Fathers, Daughters, and Expectations: In 1859, half-sisters Lucy and Cordelia travel by stagecoach from Westport, Missouri to Kansas Territory. Since their mother’s death four years ago, both have lived with their aunt. Now Lucy’s father wants her home. For Lucy, 13, it is a dream come true. Cordelia, 17, chaperones Lucy on the trip home, then continues on the stage to Denver to search for the father she has never met. Her expectations are low, but she can’t stop the occasional dream. Will either father live up to his daughter’s expectations, or will each break his daughter’s heart?
I puzzled for days about when For Want of a Father, the second book in my Pierce Family Saga series, should begin. I finally picked up the story of the Pierce sisters four years after the close of the first novel, Cordelia's Journey. At that time, the sisters moved to Westport to live with their Aunt Hannah while their brother, Ambrose, stayed behind in Hidden Springs with their father. My second, and greater concern, was what to include in the opening chapter. Much had changed in the lives of Cordelia, Lucy, Jennie, and Ella. Would I be able to present new readers with enough information about the past without boring those who had already read book one? This first chapter is my best effort at presenting the characters and their relationships with each other.
At the insistence of a stepfather who demanded sons, Cordelia's mother had ten pregnancies. Only five resulted in children who lived past infancy. At the end of the final pregnancy, both mother and child died during labor.
Cordelia's prickly attitude reminds me of my mother's whenever someone would challenge her on her ability to do anything a man could do. One of my favorite I-can-do-it memories of my mother in the 1950s is the time our car had a flat tire. We were parked on the shoulder of a highway, and she was getting the jack out of the trunk when a man stopped and offered to change the tire for her. She stood as tall as she could for someone who was five-foot-two and scowled at him. "I can do it myself," she said. And she did.
In this conversation between Cordelia and a fellow passenger on the stagecoach, Cordelia thinks about the very different approaches to life of her friend, Miz Wilma, and her grandmother. Cordelia's grandmother is based on a woman I was hired to take care of who had taken to her bed after a diagnosis of diabetes. She believed having the disease had virtually ended her life. She continually bemoaned the job and apartment she gave up when she came to live in assisted living. She got out of bed to eat and take care of a minimum of personal needs. Cordelia's grandmother lives a similar life, becoming an invalid after her husband dies, so lost in her grief she is unable to face life without him.
One of my goals in writing the Pierce Family Saga series is to make each book a standalone novel: A reader should be able to enjoy each book without having to read the others first. That means I must be able to recognize what the reader needs to know of the past and present it in a flashback, but I must present the scene in such a way that those who have read the previous books in the series will not be bored by the repeated information. In book one of the saga, Cordelia's Journey, Lucy's mother dies, but Lucy is not a point-of-view character in that book. In this scene, I use flashback to present Lucy's memory of that event.
When I wrote the first draft of For Want of a Father, I had no idea who would be on the stagecoach with Cordelia and Lucy. Since the 1859 Pikes Peak/Denver City gold rush was in full swing, I decided a couple of miners might be likely--but miners with some money. After all, stage travel wasn't cheap.Bob and Scott Sims turned out to be good choices. My original mission for Bob, a good-looking bad boy, was limited to stirring up even more animosity between half-sisters Lucy and Cordelia than there already was, but his miscreant ways ended up making him an important character, something I didn't know would happen when I first wrote this scene.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Sixteen-year-old Kindra Johnson is chafing at the secluded life she lives with her parents and thirteen-month-old brother in a Colorado mountain cabin. Home-schooled, she wants to experience a wider world, but her parents, members of a survival group, won't even take her to a mall. Her quiet life is shattered when ATF and FBI agents raid her home. During the conflict, her mother is killed, her father arrested, and her brother is ripped from her arms and taken into protective custody. With her father's arrest, Kindra soon learns that the life she led with her parents was a lie, that the woman killed was not her mother, that her parents had divorced when she was a toddler and her father kidnapped her. She is thrust into the wider world she had wished for when her birth mother arrives to take Kindra home to Kansas. Even as she tries to adjust, she is filled with doubts. Is the family who has taken her in really hers or is this an FBI trick to get her to betray her father? Will she ever see her brother again and be able to fulfill the promise she made to watch over him and keep him safe?
