Posted in About the Book, History

When Fiction Meets Reality: The Battle of Chickamauga

 

When I sat down to begin writing/researching for the Ancient Words Series, one of the first questions I had asked was, “If a man joined the Confederacy from Bedford Co. TN, which regiment would he join?” There were two infantry regiments. I chose the 17th and drowned myself in its history. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took notes. I followed their trail like a dedicated fan…because, let’s face it, that’s what I was at this point.

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While my characters were fictional, their experiences were based on reality. One of my favorite moments to research was the Battle of Chickamauga. The anniversary of this extremely bloody battle is today and tomorrow. While there are so many factors to cover, I only want to focus on the experience of the 17th. You can read about Frank Harper’s version of events in my 2nd book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings. I had the pleasure of weaving in several real details into the story.

I also had the pleasure of touring the battlefield for the first time this summer. Here are some of my favorite photos…most of them featuring the 17th! The flag pictured above is a replica of the regimental flag. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it in person. What a TREAT!!
Perryville and Murfreesboro were two significant battles for the 17th. And both are featured in Where Can I Flee.

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After touring the museum inside, we set out in search of monuments featuring the 17th. This was one of my favorite family moments of the entire weekend. We had turned it into a contest to see who could find the monuments first and all of a sudden children and adults that might not have cared in the beginning was invested and enjoying themselves. It does my heart good to see people enjoying history.
*Family Fun Tip: When visiting historical sites with children or history-hating adults, create a scavenger hunt. It worked on my family and maybe it’ll work on yours. 😉

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At long last, we were rewarded with two monuments. There was something so special about standing before a monument honoring the regiment that I’ve spent so much time with.

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We found smaller monuments dedicated to individual regiments around this larger one. But sadly, we couldn’t find one for the 17th. We hiked all over the area, searching for it but came up empty. I’m not sure if there ever was one for the 17th or not. I’d love to check into the situation and see what can be done, but for today, Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings act as monuments to a now beloved regiment.

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Words can hardly explain and these pictures will hardly do it justice when describing the hilly terrain. I’m convinced any semi-flat area that we stood on was man-made. I stepped off to the side and snapped a few pictures of the area. You can only imagine the additional hardships the armies faced on account of the landscape.

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And here are some cannon shots.

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A trip to Chickamauga isn’t complete without visiting the impressive Wilder Brigade Monument.

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Visitors can climb to the top of the tower. I’d advise you to bring a water bottle and inhaler with you, both of which, I had left outside with my parents. Lol

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But thankfully, I had brought my camera. 😉

 

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Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Hardheaded

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I have this character, George Chandler. He is the sweetest, kindest, most willing, and all around loveable person. And yet he is the most hardheaded and difficult character I’ve had the pleasure of working with to date!

For those that have read the Ancient Words Series, this may come as a shocker. George appears so laid back on the page. And he is. In chapter two of Where Can I Flee, Claire Harper describes George as a man who can keep a secret. I didn’t realize at the time that’d he could even keep them from me! I mean, I created him! You’d think I would know all of his secrets. But no.

My fellow authors are likely laughing and thinking of their own favorite hardheaded character while my readers are likely getting a side of writing that they didn’t know even existed. For those new to the idea, let me just fill you in. When you give life to a character, as the quote above suggests, you’re no longer the one in charge. A writer might feel powerful at the keyboard but we all know who really pulls the strings.

So, what did I do with my secret-keeping George Chandler? What didn’t I do is more the question. Lol I knew who George was and I understand parts of his story, but he was guarding a major moment of his life. I was going to expose his great shame and he wouldn’t let me.
I revisited his character profile. I found a song that mirrored his heart. I begged. I pleaded. But I was rewarded with silence.
At one point, I even threw my hands in the air and threatened to write him in the scene wearing a pink bonnet and leading a bunny around town on a leash. Lol I thought surely he’d cave now! What Civil War Vet in his right mind wouldn’t? George. That’s who.

When none of my tactics would work, I went to my friend, Dana, for advice. She suggested a couple techniques for finding your character’s voice. Or in this case, reconnecting with your character. Writing a journal and writing an obituary. Sounds weird, huh? Here’s how it works…

The obituary is probably the strangest idea I’ve heard but the purpose is to learn more about your character. Who is this person? What would others say about them? What are their quirky habits? Or dislikes that their family teased them over? Writing an obituary for your character is more than just rewriting the facts that we put together during the character profile. It’s a free-hand writing exercise to discover more about your character that you might not have considered before. For me, writing free handed tends to free up my creative thinking and new details come to life.

For George, this particular exercise didn’t work. He really is pretty tight lipped, even on the page, so I probably should have seen this coming.
The next idea was to write a journal for the character. I sat down to do this and George came to life. His journal turned into an interview, which works much the same. Journal writing is another free handed exercise that allows you to ONLY dig into your character’s voice and personality until hearing from them becomes pretty natural.  The obituary is written from someone else’s point of view while the journal is written by the character.
My interview with George is pretty eye-opening and I’ll share part of it with you further down.

From the author, I’d love to know if you’ve had any experiences with hardheaded characters? Have you tried either of these writing exercises or do you plan to in the future? Follow the link to read other character development exercises.

For the fan, I hope you enjoy this peek at George’s interview. He’s certainly a remarkable person. If you’re looking for more behind the scenes details about your favorite characters, follow the link.

