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

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Lost Art of Letters and Diaries

The art of letter writing is becoming a talent of the past. Correspondences between family and friends is now replaced by emails and Skype and instant messaging. How will this impact future generations when they want to understand the world we live in today? Our world no longer values cursive writing or a man’s signature marking his word or contract. Our  younger generations do not know how to properly sign their names because they are not being taught cursive writing in school.  All of these skills are lost to the computer age.

Letters and diaries give researchers a first hand account about lives past. Personal ideas and reflections of life as one experiences it.  Thoughts and feelings scribbled onto now aged yellowed fragile paper.  As technology propels us forward, paper gives way to intangible clouds. Are we losing a valuable link to answer questions future generation will ask about us?

Letter writing and diary keeping is an art. It is a space where someone can record their thoughts and feelings about their lives, hopes and worries. Ideas written in personalized handwriting, printed or cursive.  The creative squiggles of cursive writing decorates the page with personality and wit. These personal accounts allow the reader to understand “life as usual” and intimate details about love and devotion. It is all about life as someone experiences it.

Sallie Myers

Salome Meyers

Tillie Pierce

Tillie Pierce

The diaries of Tillie Pierce Alleman and Salome Meyers Stewart discuss life before during and after the Civil war at Gettysburg. Learning intimate details about these women’s lives brought Gettysburg and its people to life.  These accounts helped me create characters who would have seamlessly fit into Gettysburg during that time. Letters from the southern point of view, from Richard Henry Watkins to his wife Mary revealed his devotion to his family and home. Richard wrote about the farm and business dealings before talking about personal issues to Mary. Through these first hand accounts, I understood how they saw the war. Richard treated the war as an inconvenience, while Tillie and Salome expressed fear and worry about how their lives may change. Reading their words helped me understand the events through their eyes.

Hand written letters are becoming a lost art. How will future researchers understand history through our eyes? Will these records exist for future researchers to understand our lives as we see it or will it be gone forever?

 

The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Meyer Stewart, 1854-1922

At Gettysburg or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative by Tillie Pierce Alleman

Send Me an Old Pair of Boots & Kiss my Little Girls – The Civil War Letters of Richard and Mary Watkins 1861-1865 Jeff Toalson, editor 

 

Richard and Mary Watkins 1890

Richard and Mary Watkins 1890

 

Create No Stress Holiday Traditions 1860s Style

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, December 1848
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

November and December are notably high stress months. Increased pressure of the holidays leaves us worrying about where is the fun in all of this hassle. During these months, striving to bring back the traditions of the Victorian Christmas can instill some stress free traditions. I cringe when I hear holiday music before Christmas, and I especially hate, yes hate Black Friday shopping. I long for the family traditions of homemade ornaments, Christmas cards and gathering of friends and family. Here are some ideas to recreate Christmas memories to keep your traditions strong.

Traditionally Thanksgiving was not a celebrated tradition until President Lincoln proclaimed it a national day in 1863. During this time, the country longed to come together after many years of separation from loved ones. This was a time to reflect blessings of family, health and abundance no matter how big or small. Thanksgiving is a time for food and thankful hearts. Our tradition is one of creativity and togetherness. Each family member contributes and creates one holiday dish for Thanksgiving. The family meal is reserved as a family only meal. This is when we can discuss the blessings received throughout the year.

The Christmas season during the 1860 echoes the tradition of family and togetherness. Creating gifts, decorating the tree and visiting family and friends are the traditions I keep alive in our family.
The Victorian gift giving began months ahead of the season. Women created handicrafts of quilts, knit scarves and mittens as well as other gifts made of needlework, crochet and tatting projects. Men would also create items that reflected their talents of woodworking and metal works. The art of homemade gifts take time and talent.

Sentiments of gift giving in the 1860’s were simple and focused on the gratefulness of giving and receiving. This passage talks about the simplicity of Christmas in 1860. The Cause: Love & War by Ellyn Baker.

The family had a quiet Christmas with a small gift exchange and a meal in celebration. Emilie received paper from Aaron and new writing pen and ink from Henry. Her most treasured gift, a heart-shaped locket from her parents. The locket gleamed gold with scroll inscription on the top. Emilie gave homemade gifts of knit scarves and mitten to the boys and she made an embroidered collar for her mother.