Sandra, eleven, fancies herself as a reporter-in-training. As such, the idea of a kidnapped sister she never knew about is exciting news and she wants to get every step of Kindra's new life recorded in her notebook. In this scene, she is questioning Kindra about her first day of high school. See my profile page for more book bubbles showing Kindra's meetings with her mother and other two sisters. The Survivalist's Daughter is on a 99cent Kindle Countdown Deal though June 29, 2016.
After sixteen-year-old Kindra is returned to her birth mother, she must meet and adjust to sister Kelsey, fifteen, and half-sisters Sandra, eleven, and Cindy, ten. As the youngest, Cindy is particularly wary of hand-me-downs and wants everything to be "fair." As Kindra awakens to her first morning in her new home, she is confronted by Cindy, who isn't happy with a shopping trip that only involves buying new clothes for Kindra.
Upon the arrest of her father for gun trafficking, Kindra, who was kidnapped when she was a toddler, has been returned to her birth mother. Kindra is meeting her sister Kelsey for the first time since the two were babies. The big question on Kindra's mind at the moment is how Kelsey feels about making room for someone she's just learned existed--and whether there is space here for Michael, her baby brother, who has been taken into protective custody and is in foster care.
Sixteen-year-old Kindra, kidnapped by her non-custodial father when she was a toddler, has just been returned to her mother. The woman she believed was her mother, Hannah, has been killed, and Kindra is trying to sort out what kind of people the new "parents" in her life are and whether they can be trusted to help her find her baby brother.
Kindra, who has spent most of her life in a mountain cabin and a tiny town in the Colorado Rockies, is learning about life in the city. For this scene centering on her lack of knowledge of modern toilet facilities, I recalled my own confusion when confronted with new ways to make water flow from faucets and get paper towels from dispensers. Paper towel dispensers are the most puzzling: Do I wave my hand in front of or under the dispenser? Do I turn a knob on the side? Do I press a lever with my elbow? Sometimes, I give up and dry my hands on my jeans.
Sometimes, it seems no one can keep a secret, but often those closest to us are the best at it. When I was a child, I took long car rides with my mother and grandmother. On those trips, they would tell each other things that were not to be repeated, and I understood that I was a part of that sworn silence. Whenever I heard one of them say, "Between you, me, and the gatepost," I knew I was about to hear a secret and was bound by an unspoken vow of silence.
A boy’s search for truth and what it means to be a man. Kansas Territory, 1859 Ambrose Pierce has been doing a man’s work in his father’s blacksmith shop since he was ten. At fifteen, he is tired of being seen as a boy. As he struggles toward manhood, his new stepmother’s lies about inappropriate actions toward her result in Ambrose being beaten and disowned by his father. While recovering from his injuries, Ambrose overhears a brief mention of something scandalous in his stepmother’s past. With little beyond a place, New York City, and a name, Gerald Ward, Ambrose and half-sister Cordelia travel cross country in search of the truth. Ambrose hopes the truth will free his father from his stepmother’s influence and they can be father and son again. Before embarking on his journey, Ambrose visits his mother’s grave to say goodbye. Throughout his travels, he consults the book of Aesop’s fables she made for him, remembering her love and being guided by the life lessons she taught him. Hiram’s Boy is the third book in the Pierce Family Saga series. Visit piercefamilysaga.com for updates on book four, a novel set during the Civil War.
In this excerpt of Hiram's Boy, set in Kansas Terrirtory, 1859,, I have two point of view characters: Ambrose, 15, and his father Hiram, 48. Ambrose is the main character, and I already know I will use first person point of view for him. My point of view struggle is with Hiram. He is a bully, and I don't like him. I used third person point of view at first because I didn't want to completely get in his mind. But I have always questioned whether it would work for the reader to have first person for Ambrose and third for Hiram. Even if it would, would first person for Hiram be better for the story even if I am uncomfortable in his skin? Comments, please. I need help with this.