People often think that I’m cold and unfeeling, but I’m not. You think so too. I’ve heard you trying to coax me out. Threatening me with bonnets and bunny rabbits. Haha You do have a mischievous imagination. I admire that, but I’m afraid that I won’t succumb to it.
I’m not easy to bully, you see. I grew up with Eddie if you’d remember. And I’ll not bend unless it is my desire to do so.

– What do you desire?

To do what is right. Honor and nobility is not a dead thing that passed away with the age of the knights.

-So when you decide a plan of course to be right and good, you pursue it without end?

Precisely!

-Is it ever difficult?

Of course. Doing what’s right usually is. It’s often fairly easy to decide on the right course, but staying on is where the real difficulties lie. Sometimes…standing firm in one’s predetermined conviction is the hardest test of all. But a conviction that is easily swayed, is no conviction at all, but simply a mirror of the thoughts surrounding you.

-You speak so nobly of conviction, and yet you speak with experience of its difficulties. Are you thinking of something in particular right now?

You ask because you already know that I am. You wish for me to bare my secrets. Those secret thoughts that I’ve kept from you all these months. You forget that you made me wise to the conduct of others. You’ve created me to be a silent observer. A person capable of reading another as naturally as I read my own thoughts. I see by the shade of your cheeks and the curious lift of your brow that you wish to know how I knew your question was more loaded than the words appeared. The increase of color and smile has proven me right.
Well, I knew what you wanted because I could see your eagerness building with each question. Plus you’ve asked me some rather pointed questions in the past and I have ignored them till now, so I knew what you were after.
Very well! I will tell you what you wish to know. Lead the way.

-I know you have misgivings about the war. Explain…

Because the rest of the interview contains some spoilers, I’m not able to post it in full. However, I offer it for free to any of my fans that wish to read it. You’ll want to have read both Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings first.
For the full interview, simply comment below with your email address or email me privately.
If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy digging into this quiet character. I was able to find out about his true feelings about the war as well as his real feelings for Claire. Until this interview, even I wasn’t sure how deep his feelings for Claire ran.

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Withdrawn

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If you’re finding this post for the first time, you’ve entered into the middle of blog series on character development. My purpose for this series is to laugh along with fellow authors at the antics of our characters as well as pass along some proven tips. For the reader, I hope to entertain them with tidbits about their favorite characters that they most likely didn’t know simply by reading the book.

Fictional characters, you see, have a personality on and off the page. They are as real as any one of us. And like us, they aren’t always easy to work with. Some characters are naturally open and willing to talk. Others need more encouragement. You can read the previous posts on Easy Going Characters and Underdeveloped Characters if you like.

Today I want to talk about those Withdrawn characters. These are the characters that are fully developed, have a story to tell, but just aren’t so open to telling it. They need some coaching. How would you draw out a shy person in the workplace or at school? You’d find something that interested them and talk to them about it. You’d make a point to sit down and conversate with them.

Rose Forrister is one of my newest heroines that you’ll meet on the pages of Out of the Ashes. Rose has a wonderful story to tell and an amazing, spit-fire of a personality. But for some reason, she didn’t want to open up to me. I thought to, quite literally, bake her favorite orange scones and sit at the table with her to chat when something unexpected happened. She sang.

I was listening to a Kelly Clarkson cd when I found Rose’s voice. Her motivation. Her story. Her personality. They were all wrapped up in this one song. Suddenly scenes and dialog were coming to light. This beautiful character that had so perfectly hidden from me was suddenly revealing herself and all I had to do was play the song.

I soon discovered other songs to associate with other characters and their storylines. This became a wonderful tool as I plotted out the novel and even as I wrote key scenes.

Authors: Have you used music in developing any of your characters?
Readers: Interested in hearing some of the characters’ favorite songs? Keep reading. 🙂 

Rose’s song is Because of You by Kelly Clarkson. She seemed to really like Kelly and agreed with nearly the entire cd. When we first meet Rose, she’s recovering from a broken heart. Someone she loved most of her life has tossed her aside, leaving her feeling vulnerable and a little bitter. Well, a lot bitter. If Rose were to call into her favorite radio station tonight, she would dedicate this song to Archie Dunnaway.

 

Without stirring up any comments or spoilers, here’s a song that Eddie Chandler dedicated to Claire. And what a beauty!! This was one of the first songs that a character spoke out on.

 

There are two songs that remind me of Frank Harper. The first one always makes me cry.  It’s the story of his salvation. The second song shares the struggle he battles in the upcoming release. Enjoy them both!!

 

George Chandler is more of a quiet man. I’ll share about my difficulties with this particular character next week, but suffice it to say that I’m not the only one he withholds from. He’s a sweetheart through and through, but he’s not so open about his feelings. That’s where this next song comes into play. When I heard If I Let You Go it had George’s name all over it. The second song, More Than That, shows his tender side. He’s willing to love and love greatly. Now if only he can convince a certain gal of this. 😉
I listened to both of these songs countless times while working with George’s scenes. It helped me keep in touch with who he is and his storyline.

 

Melissa Lowe is another new heroine that I’ll introduce you to in the pages of Out of the Ashes. I’m not ready to say too much about my dear Melissa but I will let you know that she’s in love with someone that doesn’t love her in return. She’s such a patient thing and Anytime by Kelly Clarkson comes from her heart.

 

When fan favorite, Ralph Williams, finds himself in the dog house there is no other song that showcases the heart of this broken man quite like this one does.

 

And for one last song! Completely, has become the theme song for Out of the Ashes. I’m not sure I ever hear this song anymore where I don’t hear Ralph, Frank, and George’s voices ringing out. The broken spirit and need of God’s healing touch is the very core of the story.

