Housekeeping

Dear Reader,

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!

John_Hunt_MorganI 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.

Best,

Belinda

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Writing up a Storm

Dear Reader,

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?

Best,

Belinda

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

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

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop

Chapter Two of The Rebel’s Hero

Dear Reader,

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,

Belinda

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This is part of the ROW80 Bloghop

Sneak Peek #1 of THE REBEL’S HERO

Dear Reader,

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.

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?

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.