Shifting Genres: My Protagonist is All Grown Up!

Gideon Hawke turned eighteen!

I mentioned this fact in my fourth novel, A Constant Thunder, but only as a waypoint in his developing relationship with Ruth Munroe (who also turned eighteen). For Gideon, turning eighteen had little tangible effect on his life: he was still an officer in the Continental Army, locked in a protracted war against the most powerful empire on the planet. Turning eighteen was just a barely noticed mile marker on the rugged road of life.

BirthdayFor Gideon’s author, however, his turning eighteen creates an emotional dilemma: changing genres! While I willfully ignored this milestone in the publishing process for A Constant Thunder (he was seventeen at the start of the novel), Gideon Hawke #5 is forcing me to look fact squarely in the eye: I am no longer a young adult author. You see, I always considered myself a YOUNG ADULT historical fiction author. Gideon was fifteen when we met him, after all. This worked out nicely because my kids were in the same age band: they were in the target audience. They, however, have grown older, as has Gideon. As my son fights his way through college scholarship applications, eighteen year-old Gideon shivers with his men at Valley Forge, and I struggle with the idea of being a “New Adult” historical fiction author.

I could take the easy way out: some people define young adult as involving protagonists twelve to TWENTY years of age. I could kick this can down the road, but unlike Gideon I know when the war will end, and how old he will be. I would only be delaying the inevitable. So, when I publish Gideon Hawke #5, I will select “NEW ADULT” (18-25) as the target audience.

Of course, it’s all rubbish! I’ve seen estimates that about 55% of the readers of young adult novels are adults (I would argue there a far more middle-aged Harry Potter fans than teenaged harry Potter fans); I’m sure the same can be said of new adult novels. Let’s be honest, very few of us have put a book down because “Whoops! This protagonist is not in my age group!” This brings us to the heart of the matter: people read books because they can relate, and because they are good reads. In a sense, I don’t think it really matters what I select from some drop-down menu. I think people enjoy reading about Gideon and Ruth because they are relatable: they are like your two good friends whom you are hoping will get together; and when they do get together you really hope it will work out. Gideon is a bit naïve, and he is constantly learning and growing. Ruth is growing too; it’s a good thing Gideon has her to keep him on the straight and narrow. No matter how old they get, as long as I do my job, there will be something compelling about their story. They will be two ordinary American kids growing up in the most extraordinary of times. Parts of their story will be intimately familiar to most of us, while some of their experiences will be both authentic and almost incomprehensible.

So, yes, maybe now Gideon and Ruth are “new adults.” But they are still very, very human: we can all relate to that.

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

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

Research and Revision

Every now and then I get thrown a curveball.

As I have been working on Gideon Hawke #5, I have known something was missing. Having outlined the story, I knew I had failed to grasp some compelling aspect of the Revolutionary War in first half of 1778.

Baron_Steuben_drilling_troops_at_Valley_Forge_by_E_A_AbbeyNot that the material is not there! There is the almost mythical winter at Valley Forge, the “rebirth” of the Continental Army, the shockwaves caused by the French entry into the war (and the subsequent British strategic realignment), the British evacuation of Philadelphia, and the ensuing clash at Monmouth Courthouse (also steeped in myth and legend).

A consultation with a historian at the Valley Forge National Historical Park pointed me toward some sources I had not considered, and that tip proved crucial.

As I read Wayne Bodle’s The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War I realized that I had gone somewhat astray…I had bought into too much of the myth, and was trying to reconstruct the mythical Valley Forge, rather than the actual Valley Forge. The research I had done thus far had seemed less than useful not because it was not accurate, but because it did not fit my preconceptions.

In the Gideon Hawke novels I have always portrayed the Continental Army as a resilient IMG_7587organization. It lacked the polish and uniformity of its foes, but it made the most of what it had. So it was at Valley Forge: the Continental Army endured an unpleasant winter, and it suffered at various times from shortages of food and supplies, but it was still a veteran force that made the most of what was at hand. Yes, Baron von Steuben lent a hand in training it, but would have trained without him. Had von Steuben, in his red coat, been clapped in irons upon arrival in America (as he almost was), I don’t think it would have changed the outcome at Monmouth…the Continental Army would have stood and fought stubbornly. Perhaps von Steuben gave the Continentals a bit more confidence, but I think his real contribution came later in the form of the standardized policies and procedures that made amateurs into professionals.