 

I’d love to hear back from you! Did you find yourself connecting with one of the songs from my characters? Are you more intrigued by one of the characters based on their chosen song?

 

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Underdeveloped

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I’m doing a 4-month blog series on character development. I want this series to be both for the writer and the reader. I hope to fellowship with other authors and pass along some tips while also entertaining the readers by showing you a side of your favorite characters that you’ve never seen before.
If you’re finding this series for the first time, you’ve entered in on the 2nd post. I’ll post the next installment on the first Monday of May. Here’s a link to last month’s post if you missed it.

I’m a learn as you go sort of gal. When I started writing, I hadn’t planned on it. Meaning, I didn’t attend college with the thought of writing fiction. In fact, I hadn’t even picked up my first book on writing until I had written my first novel. So there were several things that I learned later in my journey that might have made things easier to have known up front. Character development is one of those things.

If you read last month’s post you would have read a list of easy to work with characters. I truly had a writer’s dream cast in my first novel and didn’t even know it! With characters ready and willing to spill their guts and allow me into the dark corners of their minds, it’s little wonder that I was confused when I came across a character that wouldn’t speak to me. After working with Claire, Frank, Olen, and Ralph in Where Can I Flee, I wasn’t prepared for the withdrawn Sally Chandler in In the Shadow of Thy Wings. So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

I sought the advice of a dear friend of mine, Dana Kamstra. Dana, along with being my writing buddy, is a gold mine for writing advice. She approaches writing the way any serious student should: she studies it. So she’s my go-to gal when I need a new technique. She helped me to understand that an underdeveloped character won’t speak. She also passed on one of her favorite (and now one of my favorite) writing books, Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke.

Plot vs Character helped me to understand which questions to ask and how to layer the many details of any character together until you have someone that looks and feels real. One of the focal points is understanding the character’s Briggs Personality. And this is where the fun begins… 🙂

For those that have never heard of Briggs, let me explain. He basically narrowed down 16 foundational personality types. By answering a series of questions, they’ll determine your personality type. If you’ve never done this for yourself, try it out! It’s fun and enlightening. Take the test for free here.

And then enjoy my favorite site for gathering extensive information about the personality types.

As an author, this is now one of my first stops to character development. Once I have a personality type determined, I’m able to see how this person may react to different situations and it helps me understand them.

Now for some fun, let’s talk personality types. I had taken the test and learned that I am ISFP – The Artist
Once I began exploring the personality type, I found that it made a lot of sense. Suddenly I understood why I found beauty in random objects like a plate of food. Other oddities suddenly made sense, like how I can’t stand to be locked into a schedule. I like the freedom to decide what I want to do and when I want to do it. I seriously have never been able to resist rebelling against my own schedules. Lol
I hate conflict but am a great listener and peacemaker. I pick up on the feelings of other people and am a good judge of character. A perfectionist and fiercely loyal.
It’s been helpful to me as I dug deeper into my personality type and began to understand the whys behind the things that I never noticed about myself before. I stopped trying to schedule myself and embraced my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mentality.

How about your favorite characters from the Ancient Words Series
Claire Harper: ESFP The Performer
Claire is at home being the center of attention. She’s fun-loving and chatty.
Frank Harper: INFJ The Protector
Frank tends to stick to things until they’re finished. He’s sensitive and quietly forceful.
Eddie Chandler: ESTP A Doer
Eddie is spontaneous and compulsive. He’s a man of action and not words.
George Chandler: ISFJ The Nurturer
George is very responsible with a deep desire to serve others. He’s gifted at observing other people.
Sally Chandler: ISFP The Artist
Sally is very quiet and kind. She’s sensitive to the feelings of others and she HATES conflict.
Ralph Williams: ENTJ The Executive
Ralph is a take-charge kind of person. He’s a natural leader and a long term planner.

Now it’s your turn! What is your personality type and how does it fit?

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Easy

80Have you ever enjoyed a movie or tv show and been so caught up in the chemistry between the characters on screen, only to be shocked to learn in an interview that behind the scenes the actors hated each other? The hero in your favorite show is actually a jerk when the camera isn’t on. He shows up late, he brings his nasty attitude, or he’s so drugged up that it’s a wonder they were able to film at all. Or the leading lady known for stealing hearts on screen is the most difficult diva on the face of the earth.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret we authors know all too well: the same can be said for literary characters. You’d think that with the written word, the author was the one in charge. But, Nooooooooooo. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You see, there’s a reason why readers often comment on how real the character felt. Or how the characters just came to life. It’s because they ARE real. And like real people, they have different attitudes and different work ethics. The author’s job then is learning how to connect with each character so that they can find their story and share it with everyone else.

I’ve worked with some diverse characters recently and I want to share my experiences with you. I want this to be a fun and encouraging experience for everyone.
For the reader, I want to show you some insider information about some of your favorite characters. I’m going to show you which ones were easy to work with and which ones I had to coax out of their shell.
For the fellow author, I want to laugh along and share the common experiences together as well as share some techniques that have been successful for me.
I intend to share these fun details in a new blog series that I’ve titled, Behind the Scenes: Character Development. You’ll find a new installment to the series on the first Monday of every month. Today, we’ll kick it off with those Easy-Peasy Characters.

An easy to work with character would be a character that needs no coaxing. Someone who is always ready to share the details with me. Someone whose voice appeared in my head so naturally that I knew them from the first moment.

