s Hero Synopsis

trh_smallDear Reader,

I kept with my ROW80 goals again this week, yay! I hit 750 words, and in so doing, changed an aunt to an uncle, rewrote sections of three chapters, and wrote the first draft to the back cover copy, as shown below. I’d love your feedback! I styled the back cover content on the back covers I’ve seen from other historical romance authors who went back to rewrite a beloved story.

The common way for authors to address the fact that the book in hand is a rewrite includes making it a personal letter from the author, explaining the history of the book, and giving a synopsis for new readers who don’t know of the original version. Have I covered my bases?

Dear Reader,

I began The Rebel’s Hero as a rewrite of my high school senior thesis, a Civil War romance called Catching the Rose. The original was written with all the innocence and energy of a seventeen-year-old. I was flattered and gratified that so many readers picked up Catching the Rose, not expecting a book by a teenager, but a first serious attempt at being an author.

After publishing my second book, Haunting Miss Trentwood, my thoughts drifted to Catching the Rose. I itched to begin it again, this time with a tighter plot structure and deeper character motivations. Out of that reworking came The Rebel’s Hero.

When Tempest Granville’s step-father announced he was marrying her off in between slurps of soup at dinner, she knew right then that her home was no longer a safe haven from the impending war between the states.

The night of a successful slave smuggling mission leaves Daniel Ritter exhausted, but jubilant. When a bedraggled Tempest appears on his doorstep, her presence does more than spark alarm. Suddenly Daniel is having visions of his past, the very past he has struggled to reclaim memories of for nine years.

Join Tempest and Daniel as romance flares, the war begins, and urgency builds as they realize Daniel’s missing memory is the key to a wicked and heartbreaking family secret.

Happy reading,

Belinda Kroll

Intrigued? Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free, pre-release ebook copy of The Rebel’s Hero once it is ready for publication.

Plotting with Strangers

Dear Reader,

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.

Why do YOU think someone would risk their life to free a slave?

– – –
This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Dear Reader,

When I participated in the first Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), I had lofty goals which you can reference here. On April 4th, we begin the second round.

I’m still a sponsor for ROW80, meaning I’ll be going around to the participating blogs posting encouragement. This time, I’m keeping my goal simple:

I must write at least 750 words each week.

Seriously. I don’t think I can pick lower hanging fruit than that. I have four projects in progress which count toward this oh-so-low goal (as shown in my sketch below):

  • The Rebel’s Hero (a complete re-write of Catching the Rose)
  • My Unwitting Heiress (the new book I haven’t talked about much yet except to say it’s about estranged twins)
  • Love or Lack Thereof (my short story/poetry anthology)
  • Write more Worderella book reviews

I’m a writer, I must write. I’m using this round of ROW80 is remind me of this simple fact. Each week, I’m going to post a sample of what I wrote the week before. Should be fun. Or terrifying. Or both.

Check out the goals other participants have put in place for the second round of ROW80!