The Great Law of Peace

As I have discussed before, there are significant challenges to studying the history of a people who committed their stories to the spoken, not the written, word. The biggest challenge for someone from my background is to let go of my preconceptions listen to that spoken word. I believe that when we do so, we can learn more than the story: we can learn about the culture and values that drove the story.

I recently happened upon a re-telling of the founding of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace. Not only does it explain how the Haudenosaunee formed their Confederacy, but it also goes a long way to explain the role of gender in the culture. I did not expect a simply animated YouTube video to be so informative! I’m glad I put my preconceptions aside!

I how you enjoy!

Hiawatha – The Great Law of Peace – Extra History – #1

Hiawatha – Government for the People – Extra History – #2

Happy Reading!

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

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Research Challenges

decl and hawkResearch is a critical part of writing historical fiction. I consider it critical to “get it right” when it comes to things big and small: weather, terrain, the sequence of events, language, uniform and clothing, and so on. For the first five books in the Gideon Hawke Series, research was mostly a matter of finding information.

Occasionally sources would conflict, and I would have to use my judgment to decide what really happened. Sometimes this meant going to the scene of the action. My favorite example was my one-man reenactment of the assault on the Breymann Redoubt at the Saratoga Battlefield, which answered for me how Morgan’s Rifle Corps approached and assaulted this defensive position. Other times, however, I would just have to compare notes and go with what made sense.

Research for Gideon Hawke #6, A Bitter Harvest, has proven far more complicated. While there is a tremendous amount of information on the Sullivan Campaign of 1779, including a wealth of first-hand accounts, for this novel I am endeavoring to dive deep into the society and culture of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) People. That is easier said than done.

It turns out the Haudenosaunee did not leave a written record. What written accounts they left were by isolated individuals, through intermediaries, several decades after the fact. What remains are second-hand accounts and tradition.

The second-hand accounts are plagued by racial and cultural bias. Few European observers (to include pro- and anti-Crown Americans) understood native culture or approached their observations without an agenda.

Modern Haudenosaunee society and culture has evolved considerably since the 1770s. While there is a cadre of people striving to keep the ancient ways and languages alive, I would be in error if I relied too heavily on modern interpretations of culture.

This leaves me with a great deal of interpretation to do. I must take what sources I have and make an outline of Haudenosaunee life and color in the details as best I can. Mercifully, I am writing this story through the eyes of Gideon Hawke, and outsider. I have the humility to know I could never do justice to a Haudenosaunee point of view. Perhaps, just perhaps, I can use Gideon’s tongue to tell the tale of a great people for whom American victory in the War of Independence meant the end of a way of life.

Happy Reading!

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

The British Are Coming!

the-british-are-comingSome writers might find it counterintuitive to plug other writers’ work, but for me it is only fitting. Rick Atkinson is a best-selling author and has won the Pulitzer Prize for both Journalism and History. I have had the pleasure of interacting with Mr. Atkinson on two occasions, and both were rewarding.

The first was around 2005. He was speaking to my class at the Army Staff College, and I had the honor of introducing him. We chatted only briefly, but I found him to be knowledgeable, articulate, and personable.

More significantly, perhaps, about ten years later when I was struggling through publication of my first novel, This Glorious Cause, it occurred to me to reach out to Rick Atkinson for advice. I thought it a long shot, but to my surprise and delight, he responded to my email very quickly, and was immensely supportive. His support had such an impact on me that I vowed to pay it forward. I have, in fact, been able to offer at least a little bit of advice to several aspiring authors, ranging in age from teenager to sixty-something.
When I contacted Mr. Atkinson, he had begun work on a trilogy about the American Revolution. That trilogy has finally come to fruition! The British are Coming is available for pre-order!

The Revolution Trilogy

With his Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson shone a new light on the Second World War. I cannot wait to see what he has done with the American War of Independence. If you enjoy the Gideon Hawke Series and want to learn more about the Revolution, I can think of no better place to start.

Happy Reading!

War’s End

Libert Mem Armistice CentennialAt 11:00 AM on Sunday, November 11th, 2018, I stood with my family before the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Bells tolled to mark the Centennial of the Armistice, recalling the moment when the guns of the War to End All Wats fell silent. While the seeds of future wars were planted in the wake of that conflict, at least for a short while there was the hope of peace.

