HISTORIC CONFLICT IN YOUR TOOLBOX? By Cj Fosdick
The Power of History lingers in the toolbox of authors. Every book written with diligence includes some research. Even Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers have to research what often is a thin line between truth and imagination. Science breaks barriers all the time, turning what once was a dream or quirk of imagination into reality. Airplanes, automobiles, spaceships, submarines, reactors and robots—all were once locked in the imagination and dreams of inventors and writers. There was a time when such dreamers were ridiculed or even killed. Remember, the earth was deemed flat, until ancient navigators proved otherwise.
History always fascinates me, particularly the drama of conflict, its collateral damage and after-shocks. You’d think that lessons learned from the world’s earliest conflicts to Cyber Wars would serve as cautionary tales for the future. But human nature prevails over caution. And conflict always makes for a good story. Whether it’s spun into a tapestry of war and/or romance between characters, it will be a measured requirement by agents, editors and ultimately readers who determine the next BEST SELLER. Think of Gone With The Wind, a novel which rolled multiple conflicts—real and imagined—into an international best seller that remains on every list of all-time favorite novels. Granted, the movie version gave it a huge boost. Casualties of America’s Civil War reached 1.5 million—more than all combined wars involving American soldiers. Over 65,000 books have been written about this devastating period. A hundred seventy years later, that war still engages controversy. Think about the recent statue and flag conflicts in the South. Collateral damage lives long when immortalized in written history about a war that decimated America’s population, ended slavery, accelerated Industry and subsequently grasped the 19th Century need for American settlement of the West. (Another favorite era of romance and tragedy.)
Almost 40 years ago, I was writing my first novel. The storyline covered the colorful era that accelerated western settlement after the Civil War. Western posts meant to protect settlers from Indians were springing up everywhere in the American West. The novel’s POV was from a German/Irish heroine and a half-Sioux hero who as children were caught in opposing massacres between Indians and whites. Navigating through historic times and their own prejudices, they grow up to find each other in a love story with conflict that was an epic write—over 700 pages. The size for a lst novel had something to do with ultimate rejection. Devastated, I packaged the typed ms. and put it on ice. Literally. For 30 years it was shelved in a garage freezer while children, pets, homes and horses took control of my life.
Writing was on the back burner, unless it was an occasional article or short story. However, one of the living characters in that huge novel was General Luther Prentice Bradley, the commander of Ft. Laramie from 1874-76. Coincidentally, this same commander had survived the Civil War. While researching that first novel, I had written to Bradley’s living grandson in 1978. Prentice Bradley, the aging grandson sent me valuable historic anecdotes his father recalled as a child living at Ft. Laramie. It was many years later that coincidence. . . or karma would defrost the freezer novel, which was eventually scanned into a computer word file—with a lot of formatting errors to correct.
The Publishing Industry at the time was just beginning to recognize the threat of self-published authors who dared to forego agents and the dreaded “slush pile” of hope. Still, I began to pitch the book to agents at Writing Conferences and got similar blowback. Too long. Could it be a series? Could you write a shorter book first, establish a website, platform and base? From a dozen Conferences all over the country, I learned what I didn’t know I needed to know and much of that had to do with persistence and timing.
Fast forward to empty nest, empty barn and finding a publisher for the shorter book I was now pitching—The Accidental Wife—with a contemporary heroine who was now a descendant of my freezer book heroine. About this time, someone online found my letter to the now deceased grandson, Prentice Bradley, in U.S. Army History archives in Pennsylvania. New contact was formed with the great grandson of General Bradley. Robert D. Bradley and I have been pen pals for years now. I was an enthusiastic cheerleader when he decided to self publish his great grandfather’s Civil War letters written home. After he sent me a copy of the project in the hands of Create Space, I helped to edit some of his personal contributions. He sent me the print version last fall, titled BRADLEY’S LETTERS SENT HOME—available also in the eBook version on Amazon. I was first to review the book on Amazon as “a gift to history” because of the amazing, eloquent and revealing letters from the General who had become a character in that freezer book yet to be published. Bob has also become a man-fan of my Accidental Series, frequently sends me something to laugh about, and is providing me with more great historic and family detail I can add to the freezer book—defrosted and warming on the horizon into a new series from Cj Fosdick! Stay tuned.