Category Archives: The Making of…

How are ideas turned into full-length novels? This blog shows some of the stages of inspiration, research, editing, and publication for various novels. Feel free to use as you choose!

“Slaves of Destiny” ~ An Excerpt

The following is one of my favorite passages in my upcoming book, Slaves of Destiny, because is shows the struggle between two young people of whether to nurture or abandon the feelings they have for one another. Their choice could mean the difference between life and death and no one understands that better than this young man.

“I went from hut to hut making notations about how they were different. Some had one room and others had two. Some had an area for a fire pit while others did not. I wanted to ask someone why that was but since Stud wasn’t speaking to me anymore, I wasn’t sure who to ask. I remembered that Gus warned me against coming here for fear of the men mistreating me. But I wasn’t worried about that. They were more gentlemanly than Gus, for sure. I was inside a small hut looking at the make-shift beds, the clay pottery, and wooden utensils. I turned to leave and stopped in my tracks. Stud stood at the door blocking my exit. My heart began to beat wildly and I gasped.
“Didn’t mean to startle you, Miss Sophie,” he said quietly. I suddenly felt self-conscious.
“Stud,” I whispered, “What are you doing here?”
“I live here. May I ask why you are here?” Now I felt intrusive. I was in his home. It was one with only one room and no fire pit. I was confused. I knew that most overseers received the respect of a nicer place than the other slaves. Yet, this was one of the smallest.
“You live here?” I asked, trying not to sound judgmental. He just nodded. “Well, I’m glad to know it. I’m actually making notes of how to improve the quarters. You deserve better than this.” He stepped toward me and I stayed my ground. He came up until he was about two feet from me but it seemed much closer in this small room.
“You need to be careful, Sophie,” he almost whispered.
“What do you mean?” Was he warning me about the others as Gus had done?
“You, well, you are beautiful. And you don’t even realize how beautiful you are. We slaves never laid eyes on another woman so beautiful.” His eyes kept mine from wandering. He held me captive and my heart raced. I wanted to reach out and touch him. I wanted to kiss him but I knew that this would be so far from acceptable that I would put us both in danger. But I wanted to so badly. “You quite literally took my breath from me when you stepped out of that house.” He stepped a step closer and leaned in toward me. “You smell so lovely, too. Nature doesn’t even compare to you.” I felt frozen in time, afraid to move yet utterly wanting to join my body with his.
“Stud, you’ve been avoiding me all month. Have I done something wrong?” I tried to distract us both yet my voice came out as a whisper.
“No, ma’am,” his voice was husky and deeper than normal and for the first time, I noticed he was cleaner than I’d ever seen him. His natural heady scent assaulted my nostrils in a way that made me want him like I’d never wanted a man, not even Liam. “I’ve been avoiding you because I don’t want to get hanged.”
“What are you talking about? Why would…”
“Gus would love any excuse to hang me. If he saw the way I look at you, he would do it before the sun set on the same day.”
“The way you look at me? You don’t look at me at all.”
“Sophie,” he stepped a little closer and was now close enough that I could feel his breath on my cheeks. Somehow I knew I should leave but I couldn’t. “I can’t tear my eyes from you. I see you when I close my eyes. I dream about you. You walk down the stairs like a vision from heaven. I know it’s wrong. I know I’ll die for it but I still can’t help myself. And the craziest part is, I’ve convinced myself that you look at me the same way, that you are looking for me when you go to the fields or when you’re sitting on your terrace. I want it to be true but…”
“It is true,” I stopped him. He appeared almost distraught and I knew it took great courage for him to even admit feelings toward me. If I did not reciprocate them, I could have him hung. “I can’t stop thinking of you either. You are a magnificent man, Stud.” My eyes roamed over his large, strong body. His arms were massive as if attached to a beast. His chest was broad yet his waist narrow. His legs, stout and solid, looked like logs. All my self restraint I required to stand my ground and not kiss him. I wanted to touch him, his beautiful light brown skin that looked soft despite the hard work I knew that he did on a daily basis. I wanted to run my hands over his muscles to see if they were as hard as they looked. When I answered him, I hoped for an exclamation of joy, rather, he sighed a huge breath and looked down at the floor.
“Sofia, we can’t, we just can’t do anything about it. We must work together to resist this,” he motioned between us, “whatever this is.” I knew he was right and yet my heart felt it would burst from sorrow. I lost Liam, my family, any plans for a happy marriage, and now the last shred of joy or love I could hope for was vanishing right before me. I turned to walk out of the door but there was really not even enough room for me to do it gracefully and my dress caught on my heel. I fell into his arms, would have fallen on the dirt floor if he had not caught me. There we stood, he embracing me. I could feel the muscles in his arms and chest constrict as I pressed against him. My breath was shallow, which made my breasts heave up and down and before I knew it, his lips were upon me. His kiss was the most intimate experience I ever enjoyed. His tongue explored my mouth causing sensations to ignite that I’d never felt before. Impassioned with new zeal, I pulled his head toward mine trying to meld our bodies together. His sturdy arm brought us closer and I felt his hand begin to explore my body. Enlivened by this passion, I felt as if doused with fuel, my body took on a life of its own and I could hear myself moan yet it felt like a distant sound. Consumed with passion, we were oblivious to the world outside of that little shack.
“Sophie,” he pushed me away from him, “we must stop. This cannot and will not happen.” I ignored him, pulling him back to fulfill my desires but he was stronger than I was and he succeeded in making me awake from my passionate euphoria. “Stop. We must stop now.” He backed away from me with a jerk and I fell toward him from the jolt. He caught me but held my elbows only and at arm’s length to keep our bodies apart. “Are you steady now? Can I let you go? Because I swear woman if you touch me again, I cannot be held responsible for what I will do.” I nodded and he let me go.
“Stud, we have to work something out. We cannot pretend this didn’t happen and go on our merry way. We…”
“That is exactly what we will do. Our lives depend on it, Sophie.”
“But I…” he turned and walked out the door, leaving me standing almost in tears.”

