WIPs for 2020 – Notes from the Author’s Desk

Welcome to a new feature I’m doing this year during the last week of each month. The topics of Notes from the Author’s Desk will vary. Sometimes it will be fascinating research I’ve discovered, exciting writing updates I want to share, or just something reading related. I’ve left this open as a sort of whatever fits the needs post.

If you have questions you’d like answered, send me an email and it could become one of the topics for a Notes from the Author’s Desk. I look forward to sharing a bit of my writing world with you!

What’s in the Writing Works for 2020?

The New Year has brought a new challenge which I never thought I’d face, the writing of a Civil War novel with the potential for a series. This is not a time period I have ever really desired to write in–not because it isn’t filled with potential story ideas, but because I understand both sides of the War and felt I could never do it justice.

Kentucky has the unique history of being a border state and ending more Confederate in their leanings after the War than at the beginning of the War. It was a state who could see both sides of the argument, had their own polarized opinions, and struggled to remain politically neutral. As a (nearly) life-long Kentuckian, I’ve grown up with this unique viewpoint as the grounding for my understanding of the Civil War. Neither the North or South were villains.

To communicate this in a story, to give an honest view of the people during the Civil War which is today, still such a delicate topic, has intimidated me beyond belief. Pre-Civil War, great! Post-Civil War, you got it! But to write during that period? No thanks, never will it be on my agenda.

Pro Life Tip: Never tell God you’re never going to do something. It’s an almost guarantee He will call you to it. So here I am, researching my bottom off to gain a clear understanding of the war and all of its many facets. The Civil War is so incredibly large in scope that it is impossible to become an expert on every area, so I started wide and narrowed down to what actually ended up being my own state’s involvement with the War.

Antietam, Maryland – Pixabay.com

The Research and Project Focus

It wasn’t my intention, but it’s where God led me. He also led me to examine war correspondents–who were the self-proclaimed “Bohemian Brigade”; the little talked or written about laundresses of the armies; the Confederate capture of Columbus, KY; the Battle of Belmont, MO (just across the river from Columbus); and the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.

So far I have over 60,000 words typed up in research notes. That’s the length of a small novel. That doesn’t even count the 20,000 or so words typed up for character descriptions, brainstorming, my “sloppy synopsis”, and other tools I use to help develop my story before getting to the actual draft. And all of this is since Christmas break–just over a month.

No wonder I haven’t read much in the fiction world. I HAVE read about sixteen non-fiction research books (in part and in whole) and countless online resources, with plans for a couple of research trips in the works.

It’s still too early to share much about the story, but watch for posts on the last Tuesday of the month to learn what’s going on with the project and my writing world.


What I CAN tell you is this story involves a Kentucky woman with Successionist leanings whose brother has enlisted in the Union Army. Circumstances come about to bring her to be a laundress in her brother’s company. Throw in a war correspondent, a suspicious Union officer, and conflicted loyalties and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I’m still hammering out details and examining plausibility for many things, but I’m excited for where God is leading this story so far. So come back each month to check out research, Civil War stories, sneak peeks at my progress, or any other news that may arise this year.

A Question (or two) for You

What part of Civil War history interests you? What do you wish you knew more about? Anything you wish you saw more of in Civil War fiction?

Circle of Spies by Roseanna White

Circle of Spies by Roseanna White

Circle of Spies is the third and final book in the Culper Ring series, but you don’t necessarily have to read the others to enjoy the last, although I HIGHLY recommend it as you will get connections missed otherwise. This particular story takes place during the last months of the Civil War and full of espionage and tension.

As I prepare to write my own Civil War series, it was a great way to get my mindset in the time period. As always her characters have special gifts that make them stand out. The heroine, Marietta, has a photographic memory. This comes as a curse which she eventually learns to accept as a gift. It truly was a fascinating read with historical details that really got my mind working.

Genre: Historical Romance, Civil War, 1865 – Baltimore

Plot Overview:

1865―Marietta Hughes never wanted to be a spy, but the family legacy of espionage is thrust upon her as the War Between the States rolls on. Unknown to her, the Knights of the Golden Circle―a Confederate secret society bent on destroying the Union her brother died for―has been meeting in a hidden lair beneath her home. Faced with the secrets of her late husband and his brother, whom she thought she could trust with anything, Marietta’s world tilts out of control. Can she right it by protecting a Union agent infiltrating the KGC?

