I typed “The End” on my WIP that I started for NaNoWriMo. When I first started writing it, I asked for some ideas for a title from my Facebook friends. I got several that were very good and I couldn’t decide which one to use, so I combined a couple into one. The WIP is now entitled Smolder on a Slow Burn—or that’s what it will be called as long as my editor is okay with that title. It was rather liberating to type those words. Now, I can walk away from it for a day or so and let it all set in and then go back and start fixing plot holes, shout at those two to stop the blasted head hopping, and tighten the writing. I also have to be wary of my bias on the side of those who detested the interference of the federal government in their lives. Some things never change…
|CSA Cavalry Captain’s frock coat|
I also realized while writing this WIP that I was using skills I hadn’t used since my undergrad days—namely historical research skills. I used as many facts as possible while crafting this novel. While researching uniforms for officers of both the Union and Confederate cavalries, I quickly realized the Union cavalry had absolutely nothing on their Confederate counterparts. Those men in grey must have cut quite a dashing figure with the gold sleeve braid, bright yellow cuffs and collars, and in some cases, yellow piping along the outside front seams and on the tails of the overcoat, added to a yellow stripe running down the outside of the trousers. And, then there were the Union uniforms…sigh…a little plain.
The hero in Smolder, A.J. rode with the famed 1st Kentucky Cavalry. The flag of these men was as impressive as their service record: a red cross with thirteen stars in it set on a background of royal blue. The men of the 1st Kentucky Cav were the first Kentuckians to respond to the call to arms for the Confederate States of America, mustered into service on October, 28th, 1861 and they were there until the last, serving as Jefferson Davis’s bodyguards when he was captured in Georgia on May 10th, 1865. They were some of the very last troops to admit defeat and to finally lay down their arms. “The First Kentucky did its duty… It was true to its colors under all circumstances.” (quoted in E. Porter Thompson’s History of the Orphan Brigade.) They were considered an Orphan Brigade as Kentucky never seceded so supplying those men became problematic. Part of A.J.’s back story is at the Battle of Tullahoma (south of Franklin, TN and a few miles north of the Alabama State Line) he was captured by his long-time friend and neighbor and then sent to the prisoner of war camp in Elmira, NY.
Major Henry Colt was, depending on the source, either the commander or second in command at the POW camp in Elmira, NY. Henry Colt was the brother of the famed Samuel Colt, the man who invented the Colt revolver. For the purpose of this story, Henry Colt is the second in command. Every account I could find of life at Elmira and Henry Colt’s time there, the men respected him and felt that he was as fair as he could be under trying circumstances. Elmira not only rivaled the worst of the Confederate prisoner of war camps (namely Andersonville, GA), it surpassed every camp–North or South in its death rate, over 24% of the Confederates who walked through the gates at Elmira died there.
By 1878, when this story takes place, the Republicans had effectively destroyed the vast majority of the terrorist group known as the Ku Klux Klan, using the same Union forces that had driven the South to her knees fifteen years before. However, small pockets of those cowards continued to wreak havoc in parts of the Deep South. Jack Dupree was butchered by men in the South who refused to accept defeat and refused to ever see a man of color as an equal. For the most part the names of many of the children who were also killed by these cowards is not available; however the accounts of their deaths can be found in the historical records. These children were killed simply because they dared to better themselves through education.
Allison’s back story is she was a teacher for these children. While writing of her recount of some of the horrors visited on “her students,” the news broke about the agonizing tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. For several days, I could not force myself to go back to the keyboard. I told my Muse to take a hike, that I was not writing a novel where children were murdered just because they wanted an education. Or, where a young boy, a regimental drummer who was captured by Union forces, was also shot and killed when he ventured too close to the “dead line”—often an arbitrary line drawn in the dirt by the stockade walls of the prison camps. I truly debated just deleting the whole file and hanging up the idea.
After three days, my Muse whispered that the story had to be told. So, I sat down at the keyboard again. I’m glad I did. I know there will have to be rewrites, but I have typed “The End.”
On to the next…