It was humbling to honor this momentous event, but I left slightly troubled. As I reflected on the relief and awe felt by the veterans of the trenches as their war ended, it occurred to me that my wars are not over.

One can argue that that Iraq War fizzled out; in my mind as long as ISIS, the spawn of the Iraq War, exists, that war continues. Whatever you think about Iraq, there can be no argument that the war in Afghanistan continues, SEVENTEEN years later. These wars just go on and on. They continue on the battlefields, and in the minds and souls of those who fought there. To make matters worse, the military will soon be sending soldiers to fight in Afghanistan who were not alive on 9/11. That will be a bitter milestone.

I have to admit it: I am a little jealous of the veterans of WWI and WWII. They won, their wars ended, and they came home. I sincerely wish I could say that we won my wars, and that they ended. Sadly, I may never know that sense of finality. I suppose I will have to settle for the knowledge that I did my duty, and that I had the absolute privilege of serving with some incredible human beings.

A Bloody Day’s Work!

A Bloody Day's Work front cover SmallWhen I set out to write a novel about the American experience at Valley Forge, I thought I knew the basics of the story. I was wrong. Gideon Hawke #5 peels back some of the mythology about the encampment during the winter of 1778. What is left is no less impressive. The new Continental Army was no longer truly representative of American society: its soldiers were less prosperous and less educated than the average American, but they were by no means less committed to the American Cause. On the contrary, they more perfectly represented the revolutionary ideals of 1775-1776. The soldiers of Valley Forge endured inadequate food and pay and stayed with the Colors. When the weather improved, they trained hard, relearning the business of soldiering. In the process they became a professional army. At the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse they would meet the other professional army on the continent, the British Army, and prove themselves its equal.

Purchase A Bloody Day’s Work: Click Here!

Kansas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology

There is a new anthology collection coming out…initially available for pre-order…of emerging Kansas writers. Guess who is one of the featured authors. (One hint: ME!)

Kansas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology is the latest in Z Publishing House’s series of “sampler platters” of writers and genres, designed to help readers find new authors. This edition includes a short story of mine that started life as the Prologue to A Nest of Hornets;  I cut the Prologue from the book, but it has soldiered on and has finally found its way into print. With you will incredible works by some amazing new authors.

Click below to check out this fascinating collection of short stories.

BUY NOW!

Props to the bad guys

ANH Awards cover 2Golden Box Books Publishing publishes a monthly online magazine. The May 2018 issue is focused on “Meet the Bad Guys.”  One of the featured “bad guys” is Dan Scott, who is featured in Gideon Hawke #3, A Nest of Hornets!

Dan was a lot of fun to write: he was rude, hot headed, violent, and generally awful to be around…that opens all sorts of literary options. He was also a key player in the mystery that unfolded over the course of the novel. It was almost too bad he had to die!

Check out page 14-15!

GBBPub May Issue

 

 

Moving On: Changes

A few months ago, I was talking to my daughter, discussing her plans for the future, and I made some brilliant, Dad-like statement along the lines of: “Whatever you do, it’s important to do what you love.” I was pleased with myself for offering such sage advice. Then my daughter asked me, “Do you love your job?” What ensued was a discussion of the pros and cons of enduring the job you have versus seeking one which has risks, but might be where your heart is. Upon reflection, it was much easier to follow my sage advice when I was 22 than it is at middle age with two college-bound kids and a mortgage.

Or is that just an excuse?

After much consultation and soul-searching, I decided to follow my own advice. Next week I begin a new chapter. I am hopeful that doing something I love will make me healthier and happier…and a better example for my kids. There will be risks and challenges, but I hope it is worth it.

At least I can say I followed my own advice.

And I should have more time to write!

 

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

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The Sun and the Moon Part 2

Last week I talked about how the sun and moon shape the environment and how some of the reasons they can be important to a soldier. This week I’d like to explore another concept in which the sun and moon play critical parts: TIME.

In my cultural studies before deploying to the Balkans in the ‘90s, one difference that stood out was how different cultures perceive time. As an American who grew up in suburbia, for me time was strictly linear: one thing happens after another. Minutes tick by into infinity; what happened before is old news. I was surprised to learn that not all cultures understand time that way.

For many people, time is cyclic. The sun rises and sets, rises and sets. The moon moves through its phases over and over. Winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer, fall. Crops are planted and harvested, planted and harvested. Generation after generation of people are born, grow up, have children, grow old, and die.