With all of that said…the story of Gideon Hawke #5 is not about the suffering and rebirth of the Continental Army. The story of Gideon Hawke #5 is about a young officer’s efforts to learn his trade, earn the respect of his people, and lead them through morally ambiguous situations. That is the formula that worked in Gideon Hawke Numbers 1-4, and I think it will work in Number 5.

Now…I have an outline to fix!

The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/606475.The_Valley_Forge_Winter

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

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

How do you define success?

IMG_4318I have to be honest: when I started writing the Gideon Hawke Series it never occurred to me I might win an award. Imagine my surprise when this happened! On Saturday I had the great honor of receiving the Kansas Notable Book Award for my novel A Nest of Hornets.

That was an incredible experience…but it was not the best experience this weekend.

On Friday I had the opportunity to speak to the 7th and 8th Graders at Chase Middle School in Topeka, Kansas. We discussed authorship, the American Revolution, and what “all men are created equal” means today.

When I started writing the series I did hope that I might in some small way be able to enhance young people’s understanding of the Revolution and what it means. The visit to Chase was a remarkable opportunity to do just that. Even better, I had a young lady approach me after one of the sessions and share her aspiration to be a writer; I was able to give her a bit of encouragement and advice.

I will probably never win a Pulitzer Prize or bust into the New York Times Best Seller List; but that’s just fine. If success means having a positive impact on a younger generation, I’m already been there! Now the challenge is to keep up the momentum!

 

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.

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

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

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!

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

Historical Research: Books, Maps, Notebook, Sunscreen, and Bug Spray

What do you think of when you hear the term “historical research”? Many people would likely visualize a quiet library, or a stack of books, or even a computer monitor. I certainly use all of those, but when writing historical fiction I feel there is no substitute for visiting the scene of the action.

I have been fortunate in that at one point or another I have been able to travel to most of the sites I have written about, but my recent visit to the Saratoga Battlefield was by far the most satisfying visit for two reasons. First of all, the battlefield is well-preserved. The man-made structures have disappeared, and the vegetation has changed somewhat, but the topography is generally as it was 239 years ago. Secondly, I was able to thoroughly prepare for this visit as I had not prepared for visits to Trenton, Princeton, Washington’s Crossing, New Brunswick, and so on. That preparation was priceless.

Research 1

Tools of the trade

I had already read up on the Battles of Saratoga; there were many engagements in the Saratoga Campaign, but the “Battle” generally includes the actions on September 19th, 1777 (a.k.a. The Battle of Freeman’s Farm) and October 7th, 1777 (a.k.a. The Battle of Bemis Heights). Once I realized I would be able to make a trip to visit the site, I procured a topographic map of the area from My Topo. The My Topo site produced a map in a scale and format very familiar to me; through many years in the Army I used similar topographical maps to plan and navigate on several continents, so my “Saratoga Special” spoke to me in a very familiar language.

 

I read more, and used the nuggets of information in several books to better understand the timing and sequencing of events. By comparing my notes and the maps in the various books with my topographical map, I was able to narrow down the spacing: precisely WHERE various events occurred. The contour information and precise scale on the topographical map was critical here, as it helps make sense of lines of sight, ranges, and difficulties of the ground. When I thought I had it sorted out, I went so far as to sketch out the sequence of events on transparent overlays over the map, enabling me to visualize the ebb and flow of the fighting.

Then came the big day! Map, notebook, and camera in hand–and with generous applications of sunscreen and bug spray–I set out early to arrive at the Visitor’s Center as it opened. The center is small, and houses a limited but very nice collection of artifacts and dioramas, but I found the 20-minute LED Map presentation to be invaluable. Based on extensive studies of the battlefield and historical record, it corrected a few misperceptions and definitely enhanced my understanding of unit locations and the sequence of events.

