New Year’s Resolutions: Less sugar and a Civil War novel

1-Mike Staton
Here I am, Michael Staton, standing next to a cannon at the Civil War battlefield of Vicksburg.

Back on New Year’s 2015 I wrote a piece on the history of resolutions for the Duplin Times, the weekly newspaper I called home for several years. Interestingly, making resolutions as a new year begins can be traced back to ancient times. So I’m in good company, since I plan to discuss a resolution or two I’ll be making today.


I like to eat during the monthlong holiday period that stretches from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. And good eating includes sweets – pies, candy and cookies. At the beginning of October, I managed to reduce my weight to 173 pounds. That weight is no longer applicable. To hazard a guess, I’d say I’m now 183 or 184 pounds. Too many See’s Candies, Cheryl’s cookies and Marie Callender’s pies. Hey, at least I haven’t eaten any cakes.

I can truly say I need to start a new regimen of neighborhood walking – at least 45 minutes a day five or six days per week. And no sweets. Instead, I know I should start eating salads and vegetables. More visits to Sunset Station’s buffet… a good salad bar, healthy vegetables, and no-sugar added deserts. Yep, that’s my first resolution… I present the proverbial “I am going to lose weight in 2016.” Or until Thanksgiving rolls around in eleven months.

Guess what? I’ve made a resolution for 2016. I’m going to outline a novel. It’s to be a Civil War tale.

I’ve another resolution I’m going to make public to all Writing Wranglers & Warriors readers. That way in a month or two you can inquire, “How’s that writing resolution coming? You know… the one about outlining the new novel.”


I’m going to write The Great American Civil War Novel. First, though, I have to outline the plot, or as I visualize, write an extended synopsis of the tale. With the synopsis in hand, I’ll then do a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, providing a roadmap for when I start to actually write the novel.

Killer Angels
Shaara’s classic Civil War novel with a Gettysburg setting remains one of my favorites.

When I think of classic Civil War novels, I think of two – Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore. While I’ve read far more Civil War fiction than these two, they are the ones I think of when I look back at novels I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Both were read during an era when I participated in a Confederate Civil War re-enactment outfit homebased in Lancaster, Ohio. That’s right… the hometown of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.


Through the decades I’ve scoured the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. I’ve seen the battle locations – Cemetery Ridge, Culp’s Hill, Spangler’s Spring, Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, McPherson Ridge and the Railroad Cut. Shaara’s words in Killer Angels and my mental images conjured the battle come to life.

I love time travel novels, and Bring the Jubilee is one of the best. Moore presents an alternate history where the United States lost the war. The novel takes place in the impoverished rump U.S. in the mid-20th century. The most powerful nation in the Western Hemisphere is the Confederate States of America. War looms between the C.S.A. and its rival, the German Union. Then one day historian Hodge Backmaker decides to travel back in time to Gettysburg in July 1863 to witness the moment when the South won the war.

Bring The Jubilee
How can anyone not like this classic Civil War novel? It combines the battle of Gettysburg and time travel.

I’ve no title yet for my Civil War novel. But I do have some concrete ideas for the plot. The major action will take place in North Carolina and on the Chancellorsville battlefield. The Tarheel State locales will include Wilmington and the Duplin County towns of Kenansville and Wallace, back then called Duplin Roads. During the war, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad played a pivotal role keeping war supplies flowing to Richmond and General Robert Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate blockade runners brought war supplies into the port of Wilmington and trains shipped the supplies north into Virginia. After Rose Greenhow’s returning blockade runner ran around in October 1864 off Wilmington, she drowned when her rowboat overturned as she tried to escape a Union gunboat. She’d sewn gold into her dress, dooming her. Most of the action will take place in 1862 and 1863, but I’ll see if I can figure out how to include Greenhow in the novel. Maybe I can have my major protagonist, Bill Bradford, back in Wilmington recovering from a war wound suffered at Gettysburg and then being reassigned to help man the walls of nearby Fort Fisher. That would put him close to where Greenhow dies.


Jackson shot at Battle of Chancellorsville
My plan is to build the plot around the friendly-fire wounding and eventual death of Stonewall Jackson.

Bradford will join up with the 18th North Carolina at Wilmington. The regiment is rather famous as the unit that accidentally shot General Stonewall Jackson in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Of course, Bradford will be there to witness the general’s wounding (Jackson died eight days later of pneumonia complications from the wounds). I think I’ll have Bradford wounded during the march to a Pennsylvania crossroads town called Gettysburg. Back in Wilmington, he’ll be present for a Union cavalry raid on a sword factory in Kenansville. When back in Wilmington, he’ll be able to renew a romance with a southern girl from Duplin Roads.


Now I have to put these myriad thoughts into a coherent chronological plot. Just writing this post has helped. What do you think? Do I have a winner? Would you buy the novel?

