Last week I turned in my latest manuscript. Whew! Meeting a deadline is always stressful but feels so good after it’s accomplished. This one was no different. Unfortunately, I can’t take much time off to celebrate because I need to get started on a follow-up novella.
You see, this book is the beginning of a new series that will encompass two novels alternating with two novellas. And since I know all of our readers here at Inspired by Life and Fiction are fabulous, creative people, I thought it might be fun to get your input on what direction you think my next pair of characters should go.
So here’s the background:
In the novel that launches the Ladies of Harper’s Station series (No Other Will Do), my heroine, Emma Chandler, has established a women’s colony in 1890’s Texas. Raised by suffragette aunts after her banker father died, Emma firmly believes that women can accomplish anything they set their mind to as long as they work together. So she uses her inheritance to buy an old stagecoach town after it is deserted when bypassed by the railroad.
She invites women of all types to join her there. Those who are looking to escape abuse. Widows with no form of income to support their children. Or even women who simply want a place where they can work a trade normally unacceptable for those of their gender. As the town banker, Emma offers loans to the women who come to her, with the understanding that they will work to earn their way and pay back the money owed. They have a thriving egg business, a large garden plot that allows them to can and sell vegetables and preserves, as well as a quilting group who produce quilts that area vendors sell.
Emma’s closest friend and the one who inspired her to start the women’s colony is Victoria Adams. Tori was raised a shopkeeper’s daughter and has a great head for business. However, when she is ostracized from her family for having a child out of wedlock, she is unable to get a loan to start her own mercantile. Seeing her friend be turned down for loans while men with less experience are granted funds simply because of their gender, inspires Emma to start the colony. Tori becomes her first client and starts a small but thriving general store in Harper’s Station.
Freighter, Benjamin Porter, is one of very few men allowed into Harper’s Station. Raised by a widowed mother, Ben has nothing but respect for women struggling to make it on their own. He delivers supplies to Tori’s store on a regular basis, and during the course of the first novel, steps in to assist the ladies when they are threatened by an outlaw trying to drive them out of their homes.
Tori has a strong distrust of men, especially large men who can easily overpower a female. She’s never told anyone, but Lewis, her four-year-old son, is the product of rape. She’s learned to protect herself by keeping her emotions severely locked down, never showing fear, anger, or even much joy. She does show affection to her son and her friends, but even that is reserved. So when Ben Porter starts hanging around and paying attention not only to her, but to her son, she tries to shut him out. The man is stubborn, though, and doesn’t let her cool demeanor frighten him away. Lewis follows him around whenever the man comes to town and has started imitating the freighter’s mannerisms. The longer Porter hangs around and proves himself honorable and trustworthy, the more Tori’s defenses soften.
At the end of No Other Will Do, Ben Porter comes up with a plan to help Tori expand her profits by partnering with him to deliver goods to area farmers and ranchers and save them from having to travel into Seymour or Wichita Falls, the two closest cities.
So my thought for the upcoming novella is to have Ben invite Tori and Lewis to travel with him to these outlying properties to introduce themselves and gather orders for the types of items that would be in the most demand. Since Ben admires Tori, he also hopes to use this trip to get her to lower her defenses and therefore help him make progress in his one-sided courtship.
So here’s my question – What kind of adventure/conflict/happenstance/disaster can Ben and Tori encounter to force them to depend on each other in such a way that trust blossoms along with deep and abiding love?
I’ll give a copy of one of my backlist titles to the commenter who comes up with the idea I like best. And if I like it well enough to use it in my novella, I will dedicate the book to you!
So let’s get brainstorming!