Category Archives: characters

I Write Dead People

I, like many authors, am sometimes taken to task for killing off favorite characters.  While I’m no George R. R. Martin, my stories (being set in a time of war, and a period of far more medical uncertainty than today) often rack up a body count.

It is well to remember that no matter how happy their endings, my characters (real or imagined) are two hundred years in the grave.

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée le Brun, Self-Portrait with daughter, 1786

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée le Brun, Self-Portrait with daughter, 1786

Sometimes, as when I’m researching period art, and I come across a particularly striking portrayal of someone who clearly loves being alive, who lives and smiles on from the canvas, and yet is no more than moldering bones today, this gives me a sharp, even unbearable pang of grief.

It also helps to remind me that we are, all of us, short-lived, mortal, and bound to the same fate that overtakes our characters.

What matters, though, is what they — and we! — do with the days that are granted in this human experience, and in telling their tales, I am helping to extend my characters’ time in the company of the living.

So, rather than mourning the deaths of the characters who people my pages, I encourage you to celebrate their lives, and the fact that through my words, you have had the opportunity to know them and to keep the flame of their memory alive.

As an author, I certainly prefer that to being pelted with rotten fruit, at least.

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National Television Appearance

10801579_788021257908183_7853454459465713474_nAs many of you may have already heard, my focus on little-known stories of the Revolutionary era recently brought me a really exciting opportunity. I’ll be appearing as a featured expert commentator on an upcoming miniseries on the Discovery Network’s American Heroes Channel (formerly the Military Channel), which will premiere nationwide on the 15th and 16th of December:

Rise of the Patriots
Premieres Monday, December 15 at 9/8c
Five unsung patriots strike pivotal blows for American liberty as unrest between Britain and the colonies explodes into a war for independence. A Boston doctor named Joseph Warren spearheads the rebellion with inspiring oratory and an underground spy network; a Rhode Island merchant, John Brown, leads a daring raid against a British customs ship; Samuel Prescott visits his fiancée and suddenly finds himself completing Paul Revere’s secret mission; Samuel Whittemore, an elderly farmer, becomes an unlikely hero on the first day of hostilities; and a former slave named Salem Poor rallies American militia fighters at Bunker Hill.

The Empire Fights Back
Premieres Monday, December 15 at 10/9c
Time after time, American independence seems like a lost cause as George Washington’s Continental Army teeters on the brink of annihilation. The heroics of five little-known patriots help the colonies live to fight another day. John Glover, a tough New England mariner, saves 9,000 soldiers from certain capture on Long Island; a shadowy double agent, John Honeyman, helps Washington score a stunning victory at Trenton; a teenage girl named Sybil Ludington rides to the rescue of rebels under fire in Connecticut; a Pennsylvania sharpshooter named Timothy Murphy fires a bullet that turns the tide of the war; and an Indian warrior called Han Yerry leads a rescue mission to starving soldiers at Valley Forge.

Return of the Rebels
Premieres Tuesday, December 16 at 9/8c
The American Revolution seems doomed as the British army launches a bold new campaign in the south, but five unsung patriots help reverse the course of the war and shock the world. Nancy Hart, a Georgia mother of eight, battles a patrol of loyalists singlehanded; Elizabeth Burgin attempts a daring rescue of American POW’s in Brooklyn; a supersized soldier named Peter Francisco becomes a legend on the battlefield; a Virginia slave, James Armistead, steals key secrets leading to a stunning victory at Yorktown; and a frontier teenager called Betty Zane runs a gauntlet of death in the Revolution’s final battle.

You can use the AHC Channel Finder to find your local listings. As the AHC is not carried in all cable plans, I will keep you all apprised as the DVD edition of the show becomes available.

I’m very excited about getting to share my knowledge of the our nation’s history with a wider audience, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore this interest to its fullest through telling tales from a most singular revolution. I hope that you’ll watch and enjoy this terrific series, and share it with your friends and family who may be interested—and thank you in advance!

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The Central Question

As I started to write about the American Revolution, I kept returning, over and over, to the same basic question:

How did this come to pass?

How did these colonies, comprising nearly the same population as Mother England, and only feeling loose allegiance amongst themselves, rise up and throw off the rule of the greatest imperial power around at the time?

More critically for my stories, what drove the individual colonists to make the essential shift from being loyal subjects of the Crown to being citizens of the new nation?

My characters have each answered this question in their own ways. Some, indeed, have not made the shift, and retain loyalty to England, even in the face of great personal risk and harm.

It is a fascinating question, and it strikes at the heart of what makes the American Revolution – indeed, the American experience – an exceptional one, even a unique one in history.

It is the question which, above all others, I’m constantly probing at as my characters’ stories unfold across the backdrop of the monumental events that have swallowed up their lives.

Come along with me as we try to find some answers?

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