# # #

Hey, I’m an author, a fantasy trilogy to my credit. Larenia’s Shadow… three novels, The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin, and Assassins’ Lair, just published this month. They’re published by Wings ePress. You can buy them in ebook formats on the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashswords. If you like the feel of a paperback, you can purchase them on the Amazon website.


24 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions: Less sugar and a Civil War novel

  1. Happy New Year! Historical fiction is not my favorite genre, but it sounds like you’re on to something there, Mike. I look forward to hearing more about it as it develops.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Civil War is the event that just keeps giving to historians and story tellers. Just don’t use that image of the Rebs and the cannon. It is wrong in so many ways. Jackson’s wounding and death are the favorite “what if” of the Lost Cause. You will need a new twist since Jackson is a very popular subject. I can refer you to a great forum for information


  3. Good for you Mike! My resolution is to write my resolutions in the Spring, when I have more energy and more likely to keep them.

    I will ask, “How’s the novel coming?” , so expect it when you least expect it. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like you’ve got something good already sussed out for your novel, Mike- whether you lose pounds in 2016, or not! You’ve got a wealth of historical info in your head that’s desperate to be used! Best wishes for both intentions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Nancy. Thanks for the best wishes. I see that my new novel ‘Assassins’ Lair’ is available as a paperback on Amazon (Createspace), but not yet as a ebook. The Wings ePress person must be watching American football today (lol). I have posts written for you, but have been holding them until I have Amazon links. If the ebook links aren’t there by tomorrow, I’ll email the stuff to you on Saturday with the paperback link.


      1. Hey, Nancy, I’ll take a look tomorrow at where Wings ePress stands with making ebook versions available on Amazon for Assassins’ Lair. I know that any of the people reading your blog who might want to read the trilogy would most likely start out with the first book. The Emperor’s Mistress and it is available both as a ebook and a Createspace paperback (as is the second, Thief’s Coin). For myself, I like a paperback, but I know lots of people have made a financial investment in a Kindle or Nook.


  5. Great resolutions Mike! I lost over 50 lbs with Weight Watchers (and a lot of exercise) but that was back in the nineties. I’ve put it all back on, unfortunately. I do plan to forego the nightly snack my husband insists on having (which usually involves cookies or cake) and drink a glass of milk instead. I am also writing a Civil War novel this year, so loved this post. Mine will be much different (I have to get an elephant and a circus in there somewhere) but my brother is also a Civil War Re-enactor and I pick his brain constantly. Best of luck with your writing – I can’t wait to read the new book. Happy 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fantastic about you writing a Civil War book, Linda. And I’m fascinated by your mention of a circus. Makes me think of the 19th century saying: “I’ve seen the elephant,” for something way out of the ordinary.


  6. Mike, I’ll try to remember to give you a nudge, not that you’ll need it. You’re very focused and on top of things. So I bid you another siccessful novel, and a Very Happy New Year. You have enhanced my life vy getting to know you. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am not much of a historical fiction fan. To be honest, history was one of my least favorite subjects in school (and I loved school!). But I remember back in my days when I was a script reader, I came across someone’s Civil War re-enactment script. I thought, “Oh boy, boring!” but the writing was good, the characters were complex, and I found myself tearing through the story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what the studio wanted but it gave me a new sense of appreciation of that time in our history. Of course, the script was set in modern-day so maybe that helped me. 🙂 I look forward to hearing more about your novel and it sounds to me like you already have a great start. Happy New Year, Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve heard great things about Killer Angels, but never heard about Bring the Jubilee. Best of luck with the novel, it sounds like you know what you’re doing.


    1. Bring the Jubilee is 1950s SF with a Civil War era setting. I really liked that book as I read it. I guess I’m just a sucker for a good time travel story. Still am. If I see one on a shelve, I’ll grab it. I did read another SF time travel tale… people from this era showed Confederates show to use their technology to turn out primitive versions of M-16s.


  9. I think you’re off to a great start on that novel, Mike! I would read it! I love American history. I too have writing goals for the New Year, including my children’s dog rescue book. Good luck to you!


    1. I’m doing a detailed synopsis now… been on it for 2 days. About 5 pages into it… probably no more than a third of the plot outlined. Lots to still do. The hero’s not even off to war yet. He just turned 18 and is ready to join up, but he just met the girl of his dreams, and she wants him to delay a bit so they can explore their budding love. That’s not very patriotic of her, is it? Hey, they’re only 18 months into the war and she’s jaded, disillusioned. He has a dilemma. Does he stay a few more weeks and spend as much time as possible with her? Or do what others say and be a man and join the 18th N.C.? The girl’s going to be crying, I think. I got to get him up into Virginia and trained for the coming battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.


  10. I love coming up with goals for the new year. I think yours are doable. I’m not a Civil War fiction fan. I prefer my historicals older – middle ages, ancient. But it sounds like you have the makings of a good story there. You can do it!


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