The popularity of the Christmas tree was slow to popularize in America. It became popular in the 1840’s with Queen Elizabeth. Soon Americans began experimenting with the tree tradition. The trees began as table top or small 4 foot trees. The decorations were made of paper, and dried fruits. The fascination of Christmas decorations are a beautiful tradition I keep in our family. Our traditions include stringing cranberries and popcorn, Moravian or German Star Ornaments and homemade gift paper and tags. These traditions are easy and quick. I create these projects while I relax in the evening.

Enclosed is an instructional video on how to make the Moravian Star. This link will demonstrate how to make a Star Ornament. Thank you Lorraine, from her blog: With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart:
http://gratefulprayerthankfulheart.blogspot.com/2009/11/1-year-blogging-anniversary-tutorial.html

Visiting family and friends was a tradition of thanks during the Victorian times. Some know this visiting tradition as a “round robin”. This is where people go from house to house visiting and giving holiday wishes. If more people had a tradition like this, we would feel closer as a community. No one can deny the closeness of family and friends when you open your home to them for small quaint visits.

This tradition demonstrated in The Cause: Love & War. In this passage, Emilie enjoys this festive time. They enjoyed visiting and Christmas traditions of family and friends. This was a good Christmas for the Prescott family, the last Christmas before the war.

The next few weeks bustled with activity. Emilie finished the tree in time to show it off to the neighbors on Table Rock Road. Paper ornaments, popcorn and cranberry ropes decorated the small tabletop tree. Emilie beamed with pride when she put the final touches on the tree. Neighbors called on the Prescott family between Christmas and New Years. There were always more gingerbread cookies to make and cider to warm. The smells were comforting and inviting. The weather was either very cold or very snowy this season, no one seemed to mind, everyone thankful for the traditions they shared.

Instead of a season of stress, look at this as a season of new traditions. Creating tradition gives your children good memories and something to take to adulthood. Try some new traditions this year to bring a new joy to your holidays.

