Cicero’s Take on History and Historians

 

CiceroBust

The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

As a historian and historical fiction writer, I’ve always loved this great Roman statesman’s quote.  If we aren’t objective in our study of history, if we twist the facts or rewrite history to suit our own opinions about the past, we not only cheat ourselves–we also fail to learn our ancestors’ past lessons that we can apply to today’s events.

We historical fiction writers should strive for objectivity, which also means accuracy. While weaving our fictional characters’ stories into historical events, we should accurately depict these events and the historical figures involved in them.

Is it ever acceptable to engage in a bit of artistic license? Maybe twist a small fact? I believe it’s acceptable, but shouldn’t  be done often. Bernard Cornwell shows us how to do this in his novel, Redcoat, set during the American Revolution. In a historical note at the end of the book, he tells readers that he took “some liberties with the Revolution’s chronology,” and then he explains what these liberties were. So if we do engage in a bit of license, follow Cornwell’s example and let your readers know.

Cicero’s advice is sound, though. We historians and historical fiction writers do well to heed it.

 

Becoming a Writer: Are You Called?

 

WritingThroughout my thirty-plus years of writing professionally, people have sometimes told me they want to become a writer. Well, that’s great.

Once I start explaining everything that’s involved in pursuing the craft, though, most of them, but not all, back away.

On some occasions when people tell me this, I just nod and smile unless they ask for advice. Why? Because I’m waiting to see how serious they are, to see whether or not God has truly called them.

Let’s face it. Writing isn’t for the faint-hearted. Like any ministry, if a person isn’t called to write, then I don’t recommend doing it. I wouldn’t recommend myself to join a choir, either, since I sing like a coyote with a sore throat.  

How does someone know whether or not God has called him/her into the literary world? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Psalm 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

This verse doesn’t mean we can desire anything and the Lord will give it. It means that if we delight in Him and put Him first in our lives, He’ll put His desires in us. If we follow this pattern, He’ll give us a desire to become a writer. This desire will grow into a passion which will become so strong that we’ll refuse to quit no matter who or what tries to hinder us.

2. John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Our Lord and Savior has called us to an abundant life, one that overflows with joy and fulfillment. If we’re called, we’ll feel that joy while we write. If we miss a writing day, we’ll feel let down. In my case, I am sometimes miserable.

3. I Samuel 17:36 “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.”

Before David accepted Goliath’s challenge, God had prepared him by teaching him to fight lions and bears. Likewise, God prepares us for whatever He’s called us to do. Just as He enabled David to kill Goliath, so He’ll enable called writers to succeed. Not fame and fortune, necessarily. Few writers have this. But they will reach the skill level where they can sell their work. It may not happen overnight, and usually doesn’t, but through hard work (preparation) and a little bit of  God-given talent the bylines will come.

Has God called you to be a writer? Don’t ever give up your dream. He will always bless it. 

Till next week, friends! So long!

Books

Historical Novels: Their Importance

 

Louis_L'Amour

“Historical novels are, without question, the best way of teaching history, for they offer the human stories behind the events and leave the reader with a desire to know more.”

Louis L’Amour (2008). “Education of a Wandering Man”, p.15, Bantam

Mister L’Amour’s words have proven true in my life. My three favorite genres have always been history, historical fiction and biographies, even as a child.

The historical fiction books I read during my growing-up years, such as The Horse Soldiers (Harold Sinclair), The Black Arrow (Robert Louis Stevenson), and The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) spurred my youthful hunger for more knowledge about these books’ eras. Getting lost in the past was, for me, sheer joy.

Sadly, many people today have little knowledge of the past. They learn their history from “historical” movies, most of which aren’t entirely accurate. It’s become easier to watch a film than it is to read.

So, we historical fiction writers have a challenge. Our writing must be at the “top of our game.” Not only must we write well, we must also keep our facts accurate. Our books may not win a Pulitzer Prize write like Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, about the Battle of Gettysburg, but if our historical novels get more folks interested in learning about the past, our time and labor is worth it. 

Research, write, and read! Till next time, friends. Have a great week.

Books

NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR INDIE AUTHORS

Amazon’s CreateSpace has merged with its KDP program. These programs work differently. Though I’ve never published with CreateSpace, I have with KDP. I advise all indie authors who’ve published through Amazon’s CreateSpace to visit this link and learn more about what you need to do to in order to transfer your paperbacks to KDP.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GSJULX3WGP36HQ3R.