Author Archives: Lars D. H. Hedbor

At Long Last

I’m exceptionally excited to announce that The Light is now available for pre-order, in print and e-book, here.  (There’s also some fun swag available, as well as book club options.)

I know that many of you have been waiting for an awfully long time, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your persistence and interest.  I am very pleased with the design of this volume in the series, and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

Thank you very much!!

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Writing What I Do Know

One of the highest compliments I ever received was from a working historian, who told me that there was nothing in my novel that couldn’t have happened exactly as I had written it.  I take my research very seriously, to the point where I’ve tossed pages of otherwise perfectly good writing… just because I discovered something that made it so that my fiction couldn’t be squared with the facts.

This serious approach to the history in my historical fiction has now led me to a role that I am deeply honored to have been offered, as a contributor to the Journal of the American Revolution.  Writing for them will not only allow me the opportunity to delve more deeply into topics that catch my interest, but it will also improve my skills as a researcher, as the rigor demanded of a non-fiction article is quite a bit more than is required even for high-quality historical fiction.

So far, they have published my articles on the currencies of the Revolutionary era, a topic that I had brushed against in my research for The Light, and an article on the amazing accomplishments of Bernardo de Gálvez, who animates the pages of The Wind, my current work in progress.  In addition, they have published an article on the state of medicine during the Revolution, a topic that hasn’t made a direct appearance in any of my books… but which may well do so in the future.

I am excited about this development in my career as an author, and I hope that you enjoy these and future articles I contribute to this fine journal.

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Losing My Best Teacher

It’s hard for me to write today, but I want to take a few minutes to share with you a loss that is affecting me deeply.

As I was growing up, when I didn’t understand something happening in the world around me, I’d ask my Dad about it.  As often as not, he’d wind up telling me a lot about the history that led up to the event I had asked about.  His passion for that history was infectious, and it was only natural that I follow in his footsteps as an historian.

Last week, my Dad died, taking with him a lifetime of accumulated knowledge, things that he’d delved deeply into, information he’d spent long hours poring through in order to come to a deeper understanding of what lay behind some event that had grabbed his attention.

I’ll miss being able to ask him for guidance, and all I can do is to try to live up to his example.  As you read my books, if it seems that I’ve gotten fascinated with some obscure aspect of the story, know that you’re hearing my Dad’s voice in my writing, and that his passion for the details of history inspired me to dig further.

I’m deeply grateful for the experience of having had such a fine teacher, and I hope that I am able to live up to his example.

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Meeting My Readers

One of the genuine joys of being an author is getting to meet people who’ve read my work and appreciated it.  I recently had a signing event at a nearby bookstore, and got to meet a number of folks who were glad to tell me what they’d thought of my book.

In addition, when I get a review from someone on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads, I feel like I’m getting to meet those readers, as well.  The reception that The Prize has gotten has been particularly gratifying, and I’ve gotten a lot of really invaluable feedback that way – insights that help me to improve my writing and do a better job of telling the stories that are important to me.

I’ve also gotten passionate requests to continue the stories of the characters my readers have come to know and love.  While my Tales From a Revolution series doesn’t really lend itself to continuously recurring characters, it’s not impossible that I’ll go back and revisit some of our favorite folks from my stories in one form or another.  Captain Mallett of The Prize, in particular, demands to be heard from further, so you may expect to see his name again in the future.

Please do keep on writing and posting reviews, and keep sending me emails and notes – I do my level best to respond to all communications in a timely fashion, and I love hearing from you, whether you have a bone to pick with me, or (even better) just want to tell me how my work has affected you and your understanding of our national origins.

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Coming Attractions

While we patiently wait together for The Light to make its way through the process from a document on my computer to a book in your hands, I thought that you all might appreciate a sense of what’s coming after that.

My newest manuscript is tentatively titled The Smoke: Tales From a Revolution – New York. In keeping with my desire to find and tell stories of little-known aspects of our Revolution, I found myself drawn to the sad fate of the Iroquois Confederation through that era.

While the Revolution led to the foundation of our nation, it directly caused the splintering of this native American confederation. the structure of which likely served as inspiration to our founders as they considered how to manage the disparate interests of the thirteen new states of the nascent union.

Most of the nations of the Iroquois Confederation sought to remain neutral, until events forced them to choose between their old allies among the British, and the upstart American rebels.  Some nations chose the British side, while others chose ours.  All suffered terribly in the battles that followed, and I thought that their story needed to be told.

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Excerpt from The Light

Editing and revising The Light, it’s interesting to see how the arguments of the day find themselves in the mouths of my characters.  One that was dear to the hearts of the Quakers who form the central figures in this story, and which, with our knowledge of what was to come later in history, is that of slavery.

“The sheer, unmitigated gall of that man, who styles himself as the ruler of all Englishmen.   He is not fit to rule a chamber pot, much less these colonies!  Submit or triumph, says he?  Well, I for one know which I believe it will be.  How will an independent Republic on these shores strike him, one which answers not to his dominion, but which may at some date in the future deign to have relations with him for the sake of trade alone?”