One of the hardest things about writing a series is determining what readers need to know from previous books and working that information into the current book. In this third novel of the Pierce Family Saga, I am giving Ambrose's account of an event that happened in FOR WANT OF A FATHER, Book 2 in the series. Ambrose is trying to determine exactly when his relationship with his father began to deteriorate.
Yesterday, I read an article with tips on using description in fiction. One tip involved describing a character and advised that hair color, height, and weight were not so important. After all, I was not writing for the police blotter. So what is important? In this scene, I am describing Hiram from his own point of view. Questions: How successful have I been at describing Hiram? Can you "see" the kind of man he is? What details would make him clearer for you? I would appreciate comments.
I'm beginning the third book in my Pierce Family Saga series and intend for readers to be able to enjoy each novel without having read previous books in the series. That means I need to tell enough backstory to make scenes understandable but not so much as to be boring to those who have read the previous books. Does this tentative first chapter of Hiram's Boy fulfill those goals? Just as importantly, does this scene interest you enough for you to want to read the book? I'd love to have your comments.
Sara Kramer, who doubts everything, is pursued by two men of opposite but equally strong faiths: a New Age psychic healer and a fundamentalist preacher. When Sara refuses the preacher's proposal, he blames the psychic healer. Believing the psychic has put a curse on Sara and she is now possessed by demons, the preacher vows to save her, no matter what laws he has to break.
I am no fan of trampolines. While I watch others bounce and tumble, I imagine the possibility of a life-changing injury, and that possibility sends shivers through me, so when I needed a childhood experience that reflected Junior Lawson's precarious emotional state, a trampoline fit my needs.
In a previous Possessing Sara bubble, I showed Garth's belief that food reacts to negative energy. In the current excerpt, Garth has some time alone with love interest Sara when she takes him to one of her favorite places for quiet and reflection. The scene is one that could have happened along any one of the many Kansas rivers I have sat beside over the years while my family fished and I read a book or tried to write one. In this scene, Garth tells Sara about his supermarket confrontation with adversary, Junior Lawson, and tries to rekindle bonds with the woman he loves.
Garth is a psychic who believes emotions affect fresh foods. When he meets rival Junior Lawson in the produce aisle of the supermarket and tempers fly, it's a wonder the entire stock of fresh lettuce and apples doesn't need discounting. I chose the apple aisle for the main confrontation because of the Garden of Eden allusion.
In this excerpt from Possessing Sara, Junior Lawson reviews the trials he is facing in his pursuit of the woman he loves and in his efforts to establish his own ministry separate from his father's. Without Sara, his ministry goal seem doomed.
As Sara becomes certain she is being followed, she reviews the list of people who might have a motive.
When a rock with a note attached shatters Sara Kramer's picture window, she calls the police and includes the father of an ex-student as one of three suspects. This convenience store scene shows the reason for that inclusion.
Sara Kramer hates scammers and exposes them on her website. To that end, she is attending a psychic fair where she is investigating a rune reader she fears may be trying to bilk her elderly neighbor, but it is the man seated next to the target of her investigation that truly frightens her.
A woman inherits an Egyptian mummy with instructions for activating its powers and making her every wish come true. Then she learns the mummy has wishes of its own, wishes that put the future of her beloved niece in danger.
How many times would you kiss a mummy to activate his powers and make your dreams come true? Once? Twice? More? Lona faces this decision as she reads instructions left in her Aunt Clare's safe.
For a while, I boarded with a family obsessed with the will of a maiden aunt who was well off. Who would get her stocks and bonds? Who would get her gold? Out of that experience was born this novella. Like so many heirs, Lona is upset by the conditions of her Aunt Clare's will. Then the lawyer talks to her in private and hands her a letter of explanation. What will she do next? Find out in Kiss Mummy Goodnight.
Love them or hate them, talk shows seep into our lives, playing in the background, affecting what we do. In this anthology of six short stories, we learn how talk show host Nancy Nolan has influenced the lives of her guests.