If you’ve read my series, it should not surprise you that Claire Harper would top the list of easy characters. Claire is known for being a chatty person and she’s exactly the same off the page. I never had to beg her to reveal scenes to me; she was always ready to talk. Her brother Frank is just like her, although he’s less chatty on page. From day one, Frank was willing to sit down and tell his story.
Their father, Olen, is known for being extremely quiet so it might surprise you to know that he’s extremely easy-going. Olen is most known for being laid back and delivering a timely one-liner. He’s often seen sitting quietly as everyone, mostly Claire, commands the entire scene with her chatter, but then seemingly out of nowhere, he speaks. And in that moment, he says so much more than anyone else in the room. And behind the scenes, Olen is the exact same way. He’s quiet by nature, but there’s an openness about him that makes him easy to work with.
Ralph Williams was another easy character for me to work with. He’s not as chatty as Claire by any means, but then few are. But there’s such an openness about him. He doesn’t feel the need to hold back or hide from me. The beautiful thing is when you get two very open and willing characters together they simply write the scenes themselves.
Eddie and Rachel Chandler, Danny-Ray Coffer, and Jimmy Allen were all easy characters to work with. Their roles were smaller but I didn’t have to find them. When it was time to step onto the page, they were ready and willing to do their part. No questions asked.

Chapters 5 and 15 are both very popular scenes from In the Shadow of Thy Wings. Both are between Claire and Ralph and go down as the absolute easiest scenes I’ve ever written. These two know how to play off of each other so naturally. If only all scenes were written so effortlessly. Lol
Speaking of playing well off of each other, Claire and Frank have a natural talent for smooth scenes together. Being close friends and twins may have helped. 😉 My favorite and most effortless scene between the two is found at the end of chapter 13 of In the Shadow of Thy Wings.

I may have given you the illusion that all characters are simple and my job is pretty easy peasy. And for that, I’m sorry. Lol My job is anything but. I started you off with the easy guys first. But next month, I’ll introduce you to one of my more difficult characters. You’re gonna love it, I promise!

I’d love to hear back from my readers. Were you surprised to see some of these characters on my list for easy to work with characters or had you imagined them this way all along? Are you confused about not seeing someone on there that you thought would have made it? 

Posted in About the Book

Sally’s Wardrobe

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The only thing that makes the movie better than the book is getting to see the clothes!

Lol Men may not agree, but it’s hard on most ladies when they’re left to their imagination where the clothing is concerned. Especially in historical novels. So I’m going to do you a favor and let you peek inside Sally Chandler’s wardrobe. Some of the following pictures were real pictures that I had in mind as I wrote a scene and others are just great examples of what I imagined her wearing.

If you missed Claire Harper’s wardrobe, you can view it here.


 

I want to show you two of the dresses used in the novels. The first is a dark blue dress mentioned in chapter 3 of In the Shadow of Thy Wings. And the ruffled gown is featured in chapter 16 in Where Can I Flee only Sally’s dress is pink.


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Another favorite from the novel is Sally’s peach ball gown featured in both novels. I had mentally designed a peach gown with white embroidery and sadly was unable to find a likeness for it. The close up embroidery work was the best that I could find to help us imagine what her gown might have looked like.

As lovely as the ball gowns are, most days Sally wears something much simpler. While she would wear day dresses from time to time, I actually pictured her wearing a skirt and blouse combo most often. Here are some examples of common everyday wear.


And just for the fun of it, I took Sally Pinterest shopping. Here are some things she selected. Sally tends to be drawn to layers of lace and delicate ruffles. Her color palate is all over, but she prefers light colored formal wear.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into Sally’s wardrobe. Did you find anything here that you’d love to borrow?

 

Posted in About the Book

Ralph and Frank’s Interview

It’s been over a year since I sat down with my characters and interviewed them. You can read the first interview here. I had a load of fun interviewing Claire and Frank Harper, stars of the Ancient Words Series, so I wanted to bring them back out to answer some more questions. But I wanted to bring you something different. So this time, I’m interviewing Frank Haper and Ralph Williams side by side. For those of you that haven’t read my series yet, Frank serves in the Confederacy while Ralph serves in the Union. Bringing these two men together to answer some questions about life during the Civil War wasn’t so easy. Keep reading to find out what these men had to say about war, hardships, and each other. 😉
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I’m sitting down with Frank Harper, who has served the Confederacy since June of ’61. In his world, it’s January 1863 and the war has not been concluded. I’ve got my work cut out for me at keeping him far away from the internet…as if he could figure out how to work it. Lol I’ve hidden my Appomattox pictures. So mums the word. 😉

Me: We’re still waiting on two more guests, but please, Frank, have a seat and enjoy the snacks we’ve laid out.

Frank: Thank you. Don’t mind if I do. Is Claire still here?

His twin sister, Claire, enters the room at the mention of her name.

Claire: Yes, I’m still here. Looks like we’ve finished just in time.

Frank stuffs a molasses cookie in his mouth and Claire giggles at his eagerness. He probably hasn’t had a cookie in several months if not more than a year at this point.

Me: Thanks, Claire, for visiting and helping me bake today. I hope you’ll be able to visit again soon.

Claire claps excitedly, a bright smile spreading across her cheeks.

Claire: Oh, I’d love that! I can’t recall the last time I was allowed to bake with abandon. Oh, do try the cranberry scones, Frank. You’ll like them, I think. If you’ve half the time, you should wander off into her kitchen. The modern appliances alone make it worth the trip! Then there’s the stockpile of flour and sugar and black tea!! Oh and the coffee!! Frank, she has real coffee here!! Here, let me pour you a nice cup. There now, you’ll enjoy that. I just know you will!