Slade Osborne, an undercover Pinkerton agent, is determined to do whatever is necessary to end the conflict between the North and the South. When he infiltrates this secret cell, it isn’t just their inner workings that baffle him―it’s the beautiful woman who seems to be a puppet for the new leader and yet…so much more.

Do they dare trust each other in this circle of intrigue? Will their shared faith sustain them? And can Mari and Slade stymie the enemy long enough to see their beloved country reunited?

What I loved:
History is always a big one for me, but I enjoyed then tension and ending action of this one. Everything seemed to go a believable path while still keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Favorite Character and Why: It’s hard to put my finger on one, but Grandpa Thad is definitely still a favorite of mine.

Who would like this? Anyone who enjoy American history, especially Civil War fans. The romance in this one is a bit different, but realistic of two broken people learning to become new in Christ. If you like danger, history, and characters with unique gifts, this is definitely a go to read.

Rating and Why: Four and half stars. I love the history, tension, and action of the story.


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Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

This book is hands-down my favorite Civil War novel of all time. My jaw absolutely dropped at how well this story was written and all the details that went into this story. I have never felt so immersed in history as I did in Where Dandelions Bloom. Every time a battle detail or name was dropped, my history nerd brain went wild, knowing exactly what was going to happen historically but no idea of how it would intersect and affect the characters of the story. Seriously, I could read this one over and over and over again.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1861, Early Civil War

Plot Overview: 

Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

What I loved: The history in this book was the most astounding I have ever read. There were so many incredible details, and to see it through the eyes of a woman disguised as a man and a photographer sent to record the War, it was just word defying.

Favorite Character: Aside from the main characters, whom I absolutely loved, Jonah was a favorite. The orphaned boy who joined the war efforts stole my heart from the beginning.

Who would like this: Anyone who loves great historical details, stories of women soldiers, espionage, the Civil War, and hope in desperate times.

Rating and Why: I gave this a six-star rating because it totally blew me out of the water. Everything was so amazingly detailed, yet seamlessly woven together that it takes my breath away. Even now, weeks later, all I can do is shake my head in wonder. And now, every time I see a dandelion I see hope. It truly is amazing to transform something I once took for granted as being a weed into a symbol of hope.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. The review above was influenced in no way by this and the above opinions are my own.

Purchase Links:

Amazon      Barnes and Noble     Christianbooks.com      Target     Walmart

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

The winner from the Interview with Tara can be found at the bottom of the review. 

Engraved on the Heart

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson


If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a HUGE history nerd, and one of my favorite things to research is how the Civil War affected relationships not just between regions of our nation, but within families. Engraved on the Heart does an amazing job of that.

Genre: Historical Romance, 1861, Early Civil War

Plot Overview: More than whispers of war threaten Keziah Montgomery in Savannah, GA. The secret of her falling sickness (epilepsy) is exposed when she loses consciousness during a ball. Former classmate and friend, Dr. Micah Greyson tends to her and they reconnect. Bringing her to a secret abolitionist meeting, Micah reveals why he cannot fight for the Confederacy. Their paths part for a time, but Keziah is forever changed by the story of a runaway slave. She cannot support the Confederacy, though her family is a staunch supporter. Becoming a conductor on the Underground Railroad risks her life and relationship with her family, but it gives her purpose and reconnects her with Micah. As tensions rise, and an antiabolitionist group actively pursues them, will saving others cost their lives and their hearts?

What I loved: The emotional aspect of this story reached a level of depth not often found in Civil War stories. The struggle between family, friends, society, self-worth, and the value of a person were relatable and real. Not to mention, the historical details were accurate and finely interwoven into the story.

Favorite Character: I could see myself in Keziah. Having spent a good portion of my life struggling with self-worth and people-pleasing behaviors, I related to all her emotions and struggles. I also found the descriptions of the epileptic episodes interesting. I have a couple friends with epilepsy and it helped to understand them and what they go through a bit more.

Who would like this: Anyone who loves great historical details, Civil War tensions, emotional stories that deal with self-worth and purpose, and gentle love stories that grow out of adversity.

Rating and Why: I gave this a five-star rating because it was a unique read that really drew in many of the struggles of the time. I was really impressed with the handling of tough issues and all the historical details. It is a story most anyone can relate to.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. The review above was influenced in no way by this and the above opinions are my own.

Join the discussion: The Civil War was a time that tore our nation apart. What do you think would have been the hardest aspect of living during that time period for you?

Purchase Links:

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Congratulations Cynthia R., you are the winner of either a print or e-copy of Engraved on the Heart. Please check your email for more information on how to claim your prize.

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