Quick reminder that today is the last day you can download a free copy of my latest book, THE LAST APRIL! Even if you’re not interested in reading it right now, please take advantage of this offer. Your download will push this book further up in the ranks. The first week of a book’s life is critical for success!
Happy official launch day for THE LAST APRIL! I’m so excited to share this book with friends, family, and co-workers at my Columbus book launch party on April 15th. For those of you unable to attend in person to enter the event raffle and potentially win a copy of the book, continue reading.
One lucky contestant will win a book box that includes a free print copy of THE LAST APRIL as part of my participation in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza giveaway blog hop. The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza blog hop is a great opportunity to win prizes by hopping between author / reader blogs and entering their contests.
To win a free book box complete with a signed print copy of THE LAST APRIL, please enter using the Rafflecopter below on April 15th – 30th. Not sure you want to enter this giveaway?
Here is the back cover blurb:
Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill.
But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed. When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.
The Last April is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.
If you want another chance to win a print copy, you may also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for THE LAST APRIL.
We are in the final editing days for The Last April, my new young adult historical fiction book with a planned release of April 2017. My beta readers and editor have sent feedback and I’m crawling through the manuscript making updates. In the meantime, I wanted to share the first chapter of The Last April for your reading pleasure.
Join me on Patreon to see the proposed concepts by my cover artist! You are under no obligation to contribute, but with your patronage I can release an audiobook in 2017 or early 2018. Thank you to my supporters so far!
Here is a snippet of the first chapter of The Last April:
Everyone else would remember that Saturday as the day President Lincoln died. Gretchen Miller would remember it as the day the ragged man collapsed at her feet.
Gretchen was tugging at weeds and swatting at gnats when a thud made her whip around. The war was over, but Confederate supporters were everywhere. They lingered after General Lee’s surrender, and President Lincoln’s reconciliation speech, and in pro-Union Columbus.
Gretchen snapped up from her hunched position to lean back on her barefoot heels. Her skirts puffed out with the movement. She slapped them down, annoyed.
Sharp sunlight made it difficult to see. Gretchen thought she saw a collapsed man just yards from her hem. She dragged her straw hat by the strings so it shaded her eyes.
A man’s limbs sprawled across the oak tree roots. Gretchen could not tell his age or condition from where she crouched. His back was to her, his dark head resting on his outstretched arm. He was not moving.
“May the angels have charge of me,” Gretchen whispered. She patted the revolver in her skirt pocket.
His leg twitched.
Gretchen’s heart leaped. That dark, matted hair gave her a turn. Maybe it was her brother Werner, returned from war at last. A hundred men from the Grove City area had answered President Lincoln’s call for soldiers. Everyone was afraid of the number that would return.
Gretchen grabbed her skirts as she scrambled to standing. She flailed her arms at the log farmhouse she called home. She could not shout, in case the man had faked his injury and was waiting for an excuse to attack.
Her aunt, Tante Klegg, stuck her head out the kitchen door. “What is it?” Tante Klegg’s heavy German accent was strident in the quiet morning. It matched the severity of her hair braided and twisted tight against her head.
Gretchen put her finger to her lips. She cupped her hands around her mouth so her whisper would carry. “There is a man.” She waved at her aunt to come outside.
Tante Klegg tiptoed across the rocks Gretchen had overturned gardening. She held her skirt layers high above her ankles, muttering.
The man remained quiet, only his twitching foot letting them know he lived. Gretchen did not know if that meant he was dangerous or that he was too injured to move.
Gretchen brushed a strand of reddish hair from her mouth as the breeze picked up. Though it was April, the humidity was heavy and stifling. The wind still carried the scent of cooling bonfires from yesterday’s elaborate celebrations.
Last night, Gretchen had danced until her feet ached and sung until her voice was hoarse. She had been ready to do anything to help her country heal. She held onto the president’s words of reconciliation. She hoped everyone could see the Confederates as prodigal brothers and sisters. She hoped the Confederates would be humble and welcomed home.
With a stranger at her feet, Gretchen realized such things were easier said than done. She gripped the revolver and held out her other hand to stop her aunt from advancing. Holding her breath, she crept closer.
The man perhaps could have been her brother, once upon a time. His body was gaunt, worn thin by trials Gretchen suspected she would never understand. His left hand did not bear Werner’s distinctive strawberry-shaped birthmark.
This was not her brother.
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.