It’s time to pause a moment and take a look at how the Civil War novel is progressing.
As of 7 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, I’ve written 307 pages or more than 93,000 words. I figure I’m about 70 percent done with Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep, based on where I’m at in the detailed outline.
The outline has been extremely helpful. I’ve been able to use some of its dialogue with little or no change. When I begin the editing and revision process, I hope to put together a two-column chart that will include standard sayings like I’m not feeling good and their Southern idioms like I’m feelin’ under the weather or I’m feelin’ poorly. I did some googling a while back trying to find such a chart and came up empty. Hopefully I’ll be more successful this time around.
I’ve posted the first six chapters of the novel on an online writers’ workshop and am getting some useful reviews, maybe four to five reviews per chapter. The storyline has been well received, although many say they’re getting anxious to see my main character join up with the Confederate Army and march off to war. I’ve spent these first few chapters setting up the old-fashioned romance of my main character, Bill Stamford, with Becky Powell, his hometown sweetheart.
More than 94,000 words into the tale, I’ve returned Bill to his North Carolina hometown to recuperate after suffering a shell fragment wound in the back. He’s hoping to renew his courtship and romance with Becky. Except he’s met a Virginia girl, Franny Neale, who claimed his virginity. Bill’s a mixed-up, confused fellow. He can’t get Franny out of his mind, but knows she’ll never be his… she has gone to Tennessee to nurse her wounded fiancé.
Since beginning the novel, I’ve decided to make one major change … the relationship of Bill and his family with the institution of slavery. A longtime reviewer warned me that Bill and his father are way too talkative about their anti-slavery views and his father’s plans to free the family’s two slaves – a married couple – at the appropriate time.
So I’m going to do some tweaking by making the father and son much more circumspect in what they say. It was a volatile time, newspaper offices were being burned down for printing editorials some found offensive toward the Southern cause. While researching the novel, I read some period newspaper accounts that detailed various burnings. I intend to keep the divided loyalties of Bill’s family. His mother’s a Northerner, so Bill and his father have come to share many of her anti-slavery views. Bill’s buddy Charlie was born and raised in North Carolina’s mountains, a pro-Union region unhappy with the state’s decision to secede.
I see one major change coming. While Bill is encamped with the Army of Northern Virginia around Fredericksburg, his father Clarence will get a visit from the military authorities who commandeer one of his slaves – Winston – to help maintain railroad tracks. Slaves were used to fix tracks, work in the mines, and build breastworks and fortifications like the ones at Fort Fisher south of Wilmington. But I will need to get Winston back with the Stamford family in time for a Yankee raid on Bill’s hometown of Kenansville, North Carolina. It’s a real raid that took place in early July 1863. Union Cavalry burned a sword factory and later destroyed railroad track as they retreated to New Bern. The official reports of Yankee officers say hundreds of runaway slaves seeking freedom went with them. I’ve decided Winston and his wife Malinda will be two of them.
How will I get Winston back with the Stamford family? A family powerful in political circles lived in Kenansville in the 19th century – the Owen Rand Kenan family. A wealthy planter, Kenan represented North Carolina in the Confederate Congress in Richmond from 1862 to 1864. My plan is to have Clarence make a successful appeal to Owen Kenan, who will intervene to have Winston returned to the Stamford family in time for the Yankee cavalry raid. As you can see, I’m using real history that is requiring me to mesh the lives of my fictional characters with historical events and historical people like Owen Kenan.
Want to learn more about me? I’m the author of a fantasy genre trilogy, Larenia’s Shadow. The three novels of the series are The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. Want to buy the series? They’re available for purchase on the websites of Amazon and Barnes And Noble.