Frank’s happily eating and drinking, content to let his sister do all the talking. Lol I now wish I had laid out some more food. He does look like he could use a solid meal.

Oh, great! Another guest is here.

Their father, Olen Harper, just walked in and he stops for a kiss on the cheek from Claire before he sits on the chair beside Frank and reaches for the coffee cup Claire hands him.

Frank: Claire, are you staying this time?

Claire frowns, but her frowns will not work on me. In fact, I need to get her out the door.

Claire: No, I’ve been asked to leave before y’all begin. In fact…

She’s looking to me for confirmation, which I gladly give. My final guest will be here soon and I really should get her out of here before it’s too late.

Claire: Yes, yes, there is my cue. See, I really must go now.

She frowns again, but I know she’ll be a good sort of gal and head out. She stops to hug and kiss her father and brother goodbye. She hugs me as well before turning to leave.

Me: You’ll come again, I hope?

Claire: I’d love to!

Good, she’s going out the door now…only the moment she steps through, she runs into a wall of Union blue. Ralph Williams is here.

They recognize each other, but both are trying to downplay the moment. Thankfully for her, she blushes pretty. Now, as much as I want to give them this moment, I really must get her out of here. Frank’s up refilling his coffee cup and hasn’t spotted our guest yet. It sounds like both he and Olen are exploring my humble kitchen.

We’ll have our hands full enough with Frank. There’s no need in starting trouble early by letting him see the sparks flying between these two.

I clear my throat and that sends the pair moving, Ralph to one side with a silent bow and Claire shooting out the door. 🙂 No one else is in the room to see Ralph watching her leave except me. How sweet. He ducks his head when he catches me grinning at him.

Me: I’m glad you could make it, Ralph. Please have a seat and help yourself. I didn’t have a recipe for your mother’s cranberry cake, but I did bake a couple batches of my famous cranberry scones. I know you’ll enjoy this substitute.

Ralph: Thank you. That was mighty thoughtful of you.

He sits down and glances back at the door Claire just left from.

Me: We’ll get you a cup of coffee in just a moment. Ahh, there it is. Olen’s bringing it in for you. Please, help yourself to any cream and sugar if you want it.

Olen enters with two cups of coffee and Frank follows behind him, grinning, with cookie crumbs dusted in his beard.

Olen quickly sets both cups down and steps to the side, his eyes on the two men. The smile slides from Frank’s face and he stops dead in his tracks. Ralph tosses down what’s left of the scone and stands up, eying Frank warily. Both look on the verge of charging, chests heaving.

Me: I’ve asked you both here because Frank, like yourself, Ralph has been in service since the start of the war. He’s served in the Union Cavalry while you’ve served in the Confederate Infantry, and my readers want to ask some questions concerning your experiences. I just want to make it clear that I’m not here to squeeze anyone for information. I’m not going to ask you anything that you can’t answer without giving up army positions or strengths.

Both men silently nod their heads and cut their eyes back at each other. Lol Oh, dear! This will make for an interesting hour!

Me: I’ve asked your readers to send in some questions. The first thing they want to know is what it feels like before a battle compared to what it feels like afterward?

Both sit quietly. Frank runs a hand through his hair and Ralph rubs his beard while Olen sits between them and sips his coffee.

Both seem a little tight-lipped. Maybe I should try again.

Me: Frank, do you normally know when a battle is coming?

Frank: Most of the time, but not always. It’s normal to engage in skirmishes and they tend to be a little more unplanned. I mean, we’re always looking for those lowdown Bluebellies, so we’ll engage them every chance we get.

Ralph’s head whips to his right and he leans forward so he can see past Olen.

Ralph: Always engage us? It didn’t seem much like engagement when your backs were turned and you were running from Murfreesboro.

Frank jumps out of his seat, snorting like a bull. His father calmly grips him by the arm and Ralph just stares back at him, looking a bit too cocky. Olen gives a gentle tug on Frank’s arm and after a long pause, he plants himself back in his chair none too gently.

Me: So, Ralph, what would you say the difference is before and after a battle?

He gives Frank another hard stare before turning his attention to me.

Ralph: Before a battle there are the usual jitters.

Frank: Of course they have the jitters. Everyone knows that Yankees are afraid of steel.

His shoulders shake under his own laughter. Ralph doesn’t even spare him a glance but his jaw is tightly bound.

Ralph: If you give a Johnny enough ammunition, he’ll eventually hit someone. We’re grateful they haven’t better aim.

Frank just rolls his eyes.

Me: And after battle?

Both grow quiet again and their eyes have dropped to their laps. It’s funny to watch them because neither are aware at how they mirror each other. We may soon find that these enemies are more alike than they first thought.

Ralph: Before a battle, you think of death. Could I die? Will I die? But after…you see the reality of it. You stare into the lifeless faces of both friend and foe. Suddenly, your fears become your reality. You cross the field and find someone you ate breakfast with that morning, another who you swapped newspapers with. The one you always pass on the way to the latrine is crying out from a bullet hole and you’re just left wondering how you made it. You’d think one might feel elation at having survived, but it’s like you died even though you lived. There’s something inside of you that breaks down at the destruction you have to see, the same destruction the dead are now spared from.

Olen is silently watching Ralph, but Ralph is talking without making eye contact with anyone. He seems to be standing on a bloody field somewhere. Frank’s face is pulled down in a tight frown and he’s rubbing both sides of his head now.