Finally it was time to hit the road. I was able to follow trails and paths to find key locations

Author 6

Balcarres Redoubt

where the battle unfolded. It was truly humbling to stand on the very ground where men like Daniel Morgan, Simon Fraser, Enoch Poor, at thousands of others fought gallantly for their respective causes, and where so many gave the last full measure of devotion. I am especially indebted to park Ranger Douglas Bicket, who clarified several points and helped me understand how the field had changed, and had not, since 1777.

 

Being particularly interested in the actions of Daniel Morgan’s Rifle Corps, I focused on retracing their steps as best I could. The vegetation around what was Freeman’s Farm made it a bit difficult to fully envision what Morgan and his men saw on September 19th, but that was a revelation in itself. In that broken, wooded, ground I could see how Morgan’s men were able to fire the first shots of the battle and then run headlong into the might of the British Center Column. To my even greater delight I was fully able to reconstruct the events of October 7th, especially the approach to and assault upon the

IMG_5434

Looking up the slope toward the Hessian positions

Breymann Redoubt. The books may not all agree with my interpretation, but knowing what the Rifle Corps accomplished that day, and having studied and used terrain as a professional soldier, I found myself sliding around the northern flank of the redoubt, into a shallow draw, with a steep slope leading up to the location of the Jäger Outpost and Hessian Light Infantry positions. Standing at the base of that slope, with one of the National Park Service’s white markers just peeping over the top, I was absolutely certain this was the way a tactician as astute as Morgan would have led his men. After I scaled the slope and stood inside what had been the Jäger Outpost, I was even more certain this was the spot where Morgan’s men actually swarmed over the Hessian defenses, precipitating the collapse of the British and German line and sealing the fate of Burgoyne’s Army. Of course I can’t be sure I got it 100% right, but if anyone disagrees with my interpretation I’d happily meet them on the field and have a friendly discussion about it; I think the facts on the ground would speak for themselves.

IMG_5419

One of His Majesty’s cannon

 

Happily, the only hazards I faced during my visit to Saratoga were dehydration, sunburn, thorns, and bug bites, all of which I am happy to report I overcame. 239 years ago, for a few hours, that hallowed ground was a much more dangerous place. I will dedicate the fourth Gideon Hawke novel to memory of those, on both sides, who braved shot, shell, and cold steel on the fields of Saratoga.

My Topo: http://www.mytopo.com/

Saratoga National Park: https://www.nps.gov/sara/index.htm

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

The Ins and Outs of Editing

A Nest of Hornets is with my editor, Ashlee Enz! Her efforts are critical to the novel’s success, but they are only one layer of editing. I have found the editing process to be a multi-phased operation.

When I write a first draft it tends to be in fits and starts. Occasionally I will get a good couple of uninterrupted hours to write, and when I do I try not to get hung up. If something isn’t quite right, I often just move on, planning to fix it “in editing.” Oftentimes I find myself tapping out a scene or patch of dialogue using the “notes” function on my phone, and then I email it to myself. Either way, this can result in the ROUGH DRAFT being VERY rough, so my first phase of editing is to go back through my manuscript on my computer to correct glaring typos and smooth out the flow.

Now I have DRAFT 1. It is still a little rough around the edges but a least is fairly coherent. I then try to take a break for a week or two. After the break, coming back fresh, the next step is to print out the manuscript and read it, pen in hand. I find reading a paper copy to be a very different experience from reading on a computer monitor; I tend to find more missing words and typos, but I also get a better feel for the narrative flow. I use pen and ink to mark issues and jot down corrections. If I am uncertain about something, I will often read it aloud; verbalizing reveals flaws that would otherwise remain hidden. This is also the stage at which scenes tend to get added or deleted, and paragraphs shuffled around. Once I am through with the printed work, I do the tedious work of going page by page in hard and soft copies, transferring edits from page to digits. I hate this part, but it is critical to success. By the time this is done, we are ready for the editor.

