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.
Over the past couple of weeks I discovered somewhere between 100 – 230 men from the Grove City (or Jackson Township) area signed up for the Union Army in the Civil War. Janet Shailer, one of the authors of a book I’m using as primer for all things Grove City, gave me names of local historians who could go into more detail about that; I haven’t contacted them yet.
And then of course, there’s the Century Village in Grove City, OH. It’s a sort of living museum exhibit, a first-hand glimpse at how families living in 1850s-style log cabins and barns might have lived. This is an excellent little plot of land mostly intended for school field trips, but once a year they have a Civil War enactment day, and I was lucky enough to be in town this year!
It was a fantastic little field trip for me! Here are some pointers for those of you also working on in situ research…
Chat with the historians
Each building in the Century Village had hobby historians who were trained to tell you all about the building. However, once one of the historians realized I was interested in the Civil War and Grove City, and not just 1800s old stuff in general, she launched into a fascinating tale about how her husband’s grandfather was a Union soldier. She told me I’m researching the wrong part of Ohio, that I actually want southern Ohio because of the skirmishes and Underground Railroad.
I thanked her for her opinion, and was ready to tour the old school house until she stopped me to tell the anecdote about how a handful of men went to answer the Union call up in Columbus… but when they got there, they were told to go home, they had enough soldiers! And then came the second call, when the war refused to end… and then Grove City men refused to answer the call because they’d wasted their time before!
Moral of the story: Your elders have all the interesting stories the books don’t have time to tell you about. Collect on their knowledge.
Take more photos than you think you need
I took 41 photos in 45 minutes, and I regret not taking more! You might only have one opportunity to see your landscape / building / what-have-you, so take advantage for all its worth. Take photos of corners, and stairs, and how furniture relates to one another. Don’t EVER use flash photography unless told you can, because you don’t want to be kicked out. So you might want to bring a real camera, if your phone/tablet doesn’t handle low light very well.
That said, I used my phone to take pictures, with and without flash, to show the difference between today and yesteryear. The upstairs of the log cabin was SO DARK, and it took me a while to realize because the only window on the second floor faced north, I believe. If it had been southern-facing, there might have been light all day (since I’m in the northern hemisphere). It’s little details like that which just seem to make the period come that much more alive for me.
Moral of the story: Take a picture, it lasts longer than your brain memory.
Obviously these are two quick hits in terms of insights, but honestly, this is my first time traveling to a location to study for one of my historical fictions. Previously, I tried to do everything via Google Earth, and the internet in general. It was really cool to stand in a bedroom/kitchen where they served hardtack and Johnny Cake, or in a barn where they were drying out corn. A patchwork blanket was strung in a wooden frame to hold a bed mattress, and an empty horse stall was the exact size to hide my character.
Go to your story’s location, if you can, and absorb whatever details resonate with you. This is the stuff of fiction.
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!