240 Years On…Saratoga

We are now 240 years on from the Battle of Saratoga. The clash called Freeman’s Farm took place on September 19th, 1777. The two sides dug in and probed each other until the decisive clashed misleadingly named after Bemis Heights occurred almost three weeks later. Shortly afterwards John Burgoyne would surrender his army, and his once proud name would forever be associated with defeat. (The Americans would even turn it into a verb: getting “Burgoyned” was something you DID NOT want to happen to you)

Hudson emplacementSo what? Well, Saratoga was decisive in the way few battles can claim. It more than outweighed the fall of Philadelphia to the British. While the Americans lost their capitol temporarily, the British lost an army of thousands of men for good. Saratoga was the trigger for France to entire the war on the American side, and the family squabble in America became a global war between empires. Ultimately, of course, the Americans and French would “Burgoyne” another British army at Yorktown, and the British would seek peace.

The guns at Saratoga are long since silent. The fields and forests that were once places of battle are now peaceful, even serene. They are excellent places for reflection, and for appreciating the efforts of those on both sides of the family squabble that gave birth to the United States of America.

To read about Saratoga from a participant’s perspective, check out A Constant Thunder.

 

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Release Party!

A Constant Thunder front cover SMALLMy fourth novel, A Constant Thunder, will be released on Saturday, September 16th, 2017 (just in time for the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Freeman’s Farm on September 19th).

Why not join me at a Facebook Release Party on September 16th? From 4:00 to 8:00 PM (that’s 1600 to 2000) US Central Daylight Time, three featured authors and I will discuss our work, hold contests, and even do some giveaways. It is a great chance to meet some incredible authors and find out more about their work.

Click the link for details: A Constant Thunder Release Party

Pre-Order Now!!!

A Constant Thunder front cover SMALLA Constant Thunder is now available for Pre-Order on Kindle!

The fourth installment in the Gideon Hawke Series sees Gideon and Ruth travel up the Hudson Valley to confront General John Burgoyne’s “Canadian Army,” to include a contingent of Native American warriors. In some of the most savage fighting of the American War for Independence the Continental Army will try to prevent Burgoyne from cutting the fledgling United States in two.

Pre-order your copy HERE!

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Progress

Quill Pen Retro Ink Vintage Antique History PenGideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder is creeping closer to being a reality!

The other novels in the Gideon Hawke Series have come in at 65,000 to 71,000 words. A Constant Thunder is now at 55,000; more importantly, I only have a few chapters left to write!

The story is coming together nicely. The summer of 1777 is a time of great challenge and change for Gideon Hawke and Ruth Munroe. At the same time the fledgling United States is facing the greatest threat yet to its existence, Gideon and Ruth’s relationship is going through a profound change. They will each face dangers and trials, and will each learn a great deal about themselves and each other.

Each of the Gideon Hawke novels has a unique feel. A Constant Thunder most certainly feels like a journey: a journey of adventure, change, growth, and exploration. At the end, Gideon and Ruth will be older and wiser, and they have learned a bit more about what it means to be themselves, and what it means to be Americans.

Now…back to writing!

Check for the latest updates on Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

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Historical Figures Great and Small

A great challenge and joy of writing historical fiction is learning about historical figures, both great and small, and working them into my novels. Sometimes I only know them as names on a centuries-old roster, but those names represent real people who once participated in monumental events.

Gideon Hawke is a fictional character. His name, description, and character traits are all products of my imagination. Ruth Munroe is a fictional character, but her surname has roots in Lexington, Massachusetts. By contrast, Andrew Johnston was a real person. I know absolutely nothing about the real Andrew Johnston…aside from the fact that he was one of the original members of Thompson’s Rifle Battalion/the 1st Continental Regiment, he was promoted to sergeant , and [SPOILER ALERT…READERS MAY WANT TO AVERT THEIR EYES] eventually he became an officer, reaching the rank of First Lieutenant on May 12th, 1779. Everything else about him, from the image in my mind to the description on my “character chart,” is fiction, roughly based on my limited knowledge of Johnston’s life and times. Fictional Andrew Johnston is one of my favorite characters; real Andrew Johnston was one of the “winter soldiers” who stayed with Washington during the bad times; through his stubbornness and determination he helped keep the dream alive.