A lonely woman befriends a single father and his daughter. Before long she is dreaming they might become a family. Will a Nancy Nolan Show segment tear that dream apart? That was the question on my mind when I wrote "Amanda Marie."
In this excerpt from "Answered Prayers," a young mother's toddler has been in a life-threatening accident, and she is sitting by his hospital bedside, praying for his recovery. She turns on the television and finds a religious show, hoping for comfort and guidance. When I first wrote "Answered Prayers," the preacher had a radio show, and the idea of The Nancy Nolan Show hadn't yet crossed my mind. Later, when I had created the Nancy Nolan character and written the stories, I needed one more to fill out the book, so I rewrote this story. The preacher now has a television show, and my character trusts him because he has been a Nancy Nolan Show guest.
I think I understand why someone would go on a talk show to prove the paternity of her baby when she's certain she's named the correct father. Most of the time, the baby's mother gets to embarrass the denying male when he is proved to statistically be the father in front of the studio audience and viewers everywhere. But on a few occasions, the mother of the child is wrong. What happens then? "My Baby's Daddy" is one of six stories in my anthology, The Nancy Nolan Show.
I've watched lots of talk show family reunions over the years. As someone who did not meet my biological father until I was in my thirties, I've always wondered what would make someone agree to meet a deserting parent on national television. That question sparked the idea for "The Green Room," one of the six stories in the anthology, The Nancy Nolan Show.
I was watching a television talk show host interview people about problems in their lives when, during a commercial break, a call went out for teenage viewers to apply to be on the show if their parents behaved in embarrassing, outrageous ways. I asked myself what a mother might do that would embarrass her daughter. The way she dressed popped into my mind, and I wrote this opening for a short story, one of six in my anthology, The Nancy Nolan Show.
"Why would someone do that?" is the question that often sparks my story ideas. Why would someone make a false confession to a crime--particularly the crime of murder? Then Bitsy Barnes began to emerge, partially based on someone I had met who had an annoying habit of repeating things and a second person who had a strong sense of justice. In this excerpt from "Confessions," one of the stories in THE NANCY NOLAN SHOW, an anthology centered around the influences of a television talk show host, Bitsy is making her third false confession to Detective Tuttle. She has previously confessed to killing a retired English teacher and JFK.
Basic Sentence Structure is a short, focused examination of the way basic sentences are put together. Two of the top ten most frequent punctuation errors and how to correct them are covered, along with the structure and punctuation of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Besides an explanation of the terms and examples of the various sentence types, the book contains a method that will aid readers in recognizing and writing complete sentences. A notebook for recording the reader's work is recommended.
A frequent comma error is the omission of the comma before a coordinating conjunction. My goal in this excerpt was to help writers recognize coordinating conjunctions and the circumstances that required a comma. Since I wrote this book a couple of years ago, the word "template" has become so popular that I am considering changing "sentence patterns" to "sentence templates." I'd appreciate your thoughts.
When I wrote Basic Sentence Structure, I wanted to find some way other than exercises based on choosing the correct punctuation to reinforce the definition and examples of each sentence pattern. The sentence pattern imprint is my method of helping writing students make the pattern their own. I ask readers to write four sentences following the pattern. The use of a favorite fairy tale as the basis for sentences allows readers a specific, objective topic with which to work. This specific topic becomes more important as the sentences become more complex.
After teaching hundreds of students from seventh grade through college freshmen how to write a sentence, I put together a short e-book focused on sentence structure. In this excerpt, I define three of the four types of sentences and the end punctuation for each. Following those definitions, I show how the same one-word sentence might be punctuated in three different ways, depending on the situation in which the word is used.
A locked house and a strangled woman. Town gossips say the sister did it. Crystal Sands Marshall is furious. The local historical society has chosen another family as the subject for a book on the town's beginnings. Crystal hires her own writer and then sets off to collect the necessary family records from her eccentric sister, Iris. When Iris, who has not left the house since their mother's death five years ago, fails to answer the door, Crystal breaks in. She finds Iris unconscious on the kitchen floor. Fearing her sister has attempted suicide, Crystal delays the sheriff's investigation until she can search the house and dispose of anything that might set local tongues wagging. She discovers Iris's diaries and learns her mother committed murder to protect the family name. As increasingly horrible secrets are revealed, Crystal is faced with the same choice: public ruin or murder. Is this a case of like mother, like daughter?
