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!

 

A Constant Thunder page: https://robertkrenzel.com/gideon-hawke-4/

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

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

Preparing to Walk the Ground

As I strive to complete the first draft of Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder, I am also preparing to visit a few sites to do research for Gideon Hawke #5.

The fifth novel in the Gideon Hawke Series will be set in the first half of 1778. While 1777 was a year of decision, with the fate of the Revolution hanging in the balance, 1778 was a year of rebirth: the Continental Army endured a terrible trial at Valley Forge, but used the time to turn itself into a competent fighting force, finally capable of meeting the British on equal terms. At Monmouth this training would be put to the test as the Continentals went toe-to-toe with the British and exchanged volleys with some of the best troops the Crown could put in the field. While tactically indecisive, at the end of the day the British quit the field. More importantly, after Monmouth both sides well understood that the Continental Army had finally come into its own.

From a strategic perspective 1778 marked a transition in the American War for Independence. No longer would the British attempt to draw Washington into a pitched battle in the Northern States: no longer was a British victory in such a battle assured. Once French troops began arriving in the Americas, the British were at a decided disadvantage. So, they would hunker down in New York, and the focus of the fighting would shift to the south. The British would find some success in the Carolinas, but these were local victories that would not change the strategic balance. Moreover, they were offset by a few incredible American victories. After Monmouth, British prospects would become increasingly bleak.

Before all that could happen though, there would be blood, sweat, and tears; Gideon Hawke will be right in the middle of the action.

495So, soon I will be packing up the map case that served me so well in the Army. This time in addition to a compass, binoculars, notebook, pens, and markers, and my map board, it will include maps of Monmouth and Valley Forge. Once again I will walk upon hallowed ground, and try to capture the spirit of the ill-equipped, poorly clothed, determined men and women who made a Nation.

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/

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.

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

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

Resources Big and Small: The Internet

“The Internet is like a magic eight ball of the 21st century. You can always get an answer there. It may not be true, but you can always get an answer.”

-Stephen King (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/stephen-king-on-trump-20160609)

Stephen King is absolutely right! The internet is a wonderful resource for writers…you’ve just got to be careful out there!

Much of what you find on the internet these days is garbage. Anyone and everyone can say anything they want about anything they want. Imagine my surprise last week when I was researching a topic and Google pointed me towards a blog post by ME! (talk about an unreliable source!) A fun game you can play is to try to figure out where various website get there information; I find it fascinating how so many pages are simply copy/paste jobs. One user writes something, or copies something from a book or online resource, and then website after website copies the same information verbatim. There is no comment, no assessment, no analysis…just copy/paste. The same questionable material can be reproduced over and over like a virus. (hmmmm…this sounds like the premise for a sci-fi horror novel) When it comes to internet research, it is definitely USER BEWARE!

That said the internet can connect people in new and exciting ways. My favorite recent example: I was doing research on Hudson River navigation in the 1700s, and trying to learn more about the bateau, the “eighteen wheeler / Pullman car” of Eighteenth Century North America. After running into a few brick walls, I stumbled upon a website called The Big Row (http://www.thebigrow.com/), which catalogues the adventures of reenactors who put bateaux through their paces every year. Not only did I learn a great deal, but I also established contact with the websites creator/bateau captain, Dave Manthey! Dave’s insights were invaluable to me in understanding the people and craft of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, thus adding authenticity to my work in progress, A Constant Thunder. Persistence and creativity in searching can pay off handsomely!

Then there is the little trick of knowing the resources available. A few days ago I was writing a scene in which Gideon Hawke is an officer of the guard; it is nighttime, and being a good officer he ventures out to check on his sentries. At his first stop he is challenged! The sentry tells him to halt, and challenges him with the “parole” word. “Wait,” I asked myself, “What would be a good parole word?” I considered making something up, but then I remembered that the National Archives, in cooperation with the University of Virginia Press, have digitized a tremendous number of primary source documents from the Founding Fathers. The Continental Army’s daily General Order contained the parole and countersign, so a simple Bing search (sorry, Google, you didn’t find the document I needed) for “General Orders April 18, 1777” brought me to General Washington’s General Orders for the 18th of April, 1777. Boom! When Private George Houseman directs Lieutenant Hawke to advance and be recognized, his challenge doesn’t just sound authentic, it REALLY IS AUTHENTIC! It is the actual challenge used in the American camp at Morristown in 1777. (https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0180 ; and in case you are wondering, the parole was “Georgia” and the Countersign was “Samptown.”) How’s that for research?