DRAFT 2 goes away to the editor. For a short time I clear my mind of the current book while the editor does her magic. When I get the edited copy back it is full of proposed revisions, which I go through one-by-one. With Times That Try Men’s Souls I think I accepted about 99.5% of Ashlee’s recommended changes: a good editor is priceless!

Now I have DRAFT 3. But we’re not done! There are three critical steps left, not necessarily done in this order:

  • Expert consultation. My son is in the target age group. I prefer him to read a draft to make sure I am on track. I the case of A Nest of Hornets there is also a bit of swordplay, and my son is a talented fencer, so I counted on him to make sure I got the technical and tactical bits right.
  • More expert consultation. My wife has been incredibly supportive of my writing, and I value her feedback. Her approval is critical.
  • One last read. I look through the manuscript one more time before identifying a FINAL DRAFT. This is the version that goes to Createspace or the publisher.

Once the publishing process begins, we can talk marketing. On the other hand, that next book in the series is so shiny…

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

Clean Edits Website: https://editorash.wordpress.com/

Reviews: Fun and Easy!

Book reviews are critical to the success of an author or book/book series, yet some people are intimidated by the thought of putting their thoughts “out there.” That is a shame, because reviews are critical for two reasons:

1) They tell the prospective reader what the book is all about. For example, a fellow author shared a 2-Star review that bemoaned her young adult book’s lack of adult content. The author was delighted, because the book is aimed at an audience that does not want adult content! So…a potential reader looking over the reviews can make a decision for herself on whether the book is for her.

2) Reviews sell books. First of all, a potential reader who sees a book with a lot of positive reviews is likely to think, “I might like it too,” and invest his hard-earned money in a new literary adventure. Amazon also promotes books with sufficient reviews, and having Amazon promote your books really helps!

“But,” you might say, “I’m not a writer. I wouldn’t know what to say.” That’s OK! Most reviewers are not writers. In fact, people typically do not expect a book reviewer on Amazon to be a Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert; they just expect the reviewer to have an opinion. Even a single honest line (such as, “I really liked this book!”) makes a difference.

So, here is my challenge to you: pick a book you have read recently and leave a review for it. If you need something to get your “opinion juices” flowing, simply write a review that finishes one or more of these statements:

  • I was drawn to read this book because…
  • My favorite character was…
  • I liked this character because…
  • The character I disliked the most was…
  • I disliked this character because…
  • My favorite part of the story was…
  • The part of the story that affected me the most was…
  • My least favorite thing about this book was…
  • I would / would not recommend this book to a friend;
  • Because…

Now…if you are trying to think of a book to review, I happen to know of a few books that could use some more reviews:

This Glorious Cause: http://www.amazon.com/This-Glorious-Cause-Gideon-Hawke/dp/1511465190/

Times That Try Men’s Souls: https://www.amazon.com/Times-That-Try-Mens-Souls/dp/1635030420/

Happy reading…and reviewing!

Quill and Ink: Post Traumatic Stress in the American Revolution

This is a topic that is very important to me, but which can be very difficult to discuss.

As a career soldier I served on six operational deployments, including two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Each of those experiences left me forever changed; in some ways for the better, and in some ways, well, not. When I set out to write historical fiction set in the American Revolution I am not sure I realized how cathartic it would be for me. One thing is certain: after I dragged my protagonist, Gideon Hawke, through the wringer a few times I started to think, “This sixteen year-old is going to have a hard time dealing with all this.” Perhaps unconsciously this helped me to highlight the effects war has on its victims and participants.

For the record: the 1770s were a very different time, and the American Revolution was a very different war from what we experience today. There were a few factors which may have contributed to lessening the effects of what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) on Eighteenth Century soldiers. First of all, society was different. There was more of a sense of community; people were more likely to pass their time in each other’s company than alone. Without television, radio, the internet, or mobile devices, people were less likely to seek “alone time.” As Sebastian Junger points out in his recent book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, the isolation of late-Twentieth and early-Twenty-First Century life has contributed significantly to the impact of PTS in our society.