 

Slaves of Destiny will be available on November 19, 2015. I hope you’ll add it to your Christmas list, or better yet, download it quickly with your Kindle app at Amazon.com.

 

A captivating novel of enduring love, gut wrenching war, and crucial survival.

 

 

“Slaves of Destiny” ~ From idea to novel- Part 2

It’s been a while since I added to this post due to several personal tragedies. I am glad to be back. This is the second installment of the making of my upcoming novel, “Slaves of Destiny”. It is unique in that it encompasses a heart-wrenching love story amidst a gut-wrenching era in United States history. The following are my notes taken during the research phase of preparing to write:

In order to help the reader connect with the characters, I knew I must rely on authentic voices from the past. The former slave’s narratives of the Born in Slavery project quickly became the catalyst to bring those voices to life. Each documented chronicle is written in broken English, giving the closest account of the person’s language, slang, and speech. This also gave a priceless gift to those reading them as it creates in the reader’s mind a total picture of the person speaking. In my novel series, The Tapestry of A. Taylor, I write with a dialect to help readers experience the story in a genuine way. Many who have read the series thus far have commented that those characters, particularly Annie Mae, leapt off the page and came to life. The realistic speech of a character is what changes the reader’s perception of him or her from being only a character in book, to becoming a friend-like person that they begin to care about.
While this love story presented in Slaves of Destiny is a tangled web in itself, I want to give a very real account of the complicated life of the late 1800’s. As per my vision of “creating stories that are both entertaining and inspiring, encouraging readers to live confidently and never to give up on their dreams”, I always strive to incorporate truth, knowledge, and inspiration in every story I write. In The Tapestry of A. Taylor, Abriella Taylor, must muster fortitude and tenacity to survive changes her life and that of her family. In the sequel, The Weaving of A Warrior, Abriella grows and overcomes life’s struggles while discovering her own strengths and weaknesses. These are lessons that every person must learn in order to be successful. My target audience, adult women, relate to my protagonists for this reason- inspiration to become the whole person we are to become, strength of integrity when faced with adversity, and compassion for those around us on the same life journey. Even in my sexy, almost erotic, novel The Uncommon Waiter, (under my pen name Kasey Mitchell), the protagonist must face her personal history and possible future uncertainties in order to connect with another human being on every level. The inspiration to overcome personal tragedy does not have to be boring! On the contrary, in The Uncommon Waiter, Mia Montgomery has the opportunity to live every woman’s fantasy IF she can face her demons.
As much as I am enjoying the research for Slaves of Destiny, I look forward to the writing process that I hope to begin soon, that is, if I can pull myself away from the stories that help inspire it! If it is true that “It takes a village to raise a child” then I presume that it takes a world to appreciate a people. The United States’ history will be tarnished forever by the practice of slavery; nothing can change that. However, in writing a novel of this magnitude, I hope to give a loyal and empathetic voice to the people of that era whose integrity was roused to change the dark spot of our nation’s history. I am indebted to all those who made these chronicles possible.
The writing project collected narratives in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writer’s Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). These narratives were then assembled and microfilmed in 1941 and became the seventeen-volume collection called Slave Narratives: A folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The website for this project is here: “Born in Slavery” Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project 1936-1938 . This online collection came about thanks to the efforts of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs Divisions of the Library of Congress. The online collection includes over 200 photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division. I must note that Citigroup Foundation contributions are the reason we are able to access Born in Slavery today. No doubt, the purpose behind this federal project was to retain, restore, and to retell the nightmares as well as the triumphs of that generation. I am grateful to every former slave who was willing to relive his or her life, to every writer who painstakingly transcribed their story into a written account, and to all people who contributed to creating our ability to read these tales on line.
My hope is to recreate a world that contained both evil and good, selfish and caring, and hopeless and inspiring characters- a world much like ours today. Although some may feel this historic time was eons ago, in so many ways, we today can find inspiration and courage to live our daily lives from their example.
Happy reading!
K.C. Mitchell

Click here for my Pinterest Board on this subject.