Thirty years ago it would have required a prodigious effort for an author living in the Midwest to gather the kind of information I just discussed. Now it is a few keystrokes and clicks away. I am deeply indebted to folks like Dave Manthey, and the folks behind the keyboards at the University of Virginia Press—by doing valuable work and sharing it online, they are making the internet a useful tool, not just a “Wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I am still very wary of information I find out on the net, but it is definitely worth sorted through the garbage to find the gems.

A Nest of Hornets on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nest-Hornets-Gideon-Hawke/dp/1539953599/

 

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

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

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!

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

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

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

The Plot Thickens: Rowing Upstream

As I waited to receive the proof copy of A Nest of Hornets I found myself inevitably drawn to working on Gideon Hawke #4, A Constant Thunder. I have already written several scenes, or at least the shells of those scenes, but I still have a lot of work to do on sketching out the flow of the novel. I had identified the chapters and was trying to flesh one of those chapters out when inspiration struck with a glance at a map.

It is no secret that Gideon Hawke will find himself in Daniel Morgan’s Provisional Rifle Corps, and thus will move north to confront Burgoyne’s “Canadian Army” in late summer of 1777. I had intended to focus one chapter on the movement north. I had a sketchy idea that there were boats involved at some point in that undertaking, but I had not yet tried to envision how that journey looked. So, last week I sat down to try to sort out how Morgan’s Rifle Corps got to the Albany area.

Hudson emplacementI knew the destination, so the next step was to identify the starting point. In poking around I discovered that Morgan’s headquarters was in the Hackensack, New Jersey area around the time Washington ordered Morgan to join the Northern Department. Having start and end points, I looked at the map and was hit with a blinding flash of the obvious: Hackensack and Albany both lay along the Hudson River. Given the primitive condition of the American road network in the 1770s, the fastest, cheapest, and easiest was to get five hundred men and assorted family members the roughly 130+ miles between these two points would have been to move straight up the Hudson.

The watercraft of choice in late Eighteenth Century America was the bateau: a flat-bottomed, shallow-draft vessel ranging in length from under twenty to over eighty feet in length. These craft carried both passengers and cargo, could maneuver in shallow water, and were relatively easy to transport overland. They could be propelled by sail, pole, or oar, and were critical to commerce and transportation in Colonial and Revolutionary America.

Before this I had never paid much attention to the lowly bateau, even though it features prominently in any discussion of the Saratoga Campaign. But now I find myself rearranging A Constant Thunder to include several chapters describing a bateau journey upstream. Not only will this be a great way to highlight a little understood aspect of life in Revolutionary America, but it will also serve as a metaphor on several levels. Without giving too much away, I am thinking about questions like: Who is in that boat with Gideon? What challenges does such a journey present? What other challenges might Gideon and his fellow characters face? What other life journeys might Gideon be on? What awaits at the end of the journey? What goes through a young man’s mind as he sails (or rows) day after day? Is this journey a trial, a quest, or both?

Writing historical fiction can be full of surprises. Occasionally a seemingly inconsequential bit of research can turn your story on its head. In this case, a glance at a map opened up an entirely new adventure.

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

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

Update: A Nest of Hornets is now officially a book!

At long last I am holding a proof copy of A Nest of Hornets!

anh-cover-_frontAfter months of researching, writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting some more, and even designing the cover, what was once an idea has become something tangible: a novel.

The next steps? Check, check, and check again! I have a trusted agent (my father-in-law) going through it page-be-page. I also had Ben, my incredible graphic artist, take a look and approve the print quality of his beautiful maps.

Next I get to read my own book, cover to cover: ultimately it is up to me to decide what must be fixed. Does the cover look right? (I love it!) Did I get the width of the spine correct? (No…not quite. I will have to adjust that) Is the interior the way I envisioned? (So far) Does the “cream” colored paper really go easier on the eye and remind the reader of bygone days? (Yes, I think so) Are there typos? (Still checking)

I already found one minor issue, and I am certain I will find a few more things. Hopefully they will be all be quick fixes, and A Nest of Hornets will be available in time to be an excellent stocking stuffer! (Which reminds me…I have to check and make sure the 6” x 9” trim size really does fit in a stocking!)

In the meantime: Happy Thanksgiving!

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/

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/