Welcome to November and the usual roller coaster weather we have in the Midwest. Parts of Nebraska had snow Sunday night. We escaped with a very chilly rain at our house. It was cold and windy again this morning, but supposed to be 70 degrees over the weekend. We hope the cliché about change being the spice of life is correct – if so, we are indeed destined for interesting times.
Just a bit of writing news to let you know where we stand with various projects. The draft military history manuscript – Glory in the Shadows: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders, The Cold War to the Global War on Terrorism – was sent to several prospective publishers a few weeks ago. Only one response so far; most say to anticipate a three- to six-month response time. There was almost always a considerable delay hearing back, but it is even more lengthy now. COVID caused many publishing houses to cut staff or reshuffle their operations – and some smaller companies have suspended operations or – sadly --gone out of business.
A couple of additional medium-sized publishers have recently surfaced as possibilities, both do some work with military history material. I will need to put query letters and formal book proposals together … then, with fingers crossed, we’ll see what happens.
When I first began writing in a fairly serious way, there were several projects I wanted to tackle. The first, at the suggestion of family members, was a small memoir of military service. The intended audience was mainly family and friends but the book served as nice preparation for the more formal histories that followed. When I turned to those, my goals were to write:
- The military history of Nebraska;
- Stories of the military leaders of the American West;
- Stories about baseball that would provide an encompassing picture of the sport;
- Stories about forgotten military leaders in all the nation’s wars.
I chose to write about the military leaders of the American West in part because the only one many people seemed to have heard about was George Armstrong Custer who, as it turns out, was not the best leader and perhaps not even the most well-known during his time.
The baseball book was a delight to write. I wanted to relate some of the game’s most important history, talk about the people who helped shape it as a national pastime, and tell some of the special events associated with the game – Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier for example. From its very beginning, baseball has touched places beyond the diamond, so I also included stories about baseball in the movies (there have been several good ones), comedy routines (Who’s on First?), and literature associated with the game such as Casey at the Bat.
The books about America’s forgotten military leaders were important to me for two reasons. First, as I went from unit to unit during the course of my own career, it was my observation that sometimes the people most responsible for an organization’s success – those who really made it work -- were not the those at the top or those whose names were most associated with it. Second, as I studied the conflicts our country has been involved in, it was clear – as I said in the introduction to the books – that “history plays tricks sometimes.” While it has enshrined some leaders in the collective consciousness of our nation, it has overlooked others often equally as deserving. The books are about those who have been overlooked. The third and final book in that series, “Glory in the Shadows,” is the one that is now being shopped to various publishers.
The reason for boring you with that backstory is to let you know (please listen carefully for the drumroll in the background) that I have completed those projects. I was not sure I would see them all the way through, but …if I ever did, it was always my hope that there would be some time remaining to try writing something totally different. So, such as it is, that is the big news. The very interesting – exciting, actually (for me) – project that I am now working on is a fiction manuscript. I haven’t done a lot of fiction and certainly nothing of book length. It is a different form of writing than I have been used to. The military histories require lots of research, cautious presentation and word choice to make sure that the facts are correct and the story unfolds accurately. While there is some research and fact checking with fiction, the purpose is more to make sure that the scenes are described correctly and the events are realistically portrayed. There are far fewer boundaries. It has been an absolute hoot to sit in front of the computer and wing it – just let the mind wander and go where the story leads. We’ll see what happens.
Finally, please indulge me for a moment. I usually don’t include much family-specific stuff in these updates, but a recent evening was so special that I felt I had to comment on it. Last week Nita and I went to see Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, lead the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra in a program of John Williams’ movie music. Originally, the entire Boston Pops ensemble was scheduled to be here, but COVID issues intervened. No complaints from us, though, the music was incredible –so many classic movie themes: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Jurassic Park, and any more. When I saw those films, I thought the music from them was special –as indeed it was – but sitting there being absolutely washed over by the sound from a live orchestra was marvelous in every way. When we got home that night, the first thing Nita did was place an order for the CD.
And now, after a sincere wish to everyone for a Happy Thanksgiving, we’ll end with that little acclaimed feature: TRULY AWFUL PUNS.
My friend hates telling people he’s a taxidermist.
When they ask him what he does every day, he says
“You know. Stuff.”
My friend changed the name of her toilet from John to Jim.
It impresses people when she tells them that the first thing she does every morning is go to the Jim.
Best wishes to all,