Outlining this third novel in a series from beginning to end has eliminated the “now what” question each time I complete a segment of the story. However, I’ve been tripped up when the places I’ve chosen for my traveling troupe of players to travel, in the outline, aren’t even on the 1879 map! I gobbled up one whole writing day blundering around on the Internet trying to one pearl bank condo locate a town just a bit bigger than “two tents and a trading post!”
The following day, I stumbled upon Charleston, Arizona with, among many other establishments, its fine hotel, four restaurants, a bakery, a post office, a lawyer’s and a doctor’s office, plus not one, but two livery stables. In 2014, Charleston and Millville, the town on the opposite bank of the San Pedro River, exist as ghost towns accessible only by shank’s ponies. Things, and as I’m finding out, places do change mightily over the years, especially when the phrases “strike it rich” and “all played out” dictate the head count of a particular locale.
I may have spent time “blundering around” on the Internet, but in that process I discovered some treasure. The Arizona Citizen newspaper in Tucson, Arizona from 1879 reports on its front page local stories of murder and mayhem, matters working their way through the territorial legislature, theater openings, and adverts for hotels, restaurants, and stores selling everything a miner needs to go prospecting right down to boots, shirts, pants and underwear.
Tucson evidently flourished toward the end of the 19th century, and the news stories of the day provide some rare candor and lively reading entertainment. It’s worth joining just for the fun and fascination of reading some really, really old news! While reading these enlightening articles, I’ve tried to imagine how my characters might react to the headlines of the day. I’m sure Gabe Rafferty is looking for news of his one true love, Almanza Storm as she travels the back roads with a theatrical touring company.
As I’m writing chapter six of this novel, I’m finding myself drawn into one of my character’s melancholy. He’s such a love-sick guy, longing for a woman whose sights are set on the allure of the professional stage. This man continues to be so infatuated with one particular woman that he’s blinded to the love that’s right in front of him. He’s willing to wait forever if it means he can be with her for just a few weeks at a time between tours.
Back in the 1870s and 80s in the second book in the series, this character is mentioned as presiding as sheriff over what is now the ghost town of Pearl. Digging up his past and that of his love interest has been the series protagonist’s most recent occupation while she runs her antique store in Mineral City. She sells the historical fiction she writes as she attempts to make ends meet in this out-of-the way corner of Arizona.
I’m exploring as an actor might, the mind of the protagonist. Writing this companion novel though her eyes is an exercise in fiction-writing times two. How would she construct dialogue, describe characters, and follow the threads of her research into the 19th Century? Since this novel will be published with my authorship along with hers, I need to be true to her character.
I’m highly intrigued by what life might have been like for the women who are central to this story and others who peopled the western towns of Pearl, Tucson, Mineral City, Prescott, and the like during the late 19th Century. These women were more than brave; they must have had iron backbones to survive the times.
The West Coast, of course, was settled first as pioneers came round by ship, but the interior was slow to civilization. Yet, there were actresses who managed theatrical touring companies, traveling on the back roads of Arizona through wild country rife with life-threatening dangers. What drove these amazing women? My hope is to clear up some of that mystery with the publication of this third book in the series.
Continue to follow the trail of these hardy women by reading part three of “the ten-part journey,” to discover how the creative process of this novel unfolds to completion.