image photoshopped from my photos, one taken at the
Oregon Trail Museum in Baker City, Oregon
Before I began working on the manuscript based on Oregon after the Civil War, I had to do two things. One was look again at my earlier research, the other was read and that means edit again the two stories that came before it. This was important as a way to remind myself about these characters and keep the family real as the third story has a heroine who was daughter and sister in the other two.
The first of these books is based on the Oregon Trail in 1852. Even then, not all pioneers chose to travel with big trains. Some, for economic reasons, went by in small groups or by themselves-- the most likely ones to get attacked by Plains tribes. This story is, however, about one of the big wagon trains with a wagon master, scout and two hired men.
When I read it, for the purpose of keeping my ducks in a row for the third book, I felt fine with it. Like yeah, it works. When I finished the third, I began to rethink the first. Often frankly a writer's first romance isn't worth reading. They throw everything into it and when they finally have the ability to bring it out, a reader knows why it hadn't been accepted originally by publishing houses. Some of this can be true with books you never submitted anywhere and are bringing out on your own as an ePub.
My first story, because it's part of a series presents an additional problem. It's not just that it's difficult to make it as good as what I am currently writing, but that book absolutely has to be there. It is the opening to a series that requires the first even though any of them can be read independently.
My concern was, that unless i got into it very critically, the first one could lose potential readers for the rest. The more i thought about it, the more I knew I had to go back and brutally slash some of my favorite scenes. It was just too long.
The thing with this first book is that I began it when I was younger than the heroine who is 18. It arose out of something a younger cousin and i used to do at family gatherings where we would go for walks and tell stories. We'd take our characters through a series of events taking turns describing what happened next. Matt and Amy came from those walks.
Some years went by; and when I'd have been a little older than my heroine, I began to type the story on an old, black, hit-those-keys-hard typewriter. That manuscript was rewritten more than a few times and was the one I later worked over with a consulting writer where I would send her sections in the mail and get back red-lined critiques, chewed up as badly as a school assignment. From a professional, that kind of help is costly but so valuable as she taught me things that have gone with me through every manuscript since.
It is the story of the trip west but also of two families of very different natures, of youth, innocence, thwarted passions, and love. The youthfulness of the main characters frankly made it difficult for me now that I am nearly 70 and looking at these characters from the perspective not of a girl but of an old woman.
Although it's about young people, it's not a young adult romance, but it has the angst and desire that the young especially experience where everything is more than it might seem later based on hormones and inexperience. There is an innocence in the story which I think is part of that westward movement but also complicated getting it to fit into line with the next books.
When I originally wrote it, I did a lot of research on the trip west. When you do that, it's tempting to put it all out but that interferes with the story. There are moments I particularly have liked, but they had to go. I am thinking some might be kept as vignettes for the blog and a way to inspire interest in the journey. The vignettes though don't belong in the book. As I took out about 8000 words, I think I pared it down to what actually does... I hope.
old photo from the Oregon Trail Museum, Baker City, Oregon