Secession! Echoes of 1861 Return to 2012

CREDIT: “THE ‘SECESSION MOVEMENT’.” Currier & Ives 1861. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The firestorm of the last election has brought forth the same words our Southern states echoed in 1861 when Lincoln was elected President. Secession! The re-election of Barrack Obama has upset many citizens that they are compelled to re-visit the ideas of seceding from the Union. It must be defined as to what is secession and what does it mean to us as a nation. The same reasons our ancestors felt is necessary to fight for their rights are the very similar to the reasons we have today. What are the arguments then and now? Do we have a right as states to separate ourselves from our federal government? A comparison of 1860s and today will bring some compelling arguments to the forefront. This is the first of a three parts. The first part will discuss the reasons why we want to secede.
Setting aside all of the mudslinging and racial disputes. The real reason some feel it necessary to sign a petition for secession include the same reasons the South moved forward with their pursuit to separate our country. Both generations believe the government is too big and holds too much power. The citizens of both generations believe personal liberties granted by the Constitution are under attack through excessive government spending and taxation. Both generations want their government to adhere to the Constitutions’ as written to relinquish their powers and return it to the sovereignty of the states.
The people of both generations are concerned about the size and power of government. Reading over the 2012 issues, the states claim: “The economic difficulties caused by the government’s neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending.” In other words, those voicing their opinion are tired of the national debt and dependence on China to fund our country. The current government has not had a budget in four years. Could you run your home without regard to the money you currently make?
In 1861, the size of government concerned the people of the South. They believed the most of the governmental power belonged to the states. The federal government’s favoring the industrial north and placing high taxes on the imports and exports deeply hurt the Southern economy. The federal government was also funding in part, navigation, commercial and manufacturing interests in the north while taxing the south’s import and export of cotton. Coupled with the growing abolitionist sentiment, the South’s economy felt threatened. The south advocated more power given back to the state governments to best tackle the issues at home instead of in Washington.
Personal and Civil liberties are the primary constitutional government promise to its people. To make the liberty of individuals secure. As stated in the Preamble and the Bill of Rights. These liberties are not “given” by the Constitution, rather it is assumed the people already possess the liberty. They are protected from the government using its power to abuse individuals. Therefore, the government cannot invade a person’s private realm without violating the Constitution.
We the People Petition for secession, states the government’s blatant abuse of liberties by the TSA and the NDAA. These agencies original intent was to protect the citizens. It is now felt they have crossed over the boundaries of protection into violation. On a smaller scale, liberties are being tested with passing laws that prohibit what citizens consume and how much. Does it really matter if someone wants to consume more soda than is recommended? Where is the personal responsibility? Our government does not have the right to regulate these types of issues. It is simply not within the eighteen enumerated powers to do so. Why are we allowing our government to “parent” us?
The story for the 1860’s view on personal and civil liberties ties in strongly with the slavery in the South. In order to understand this concept, you must remove any emotion you have and look at the facts of that time. Slaves were considered property. Slaves were bought, sold and passed down in wills and estates from the conception of our history. The idea that slaves were people, was as foreign as giving your car all the rights and civil liberties as we have. The problems arose when people started to understand the immorality of the situation and moved to change it. When this movement took hold, the south felt their property, livelihood and income was being taken from them.
The Deep South cried foul as the abolitionist movement began to gain strength. The ‘rights to own property’ as guaranteed by the Constitution, in their minds was a violation. At this time, any new state admitted to the United States was a free state. The government protected any slave that won his freedom through escape to the north. Finally, upon Lincoln’s election, he made it clear this nation would not survive half slave and half free. These restrictions were strongly felt in business, personal lives and standards of living. This is no different from our government stating. “Tomorrow the only car allowed on the road is electric.” The gas-powered owners would severely suffer loss of business and standard of living.
One of the biggest issues our forefathers grappled with was how to make our country balanced. Federalist Paper No.39, James Madison writes “States are sovereign, federal government is a creation, an agent, a servant to the states.” This manuscript struggles to define which principles the government will hold itself to, either federal or national. The struggle still focused on keeping a strong voice for the people, so no stronger power could take and hold the government hostage as in a monarchy.
The last issue is the cry to return to the original running of the country as dictated by the Constitution and original documents set in place by our forefathers. The main issue is restricted powers of the federal government to allow states to function as they see fit. The state closest to the problem; should have say in how the problem is fixed. The country does not have a federal snow removal program. Of course not, several states do not have a snow issue.
Our forefathers created the 18 Enumerated Powers to give the federal government limited power over the country. Many people state the federal government is doing it “for the good of the people”. The states left to their own devices are completely capable to determine this too. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are documents that define us as people and a country. If we erode the very foundation of that which we are built, will we not crumble like a house with weak foundation?

Gettysburg 1860’s: The Little Town That Never Says Stop

Authors spend hours creating their novels. Time, place and character roles all play a significant part in how the story reads. Knowing the book’s goal was to have a strong female lead in the middle of a man’s war was an important key for this novel. I needed a place to easily fit my character and her family’s beliefs; support their culture and allow them to “fit in”. This is why Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the location of  The Cause: Love & War.

A famous real estate motto boasts Location, Location, and Location! This is exactly what Jacob Prescott was looking for when he made that fateful decision to relocate his family. Although he was not a self-proclaimed abolitionist, Jacob did not believe in the evils of slavery. He grew weary of running the plantation alone. It was time to move. Gettysburg was the perfect location for his family because in 1860, Gettysburg was the small town with all of the big city amenities.

Located seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Prescott’s were as far south in the north as they could get. Once a Southerner always a Southerner, Jacob understood his family would not change by a simple geographic marker like the Mason-Dixon Line. Family ties and traditions were very important to them.

Gettysburg a bustling town of 2,400 people, the cultural make up consisted of Scotch-Irish, German, African Americans, Native Americans and others. Gettysburg established its presence as a settlement, with quality of life improving for its citizens as early as 1840. Gettysburg progressed quickly from the years 1840 to 1860. The community had many progressive personalities that ensured the town’s growth and prosperity. Grounded in faith and surrounded by education the community proudly stayed a progressive small town. The community boasted eight churches, German-Lutheran, German Reformed, Catholic and Presbyterian. Gettysburg had two colleges, a consolidated public school and many private schools.