What influences the stories we see in the news, whether they appear online, on television, or in our local paper? In this scene, Carter Jamison, now editor and publisher of a small town newspaper, struggles with the suspicion that his uncle, who owns the paper, and the local sheriff conspired to cover up a crime. As he unearths disturbing details about a woman's death, Carter reflects on how investigative reporting is much easier when the persons of interest are not people close to you. Will he live up to his ideals and report the facts or bury them as he thinks his uncle may have done?
If a family member has ever embarrassed you with their bad manners, you may have some sympathy for main character, Crystal Sands, when her uncouth cousins show up in her hotel dining room and make demands. We see the scene through the eyes of Carter Jamison, Crystal's dinner companion.
As a recluse, Iris needed companions. Okay, cats are cliché, but they are present in so many mysteries, I figured people must love them, so I added a couple. They are fond of their owner, but they've never been anything but antagonistic to Crystal.
Almost everyone has spent some time in a hospital waiting room, slow, agonizing hours waiting for news of a loved one and looking for anything or anyone that can serve as a distraction and make the time move faster. Such is the situation for Crystal as she waits for her sister's surgery to end and a report from the doctor. There are seventeen years between Crystal and Iris, her older sister. Because of Iris's secrecy, Crystal knows almost nothing about her sister's early life. The family never said much, and neither did the townspeople; at least, they didn't say much to Crystal. I needed someone who would tell Crystal the things she needed to know if she was going to discover what really happened to Iris. Enter Iris's best friend, Myra McIntire.
In this scene, I wanted to show the small town atmosphere when it comes to criminal investigations and how tactics vary with the attitude of the investigators.
With Iris unconscious on the floor at the beginning of the novel, I had to find places to work in just how eccentric her behavior is. In this scene, sister Crystal reviews Iris's strange behavior and jumps to wrong conclusions about what happened. Acting on those conclusions, she decides to impede the investigation into who attacked Iris. When her story doesn't make sense, the town's suspicions focus on Crystal. How far will she go to protect the family name?
Crystal has found her sister Iris unconscious in a locked house. While following the ambulance to the hospital, Crystal tries to find some reason besides the obvious that her sister had rope burns on her neck. The small-town gossips will have a field day if she doesn't find some way to keep the truth from coming out. That thinking motivates Crystal to impede the sheriff's investigation and makes her the number one suspect in Iris's attempted murder.
The first chapter of this novel went through a half a dozen critique groups and many beginnings. When I started writing it, I was not long out of graduate school, where I had studied tons of eighteenth and nineteenth century literary works. According to one group leader, my writing style showed it. I did my best to pare down those long, descriptive sentences and get into the story. These paragraphs are the result of all those revisions. I hope you enjoy them.
It's Christmastime and Wes Myers prays to Jesus, asking for help in reconciling with his wife, Betty, so he can keep her from teaching their children pagan beliefs. His prayers are answered. Betty takes him back and the couple has a few good days. Then Wes loses his job. He reaches for a bottle of vodka first and the Bible second. On Christmas Eve, Jesus speaks to Wes again. The message is chilling. If you've ever wondered why a woman stays with an abusive husband, or why a father would kill the child he loves most, then you must read the story of Betty and Wes and what happened on The Night before Christmas.
I've written about this problem before. It's one that presents itself for every story--long or short--that I write. With this beginning technique that didn't make the cut, I was imitating what I had seen other authors use: taking a scene near the end of the story to begin and then returning to some point n the past to tell the story. Perhaps someone is drowning, or there is a body on the floor, or some other crucial thing is happening. Then the next chapter begins with twenty-four hours ago, three months ago, or some other time period and you find out what led to the opening scene. It's not a method I care much for as a reader, but I tried it in my writing anyway. Then I discarded it. What do you think? Do you like this type of opening? Would it have made you want to read the book or would you have been annoyed?