Me: Frank, can you share the thoughts that run through your mind during the battle?

He blinks back his own memories and gives his head a quick shake as if to clear it once and for all.

Frank: It’s something you’d have to experience to really understand. It hardly makes any sense even now. At the start of a battle, once you’re engaged in it, you wrestle with thoughts and fears of death, but soon the activity takes over and it’s like you can’t think of anything anymore. It’s like walking through a daze. I’m alive, I can tell it. But I’m so caught up in the motions that I don’t even recognize it.

Ralph’s nodding his head and mumbling his agreement.

Frank: I’m not sure how the field generals manage to make decisions during a battle. I can hardly think. Everything’s happening so fast and yet so slowly. You can hear the whizzing of bullets. Hear them striking trees and men alike. They hit the ground in front of you, tossing up grass and dirt, and your heart just dips at how close they came to taking your leg instead. The field seems to be in pure chaos and yet there’s normally an order to it if you know how to look for it. Behind the screams, battle cries, cannon thunder, and screeching bullets, you’ll hear the bugle and drums that give each regiment their orders. It’s not always easy to tell one call from the other, but you learn real quick to tune your ear to the right sounds. The regimental flags help keep some order on the field. But I guess it’s the kind of chaos that you reluctantly get used to.

Me: Do either of you plan to make a career out of the military when the war is over?

Both of them adamantly shake their heads.

Me: If you knew then what you know now, would you still have enlisted?

Both sit still again, deep in thought.

Frank: Tyrants should always be dealt with…

Ralph is grumbling and shifting in his seat, but Frank starts speaking louder to drown him out.

Frank:and while I would have preferred to stay at home, I’ll gladly defend my country against the likes of them! It’s a shame that not all of our Southern men felt the same. They’ve lost their senses, I’d say. I pity them, really.

Frank cuts his eyes over again, leaning just slightly so he can see past his father. Frank’s last remark was meant especially for Ralph. I haven’t brought it up, and you can’t hear him, but Ralph talks with a thick Southern drawl, having been born and raised in Tennessee. Clearly, the familiar accent didn’t get past Frank. Ralph is working his jaw and shaking his head.

Ralph: I haven’t the stomach for foolishness is more like it. These hot-heads will destroy the South, not save it.

Frank: Oh, and you think your fancy army aims to keep it intact?!

Frank has left his seat again and Ralph jumps up to join him, both shouting at each other. Olen looks at me and blinks back his annoyance. Resting his coffee cup on the table, the ever-calm, always-silent man stands between them and settles a strong hand on both shoulders. They both start to shake it away, but I can see him squeezing them both.

Olen: Mind your manners, the both of you. You weren’t asked here to demonstrate war, but to answer a few questions about it.

He eyes them both. Thankfully, they’ve quieted again.

Olen: Now sit.

Just like that, the younger men swallow their pride, suck in a deep breath and settle back down in their chairs. Olen gives me a nod and reaches for his cup again.

Me: So are we to assume then that both of you feel that your cause is worthy enough to endure the horrors of war?

They both nod their heads.

Ralph: I would have preferred to have been spared it, but seeing as how there’s no way around it, Rebels will be rebels after all, I’ll endure what I must to see our country set to rights.

Frank is putting a hole through my wall with his menacing stare, but he’s otherwise silent.

Me: Besides the battlefield, what is the hardest thing to endure?

Frank snorts.

Frank: I hope you’re not expecting only one answer.

Ralph laughs along with him.

Me: Okay then, let’s hear your lists.

Frank: Well for starters, the food.

Ralph groans.

Frank: The only thing worse than not having any food is when they actually bring us food!

Ralph laughs out loud, and then leans forward to see Frank.

Ralph: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve grown kind of fond of the weevil castles.

Frank bursts out laughing.

Frank: Yeah, well you can keep them! I’ve enough weevils in my cornmeal; I don’t need to soak the bread to get to those. We took hold of one of your supply wagons and I can’t say we were grateful for the experience. The coffee was a nice treat and all, but what the devil are you supposed to do with that hardtack?

Ralph chuckles.

Ralph: Serves you right. Not that we were given much of a treat when we stole your wagons. How many peanuts do you think you’ve eaten by now, anyways?

Frank: Don’t speak ill of the goober peas now. Those just might be the best thing they hand out. Not that I ain’t tired of seeing them. But back to that hardtack…

Ralph: There’s not much that can be done with it, I suppose. Thump it against a rock to knock the weevils out of their holes.

Me: Holes?

Ralph: Yeah, they bore holes into the hardtack where they live and eat. That’s why we call them weevil castles. Anyways, if you’re new to the hardtack, you try to get the bugs out. If you’re not, you try to ignore them. We’ve tried a little of everything. Crumbling it up and putting it in some broth. Soaking it in the coffee. Soaking it in water. Soaking it then frying it in bacon fat. We’ve tried a little of everything, but nothing really helps the taste.

Frank: Then there are the long marches, heavy knapsacks, thinning supplies. Although, pretty boy here gets to stay off his feet and rest most of the day.

Ralph: REST?! Are you out of your mind?

Frank chuckles at him.

Frank: Nope, but you’re off your feet. That much I know. Why, I bet those are the same pair of boots you entered the war wearing.

Ralph: I’ll have you know that a cavalryman is worth two infantrymen!

Frank chokes on his coffee and shakes his head.

Frank: To your mother, maybe. Let’s see you climb off that horse of yours and we’ll see how far you get. I don’t have anyone carrying me from place to place. I have to carry myself and my stuff. I’m both mule and man.

