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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The Great Character Debate

victorian women

 

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.

The Cause Comes Alive !

I am tickled pink to see and hear the book trailer. This piece finally brings the book out of my head. It is different to see it from the reader’s perspective. This is a quick 15 second trailer for The Cause: Love & War.

The official release date is September 10, 2013. Enjoy!

I linked you to my Facebook Author Page go ahead and Like this page too!

The Cause: Love & War Book Trailer

Book Update: Big Sigh of Relief

Book treeLife goes on. I cannot believe last year at this time my manuscript was still in the writing phase. Last week I completed the final edits. The manuscript is off to the layout phase and out of my hands for about four weeks. . In a few short weeks, I will hold my book, pages crisp and clean, hot off the press 🙂

I am looking forward to marketing the book and honing my public speaking skills. Next week I will be presenting the book to 7th and 8th graders as a teaching tool about writing a novel and the Civil War. I have prepared handouts and a PowerPoint to present next week. I am excited to meet the students and try out my book platform.

During the last year, I have spent hours writing in quiet isolation. It is a great atmosphere to create. I had time to write my heart out. I must confess this lifestyle is torture for a social butterfly. I learned to use social media and my blog to stay in touch with the outside world, but what I really want is to meet people.

My goal for the book is to help people understand there are two sides to every story. It does not matter if it is a political issue or if it is a disagreement between co-workers. If you understand the other side of the argument, you are half way to making a compromise. If the world was as focused on compromise as it was set on being right, our world problems would disappear.

The Cause: Love & War explores the southern side of the Civil War. Many topics explored have been overlooked in the history books. To understand another person’s passion keeps all of us on the same playing field. Each side is as passionate about their belief as the other is about his. Instead of taking the attitude of “my way or the highway”, it is often best to put aside the emotion of the issue and talk about the facts.

If the north and south would have taken time to discuss the issues, we may have avoided war altogether. Like many politician then and now, confusing issues added to the problem have nothing to do with the foundation of the problem. This is a deliberate distraction that alters the discussion sending it off course into emotion that stirs up other problems.

The next set of posts will explore the southern issues that lead to the war. In the theme of both sides of the story, I hope it is an eye opening adventure for everyone.

Secession- Is it Legal or Practical?

Congressional Painting

America has a long history of secession. We seceded from Britain. The South attempted to secede from the United States. Did you know, several states resolved to secede from the new country even before there was an established federal government? The last post, Echoes of Succession, discussed the roots of secession. Several key issues remain the same in each incident. The first point included a group of people not feeling fairly represented by the government. The second points to the infringement and abuse of government power toward the people. Finally, the last point of contention is the movement away from the fundamental principles of the constitution. This post will answer the following questions using these key points as a springboard. Do we as individual states have a right to secede from the United States and would it be practical to do so?

The framers of the Constitution avoided addressing two key issues while writing and debating the course of our country. The issue of slavery and the provisions for secession were deliberately avoided. The founding fathers knew the addressing of these issues would mean the death of the Constitution. Leaving us no clear way to resolve slavery and secession, resulted in a four-year battle that affected every American from that time forward.

There are two theories when it comes to the question of the legality of secession. Those who hold the sovereign states belief and others who argue the United States is one country. Sovereign state supporters point to the Constitution to support their argument of legal secession. It is interesting to know, the Constitution does not use the phrase, sovereign states, anywhere in the document. The implications of sovereignty and states’ rights originated with the original 13 colonies. The colonies seceded from Britain as a separate states united by this one cause. They gathered their arms, volunteers and beliefs to secede from England. The mentality of separate sovereign states is clear. People of this new nation did not refer to themselves as Americans. They were still Virginians, South Carolinians and Pennsylvanians. The belief that your state was your country rings true from the conception of this country.

The second theory believes the separation of state will be the demise of the country as a whole. The North leading up to the Civil War vehemently argued this side of the story. Lincoln was a staunch believer in the county as one, with a powerful central government. During his first inaugural address, he clearly stated his legal position: (www.historynet/secession)

“No State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union, that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.”

Lincoln clearly believed that if he allowed the south to secede from the Union, it would lead to the destruction of the country as a whole. He rejected any notion of sovereignty of states. Yet, he allowed the secession of West Virginia because it benefited the Union. The final argument against secession became a verbal war of interpreting what “was meant” by articles and words within the Constitution. It all circles back to the fact there was no clear provisions to secession. If states want to secede from the Union, they must address the issues with the federal government.

The last civil war did not dispel the success or failure of secession. It was declared a rebellion, which then resulted in violence without the chance for a peaceful resolution. Nothing was solved by the last Civil war, the south returned to the Union under duress that is still seen today. If Texas succeeds in its petition to White House, it is my hope this issue is resolved without acts of war. The Civil War proved violence does not solve anything. The country suffered greatly during the Reconstruction period. Our country cannot afford to take a step back. Today we need to forgo violence and listen to each other. Our forefathers spent months arguing and compromising to create the best government model known in history. It took patience, compromise and perseverance.

The practicality of secession is possible. Texas is on the cusp of creating history for our nation. In order for them to succeed, it will take everything this country has to quiet their opinions and bigotry to listen and peacefully come up with solutions. This is no longer a fight for the freedom of one race, but it is a fight for the quality of life for the human race. History writes another chapter every day. What will the next chapter of the United States read?

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?

 

Both Sides of the Story

Those who study history, soon realize not all subjects are created equally. There are millions of documents written about war. We read about the winners more often than we learn about the losers. Time in the classroom is typically focused on who is right and who is wrong. Remember: arguments are born out of valid beliefs that clash. Studying one side of an argument deprives us from understanding the whole story. What are we missing by only viewing the subject with half of the information? Why do we blindly turn away from the other side of the story?

Both sides of the story became my personal theme when I began Civil War re-enacting. Preparing my family for our first re-enactment, I was educating the kids about the weekend and some of the points they needed to remember as mini re-enactors. My son, Ian stopped me in the middle of my lecture and asked. “Mom, why are we representing the South? They lost.” I asked him if he knew why they lost the war. His response like so many was because slavery was wrong. My heart sank. Yes, I agree enslavement of any human is wrong, but that is not the South’s only issue. It went so much deeper than that. This was a teaching moment for my children. I explained he would best understand the Civil War if he “lived” the part of the South. Learning their side of the story would better help him understand our nation’s history.

My original intent for writing The Cause: Love & War was to put Emilie into a dilemma that would challenge everything she knew up to this point in her life. Born and raised in the South, not as a spoiled Southern belle, but as a girl who understands life is work and family values are worth cherishing. When the Prescott family moves north, everything she knows and hold dear is challenged, not only by her Northern neighbors, but also by the pending war.

As suspicion rises, Emilie must meet the challenges to keep her values or re-invent herself, while learning to live and love in a place that continually demands to know where her loyalties lie. Emilie can see both sides of the story, but unlike us, she has to decide who she is and where she will stand when the war ends. The reader will see both sides of the war through her eyes.

My greatest hope is that this story will encourage people to learn openly about so many real life issues today. The Cause: Love and War will be a springboard for people to stop blaming each other and instead sit down and listen to each other. We will be an enriched society if we can stop fighting and start understanding.

The Cause: Love and War is scheduled to be published Spring 2013.