I have recently enjoyed getting to know a few other real characters, all of whom appear in Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

  • Lieutenant Colonel Richard Butler. Butler grew up in his father’s Pennsylvania gunsmith business, and prior to the war was very active in trading with Native American tribes. He was held in high esteem by, and spoke the languages of, several nations, so in the early years of the war he played a key role in keeping some tribes from going over to the British side. He was later commissioned in the Continental Army. A physically strong, hot-tempered man, and pre-war friend of Colonel Daniel Morgan, he served as Morgan’s second-in-command in the Rifle Corps during the Saratoga Campaign. He will play an increasingly large role in Gideon’s life.
  • Captain James Parr. Parr was another original member of Thompson’s Rifle Battalion. When Morgan formed his rifle corps, Parr joined it, commanding the company drawn from the 1st Continental/1st Pennsylvania Regiment. I know very little about Parr aside from his service record. One thing I do know is the tantalizing fact that in the summer of 1777, in small-scale skirmishing, he was personally credited with killing four enemy soldiers in close combat, running at least one through with his sword. Clearly he led from the front! Parr and Gideon will get to know each other very well.
  • Lieutenant Ebenezer Foster. Ebenezer Foster hailed from southeast Massachusetts. He joined the militia in 1777 and served in the Siege of Boston, being involved in the fortification of the Dorchester Heights in March 1776. Commissioned as an officer in the summer of 1777, his service ultimately took him to the Hudson Valley, where he joined Dearborn’s Light Infantry Battalion. Dearborn’s unit worked under Morgan’s command in support of the Rifle Corps. Together, these two units made an incredibly effective team, whose impact at Saratoga was far out of proportion to its numbers. But the price these units paid, especially the Light Infantry, was very dear indeed. In A Constant Thunder, Ebenezer Foster and Gideon Hawke are boyhood friends who meet again in the shadow of great events.

It gives me pause when I realize that I am appropriating the names of people who fought in the great struggle for Independence. I pray that I do them justice. I cannot pretend to be delivering true-to-life portrayals, but I can say I do my best with the information I can find. Perhaps by shedding new light on their names I am at least helping to keep alive their memory I am certainly expressing my gratitude for their toils and sacrifices.

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A Constant Thunder: Time

Time. That’s the killer!

If I could plug a USB cable into my head, I could probably download A Constant Thunder in its entirety. Unfortunately that is not how it works! (Actually, I’m pretty glad it doesn’t work that way. Who knows what weirdness might spill out of my head!)

In my mind’s eye I can see pretty much all of Gideon Hawke #4. The march north from New Jersey, the water journey up the Hudson, Gideon’s first encounter with his native American enemies (OK, I wrote that part already), the skirmishing in the primeval forests, the savage fighting at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, etc. But it is so hard to scrape together the time to commit it all to digits! And all the while, my self-imposed deadline races closer and closer.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again.*

I know that somehow it will get done. It always does.

I am incredibly excited about this novel, even more so than the first three. Maybe it is because of how the Saratoga Battlefield spoke to me—unlike Boston, the Raritan Crossing, Trenton, or Princeton it has not been developed. Certainly it has changed dramatically in nearly 240 years, but at Saratoga you can peer out from behind a tree and almost see the red coats and gleaming muskets emerging from the Great Ravine. I so want to get this novel written!

Besides that, I have another problem: A Constant Thunder is jostling for room in my head with Gideon Hawke #5 and #6! Yes, in large part I already have them roughly outlined in my head, and I have some brilliant ideas for individual scenes. I have more research to do for each, but before long they will be ready for USB download as well! So much writing to do! So little time! Will I get it all done?

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time / Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines*

No. I will not fail. I will bring these novels to life! If nothing else I owe to the characters who live in my head, and to my small but wonderful group of loyal readers!

So…enough blogging. Pink Floyd and I need to get back to writing historical fiction. Until next week!

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* Props to Roger Waters for the lyrics from Time: Poetry at its finest.

Juggling Projects

I have reached a dangerous and challenging time and place: the space between two novels!

Draft #3 of A Nest of Hornets is complete. My editor, and more importantly my wife, have given me some great ideas. Now I have a bit of fine-tuning to do before it is fully ready for publication. But in my mind, this story is nearly told. So my thoughts are drifting…

I have begun writing Gideon Hawke #4, A Constant Thunder. I am truly pleased with the 1000+ words I have thus far! And with my recent excursion to Saratoga is fresh in my mind I am full of ideas that are begging to be committed to paper. What to do?

The next few weeks will be fraught with tough decisions as I parcel out my precious writing time between two novels. The good news, I suppose, is that this is a pretty good problem to have!

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