“I fear that he will find out, William, if he does not repeal these intolerable acts.  These Colonies have been stretched to the breaking point by his disregard for our position in his empire.  What will happen if he persists in these provocations fills me with unease for the future.”

Shaking his head, Robert continued, “Can these Colonies indeed form a nation independent of the protection of Britain?”  He paused for a moment, then plunged on with his thought, come what may of his neighbor’s untested position in the question he was moved to raise.  “Can we indeed form a nation at all, when half of the self-styled ‘states’ tolerate and support the abomination of one man claiming ownership over another?   How can any nation claim to have a foundation in liberty while tolerating such a practice within its borders?”

William nodded thoughtfully.  “‘Tis a problem, Robert, though one that we may be able to leave for some future generation to face, with the greater wisdom of their time.”

Robert replied, “I think not, William.  If thou witnessed a man robbing someone, wouldst thou turn aside, and leave it to someone else to stop the thief?  Or wouldst thou apprehend him and see justice done as swiftly as possible?  And how much worse is it to steal a man’s whole life than a loaf of bread?”

The older man was taken aback at the vehemence of Robert’s tone, but paused a long moment before responding.  “And if the law said that the thief were justified in taking that loaf of bread, how then would you propose to address that injustice?”

Robert raised his finger pedantically.  “Ah, but dear neighbor, if we are to form a new nation, might we not have the opportunity to enshrine true justice in the laws of that nation?”

William’s eyes narrowed in thought.  “Indeed such laws might well be possible, but would they be practical?  Will not the thief resort to violence against a citizen who attempts to restrain him?  I fear that the same would be the outcome should these colonies attempt to enforce justice in this matter.”

“So shall we just permit injustice to live among us, because we fear those who commit those injustices?  Is that any basis for a nation of virtue?”

“We shall be, as we are now, a nation of humans, Robert, in all our imperfections and glory, regardless of what high ideals we may subscribe to.  I agree with you that slavery is an abomination, and indeed, like you, I would see it abolished throughout these colonies tomorrow, were I granted that power.  But I know, too, that virtue and reality do not always get along in this world of sin.”

Robert sighed.  “I do understand what thou art saying, William, but this is not a matter of mere expediency.  Hast thou ever seen these miserable people working in bondage?  When I started as an apprentice to George at the smithy, he held a slave to work in the shop, primarily employed at the forge, keeping the bellows.  This man worked harder than any other three men I’ve met, and when I spoke with him, and asked him how he could possibly work so hard, he just smiled and said that George was the easiest master he’d ever known, and he was glad to be here.”

Robert looked William in the eye, staring hard at him for a moment before continuing, “William, this man owed nothing of his own, not even the clothes upon his back.  He could be sold like a steer or whipped like a dog, and nobody would raise a hand in his defense… and this was the best life he had ever known?  I shudder to think of what his brethren in the southern colonies endure.”

William regarded Robert, his lips pursed in thought.  Finally, he shook his head slowly, saying “I agree with you, Robert, but I do not see how we can solve this problem today, you and I.   We can but pray for wisdom among those who are charged with the responsibility of weighing such matters.”

Robert nodded in agreement.  “I do so, on a daily basis.”

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Cover Design for The Light

As I move along through the publishing process to the release of my next novel, The Light: Tales From a Revolution – New Jersey, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the cover design, which I think reflects the feeling of the book very nicely.

The Light deals with the question faced by Quakers during the Revolutionary era: Can they violate the pacifist underpinnings of their faith and support the rebellion, or must they risk their freedom of religion by watching as the British re-establish control over the Colonies?

The answers that the characters in The Light arrive at represent the very real anguish that this question caused people during that time.  As they wrestled with questions of belief, pragmatism, courage and loyalty, the men and women you’ll meet in The Light will make you think about the balances you strike in your own life.

So, without further ado, the cover:

The Light Cover Design

 

I look forward to sharing more from this powerful novel with you in the days to come!

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Up for Discussion

The Prize lends itself particularly well to book club and classroom discussions, with its rich and carefully realistic view of life at the edges of the English settlements, but at the center of the early days of the Revolution.

To facilitate these discussions, I’ve prepared a set of discussion questions. They’re broken out into five-chapter groups, which represent around 30 pages for each set of questions.  Meeting just once a week, your group can easily read and dissect The Prize in just over a month – or less than a case of Charles Shaw’s finest (unless your club is very thirsty).

Enjoy!

Discussion Questions

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Cause for revolution

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, ‘This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,’ the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything – you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

– Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On, 1940

This week marks Banned Books Week, and while there’s a part of me that kinda wishes that someone, somewhere would ban one of my books for the publicity value, the more serious part of me is deeply grateful that I don’t have to worry about this as a practical matter.