Ralph: Well, you’ve got the mule part right.

Me: Are there any other hardships?

Ralph: The lack of privacy, the hard ground for your bed, bedding down in a small tent with unwashed men…

Frank: The diseases, endless hours of training…

Ralph: Really there’s little good to be had. I’m afraid it’s a necessary evil, but an evil all the way around.

Me: Frank, how does the reality compare to the expectations you once had about war?

Frank snorts and shakes his head. He pauses a moment to stuff another cookie in his mouth.

Frank: Unless a man had some sort of military training, their expectations are more in line with a dream. A rosy-colored, all-glorious dream. In that dream, the hardships were at a minimum and you came home before you were ever truly missed with a grand medal pinned to your lapel. The realities are anything but. I joined at the start of the war, when the excitement was high and so was the necessary equipment. Things are very different now. Surviving in the winter camps is hard enough, but add to that the lack of food and supplies and you suddenly have a whole other kind of hardship on your hands. The act of war itself is a far cry from what one might have thought about before he enlisted. Pulling the trigger gets harder and harder, and yet you dare not ever stop, lest you lie in the dirt below your feet. It’s bad business really. I’d like nothing more than for the Yanks to put an end to all of this and leave so I can return home where I’m wanted.

Ralph has been silently nodding his head until Frank mentions the part about the Union army leaving. Now he’s cutting his eyes at Frank, his jaw clamped shut.

Me: Ralph, how do you keep your spirits up under these sorts of conditions?

His hard stare lingers on Frank’s profile a moment longer before he turns his eyes back to me. He takes a deep breath and thinks it over.

Ralph: Any way a man possibly can, I’m afraid. And that, ma’am, can lead to a whole lot of mischief. If a man has any sense left in him, he turns first and fully to Christ alone. Holding to God’s promises is the only sturdy foundation in a world where everything is constantly changing and everyone is aware of the fact that tomorrow just might not come at all. Other healthy pursuits are writing letters or visiting family if you’re fortunate enough to have a leave. Getting a pass into town offers a wide variety of entertainment. Baseball is a popular sport and a great way to pass the time. The bands relieve some of the strain with their daily concerts. Then there are more wicked pursuits that men turn to in order to pass the time and keep what little joy they can. Drinking and gambling are two of the… cleaner of the wicked entertainments. You’ll have to forgive me, ma’am, I’ll not speak of some of the others.

Me: We’re out of time, but I want to ask one last question to you both. What do you most look forward to when the war is over, besides seeing your family again?

Both sit solemnly for a moment. Olen looks from one man to the other. Ralph is staring at something over my shoulder and Frank is running a hand through his hair. Frank cuts his eyes over to Ralph.

Frank: I’m ready to live at peace again. I’m tired of fighting.

Ralph nods his head and turns toward Frank, leaning forward slightly to see past Olen.

Frank: I’ll not forfeit my rights for peace. I’ll do my duty first, make no mistake about that. But I do… ever so long for quieter days again.

Ralph is working his jaw again and settles back into his chair.

Ralph: I reckon I can give up shooting Rebels.

Ralph gives a long sigh and slowly nods his head again.

Ralph: But most of all, I want rest. I’m ready to put this aside and move on with my life. Maybe settle down.

Frank is grinning like a fox. I’m sure we can all imagine where his thoughts have wandered.

Me: I can’t thank y’all enough for taking time out to come and answer a few questions. I know this isn’t the easiest subject line to venture upon, especially in mixed company. I thank you for not tearing down my house.

Frank: And I thank you for the coffee!

Ralph mumbles his agreement, with his mouth full and the other half of his scone raised in a toast.

Me: This war will come to an end soon. I wish you both well until we meet again!

You’ll find these characters and their full stories in the Ancient Words Series. You can pick up your copy of Where Can I Flee here. In the Shadow of Thy Wings goes on sale on Amazon on December 8th. 

 

Posted in About the Book, Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo Week 3

It’s week three of my first NaNoWriMo!! You can catch my intro, and Week 1 and 2 recaps. If you’re new to this blog series, allow me to explain: I’m sharing a weekly update during the month of November as I try to take part in NaNo2015 AND self publish my 2nd novel all at the same time. Does it sound difficult? That’s probably because it is! 😉

NaNoWriMo Recap: I know the ultimate goal for every NaNo participant is to add 50,000 words by the end of the month. And while I’m a fiction writer, I’m also a realist. 😉 So my personal goal for the month is 25,000 words. I’ve add less than 1,500 words all week. With only one full week remaining, I think my NaNo days are over.

While it’s nice to see the chapters forming for book 3 of the series, the most important thing on my desk right now is my 2nd born bookie: In the Shadow of Thy Wings. The release date is quickly approaching. I’ve only 2 full weeks remaining!!! So how is it going in the publishing world? Let’s see…
This week I worked on a MAD list of advertising projects that MUST be done by the end of the month. But sadly, even this list was put on hold while I put all my focus on the the final read through for Shadow. Even though this step takes a long time, the good news is when I finish reading it, I’ll be completely and totally done with the book. No more editing. No more revisions. I’ll likely have to tweak some formatting, but the book itself will be complete and not a moment too soon either. The release date is coming soon!

There is much to praise God for this week as He continues to pave my way. Please continue to pray for me as I work on these last minute touches on the novel, it’s launch, and the early stages of writing book 3.

What does week 4 look like: Along with taking time to enjoy some great meals with the family, I’ll need to finish up these various advertising projects.