It took me a while to understand this concept. After all, time is linear, right? Things have a beginning and an end! As I have grown a little older, I have begun to notice the cycles more. To be honest, the lunar cycle is probably my favorite, and not just because of the moonlit military shenanigans I described in my last post. To me, the moon is an honest broker of time. A glance up at a moonlit sky grounds me, and reminds me of where and when I am. This was never truer than when I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I wrote my family often, and in particular when I wrote to my son I would make note of when the moon was full: this served as a sort of a countdown. “Hey buddy, it’s a full moon! Only eleven more to go before I come home!” For me the full moon was a shared point of reference for my family and me.

sundial-philadelphia

Now my son is in the last quarter of his senior year in high school. We have shared a lot of full moons. When I step back and look at his progress, I can clearly see the cycle in action: He was born, he has grown, and he is about ready to step out into the world on his own, to jump straight into this adventure called life. All is as it should be.

So, is time really linear? Yes and no. Yes, time marches on into infinity, but it also repeats itself in cycles. That is its nature, and it will continue to do so as long as the sun rises and sets, and the moon moves through its phases.

U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon Data for One Day: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

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The Sun and the Moon

If you have read any of the Gideon Hawke novels, you may have noticed that I pay attention to the physical environment. Like many authors I make sure I take into the account the time of year and the weather, but I probably invest more than most in the position of the sun and the phases of the moon. Why? Because to me it matters.

As a soldier I found it critical to take into account the sun and the moon. Try attacking into the sun, or stumbling around the desert at night…until a rising full moon clears the mountains and switches the lights back on! Details that are of little note in our daily lives can be of critical import for a soldier on operations, and knowing how to use the environment to advantage can give that soldier a winning edge.

In Kosovo in 2000, the locals had an elaborate lookout system: when they saw Humvee headlights coming down the road (Humvees have very distinctive headlights) they would spread the word by short wave radio, or by signaling with their porch lights. This made it hard for conventional U.S. forces to do anything covertly. Hard, but not impossible. I found that with a decent amount of moonlight, we could operate our Humvees quite safely on the roads of my sector with our lights OFF. It was a personal moment of triumph when we drove right up to the house of a local Serb family, and the man of the house came out and said, “We didn’t know you were coming!” I smiled and replied, “I know!” We didn’t catch a lot of people in the midst of shenanigans that way, but we certainly kept some people on their toes!

In the 1770s, before photographic mapping, GPS, and night vision, knowing the environment was even more critical. Soldiers like Gideon Hawke, who had learned to move silently at night, take advantage of precious starlight and moonlight, and maximize the advantages of day and night, were at a tremendous advantage. Native American warriors, being raised to live with the land, tended to excel in these areas. This allowed them to move quickly and quietly, to seemingly appear out of nowhere, and to seemingly vanish just as quickly. There were “European” troops on both sides of the War for Independence who had learned these skills: whether they were called riflemen, rangers, jaegers, or something else, they used their skills to snoop and surveil, and sometimes to strike swiftly and without warning. Occasionally generals of the time would dust off this playbook: perhaps most famously, George Washington used the cover of night to conceal his approach marches, enabling the stunning victories at Trenton and Princeton.

I have never used the cover of night to give me the advantage in a pitched battle, but I have assembled troops in the night and launched operations at dawn. I have welcomed the descent of night, and breathed a sigh of relief at the coming of dawn. I have looked up into the celestial spectacle of a moonless Iraqi night, and said a prayer of thanks for the two “stars” flying a holding pattern overheard at 30,000 feet (They were Marine Corps F-18s flying in my support. Semper Fi!)

1 sun

So, I suppose it is only natural that I make sure I take into account what the heavenly bodies are doing. Fortunately for me the U.S. Naval Observatory has a website that will tell you the solar and lunar data for a particular place and time, even back to the 1700s! So, if I happen to mention that Gideon assembles his men at Valley Forge in the pre-dawn hours of April 23rd, 1778, just as a crescent moon rises, or that there was a total solar eclipse a few days before the Battle of Monmouth, you can be fairly certain that I didn’t make that up. I use my imagination to fill in a lot of details in the Gideon Hawke novels, but I will never trifle with the sun and the moon.

 

U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon Data for One Day: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

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