It hasn’t always been so – indeed, in the broad sweep of human history, we are living in a moment that is aberrant in its broad tolerance for dissenting voices.  Personal expression is protected, honored and defended to a degree that 99% of all humans ever to have lived would find foreign – and a large proportion of that 99% would probably find it repugnant.  We grow accustomed to the chains we wear, to the point of preferring them to the dangers of freedom.

Part of why I choose to write about the American Revolution is that it represents the first great eruption of the idea of freedom for all – not just a privileged few, who happened to be born with the “right” ancestors, or who cultivated influential connections, but for every farmer, every blacksmith, every prayer, every sinner… and every writer.

To be sure, the history of human freedom starts far, far before our Revolution, and has continued to make progress since it – and there are vast opportunities still to see its ongoing growth.  But the men and women whose struggles I try to relate were true pioneers in this long journey, even if they didn’t have a conscious sense of it as they tried to simply live their lives.

It is because of their victories that I can write about their lives, that I have the freedom to imagine and share what their daily experiences were like, what they thought, what blasphemies they uttered.  I cherish that freedom, and I’m proud to have the chance to exercise it.

Instead of urging you to read my book, today I’m going to urge you to find a banned book – one that some self-appointed arbiter of right and wrong thought you needed to be “protected” from – and do your bit to continue the journey toward universal freedom.  Thank you.  (There’ll be plenty of time to read my books, don’t worry… nobody’s thought of banning them… darn it all.)

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Excerpt from The Prize

This excerpt’s been on my Facebook Wall for a long time, but I wanted to make it more accessible to all.  If you haven’t already read The Prize, hopefully this will entice you do so in the near future.  Enjoy!

Caleb and Captain Mallett were just fitting the last of the shaped ribs into the first canoe when the sound of the village church bell pealed out faintly over the woods.

Straining to fit the cedar slat under the gunwale as it pulled the birch bark skin taut as a drumhead, Mallett grunted, “Must be that someone has had a house afire.”

Caleb, who stood on the side opposite, holding the clamp that secured the other end of the slat, scanned the horizon above the woods, and said, “I do not see any smoke.”

With a last push, Mallett forced the rib under the rim of the gunwale, where it snapped against the birch bark and held its position. As the men grinned at their accomplishment, the bell continued to peal furiously.

Mallett looked up and down the length of the canoe, nodding and grinning. “‘Tis a fine-looking craft,” he said. “We have only to seal the seams, and she’ll be ready for the lake. We will fit the last of the ribs into your canoe in a few days, once they have finished with the shaping.”

He frowned toward the village, where the bell was still persisting. “I see no smoke, either, and yet they continue to ring. Perhaps there has been an attack by the Indians… though these Abenaki do not seem to have an interest in such warlike acts, these are certainly dangerous times once again. Let us be off, to see what aid might be needed.”

Mallett did not bother to saddle his horse, but merely put the bit in the stallion’s mouth, and pulled himself up on its back. He called out to Caleb, “Here, you ride behind me. Louis is a strong horse, certainly a good deal stronger than his namesake on the throne in Versailles.” Both Mallett and the horse snorted, and Mallett added, “The horse is smarter, too.”

Caleb smiled and took Mallett’s proffered hand to clamber up behind the older man. Scowling now at the still-pealing bell, Mallett growled, “Hold tight, lad, we’re going to ride hard.” Since he did not want to slide over the horse’s rump and find himself suddenly sitting on the road, Caleb heeded Mallett’s advice, clamping his hands around the rider’s wiry sides. 

With a nod, Mallett snapped the reins, and kicked the horse into a smooth, speedy pace over the ground. By the time they pulled up before the blockhouse, where a crowd had gathered, the bell had stopped pealing, but MacGregor stood at the top of the steps, reading loudly from a broadside.

Captain Mallett and Caleb dismounted and Mallett tied up his horse before they joined the crowd, coming into earshot of the general store proprietor.

“…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

As he drew breath, the man beside Caleb whispered excitedly, “‘Tis a declaration of independence for the colonies from the Crown, passed by the Congress this week past!” Caleb’s eyebrows went up, and even Mallett seemed surprised, pursing his lips thoughtfully and nodding to himself.

“Such has been the patient sufferance of the Colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

MacGregor’s voice rang out clearly as he read through the long list of particular complaints against the King and Parliament, winding up to the conclusion.

“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor!”

As MacGregor lowered the broadside, his forehead shining with sweat and his face red with exertion, a great cheer arose from the crowd assembled before the blockhouse. Someone began ringing the church bell again, and Caleb felt his throat becoming raw before he even realized that he was contributing to the din himself.

Looking around at the other people gathered, he saw men weeping openly and embracing, even those who had had long standing enmities between them. Mallett was smiling widely and nodding with a look of deep satisfaction on his face. 

He leaned close to Caleb and said into his ear, “‘Tis a fine, fine statement they’ve here published. Mark this moment well, lad, for you shall never see another so filled with import as this, so long as you live. I know that I have not, in my many years.”

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