I had my launch team sharing a collection of memes this week. Feel free to save and share to your heart’s content. 🙂

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Posted in About the Author, Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo Week 2

November is proving to be even busier than I had imagined. In an attempt to stay accountable, I’m openly sharing my first NaNoWriMo experience. Since it happens to take place during a crucial moment of a book’s life — the march to publication — I’ve decided to give everyone an update on both. You can catch my NaNoWriMo Intro and Week 1’s Recap.

If you’ve read my recap from last week, you’ll recall that I was in a bit of a mess. I had to step away from the high and lofty goals I had set for NaNo and focus instead on what was most important — my sanity. The Lord had used several people along the way with encouraging words and others letting me know that they were praying for me. I can’t thank ya’ll enough. It really means a lot and it’s a big comfort to me. So I want to kick off this week’s recap with some encouragement, whether you’re facing NaNo this month or other trials and daily struggles, let these words be the balm for your spirit.

“One breath at a time.” ~ Sandra Ardoin. Such a simple message, and, yet, it’s one we have to be reminded of all the time.

Walking into week 2, I carried with me a new theme song: Lay it Down. My prayer for the week was to no longer focus on the hundreds of plans and goals but to lay everything down at the Lord’s feet and follow His plans for me in a moment by moment way.

Writing update: My focus this week had to be on the editing/formatting front. Since both has a way of draining me, I had little time or inspiration for writing.
I put in 2,136 words this week. My total for the month is up to 10,335. Not too bad for a monthly total so far. I’m hoping to see more opportunities for writing over the next couple of weeks.

Publishing update: I’m happy to announce that the Lord has blessed my efforts this week and the paperback format came together nicely. I’m still finishing up this round of editing, but everything is going really well there.

Launch Update: My team has been adding In the Shadow of Thy Wings to their Goodreads accounts. One of my members has already finished and posted her review. You can read Kathleen’s review and add Shadow to your To-Be Read list here.
If you haven’t seen the promotional video for Shadow, then what are you waiting for?! Lol Push play and enjoy!

Praise and Prayer Report: We’re praising God for everything, both large and small, that I was able to accomplish this week. But most specifically, the paperback format. We’ve had a little sickness in the house, but the Lord has held us together and kept us from getting just all-out sick.
Please continue to pray for health, patience, for the Lord to bless our efforts and multiply them, and for a smooth path ahead.

A look at next week: I plan to ordered my first proof copy next week. For those unfamiliar with the process, as a self-publisher, I’m required to order a paperback copy once I have something together so that I can be certain that it’s ready to sell. If anything is wrong, then I simply make corrections and order another proof copy. I can’t wait to see how our first attempt turns out. The cover tends to need adjusting everything time I’ve ever published so I expect to order at least one other proof copy later this month. This will be a major step to completing this publishing process.
I hope to take in more writing time next week since the bulk of my editing is over.
I also have what seems like hundreds of smaller projects that I need to complete before Shadow’s release date, one of those being the last and final read through of the novel.
There’s so much left to do, but I want to both glorify Christ in the midst of it all and just enjoy the chaotic joy that surrounds a novel’s release. The moment will be over before I know it!

Posted in About the Author, About the Book, Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo Week 1

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I also happen to be in the middle of publishing my second book. You’ll find more details in the intro post, but today, I’m here to bring you the update on my week. 🙂 

I knew when I agreed to participate in NaNoWriMo, that I would have to keep my eyes set on smaller goals. I also knew it would be a struggle to try to write more while also having to dedicate large amounts of time to raising a family and that small matter of publishing a novel. 😉
Well, as it turns out, all my knowing didn’t save me from the stress and wrongful thinking that I stumbled into at the first of the week. I’d love to tell you that I had it straight from the get-go, but it’s not true. Thank God for second chances!! And also for sending along words of wisdom.

These were the two text messages I received early in the week that made such a big impact that I had to write them down and post them on my desk!
“But don’t get stressed out or your work won’t mean anything. Your writing is meant to be for the glory of the Lord and your pleasure. So don’t let this overcome you; allow God to help you overcome it.” – Aunt Mary
“Just focus on what God wants you to accomplish and keep your eyes focused on Him! He will direct your paths!” – Darla Damron

After encouraging words like that, I was able to put my focus where it needed to be. Instead of pushing for word count, I focused on making some progress and tried to keep up with my publishing to-do list.

I ended up writing 8,199 words so far for week 1. I still have today’s totals to add in, but I’ll add them into week 2’s tallies.

Now for a publishing update. I have formatted the kindle edition and sent it out to the last round of readers. Their job is to read and help me spot lingering mistakes. Things are going well on that end so far and I couldn’t be happier.
Now for paperback. Paperback formatting is a more troublesome creature by nature. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Lol I’m still struggling to piece this one together. Hopefully, I’ll have better news to share here next week on that end. For now, PLEASE pray for me.

This week kicked off week 1 of the launch for In the Shadow of Thy Wings!! This is such an exciting time as my team set out to share various links and memes. Here’s what they’re sharing this week. Please, feel free to snag and share! 🙂

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A look at week 2:
Since I seem to average 1500-2000 words a day, I want to keep this as a writing goal. I won’t meet the 50,000 goal for NaNoWriMo with these numbers, but I will make great progress and keep my sanity. 😉
In the publishing world, I want to focus more of my time in advertising. I have 2 blogs to write for the release week, I need to update my website, and pull together more activities for the launch team. And unless I’m successful today, I’ll still be ironing out that paperback format.