“Slaves of Destiny” ~ From idea to novel

Someone challenged me to start my blog by telling about the research that I am currently doing to complete my next novel, Slaves of Destiny, which I plan to launch by Christmas 2015. At first reluctant to put my thoughts out there, I soon became quite excited about the prospect of sharing this process of research. This novel, in particular, captivated my imagination. I did not want to write only the average book, giving only a superficial account of the intricate details of slave days. I wanted authenticity, historic accuracy, and intimate accounts. I needed to discover a way to tap into a world from over 150 years ago. What I found blew even my imaginative mind.
I stumbled upon a website that housed priceless information. Library of Congress’ Born in Slavery site, which was part of the Federal Writer’s Project from 1936- 1938, contains more than 2300 first-hand accounts of slavery and over 500 photographs of former slaves. This was exactly the type of information I was looking for to portray an accurate description of the everyday life in the south during the 1860s time, which is the setting for Slaves of Destiny. I sat mesmerized at my computer for hours and hours, pouring over the narratives and taking notes along the way. My mind felt transported, as if by a time machine, to another dimension. This rich history of our United States of America unfolded before my eyes. Each individual answered questions presented by the interviewer, from what they ate each day to their marriage traditions.
While there was definitely a familiar thread that ran from one person’s account to the next, there was also striking differences. Some slaves were treated with a friendly and trusting affection by their owners while others were abused and treated no better than farm animals. Many of the former slaves looked back upon their slave days with a fondness of their owners and the other slaves they remembered. Yet others were clearly moved by the emotion of talking about a dark period in their lives. Regardless of their personal feelings regarding their former slave lives, each person freely shared information, feelings, and customs. Their gracious retelling of their lives enriches our knowledge of that era of our country’s history.
One account stated that many slaves wanted to learn to read and write; however, slave owners were fined up to fifty dollars and a possible jail sentence if they taught slaves to read or write. I plan on the protagonist in Slaves of Destiny teaching her husband’s slaves to read and write so this important morsel of information will help to portray her dilemma about doing so. Other voices spoke of the slaves having private ceremonies to marry amongst themselves because some owners would not allow marriage. Those who wanted to be ceremoniously joined would have private traditions of “jumping the broom” where the bride and groom would say a few words and jump over a broom on the floor to signify their union in the presence of the other slaves. I actually wrote about this tradition in a previous book, The Weaving of A Warrior. Those characters wanted to recreate their ancestor’s marriage tradition and I learned of it from a simple search. The detail of such ceremonies I learned from the Writer’s Project website will help me to create a more effective scene in Slaves of Destiny.
Others allowed their slaves to marry but would sometimes keep them under strict orders to see one another only on Saturday evenings. Still other owners would allow their slaves to be married and to enjoy a family life just as freed men including their private home where they could raise their children. The differences in each slaves’ conditions is directly proportionate to his or her owner. Many owners were harsh yet almost as many treated their slaves as paid workers, actually giving them allowances each weekend, or privileges to enjoy for good work.
All these fascinating details help me to construct a setting of the farm or plantation that will be the basis for my novel. Slaves of Destiny is a love story between the plantation owner’s wife, my protagonist, and his head slave. The protagonist’s husband is a harsh and cruel man and slave owner. He deals unfairly in all situations, including his marriage. His wife is forced to marry him, a much older man than she, and her wicked circumstance is made worse by the fact that she loses the love of her life in the preface, hence setting the stage for the book. She is in love with a young man her age but when he decides to join the confederate army at the beginning of the Civil War, this vulnerable girl is forced into a marriage with the plantation owner. Her mother sees this marriage as her daughter’s future security, understanding that her true love will never return from war. Indeed, everyone’s future appears bleak. The young man leaves to fight a hopeless war. The plantation owner faces losing all his farm helpers, thus his wealth, if the war is lost. A young girl is thrown into an abusive, loveless marriage. The slaves in question have no idea how they will survive if they are freed without any resources. Each of the character’s destinies appears hopeless as they each navigate their lives as best as they know how.
As the details unfold before my mind’s eye, I am getting to know my characters. As I see people interact in my own day-to-day errands, I incorporate the tangled web of human interaction into each character. In Part 2 of Research for Slaves of Destiny, I’ll go into more of the details that will render this story an authentic book, rather than just another pretty face of literature. The following is a picture from the archives of the Writer’s Project and a link to more on my Pinterest Board reserved for my research for this novel. Feel free to explore.
Until then… Happy Reading!
K.C. Mitchell

Pinterest Board: Research for Slaves of Destiny
slave pic