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!

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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!

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.

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A Life of its Own

Quill Pen Retro Ink Vintage Antique History Pen

I have a deliberate process for writing a Gideon Hawke novel. I build a historical timeline and then generate a story concept that fits into the timeline. I create a rough outline, break the outline into chapters, and develop scenes that fit into each chapter to tell the story. But sometimes the story takes on a life of its own.

I was recently working on the first chapter of Gideon Hawke #5: in the first scene Gideon receives news that causes a significant life change. Then he shared it with his mates, and he and Ruth prepared for this significant change (pardon my beating around the bush: I’m trying desperately to keep spoilers out of this). As I wrote it, the chapter ended with two new and significant characters knocking on Gideon’s door to take him on a short journey. Nice ending…great segue for the second chapter. All is well. Except…

In my outline, the next scene was to be in a new location, after the short journey. But then I realized I was missing a golden opportunity! You see, that short journey is chock full of potential! Here we can learn more not only about these two new characters and their backgrounds, but also the environment into which Gideon is headed. The dialogue almost wrote itself! Suddenly I realized my story had picked up a new scene on which I had not planned: a new scene which could be pivotal for introducing the reader to Gideon’s new reality.

Sometimes an author just has to let the characters be themselves, and the story will create itself. When that happens the real challenge is just trying to keep up!

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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!

Interested in FREE BOOKS? Consider joining Gideon’s Vanguard. Click here to learn more!

 

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A Constant Thunder: One Giant Leap!

Writing is fun. Editing is not.

A critical part of my writing process is reading through the manuscript several times and making edits. I go through it once on the computer making corrections. Then I print it and read it through, marking it up as I go—then I plug in those corrections. It is amazing how much more I catch in print!

The next, and probably biggest step, is sending it off to my editor. I am pleased to report that A Constant Thunder is on its way! Ashlee will be repeating the phenomenal work she did on Times That Try Men’s Souls and A Nest of Hornets.

Ashlee has accepted a position with a publisher, so she will no longer be doing independent editing work. I am delighted for her, but I quail at the thought of finding another editor, especially since I have already written a few snippets of Gideon Hawke #5!

IMG_5430

The Breymann Redoubt at the Saratoga Battlefield; scene of the climax in A Constant Thunder.

That, however, is in the future. For now, A Constant Thunder just took a giant leap forward toward publication, and my excitement is growing!

 

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