Writing can sometimes be quite the chore. Whether fiction or non-fiction, sometimes that focus to sit down and make the words come to mind is just missing. Nothing is more frustrating than having a newspaper deadline and you can’t even come up with the first line of the story.
I have leaned if I am having trouble getting started, I move beyond what I am struggling with. If working on news, I can move on to the quotes I want to use, sometimes that is enough to make the rest of it flow. Sometimes, it’s easier to start at the end and work backward. In fiction I can create a conversation, or a scene, that doesn’t really relate to the area I’m trying to concentrate on but can kick start my creativity.
I must be careful though, in fiction. One scene can lead to another, and I find myself way off track. In news writing, it is not as easy to get lost down a different road. There are parameters, an end to the interview or information. For fiction, those side roads can become endless.
What really works best for me is after a couple of minutes of typing nothing, I tell myself “something is better than nothing.” Then “really, you’re not going to type anything.” Which can lead to, “NOTHING? Really, that’s how you want to spend your time?” Then I tell myself with a great deal of frustration, “one word, that’s all you need.” After another amount of time, “So, you can’t even come up with one word.”
On the worst days I just think, “there’s laundry that needs done, a floor vacuumed.” I should lead with that. Nothing gets my mind back on track like the thought of housework.
Camp Douglas was called the North’s Andersonville. I found a link with information regarding Camp Douglas, the link and part of that info I have shared at the end of this blog. It reminded me (yes, I often forget after a time some of the things I have written), about one of my characters in Shadows who was held there after being captured. That character is Justin Malin, a haunted individual who has been fighting the war since the beginning. He lost his best friend and fought several battles, including Shiloh. Justin was taken prisoner on John Morgan’s “Great Raid” of the North. I wanted to share a small excerpt from Camp Douglas…
Wednesday, September 30, 1863, Camp Douglas Chicago, Illinois
I received some treatment for my leg at Camp Morton. It appeared as if the bullet had passed all the way through my thigh, when it was examined and treated. However, something was creating an infection that told me fragments of the bullet remained in my leg. I still did not want to spend my time in a hospital, among the dying who did not yet know it, or worse, those who did. Finally, the day came I could no longer deny I was in great peril. The day had progressed slowly, like all the others that came before it in this place. I remembered stumbling out for roll call. I remember the cold, how it seeped deep into my bones.
Sam stood beside me, and it was unspoken between us that the time was coming for escape. The weather was changing, and we decided we would make our break when the first freeze came. By the time we were noticed missing, our tracks would be evaporated by the sun, but the ground would be too hard for our feet to leave indentations. The timing had been Sam’s idea. He was apparently a good tracker. Growing up with the wealth he did, I imagined he had few responsibilities, so was able to spend his time hunting and honing those tracking skills. We had spent hours talking about our escape, and he’d told me things our trackers would be looking for. Some I knew, some I didn’t. I never questioned him, but he apparently had more faith in the tracking skills of the Yankees than I did, it was better safe than sorry.
I’d stumbled around the camp, for how long I do not know. Then I was being awakened in my bed, shivering. There was very little light, and many faces I recognized, gathered around, to stare down at me. Despite the low light, I recognized their concern, the way it etched its way across their shadowed brows, and pulled down the corners of their lips.
Sam said something, but it sounded garbled, insignificant. All I wanted was to sleep, and get warm, which was unlikely in this god- forsaken place.
My own scream awoke me. My leg, which had previously grown to a burning numbness, was now on fire. Only when I tried to raise my head did I feel the hands on me, holding me down. I opened my eyes to see the blur of people I most likely knew, but I could not make out their features. My involuntary scream came again as a pain, so agonizing I had no choice but to try to expel it from my body through my voice, shot from my thigh, all the way to my brain.
“What..…?” I heard myself stammer, but I felt I was far away from this place, despite the pain ripping through me.
“Danagon is trying to get the lead out of your leg,” Sam said, who hovered by my head.
“Make him stop,” I gritted out, as more pain shot through me. I could feel it now, the knife as it dug around in my thigh. Then the fire again that made everything threaten to go black.
