Author & Speaker

The Framers knew more words than we do

Maybe I should say that eighteenth-century Americans knew and used very different words.  Because my current book project plunges me into a seemingly endless supply of George Washington’s correspondence and other records of the time, I bump into lots of surprising words. Even when the words are new to me, sometimes their meanings are clear…

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Adventures in Bookland: Bookstores Spring to Life in DC Area!

Today, before the heavens poured more rain on us, I conducted a quick tour of four new bookstores in the Washington area. While Barnes & Noble’s retailing strategy in the area involves closing its stores in an agonizingly slow decline to full corporate disappearance, other book retailers are jumping into the market — a heartening…

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Impeachment and George Washington: When it rains, it pours

Back in April, I wrote two short pieces on history topics of interest to me — impeachment trials and George Washington.  So, naturally enough, they both launched on the web this weekend, within 24 hours of each other.  So I might as well promote them together, right?  You can check out: My take that historians…

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Does Going There Matter?

Multi-prize-winning author T.J. Stiles (Custer’s Trials, The First Tycoon) recently posed this question on social media.  “Do historians have to visit the sites in their books?” he asked.  “I say no, no more than you have to have been alive in the times you write about.”  Stiles contended that what is important is “personal experience,”…

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Misspelling: An American Tradition

Occasionally I despair over rampant, often intentional misspellings in the modern world.  Doesn’t anyone, I rant inwardly, proofread any more? Was H&M being droll when it misspelled “genius” in the t-shirt on the left?  I don’t think so.  Perhaps that’s the correct spelling in Swedish. And in the billboard on the right, the Miller Brewing…

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Trump: Haunted Anew by the Ghost of Andrew Johnson

More echoes of the benighted Andrew Johnson Administration of 1865-69 reverberate around President Trump with the current logjam at the top of the Consumer Financial Protection Board.  Deputy Director Leandra English asserts the statutory right to direct the agency following the resignation of its director; claiming to act under a different law, President Trump has…

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Ten Best Mystery/Thriller Writers

Wrapping up my blog tour for my historical mystery, The Babe Ruth Deception, I want to honor ten mystery/thriller writers who made me want to write that type of book.  The list reflects my tastes, freely acknowledged here: Not a lot of gore or mass violence.  They’re distractions. Smart, polished writing. Close, loving attention to the people in the…

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Tools of Historical Fiction

Through the three historical mysteries in my “Deception” series – # 3, The Babe Ruth Deception emerged in paperback last month – I’ve turned to some unexpected tools for grounding each story in the proper time-and-place. Because the books range from 1900 (The Lincoln Deception) to 1921 (Babe Ruth), and take place variously in small-town…

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Writing Great Characters Like Babe Ruth

Writing about familiar historical figures is a central challenge of writing historical fiction, and also a great joy.  The writer, of course, has to replicate any widely-known qualities about the character.  Abraham Lincoln, for example, has to be tall.  Ulysses Grant really should chain-smoke cigars. But the novelist needs to tell us more, to lead…

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