Why I Write

Gettysburg 2012

Gettysburg 2011

Why do you write?  I’ve heard this question many times throughout my years. As long as I can remember, I’ve had a love affair with paper and pen. Journals, notebooks and pages askew. I write everyday. It all begins with “what if” and I wonder… Writing is not a want for me, it is a need. I need to express myself through thoughts and words. I write because it makes me happy and I enjoy entertaining others.

My second love is getting lost within the pages of good books. I love adventuring through the pages. Make me laugh, make me cry, let me celebrate with the characters. Then safely release me home at the end of the story.

As much as I enjoy going on adventures, I want to be your adventure guide. Let me show you adventure, suspense, emotion, love, hate and all the things that make humans who they are, in situations you may never otherwise dare to go. In the end, I promise to bring you back home.

I write historical fiction because I don’t believe history is boring. If this is your opinion, allow me to change that. I will write exciting stories about important times everyone should understand. Our history teaches us about ourselves.

This blog talks about my writing journey, the books I write and the research behind the stories. Because I write about history, I will tell it like it is. Human beings, as a species, are good and bad creatures. This blog is not politically correct, because our history has dark times and we are human. I will write with respect and honor for all,but you will never find it sugar-coated. I will write the story from the winner and loser’s point of view. Learning both sides of a story expands our understanding which allows us to decide how to view the event. I encourage you to do this in life. Ask questions. Draw your own conclusions. Learn…never stop learning.

My first publication: The Cause: Love & War.(2013) A historical romance novel about the civilian side of the Civil War in Gettysburg Pennsylvania.Told from a Southern POV we see how Emilie Prescott soon learns the human side of war. She understands her northern cause, while still bound to her southern beliefs and culture. Her views of the war very different from the history books.

I am currently writing the sequel to The Cause: Love & War. It discusses the aftermath of the war from both sides. How the characters quickly learn there is no going back to life before the war between the states. How do you move forward after a profound life changing event? These and many more questions will be answered.

I invite you to stay tuned to the blog for the latest research and upcoming book events. I look forward to interacting with each one of you.

All My Best!

Ellyn M. Baker~

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Author-Where Are You?

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Hello again! I missed my WordPress community. I am back and in the midst of working through the second novel a sequel to The Cause: Love & War. Most of my work until now has focused on researching, and toiling over the new story structure. I started this blog as my writer’s journey and it will continue. My hope is to inspire writers to write and others who want to write to finally pick up the pen and fill books and journals with their talents.  I am finally organized to share with you the development of book two.

Book Two, title still pending, is developing. The reader will revisit old friends and meet a new supporting cast of characters. The research is beyond fascinating for me. While most history books stop at the signing at Appomatox, we know the Civil War and its aftermath went on for many years to come. This is the focus of  book two. What happened after the fighting stopped? The husband, brothers and lovers did not simply put down their weapons and go home to pick up where they left off four years earlier. How did the civilians at home receive their loved ones? How did the South begin to rebuild?

The emotional, social and financial impact of the war only scratches the surface. What about the physical, mental and environment impact? These men were four to five years older. A majority of them who, by the grace of God, survived to arrive home with physical and mental scars. They arrived home to a family who knew them as the person who left. The families expected the same man to return to them. War is not that simple. Can you imagine the shock for both family and soldier? A shift in decision making roles, family roles and expectations. Nothing was the same in Post Civil War Era. Everyone had to define a new normal for themselves.

A portion of the book will talk about the reconstruction of the South. History books are written from the victor’s point of view. Every story has two sides and I am compelled to tell you the other side of that story. Continue reading

The Great Character Debate

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Characterization is a challenge writers’ face with every piece they write. What makes a compelling character? If characters are people, say friends or enemies; how complex does a writer need to create a character the reader will love or hate?

I recently sat down to chat with two groups of readers. They gave me insight about my characters from my novel, The Cause: Love & War. It was inspiring to listen to these women, age 14 to 65 years. These conversations taught me what works and what does not work with my characterization.

Every writer’s goal is to connect the reader to the pages he holds in his hands. Mantras echo in our heads- Don’t allow them to put that book down. Create a world a reader does not want to leave. When a reader shuts out the world around him, you the author have done your job. How do you know your characters touch your readers? Here are a few good indicators I heard from my readers.