“I can’t, or you will die.”
“Let me,” I croaked, between my clinched teeth. I did not want to scream before these men. I didn’t want to do anything but be left alone. If that meant I would die, so be it. I would not be able to escape on my leg. I knew this, as the agony increased tenfold. The probing ended for a moment and I was able to catch my breath.
“I see two more pieces,” Danagon said, before I felt the blade of his knife again. “Keep him still!”
I looked at the faces gathered around me. I saw Duncan and I knew all the other dead men were with me too. Suddenly, I was afraid to die. I was afraid because some of those men who stared down at me had gone before, and they would be waiting.
Justin is only one of my three main characters who are caught up in the war between the North and South. You can find the entire story by following the link below..
The North's Andersonville!Camp Douglas was located in Chicago near the shores of Lake Michigan. It was known as the northern prison camp with the highest mortality rate of all Union Civil War prisons.
The first prisoners arrived in February 1862. Conditions were horrible and it is reported that 1 in 5 prisoners within those walls died. Punishment by officials and guards was unusually cruel. Confederate soldiers starved to death as food rations were withheld and many, being deprived of blankets while living in tents, froze to death in the severe weather.
"Prisoners were deprived of clothing to discourage escapes. Many wore sacks with head and arm holes cut out; few had underwear. Blankets to offset the bitter northern winter were confiscated from the few that had them. The weakest froze to death. The Chicago winter of 1864 was devastating. The loss of 1,091 lives in only four months was heaviest for any like period in the camp's history, and equaled the deaths at the highest rate of Andersonville from February to May, 1864. Yet, it is the name of Andersonville that burns in infamy, while there exists a northern counterpart of little shame." Read more of this story at: Camp Douglas"
What remains of Camp Douglas, the prison camp story that was swept under the rug? A monument erected by Southern Veterans is all that remains of Camp Douglas. It is located at Oak Woods Cemetery surrounded by of an untold number of Confederate soldiers. Records of the dead at Camp Douglas seem to have been lost and/or miskept. It is truly unknown how many and who the southern soldiers were who lie beneath the ground in a large mass grave. The inscription on the monument reads: ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF SIX THOUSAND SOUTHERN SOLDIERS HERE BURIED WHO DIED IN CAMP DOUGLAS PRISON 1862-5. Bronze tablets on the monument list some of the dead Confederate soldiers buried there but how many more soldiers in The Camp Douglas Confederate Mound will always be unknown??
For more of this article go to...
Full cover of The Dead King. I was going to call this The Broken Path, but I was amazed how many books are out there by that name. This is a 3 part series. Ironically, the second and third books I already titled were also highly used. Thus, this became The Dead King. I'm still looking for readers who want to give this a whirl before release date. I just need an honest review on the day of release. Contact me if you want a copy for review.
I have written so many stories over the years. Several full-length novels I did not think were worth the time or effort to put into print, some too short, some just fell apart and were no more. I have to say, the characters I created in Shadows I grew attached to. I loved them!
Crystal with her stubborn determination, Bobby’s recklessness and Justin’s struggle for sanity created a place in my heart for all three. Despite my love for these characters, their stories did not write themselves. As a matter of fact, this story began as a totally different idea. Once I got to know Crystal, that began to change, until it became a totally different goal (but I’ll share that in a different blog).
I loved these characters so much that when I got to the end, and I’m looking at the last words I would write about them, I cried. I cried every time I edited and got to the end. I never experienced that before, and strangely I’m afraid that will never happen again.
I never considered turning Shadows into a series, it just wouldn’t be the same. They had a story to tell, and I told it. It’s sad, at times humorous, but always there is that struggle to survive in a country torn apart by war while trying to hold on to the people they were. I guess their struggle, despite I was writing it, made me sympathetic, and I wanted so much to get them out of the horrors of war. But as it did for the historic figures I researched and peppered into the story, the war dragged on and on. So, my three main characters had to trudge continuously forward, until the end.