Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kizzie's Kisses: From Character and Setting to Plot

In my last post on the development of my novel, Kizzie’sKisses, in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series, I wrote how I used the descendant chart the Sweet Americana Sweethearts authors put together to develop my characters and setting. You may access the first two blog posts. 

  • The first one about developing the descendant chart you may read by CLICKING HERE
  • The post about developing my main characters and setting you may read by CLICKING HERE.

I described a bit of the setting that was established by one of our other authors. We knew Mary and Ezra Benton would plan to go to Oregon, but he would get sick and die, leaving Mary with her three children far from their former home in Ohio. One of the authors in our group, P. A. Estelle, accepted the challenge to write up a scenario so we would know where the family ended up when Ezra died, how she would meet Edward Palmer, and where the family would be living at the time our stories begin. She is the one who put Edward and Mary (Grandma Mary, the quilt-maker) Palmer in Salina, Kansas.

My character, Kizzie Atwell, is the oldest grandchild. She marries in 1865, the last year of the Civil War. When I started Kizzie’s Kisses, I was just sure I was writing a Civil War novel. After all, in many ways, the Civil War started in Kansas almost from the time the territory was opened to white settlement in 1854. The fighting between the free-soil movement and abolitionists against the pro-slavery advocates who moved to Kansas from Missouri led to the famous expression, “Bleeding Kansas.”
Territory Map of Kansas

Ha-ha! Did I get fooled. Those characters of mine had minds of their own. Put together with the setting, the plot went a different direction than my original plan. All my research into the Kansas cavalry regiments of the time will have to wait for another book.
Early map of Kansas Counties

When I first read the scenario where the grandparents moved to Kansas, I assumed it was soon after Mary Godwin Benton married Edward Palmer in 1845. From that, I got it in my head that most of Mary’s children plus Edward’s son, Stephen, would have gone with them. Once I started researching the history of Kansas, I realized they needed to migrate to Kansas much later. In spite of that, knowing from my study into family history research that families and communities often traveled together, I decided that the oldest daughter, Jemima Benton Atwell, and her husband, Sidney Atwell, plus their children and some Atwell cousins would go to Salina, Kansas too.

What was happening in Salina, Kansas in the 1850’s and early 1860’s?

February, 1858 – A townsite along the Saline River was located and given the name of Salina. The region was officially unorganized territory known as the Arapaho District. However, that same month and year, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill organizing and defining the boundary lines of five new counties west of the 6th principal meridian, among them Saline County. Saline County was on the edge of the frontier. To the west was Cheyenne buffalo hunting grounds. 

Cheyenne Buffalo Hunt
1858The first stock of goods to Saline County was brought by George Pickard. The great floods that occurred in that year, washed away all the Government bridges on the Smoky Hill, Saline and Solomon Rivers. Another road was built on the south side of the Smoky Hill River between Salina and Kansas City.

1859 – Gold was discovered at Cherry Creek in Colorado, and the The Smoky Hill Trail, which followed an ancient Indian trail along the Smoky Hill River, was traveled to reach this region. It started at Fort Leavenworth and Kansas City, followed the north side of the Kansas and Smoky Hill Rivers and passed through Salina before travelers entered Cheyenne land. This trail cut about 120 miles off when compared to traveling the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail along the Platte River. The Cheyenne were extremely hostile to whites entering their territory, even if they were only passing through.
Kansas Map showing Smoky Hill Trail and Santa Fe Trail

Wolf Robe, Cheyenne
April, 1862 – as described in the records of the times, "Indians" massacred white settlers and burned down their farm buildings west of Salina. They reached Salina itself.

September, 1862 – Bushwhackers invaded Salina. There was no loss of life, but they stole provisions, weapons, ammunition, horses and mules.

The closest fort to Salina was Fort Riley, established in 1853 about fifty miles to the east of Salina on the north banks of the Kansas River. The regiments stationed at the fort were not only involved in Civil War actions against the bushwhackers and Confederate soldiers in both Kansas and Arkansas, but they protected the people living on the Kansas frontier from Indian attacks. As the Indian tribes were later pushed into Indian Territory, Fort Riley became a cavalry training fort.

Fort Riley, Cavalry Training Camp, 1920's
What does all that have to do with my plot? My book starts with Kizzie fleeing east to Fort Riley where her father and uncle (Jefferson Atwell, Sidney Atwell’s older brother) had gone to sell cattle. She wants to get help for the rest of her family who find themselves fleeing from the Indians attacking white settlers around Salina. Later in the book, both the bushwhacker attack on Salina, and Fort Riley pay a part in the plot.

My book, Kizzie’s Kisses, is now on pre-order. It will be released on Monday, January 9th. Be aware: the book is currently at the pre-release sale price of $.99 which will continue through January 9th. Starting January 10th, it will go to its regular price of $2.99. The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited. You can purchase this book on pre-order by CLICKING HERE.

You will want to read all the books in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series. To find then all in one place, please visit and follow the series page on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

To keep track of any games, parties, contests and special information about the Grandma's Wedding Quilts series, please "like" and follow the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts page on Facebook by CLICKING HERE.

There are two days left of a Quilt Contest Trivia Game which continues through January 8th. By playing that game, you will have a chance to win prizes including free ebooks, signed copies of print books, Amazon gift cards and a new 7" Kindle Fire. Even though you may have missed the first few days, you still may qualify to win the daily prizes or the grand prizes. CLICK HERE.

The Sweet Americana Sweethearts authors plan to keep writing together to create more book series. You can keep track of our progress two ways. First, please visit and follow the SweetAmericana Sweethearts blog by CLICKING HERE. 

Second, join the SweetAmericana Book Club group on Facebook by CLICKING HERE.

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