Secondly, death and injury were far more common. In modern America a person can easily go through life happily munching away on poultry, pork, and beef without ever seeing an animal slaughtered. Likewise, except in certain areas it is an anomaly to see a dead human body. Again, Colonial/Revolutionary America was different. Infant mortality was much higher, life was shorter, and more people lived off the fruits of their labors. Certainly the industrialized meat packing industry was non-existent, so people were more accustomed to seeing blood spilled. People in general were less sensitive to some forms of potential trauma.

Furthermore, many American Revolutionary War soldiers served short enlistments, meaning that they would be exposed to military life for only a short time and then return home. They might serve in the war again, or they might not. Some served long stints, but most did not; we now know all too well about the compounding effects of multiple, extended, repeated exposures to trauma. Many of my friends have, like me, served long stints in dangerous conditions, over and over again. Some Revolutionary War soldiers, like Gideon Hawke, did serve for extended periods, and paid the price.

TombRegardless of how different society may have been in the 1770s to 1780s, people were still people, and war was still war. The human body reacted to danger and near-death in essentially the same way. So, when people in the 1770s and 1780s were exposed to trauma, many exhibited symptoms of would today be labeled PTS: insomnia, nightmares, nervousness, hypersensitivity, gastrointestinal issues, substance abuse, hearing voices, suicide, and so on. There were other manifestations which are less common today. For example, soldiers who had killed enemy combatants in hand-to-hand combat sometimes reported seeing the “ghosts” of their vanquished foes. But many of the symptoms would be very familiar to a modern combat veteran. Whatever the symptoms, science had not yet come to terms with PTS, and had not made the link between, for example, a soldier’s honorable service and behavior that could be viewed as bizarre if not frightening. The closest contemporary science may have come was applying the term “nostalgia” to this condition; it implied a link to homesickness, and did nothing to help those suffering from PTS.

In the Gideon Hawke Series I have endeavored to show the effects of PTS in my characters. While he is often euphoric during combat, afterwards Gideon suffers from insomnia and nightmares; he is sometimes physically ill after an engagement; he is occasionally unable to control his emotions; he has contemplated suicide. His friend, Andrew Johnston, also suffers from insomnia, but in addition he sees the ghost of an Indian youth he stabbed to death many years prior. In my work in progress, her work in a military hospital is beginning to take a toll on Gideon’s love, Ruth Munroe. The war will continue to take a toll.

Believe it or not, it is hard for me to see these characters suffer from their invisible wounds (they do live in my head, after all). But in spite of any sympathetic reservations I might have, I feel obligated to see to it that they suffer, if only to honor the invisible wounds suffered by so many of my brothers and sisters in arms. Myself included.

To experience the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress through the eyes of Gideon Hawke, I suggest reading Times That Try Men’s Souls. https://www.amazon.com/Times-That-Try-Mens-Souls/dp/1635030420/

To learn more about the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress in modern combat veterans, or to get help for yourself or someone you love, I strongly recommend the non-profit organization Invisible Wound. https://www.facebook.com/InvisibleWound/

Quill and Ink: The Origins of Gideon Hawke

When I resolved to write a historical fiction novel set in the American Revolution, my first task was coming up with a protagonist. That was quite a challenge!

I did quite a bit of reading about the Revolution, and one of the things that struck me was the youth of many of the participants. It was not at all uncommon for boys as young as fourteen to be in the ranks. I wanted my novel to appeal to the young adult crowd, so what better way to do so than to make the protagonist a young man? So, I settled upon a character that was on the cusp of turning 16 when the first shots were fired on Lexington Common.

That led me to more research. I was fortunate to find that the Lexington Historical Society had compiled a great deal of material on life in Lexington, Massachusetts in the 1770s; much of it is available online. Diving in headfirst, I developed a decent feel for life and love prior to the Revolution. This helped color in a lot of the details about school, romance, work, and daily life.