The area boasted a great balance of industry and agriculture. Fertile farms included crops and orchards of wheat, corn, rye and plums, apples and peaches. Many farmers, whose crops became consumed or destroyed as the result of the battle complained to the government. Most received little for their losses. Industry and businesses kept the population in Gettysburg growing. Tanneries, butcher shops, shoemakers, hotels, restaurants and several mercantile provided citizens choice in merchandise. Industry boomed with carriage factories and the steam foundry that produced cast iron products. The Carriage factories contracted many jobs such as wheelwright, lace makers and cabinet makers. The carriage factories were Gettysburg’s leading industry and export business up to the war. Gettysburg had plenty of occupations and jobs to support its increasing population.

Growth and development of Gettysburg boomed around 1858 when railroad service linked Gettysburg to Harrisburg and Baltimore. The town progressed forward with gaslights and water system in town. In 1857, Gettysburg consolidated their schools into one public Union School. The Union School opened classrooms to male and female students. Soon after the Union School progressed, David Wills, lawyer of Gettysburg, focused on training teachers to improve the schools. Public schools, private schools, colleges and a Theological Seminary prepared Gettysburg to become forward thinking community.

The political environment in Gettysburg was actively boisterous. Politics played out in the Gettysburg newspapers. Citizens could read varying opinions on all political subjects. The town was sharply divided Whig, Republican and Democrat. Debates and political meetings kept the towns patriotism alive. It was this patriotic sentiment that raised many honorable and brave troops at Lincoln’s request.

Gettysburg was not all work and no play. Social events were just as important to make this community strong. The local churches provided picnics and socials for entertainment. Gettysburg had several visits from traveling circus. Unfortunate situations like barn fires and other tragedies gathered the community together to care for each other. During the war years, many relief groups pulled together to support the Union. It was this sense of community and strength that pulled Gettysburg through the horrific months of battle aftermath.

Jacob Prescott could not have made a better decision than to move to Gettysburg. The family was still close enough to the South to stay in contact with family. It removed them from the up close and very uncomfortable issue of slavery. Gettysburg had a thriving community of free blacks. The community by no means a utopia, segregation and negative black opinion was still quietly prevalent. Yet this culture was making headway for its time.

The 1860 August 20 note in the Compiler stated Gettysburg’s sentiment towards their success as a town.

“Gettysburg now has her railroad, her water works, her gas works, her cemetery, her college, her seminary, her public school. What will come next? We cannot say, but our enterprising little town never says stop”

Good soil, occupations a plenty and education for the family, are ideal qualities for a good place to live. The Prescott family was excited to begin a new life. Would a town so deeply steeped in political opinion, change their opinion of the new family from the South?

 

Echoes of the Past


While crafting my upcoming novel, The Cause: Love & War, I often half listened to the radio my husband enjoyed,    while I traveled back to the 1860’s to create. Many of you know my husband and I work in very close quarters. He drives the semi while my writing office is only 3 feet from him. During these days, I tried to focus on the 1860’s with half an ear to the radio. Amazingly, the topics I wrote about echoed through the radio programs. I soon discovered taxes, government and racism are hot topics of both time periods.

The early candidate debates talked a lot about the size of government. Today, Republican’s believe in smaller federal government with more control given to the states. In 1860, the South complained about government having too much power. Southerners believed their state was their country and the Federal government had its place as an umbrella over the states to protect the country not govern it. Many 1860’s citizens believed in the idea of popular sovereignty. This principle states the consent of the people is the resource of all political power. Who is correct? Opinions from both sides still make the issue of big government vs. states rights controversial. The answer always lies in the foundation of the country.

The Constitution of the United States created to form a “more perfect” union. If followed as our forefathers intended, this document and its principal’s work. The Constitution gives through the eighteen enumerated powers, more rights to the states, than the Federal government. The novel is set during the Civil War. States rights regarding the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories was a big issue for our country. Those who study the Civil War understand, the issue of states rights was as important to the Southern culture as jobs and lower taxes are important to us today.

