My fellow Writing Wranglers & Warriors are getting the public’s first look at the cover of my Civil War novel, Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep. It’s a sexy one, isn’t it?
If you paid a visit to my Facebook Author’s Page sometime during the last few days, you got a look at how artist Richard Stroud worked through three preliminary versions of the artwork to come up with this good-to-go one.
When I got my first peek at an early version of the artwork, I wasn’t sure I wanted such a suggestive cover for the Civil War novel.
The book’s a hybrid work – serious historical fiction with some intense lovemaking scenes. Let’s be honest… the cover depiction of blond-haired Franny Neale in a near topless state is appropriate for the novel’s most important love scene.
Even so, I did wonder if I should have asked Richard to perhaps do a ballroom scene of my Confederate soldier Bill Stamford dancing with Franny. I expect the cover showing Franny luring Bill onto the bed for a tipping the velvet moment will draw the interest of women readers. I do fear that some male readers who like historical Civil War novels will shy away, thinking the book isn’t a serious, historically accurate look at the war and the 1860s.
I wrote it to be historically accurate – rural life in Bill’s hometown of Kenansville, North Carolina, the rigors of camp life and forced marches, and the black-powder chaos of battle. My reviewers were impressed with my authentic depiction of the Civil War era in North Carolina and Virginia. I put hours and hours of research into the various settings before I actually wrote the tale.
I began thinking about writing a Civil War novel many years ago. Back in the 1970s, I’d been a re-enactor in a Confederate outfit based out of Lancaster, Ohio. In more recent years, as I wrote my fantasy genre trilogy, I came to recognize that I needed to improve and refine love scenes. I decided that doing a Civil War novel with a heavy dose of romance would allow me to improve my lovemaking scenes. I wanted them to be not only romantic, but sensual as well.
The cover scene hints at some flirtatious games before the main event in the cottage’s bedroom. Remember, it’s a time of war and death. Bill and Franny’s sexually charged encounter begins at a Fredericksburg New Year’s ball. The couple dance waltzes and polkas. Then Bill ushers her into a greenhouse where they discover other couples sneaking passionate kisses. Soon, Bill and Franny are doing the same. She entices Bill to accompany her across a courtyard to a vacant overseer cottage. In the upstairs bedroom, they begin time-honored foreplay games – just like what’s depicted on the cover. I made the removal of Franny’s copious Victorian underthings part of my spicy buildup. I make Bill work to reach the Promised Land.
The detailed outline for book 2 is done. It came to 123 pages – 49 chapters. You didn’t read this paragraph’s first two sentences wrong. The outline mostly includes dialogue and some preliminary description to set mood for the settings. Action scenes take place in Kenansville; on a train bound for Virginia; Richmond’s Capitol Square; a blockade runner; a theatre in London, England; Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina, and downtown Richmond at the close of the war.
As I researched and wrote the outline, I did have one in-my-mind debate about allowing an action scene to become a tad trashy. In Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep, Bill’s torn between two women – Becky, his first love and hometown sweetheart, and Franny, the Fredericksburg belle who teaches him the finer points of what to do between the sheets. In the first novel, I kept the two girls apart. In the second novel, they’re going to meet. My dilemma? Should their encounter devolve into a catfight?
Catfights are fun to write. In my fantasy series, one of my main characters, Stealth the thief, had a knife fight with a female enemy that saw both of them badly wounded. While I did mull a hair-pulling, eye-gouging donnybrook, I decided against it. They almost fight, but stop short after a shove or two and a pesky tree branch that disrupts potential fun for any readers who enjoy ribald tales.
I’ve come up with a working title for the second novel in the Civil War series. I’ve decided on Deepening Homefront Shadows. It continues the theme begun with Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep. The initial draft of the first four chapters is done. I’m keeping them short, since the only action is the unexpected death of a loved one. Those early chapters explore the complications that occur after the shocking death. And for fans of love scenes, the first one happens in Chapter Five. I intend to start writing that chapter in a day or two. I can’t wait. I’d better do some googling and refresh my memory on the finer points of Victorian ladies undergarments.
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I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.