Strong Emotional Response: As a writer, I love hearing strong emotional reactions from my readers. When they tell me they needed tissues to get through a few chapters, I sincerely say, “I am sorry I made you cry.” While doing a happy dance behind a “yes, I did it” smile. Their reaction strongly connects the reader to the character. The characters breathe within the pages. They are alive, living unpredictable lives. One critic disliked Emilie noting she was whinny and spoiled. Others describe her as very strong willed and outspoken for her time. Emilie’s character did have all of these qualities. The main ingredient is Emilie grew up. She was not the same girl in the beginning of the story as she was at the end. Either way, Emilie’s personality kept the readers reading. When readers identify with the characters, a bond connects them to the story.

Debate over a character’s action: The book club debated Emilie’s decision to marry after being touched by tragedy. The younger group felt drawn to discuss Emilie’s right to return to teaching after marriage. After a quick history lesson about women’s roles in the 1860’s the young ladies gushed about who was their favorite male character. I felt like they were chatting about the latest movie star. While the book club tried to analyze her logic and that of her parents. Historically, Emilie needed to marry; she was becoming too old to remain single. She understood love and was ready to marry. She would have felt pressure to move on with her life. This discussion shows everyone is thinking about history and Emilie’s well-being.

Leave them wanting more: My plan for The Cause: Love & War is to make it into a trilogy. I wanted to educate the readers about Civil War history in a non-lecture format. The recipe was not complicated; Add a good dose of historical facts, combined it with relatable characters, add a twist and unpredictable turn and tell the history in an enjoyable format. This recipe seems to work as most of the readers wanted to know when the second book was coming out.

The best compliment I received through the discussion group was from a reader who put off reading the story because it was not her genre. She happily said she enjoyed the story and learned more about Civil War history than she ever remembered learning from school.  Characters are the heart and soul of every memorable novel. Take time to listen to your readers and let them tell you what they think. It will make you a better writer.

Writing through Their Words

 

wehearit.com

wehearit.com

 

 

While researching the historical background for The Cause: Love & War, my goal was to move away from the history books and uncover true tales of the time period as told by the ones who lived it. I found a wealth of information in diaries, letters and oral histories. These histories allowed me to see “life as usual” for a common person as pivotal historical events unfolded.

I use these histories to understand people’s personalities through their thoughts and written words. Reading these words set my creative mind to work. Using  these stories as a springboard for character development and story line I began to weave my own tale. Their words taught me dialects, phrasing and vocabulary. Mimicking these historical elements created a believable storyline.

While writing this historic specific story, I found it difficult to “stay in the period” while present day flowed around me. Historical novelists must keep vigilant watch to prevent modern phrases slipping into the storyline. It takes mindset and concentration.

Diaries and journals add realism to the storyline. My goal is to create a reality within the pages. I want the reader to think they live within the pages alongside my characters. I believe this transformation only happens by listening to the past. I dug deeper to uncovering a set of oral histories about slavery in the South. I excitedly found documentation about slave life different from the horrors we read about in textbooks. Slave owners who treated their slaves as people. Another oral history talked about a slave owner hosting a marriage of a black couple at their home. The afternoon said to be a joyous occasion. Not all white slave owners mistreated their slaves. This point often overshadowed by the blatant atrocities seen in movies and book.

The ladies of Gettysburg had an incredible talent for writing everything down. Sallie Meyers, Sarah Broadhead and Tillie Pierce bring the war to our doorstep as it arrived at theirs. I am sure some of these women never intended their words to be published. Their views about their lives help us to understand their experiences in a time we can only read about today.

Each aspect of The Cause: Love & War was touched by some letter diary or oral report, I read. Using various elements of these letters personalized the book and made it unique. The Prescott family’s views toward slavery came directly from the oral histories I read. The letters between Emilie and Thaddeus were written in the same spirit as many lovers, husband and wives. Emilie’s journal entries, helped her express herself, in a voice she was not allowed in Victorian times as many journals written by young women allowed them to express emotions they weren’t allowed to show to anyone else. These therapeutic memoirs open a new world of history for us today.

If the history bug bites, you may want to consider delving into books about collections of letters and diaries about people like you and me.