The subject of taxes will never change. Today our president discusses the importance of taxing to pay for government spending. Tariffs began as early as the 1790 had become the largest source of government revenue until the Federal income tax, established in 1913. Prior to 1860, the tariffs were low and reciprocal. The Morrill Tariff, passed two days before Lincoln took office deeply affected the cost of trade for Britain with the South. The Morrill Tariff favored the industrial north as it placed heavy tariffs on imports and exports. As you may have guessed, the south felt overtaxed and slighted by this new law. Prior to this idea, tariffs had not been a major political issue. Tax inequality today echo the southern complaints of tariffs favoring the industrial North, just as people complain of the inequalities of today’s tax system.

I think the most remarkable similarity between the subjects in the novel and today is racism. I was deeply involved in writing about Emilie and her father rescuing the family’s  friends from slavery at the same time  the Trayvon Martin murder happened. The impact of the emotion in the book and the senseless killing of a teenager haunted me for a long time.

I do not know exactly what happened that day, as I do not know what happened daily on a plantation, but trying to understand how people simply discount another person’s value by the color of their skin will never make sense to me. The relationship between the Prescott’s and Big Jim’s family is not unusual; it is simply not, what everyone hears. The topic of slavery and racism spurred me to research more about plantation life and the Underground Railroad. I needed to find hope. We still have a long way to go as a human race. The key is we are all the same. We are human, and to accept each other as we individuals is not a sin, it is the biggest gift we can give ourselves.

Time marches on and history is being made every day. We need to learn from our past and stop pushing it into the future. Our clothes have changed. Our technology had jumped light years ahead, but I see little difference in the people of 1860s than I do looking at us today. Is this just a result of being human or are we sadly destined to repeat our past?

 

History the Good, Bad and the Ugly

I recently read an article by Brian Feinblum from his blog, Book Marketing Buzz. (http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com) The article entitled Santa Quits Smoking! Is it Right to Alter a Classic Book? told of how Pamela McColl, a Canadian child advocate decided to edit the classic Night Before Christmas poem to exclude the line regarding Santa and his pipe. She removed the pipe reference without changing the text, meaning or story line. The reasoning was because the passage promotes smoking that may influence young children. The article continued to discuss changing other classics to protect the reader from potentially harmful influences. My question is: When will it stop? The banned book list is full of books that have historical value. These books tell our history in a simple entertaining fashion.

The tales of human history are the most exciting and gruesome stories ever told. History is not a storybook neatly tied up to put away. History is life that evolved us into who we are today. If we change our history, we lose the chance to study and learn from it. Classical stories reflect the times in which they were created. 190 years ago, it was acceptable to smoke. Today we have found smoking causes many illnesses and cancers. Yet as many people who advocate against smoking. As many people still smoke. Their influences either directly or indirectly will influence their children. Changing a story will not affect children as strongly as the adults around them.

Classic stories such as Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, all have significant relative history in them. The reader learns about the characters life. A life influenced by religion, morals and political trends of the time. It is easy to jump onto a soapbox to tout the injustices of these times. Anger over cruelty against people or the language they used to talk about others. I am positive everyone wanted to do the same back then. What’s important to remember is what circumstances that prevented the character from doing so. Hester from the Scarlet Letter would have liked everyone to butt out of her business instead of being publicly humiliated. The moral/religious laws of the land exposed her to ridicule. Hester lived in a judgmental time where everyone’s indiscretions were publicized. Hester turned out to be a stronger character, still doing good for her community.

Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin both talk about the plight of slavery and the cruel effects of the time. Do not forget these books talk about the injustice of slavery too. All of these instances have truth to them. These truths ring clear because passion of the time is real. This is not an issue of right or wrong, this is an issue of plain truth. If we want to stop repeating history, we need to take a good look at where we came from and change it. Racism will never go away, if we do not understand its past. We will never evolve our history until we stop perpetuating one side of the story. Until we teach our children how history got it wrong there will not be change. If we cover it up or ban it from our bookshelves, we will repeat it.

History is not a subject for the faint of heart. If you do not like a subject, don’t read it. However, in that same instance, do not stop others from wanting to understand and learn from history. All of the books on the banned book list have relevance. Instead of changing them, challenge yourself to learn from them.