Psychologists say we treat people how to treat us. In Betty's flashback scene, she remembers how her eagerness for someone to love her caused her to overlook the first signs that Wes's views of right and wrong would lead to abuse. In this scene, Betty is sixteen, and Wes is renting a room in her parent's home.
The question people who have never been in an abusive family often ask is "Why would she go back to him?" Sorry, guys. I know there are abusive women, too, but the question is most often asked of the wife. In this section, I show Betty, the abused wife, considering her children, trying to make a choice that works for all of them.
My first novel, The Night before Christmas, takes place in December, 1971. I experimented with several timelines and points of view before settling on the final start date and characters. At one point, the story was told from the point of view of the people across the street. That didn't work because they didn't have any emotional investment in the events. Then I tried starting with the birth of Wes Myers, one of the main characters, but that was too far in time from the events of the story. Finally, I settled on this opening, seven days before Christmas Eve. This is not your warm and fuzzy Christmas story but a reminder than not all Christmases are happy.
In this coming-of-age story set in 1855 Kansas Territory, thirteen-year-old Cordelia endures her stepfather's abuse until she learns her ailing mother is pregnant again. Fearing her mother will die in childbirth, she runs away, heading for Westport and her aunt, the only person who might be able to save her mother. She disguises herself as a boy and sets out on foot to make the 150-mile trip. Following the Kansas River, she hitches rides with a variety of travelers going east, facing setbacks along the way while learning lessons about the world and her place in it. Cordelia's Journey is the first book in the Pierce Family Saga, a series of historical novels that follow Cordelia and her family through the latter half of the nineteenth century.
What’s a daughter worth in 1855, Kansas Territory? Minerva's thirteen-year-old daughter Cordelia (Delia to her mother and siblings) has run away. Half-sister Lucy, only nine, has baked her first bread and eagerly awaits her father’s approval. His response disappoints. Later, unable to sleep,Minerva, pregnant for the ninth time, lies awake and worries for her daughters' futures. She has five living children, four daughters and a son. With a father who values only boys and demeans his daughters, Minerva fears her girls will grow up believing they are not as good as their brother and accept lives filled with heavy burdens and little joy.
This scene from Cordelia's Journey introduces Miz Wilma and her dog, Duke. Miz Wilma is an important character, so I want her shrewd but kind character to shine through her ragged appearance. The scene is from Cordelia's point of view.
In 1855, Kansas Territory, runaway Cordelia met another runaway, a ten-year-old slave name Gabe. In this scene, she is traveling with her Aunt Hannah. They have just passed by slave hunters who have captured Gabe. Unable to do anything to prevent his mistreatment by the men, Cordelia expresses the guilt she feels.
Thirteen-year-old runaway Cordelia has disguised herself as a boy named Cord and hitched a ride with a freighter who regularly hauls building materials to Pawnee. Having lived her life with a domineering stepfather, Cordelia is in awe of Mrs. Jacobs, a widow who sees a man she wants and pursues him.
One of the most frustrating parts of writing historical novels is when seemingly valid sources don't agree. Such was the case of Pawnee, Kansas Territory, the site of the first meeting of the Kansas territorial legislature. Some sources claim the stone structure where the first meeting of the territorial legislature was held was the only building in town. Other sources depict a thriving town with almost around-the-clock construction going on. I chose to make Pawnee a thriving town.
Cordelia is caught between running away from an abusive stepfather and staying to care for her mother Minerva, who is pregnant for the tenth time. Half of those pregnancies ended in miscarriage or the death of the infant soon after childbirth. Statistically, Minerva's situation is average for mothers in the nineteenth century, a time when a woman gave birth to six or seven children, not counting miscarriages. The death rate for infants was almost thirty percent, and the mother had a one in eight chance of dying in childbirth. Cordelia, thirteen, doesn't know anything about statistics, but as the oldest child, she has seen the toll the pregnancies have left on her mother's health. If she runs away now, she may never see her mother alive again.
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