Transition into Spring

enwikipedia.com

enwikipedia.com

Spring is finally here! I am sitting in Texas as I write this blog excited to feel the warmth of 65 degrees, experience rain instead of snow, and see flowers and trees in bloom. Wisconsin is still in the tight grip of Old man winter. Since I last updated you, I am officially an author and truck driver. I needed my new occupation to support my writing habit 🙂

Transitions are exciting, and this is a good time to refocus my blog.  Most bloggers experience the “post rut” or lack of fun things to say. When I finished the Blogger for Peace posts last December I discovered the blog lost its platform. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of Blogger for Peace and my distraction with the book release did not help.  Last summer’s schedule swept me up with book signings and lectures.  Fall into winter, the excitement of my wavered a bit. The blog lost its way, and I miss the challenge of posting. I miss your feedback.

Months of brainstorming led me to realize I still have a long way to go and a lot to say. The blog had two purposes, my writer’s journey and an educational format, that highlights history. I want to bring you the history not written in the textbooks. It reveals history as experienced by people like you and me.

The Cause: Love & War to highlight a Southern girl’s views of the Civil War as she sees it. My southern character is not wealthy; she does not have the privileges of the elite southern class. Her perspective is different because she is southern-born woman who lives in the North. A different culture and a different outlook, how does she does she understand the changing world around her? How would you consider this world if you were in her shoes?

How did you experience 9/11 or Boston Marathon Tragedy?  My passion for research and history help me understand people are people. Our world events shape the way we think and feel about things. Our history books only scratched the surface of what people experience.

This blog will share more about who I am and my ideas of how history shaped the world we live in today.  I am excited to share the research I did for the book and the new one coming soon.

Thank you for being patient while I was away. I hope you enjoy the journey to come.

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A Tale of Two Book Signings

Every new job comes with a learning curve. Each new equally challenging as another. Learning from these experiences creates better outcomes for the next. The book is four weeks from its release date. I decided set out to pre-sell the book to gain experience through book signing events. I traveled to Gettysburg in June and Northern Wisconsin for July. Prior to the events, I studied several sites on How to Launch a Successful Book-Signing Event. I felt prepared and ready. Here is how that turned out.

The first shipment of books arrived, despite tornadoes around the publishing company weeks earlier. I felt the excitement tingle through me as I touched the “real” books I only dreamed about weeks before. These books were hard-won in my opinion. The first experience through this writing process is bumpy as hell and painstaking at times.

My debut signing scheduled for Heritage Hill during the Civil War event planned there. I chatted up the book throughout the park all day.  I strolled through the 90-degree weather fully dressed in 1860’s gown and bonnet. My PR person aka Mom came with me handing out push cards and telling everyone about the new author and her book. Before the signing event, I changed into my author clothes and set up the signing table. As the visitors trickled through the visitors’ center at the end of the day, I chatted about the book and met some interested readers. The best part about book signings is interacting with the readers. Not everyone was interested, but those who showed interest made the event pretty fantastic. This first event as a whole was a success in my book.

Off to Gettysburg. OH BOY!! Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary was the goal from the moment I started writing this book. I wanted to appear at the re-enactment sites, to get the book into the hands of re-enactors. The downfall to this excursion was a lack of early planning. This event week was too big to tackle alone. The arrangements I made washed away like the tide overtaking a sandcastle on the shore. I refused wash away with the sand. I sold some books and made contacts with bookstores for November. The key to Gettysburg is to plan months in advance, not weeks. I simply did not have enough time to get is done successfully. My son and I forged ahead and pre-planned November by meeting book store owners, leaving promo copies and adding to my list of contacts. I left with one signing and two potential signings scheduled.

Two weeks later, I landed in Northern Wisconsin. My PR person set up multiple library tours and a Strawberry Social event. This was my first set of speaking engagements. I prepared to talk about the book, and its important history. The week was exhausting. The Plum Lake event was a signing event with three local authors. We drew local readers excited to meet us. I practiced my one-minute book speech and enjoyed meeting the readers. I am thankful for the librarian’s efforts to advertise through flyers and press. It was exciting to see the events documented in the local newspapers. This was evident as people recognized my name when I introduced myself.

These events are a warm up to the release of the book in September. The marketing learning curve will become easier with experience. Right now, I am enjoying the process. The editing is done, the book is complete. I am meeting new people, talking about the book and learning new things along the way. It’s just another day in the life of a writer.