Wednesday, April 14, 2010
A Family Divided
“In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you…”
Rochelle McShannon closed her eyes, but she couldn’t shut out the minister’s words or the scent of the freshly turned earth waiting to fill her mother’s grave. She couldn’t connect the thought of death with a beautiful March morning like this, cloudless and bright, with new green everywhere and the wind carrying the fragrance of Morgan County’s rich soil, ploughed and waiting for seed.
But not our fields. Not this year, maybe never again.
The spring sun warmed the black wool of her dress, sending trickles of perspiration down her back. She slipped her black-gloved hand into her twin brother’s, felt his fingers close tightly around hers and knew he was struggling for control, too. Through the rest of the service, Chelle clung to Trey’s hand, gathering her strength for the task of receiving condolences.
Most of the county was there. Sidonie McShannon had been popular with her neighbors, from the Sinclairs and the other large planters down to the hardscrabble farmers. It wasn’t in her nature to look down on anyone, and she’d been good at smoothing the feathers that the less than tactful little Yorkshireman she’d married tended to ruffle. She’d possessed an easy grace that Chelle had long ago given up trying to emulate. She was too much like her father.
This is the opening scene from McShannon’s Heart. It’s the springboard for my series, with the family on the verge of splitting up, Rochelle and her father to return to his old home in Yorkshire and Trey to come of age on the battlefields of the Civil War. McShannon’s Chance is Trey’s story, as he makes a new life for himself in the Colorado Territory after the fighting is over. Heart follows Chelle during the war years, as she finds her place in the Dales village of Mallonby and comes to terms with her new life.
I chose Colorado for Trey because it captured my heart with scenes like this. As for the Yorkshire Dales, I fell in love with them years ago through James Herriot’s stories. The old farm above makes me hear the haunting strains of Chelle's hero Martin's fiddle in my mind. The third book in the series brings the twins together again in Colorado after ten years of separation. It features an old neighbor from Morgan County, Nathan Munroe, a secondary character from Chance who demanded a happy ending of his own.
I love a book with strong secondary characters that make me yearn to read their story, too. Nathan’s book promises to be a lot of fun to write. I seem to find myself laughing a lot when I work on it, the kind of laughter that writers understand and others find just plain weird.
After all, if I didn’t write, how would I explain my quirks?