Fire along the Sky

supportive (and conflicting) email from readers

I’ve had some really nice email lately. Of course I have no time to answer it. Here’s proof: I’m so distracted and (shall I say it?) overwhelmed that the rate at which I lose, misplace or forget things has taken an alarming upturn. Last week I went to get the Girlchild’s registration renewed and new tabs. I took in the registration from my car instead of hers and handed it over to the clerk, who looked dubious and then downright worried. I’m surprised he didn’t call the cops on me.

Fixed that. Got the registration, got the tabs. Put them in my purse very carefully.

Then I couldn’t find my cash card and I was so irritated with myself that I sat right down and cleaned out my purse. And a miracle: I found the durn card hiding in a pocket where it doesn’t belong. Guess what came next?

That’s right, the registration and tabs are gone. Missing. Or really not so much missing; I’m pretty sure they’re in a trash can somewhere. I can’t even subject myself to going through the trash because I’m not sure where I was at the time this cleaning fit came over me. So tomorrow I have to go back to the DMV, confess my absent mindedness, and pay all over again.

However. I did write 1,500 words today, which is quite respectable.

So some nice emails:

I CAN’T SAY BONJOUR TO Hannah and Ben. I just finished “Queen of Swords”. I loved the pace of the story action and most of all its characters. I live in a tiny town in Newfoundland, Canada. When is the next novel in this series? We can’t let them go yet. (DPB)

I’ve just finished Queen Of Swords, and once again you’ve penned a great story. I’ve read all 5 books in the Wilderness Series and I really enjoy the character development of all the protagonists plus the scintilating plot twists.

1) Embellish the battle scenes with more specifics of the fighting.

2) Be more specific when descibing the physical traits of the characters so we readers can picture them more clearly.

3) Your love scenes could be a little “steamier”.(BB)

But K is of a different mind on the last point at least:

I just finished Queen of Swords and I absolutely loved it! The best one yet! The last 50 pages took me 5 days because I didn’t want it to end and I read very slowly and made myself stop. I crawled in bed at 10 pm last night with chapter 63 and put it down. I finished it when I got up at 6:40 am :(

I tell everyone about these books. I’ve had to speak directly to my librarian at the West Bloomfield, Michigan branch at Westacres. Believe it or not they have Lake in the Clouds, Fire along the Sky and Queen of Swords but NOT Into the Wilderness nor Dawn on a Distant Shore!!!! I have requested they add these two to the collection. Has yet to happen.

I love the way you write your stories. I really appreciate your ability to capture love and passion without all the “steamy details”. So much better left to one’s imagination. We get the picture (K)

Just felt compelled to thank you for the unforgettable journey of the Bonner’s… The only setback that results from reading this series is the feeling of desolation that comes from leaving these characters at the end of the novel…

But this at least, is short lived, as time and again I have found that they yet have persevered and off I go
tailing after them on yet another most memorable adventure.
And most incredible being that after all my years of reading a vast multitude of stories – I am yet unable to for-see well, what plot may lay ahead… Marvelous!!!

Thank-you for the gift of many hours spent in breathtaking adventure and learning! (DD)

These emails mean a great deal to me. When the going is rough, they give me a boost I couldn’t get any other way. For all of you who have emailed me and are not included in the bunch, please know that I do read everything that comes my way. If we ever hit it big on the lottery, I’ll have a full time assistant to take care of things like car registrations and misbehaving printers. Then I could answer all my mail.

background work

Here is a partial list of things I need to know about to get a good start with Six (as I’m going to call it for now. Maybe the title really will be Journeys End, but maybe not).

1. I have to decide when this story starts. Right now it looks like 1822, spring through fall.

2. Character list. As this novel takes place almost exclusively in Paradise, I have to review everybody who has lived there in the past (still living? moved away? doing what?) and newcomers (children born, families who have come to Paradise since Fire Along the Sky).

3. Sketch of the village, and who lives where. New buildings, etc. Farmsteads with family names.

4. World situation 1820-summer 1822. Major wars, sociocultural advances, technological changes since 1815, especially those that may effect Paradise.

5. National, local and state changes in politics, culture, technology since 1815.

Examples: the Panic of 1819:

The Panic of 1819 was the first major financial crisis in the United States. It featured widespread foreclosures, bank failures, unemployment, and a slump in agriculture and manufacturing. It marked the end of the economic expansion that had followed the War of 1812. (Wikipedia)

The life of Denmark Vesey, who was hanged for planning a slave rebellion in the Carolinas.

Popular (and often unfounded, outrageous) opinions, for example, regarding Native Americans:

FORT SNELLING. June 1838. Morality and Chastity among the Indians.

In many customs the Sioux are closely allied to the Jewish nation; indeed, a work has been published in America to prove that the Indians were originally Jews.

I pull dozens and dozens of bits of information like this together, and they all sit in my head, along with the characters. The conflicts that will drive the story derive in part from this kind of background work.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the prep work for the primary characters. For each of them I have to figure out how old they are now, what physical changes we’re looking at, the household in which they live, and how the households relate to each other in a variety of ways. I’ll post some of the material for Curiosity — but nothing that could be construed as a spoiler.

Library Journal review

Jeanne alerted me to the Library Journal review for Queen of Swords, which had somehow slipped by unnoted. Here it is:

Library Journal

The latest volume in Donati’s popular Bonner family series opens where Fire Along the Sky (2004) left off, with Luke Bonner’s wife, Jennet, a captive of a renegade priest in the Caribbean. Luke and his half-sister, Hannah, rescue Jennet, but soon realize that she had to give up her newborn son, named Nathan after his grandfather, to keep him safe. The Bonners track Nathan to New Orleans, where he has been adopted by the matriarch of a prominent Creole family and her profligate grandson. Finding Nathan isn’t difficult, but keeping him and avoiding the ire of the Poiterin family is, and the Bonners soon find themselves caught up in the wartime politics of 1814 New Orleans. As with the previous books in the series, Donati treats her characters with sensitivity and does not shy away from tackling thorny themes, such as racial relations between Native Americans and whites during the early 18th century. This fast-paced, engaging book is sure to draw in readers. Highly recommended. Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL

I’ll take a ‘highly recommended’ any day — and with a smile. However, I have to point out that there are a few factual innacuracies here. Anybody pick them out? If so, please post a comment.

Which means: WARNING. Possible spoilers in the comments.