Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reflections on “Gods” and Mortals

I’ve been watching a series on cable TV about Winston Churchill that dates back to 2003. I probably watched it then, but you forget a lot in 10 years. The earth has revolved around the sun a few more times and stuff has happened. Plus, as you get older you (hopefully) gain wisdom, which changes your perspective on a lot of things.

So far I’ve seen 2 episodes, up through 1943, with at least 1, maybe 2, more coming up. Churchill certainly had an interesting life, and he was without a doubt brilliant. He probably accomplished more in each year of his adult life than most of us do in our entire lifetimes.

In a lot of ways he reminds me of Benjamin Franklin. Both men were geniuses, and both were ambitious—sometimes unscrupulous, unbending in error, even ruthless. In many ways they were not only deeply flawed, but also seemingly oblivious to their faults. They had all the qualities of heroes: high moral virtues and deep personal failings. It’s strange how we humans always want to make gods of our heroes, ignoring the cracks that appear beneath the surface. We elevate them to a pedestal, then curse them when they turn out to have feet of clay.

I’d always admired George Washington as coming as close to the ideal of virtue as any man is able, and I wasn’t alone. Washington holds a high reputation among our Founders. Flaws, yes, but comparatively minor ones. But a few years ago I started reading Henry Wiencek’s An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. I’d always known Washington owned slaves, of course, but when I read the details of his mistreatment of them, I slammed the book shut and almost threw it against the wall. I deeply abhor even the notion of slavery, and I vowed to never esteem such a man again.

And yet, over the years my perspective has shifted somewhat on that as on many things. There’s no question that Washington’s treatment of his slaves was unconscionable and unjustifiable. I have to admit, however, that he was merely a man of his time. And over his lifetime he did change, gradually allowing even escaped slaves to serve in his army and learning to esteem their abilities, finally directing in his will that his slaves be set free at his death.

It’s tempting when writing a series like this one to view the genuine heroes of our history as gods. I admit that I tend to do that. Thankfully that’s where research provides a reality check. The naked truth is that we’re all flawed, and when we look into the most intimate depths of our heroes’ lives, we’re humbled to learn that even they are as human as we are. Reminds me of a cartoon from long ago in which a small character called Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Indeed.

That reminds me of something else, of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Only God is perfect and holy and righteous and to be trusted in all things. Let’s remember that whenever we’re tempted to make gods of our social, political, and military heroes, either past or present.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Doing Research

Plan of Fort Pitt, 1759
I posted this on my Northkill blog a while back, and thought the readers of this blog might find it helpful too.

I’m sure you all know that anyone who aspires to write accurate historical fiction lives and dies by research. While digging into a period, I regularly run across fascinating sources that have provided those little details and insights that make my stories not only factually accurate, but also lend social and cultural authenticity. I’m especially thrilled when I find firsthand accounts from the period or histories written not long afterward that contain tidbits of information I haven’t found elsewhere.

Below are a few of the many sources I’ve lucked upon. They run the gamut of topics, and a few of them pretty obscure. But all are very helpful and a few even had me jumping up and down when I found them. Thank goodness nobody was around to witness that loss of writerly dignity!

The PDF and ebook downloads can also be found on my American Patriot Series website on the Print & Media Resources page. In a few cases I reformatted the text to make it easier to read.

I hope these are helpful for your own research!

Colonial Medicine and Herbs

Colonial Herbs, Miller Cory House Museum

“Colonial Medicine,” the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

“The Practice of Domestic Medicine During the Colonial Period” by L. G. Eichner, MD

Food

Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate in Early Colonial America

Colonial Recipes

Food Timeline

Forts

These contain fabulous detail!

Orderly Book of Captain William Trent at Fort Pitt, May 28-October 16, 1763

“Fort Northkill,” Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, vol. 1. (Clarence M. Busch State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1896)

French and Indian War

War for Empire

French and Indian Cruelty Exemplified in the Life and various Vicissitudes of Fortune, of Peter Williamson by Peter Williamson.

History

Stories of Ohio by William Dean Howells (1897). This covers the earliest history of Ohio through the late 1800s.

Historical Calendars, Sun, Moon, and Tide Data

Miscellany, Historical calendars.

Sun and Moon Data

Tides and Currents Offers a great deal of info on currents and tides. Data can be found for recent years and predictions for near future.

Language

Extremely helpful for us 18th century lovers!

“A Guide to Eighteenth-century English Vocabulary” by Jack Lynch, 2006

Online Etymology Dictionary If you need to know whether a word was in common usage during a certain period and what it meant at that time, this is your site!

Maps

If you love maps, you’ll find many on these sites to add to your collection
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Maps, Etc.

Fortifications on the Pennsylvania Frontier in 1756, illustrated by Justin Blocksom, based on the information given in the book The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania, by C. Hale Stipe

“Mapping Pennsylvania’s Western Frontier in 1756,” The Pennsylvania Magazine

Library of Congress

Manners

I reformatted this one for ease of reading, and you'll find it on my website. It actually contains some pretty wise counsel.

“A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters” by the Late Dr. Gregory of Edinburgh (1774)

Money

Cost of Living in Colonial Times, The First Foot Guards

Sailing Ships

Ahoy, matey, great info here for the sailors and pirates among us!

Anatomy of an English Man of War This site also includes info on pirates, terminology, navigation, ship and sailing info and numerous other subjects. Terrific site!

Men-o-War

Nautical Terms  And so much more!

Ranks and Duties in the Royal Navy ca. 1790

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ebooks on Istore!

If you have the iBook app on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you can now read all the volumes of the American Patriot Series on your device! Click on the link below to go to a listing of all my books, including my latest release, One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story!

iStore

Friday, August 2, 2013

Featured Author at Historical Christian Romance Review

This month I’m the featured author on Amber Perry’s Historical Christian Romance Review blog, and I hope you’ll join us and check out my interview. I’m also offering a free copy of one of the books of the series to a lucky winner, and all you have to do to be entered in the drawing is to leave a comment, so please come on by!

I hope to see you there!