Last night at a quarter to midnight, I finished the first draft of the fourth volume of The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax, a project that has preoccupied me for the past four months, but especially the last six weeks. I typically go through three drafts with the first being the most difficult because I have nothing but a blank screen in front of me.
Consequently, the first draft is painful, just getting something coherent down. With the second draft, I work on connecting loose story threads, cutting the verbiage and organizing a “bible” that makes sure my characters are consistent in appearance, expression and habits from chapter to chapter. The second draft is work, but not pain. The third draft is fun as I work on strengthening the verbs, polishing the language and resolving any plot issues.
The first draft of the new manuscript came in at 487 pages and 142,000 words. By the time it’s done, I figure it will be in the 120,000-word range. So, I have editing work to do.
In this volume, protagonist Lomax encounters George Armstrong Custer and accompanies him to the Little Bighorn, where their trails part. I read close to 60 books on Custer and the battle, looking for facts and individuals I could incorporate into the historical novel. For the Lomax series, I like odd facts, those not generally utilized in fiction. For this book, the fact that intrigued me most was the number of rattlesnakes the cavalry encountered on the march from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the Little Bighorn. So, rattlesnakes will play a role in my version of Custer’s Last Stand.
For the title, I plagiarized myself and am calling it Bluster’s Last Stand, a title I previously used with great success on a Spur Award-winning story for True West on the Battle of Yellow House Canyon. The title sums up my assessment of the commander at the battle. Custer is one of those historical figures that people either love or loathe. I fall in the latter category.
Bluster’s Last Stand is scheduled for publication next year and will bring a new set of Lomax adventures to print two decades after his previous one about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral appeared in print. It’s fun to work once again with my old friend Lomax, even on a first draft.