An Emerging Theme in My Writing: Fathers and Daughters

As I’ve been working on The Rebel’s Touch and Atlanta & the Lion and Other Tales, I’ve begun to notice a pattern: I tend to write about young-ish women who have lost a male authority figure in their lives. I did the same thing with Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood. The fact is, the topic fascinates me.

You see, my father has played a huge role in shaping my life. For the longest time, his morals were my morals. His rules were my rules. His ideas about relationships were my ideas about relationships. To think of a life not shaped by my father, or any male authority figure, boggles my mind. I explored the idea of what happens when a girl doesn’t have a father to protect her from an arranged marriage she doesn’t want; how does she take care of herself when her mother can’t help her (Catching the Rose)? I explored the idea of what happens to a girl whose father had shaped her daily existence due to his illness but when he finally succumbs she has to pick up the pieces and start living her own life (Haunting Miss Trentwood).

The short story I’m reworking for Atlanta & the Lion is unnamed as yet; it might be called “The Friendly Suffragette,” or “Killing with Kindness,” or “A Smile with Arms.” The heroine has lost her grandfather, and she has joined the suffragette movement as a way to fill her days. The tactics of the other women don’t seem to be making headway, so, she tries something radical: she offers hugs to those who need them.

First off, as an aside, can I tell you how frustrating it can be, writing historical fiction, sometimes? I was halfway through writing the story when I realized I didn’t know if the word “hug” was something someone would say around 1913. Thanks to the internet, I now know the word “hug” was first used to mean “affectionate embrace” as early as the 1650’s. So phew.

I’ve had a couple people comment that Haunting Miss Trentwood is unsettling because it’s about a father dying and haunting his daughter. Totally understandable. The beginning of the book is a true gothic tale but it descends into silliness fairly quickly once Mr Trentwood starts quipping his one liners. I learned from that book to establish the level of silliness as soon as possible so the reader knows what to expect.

In The Rebel’s Touch, I keep paring back the plot. First, it was to be about the Underground Railroad. The heroine, Tempest Gray, was to have stumbled onto a group of slaves and their guide at the shore of the Ohio River. She gets kidnapped, and discovers that the man who kidnapped her has no memory… but when he touches her, he remembers something. Throw in a greedy father and mother who want to marry her off to the local rich man who has access to food stores despite the blockade on the Confederacy, and you have one convoluted, confused mess of a book.

The Rebel’s Touch is no longer about the Underground Railroad. A shame, because I bought a bunch of books on the topic and am now somewhat of an amateur historian in regards to Ripley, OH and its Underground Railroad celebrities. The book is now set somewhere in Kentucky, Lexington, I’m guessing, because I will be there this fall and so will have access to their libraries and historians if I can plan everything properly. It’s still about a girl who finds a man without a memory… but in the days after the Civil War, and thus is a story about the American Restoration. As always, I’m beginning my journey with this book by hunting and gathering images to inspire me, which you can follow on Pinterest.

The first sentence goes something like this:

Everyone else remembered it as the day the president died, but Tempest Gray remembered it as the day the man with no memory fell from her tree.

Looking forward to the restart of this adventure. Not sure where the father-daughter relationship will come to play, but since the theme has emerged in my other works, I expect it will manifest soon.

Such a Slump

Dear Reader,

I haven’t written a word for The Rebel’s Touch, something which continues to bother me. However, over the weekend I hosted two swing dancers from Louisville and their interest in my woefully neglected manuscript has begun a spark of something which I hope will ignite into full-blown chapter writing.

These two ladies, being from Kentucky, were most interested in the location of The Rebel’s Touch. I told them the majority of the book is in Ripley, OH, and I had intended to visit the area last summer but never made it down.

They encouraged me to visit them this summer, not only for a bluegrass jazz festival which sounds amazing, but also because they can show me a Civil War hospital, and we could take a bike ride to the waterfront where Tempest would have been carried across to Ripley.

Have to admit, it sounds like a pretty fun weekend vacation. In other news, my entire body aches, and I’m not sure if it’s from allergies or the fact that I kicked my own butt on Monday by running for 20 min on the elliptical machine at resistance level 8. Maybe a mixture of both. Combine that with the fact that I think I ate something bad yesterday, and I feel like I have the flu. Ugh.

So yes. In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for some fun historical romance books to read. Lately I’ve been in such a slump! Everything I read seems to depress me. What is on your radar?

Best,
Belinda

Kentucky Unionist Slaveholders?

KyCivilWar_SlaveCompensationDear Reader,

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…

Best,

Belinda

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.

Joining the Ranks

Dear Reader,

Quick update today. I went to rural Minnesota for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary over the weekend, which was a nice break from my usual hectic pace. I mean, the travel was hectic, but once we all got to the farm and I got to play with all the babies and puppies, life was pretty good.

In terms of writing, I have been guzzling articles and books about the Civil War, which is proving very helpful for The Rebel’s Hero. Luckily, I think I can keep most of the premise the same… I only have to change the location and some of the character motivations in order to be true to the time.

I just decided I will be doing A Round of 80 Words – Round Three. As in, just. I feel guilty for not keeping up as a sponsor during Round Two, but oh well. I think my goals will be the same… write at least 750 words per week. Doesn’t matter the project, I just need to keep writing.

And here’s something interesting I read over the weekend while doing research…

From the Notebook

Kentucky was a perfect reflection of the emotional and socio-political climate of the nation before and during the war. Free Kentuckians were split three ways: those who supported the Confederacy, those who supported the Union, and those who were for neutrality. Technically, you could say people were split four ways, because Unionists weren’t always abolitionists. Saying you were for the Union only meant you were against secession, not for freeing slaves.

Now here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves from those states that had already seceded from the union. Because Kentucky was in the hands of the Union by this time, it didn’t have to free its slaves. Neither did Maryland, or other northern slave-holding states. Kentucky didn’t free its slaves until it was forced to via the 13th Amendment almost eight months later.

The kicker? Wait for it.

Kentucky didn’t offer its support of the 13th Amendment, officially, until 1976.

Anyone who says history is dead is walking around with blinders on, so says I.

Best,

Belinda