Then came the subject of war. I had been in combat, and had seen the aftermath of battle, so I certainly did not want to glorify war. It is a mean, dirty business that takes a physical, psychological, and spiritual toll on the participants, and I wanted to convey that. Interestingly, in the age of black powder warfare it was possible for a musket-armed soldier to empty his cartridge box in the direction of the enemy without ever having the feeling he had killed anyone. Muskets were so inaccurate, and musket volleys produced such dense smoke, that most of the time soldiers fighting in line of battle might be firing blindly in the general direction of the enemy! I wanted my character to be absolutely certain he had taken a life; that is why I happened upon the idea of the long rifle.

In the 18th Century rifles were fairly rare on the battlefield. They took a long time to load and typically did not take bayonets, making rifle-armed formations impractical for conventional operations. They were excellent hunting weapons, however: the spiral grooves (rifling) in their barrels imparted a spin to their projectiles, making them lethally accurate at 200-300 yards or more. Because of this they were used heavily on the American frontier, and once the Revolution started specialist rifle units were quickly formed to scout and harass the British. The point is that a rifleman could easily select a target, take aim, fire, and be certain that his shot had found its mark. I wanted my character to have that certainty, because it allows me to explore what that knowledge does to people.

There was a catch of course: rifles were very uncommon in Massachusetts in the 1770s. In fact, I could find no evidence of the use of rifles at Lexington/Concord or Bunker Hill. I decided to press on, highlighting the rifle as an exception to the norm (hooray for artistic license!). But to do so, I had to create a backstory that explained how a 15-year old boy in Lexington in 1775 could be a proficient rifleman and woodsman. That led me into more research: this time into the French and Indian (Seven Years) War and other Colonial “Indian” wars. I decided that my character’s father would be a deceased veteran of the French and Indian War; leaving home (Lexington) for adventure on the Pennsylvania frontier, he acquired a rifle and became a backwoodsman. That connection enabled me to link his character not only to Pennsylvania, but also to George Washington. Now I was off and running!

But…what to name him? Biblical names were common in the 1700s; I wanted a warrior’s first name, so I settled on Gideon. As for the last name, well, it had to sound kind of cool, be not too outlandish, and not be already used. I assembled several combinations, and did a lot of Googling (it’s amazing how many literary characters are named Gideon) until I settled on Gideon Hawke. I think it has a certain ring to it!

And so:

Gideon Hawke was born in Pennsylvania on April 20th, 1759, his mother dying in childbirth. His father, Aaron, was born in Massachusetts but ran away at a young age to find adventure on the frontier. He became a rifleman and fought in the French and Indian war; he fought valiantly alongside George Washington in the Braddock Expedition and was later badly wounded at Fort Carillon. After Gideon’s birth, Aaron realized he could not care for him alone for long, so he took his son back to Lexington, Massachusetts to be near family. Before he died, Aaron did his best to train young Gideon in the ways of the frontier: to hunt, to shoot, to be independent, and to lead. After Aaron’s death in 1774 Gideon felt increasingly alone. In April of 1775 Gideon was struggling with decisions about life and love until one fateful morning: his friend told him the militia was forming on the Common because the British were en route through Lexington to Concord. Gideon went out to watch the excitement, and then the shooting started. Gideon was assaulted by British troops, his friend was killed, and a war had started. Taking up his father’s rifle, he resolved to make the British pay dearly.

With a plausible backstory and connection to George Washington, I was able to set the stage to transfer Gideon into Thompson’s Rifle Battalion, aka the First Continental Regiment. This was the first unit formed by the Continental Congress, and Washington relied heavily on it, especially through early 1777, and it fought in most of the major battles of the war. Through the end of Times That Try Men’s Souls Gideon has served in the First Continental through some of the toughest fighting of the Revolution. He has been promoted, endured great hardship, and has seen many of his friends and colleagues fall in battle. And his story continues. He and the lads will be back in action in A Nest of Hornets, due out in January 2017.

I hope if nothing else Gideon Hawke does honor to those brave men and women, the “Winter Soldiers,” who stayed with the colors in the dark day of 1776-1777, and kept their Glorious Cause alive.