Thursday, June 18, 2009

HNS Conference - The Report

Okay. It's been a while. First things first:

Status Report : Working on Chapter 11. A little more than 31K words down.
And I have now published three articles on Associated Content, with another submitted last night and more to come this weekend. It's a start.

I got to attend the third North American conference of the Historical Novel Society last weekend in Chicago. What a great weekend!

In short, the weekend was fantastic. It is always great to spend time with like-minded nerds, and this convention was full of them--writers of Tudor adventure stories, Regency romances, ancient and even Biblical fiction, all talking research methods, writing techniques, the business of publication, the state of the industry. Comparing notes about weapons and their affects. Discussing whether Arthur was a real man or a myth, and whether he was king or just war-leader, and whether he lived in the fifth century or the sixth. Truly a Histry Nerd's dream.

Yeah. Are you bored yet?

I wasn't. I got to reconnect with some old contacts from the Albany conference back in 2007, and make some entirely new ones. I attended some fascinating panel discussions, from the best new historical fiction, to research methods, to convincing historical dialogue, to writing about non-Western cultures like ancient Egypt or early Islam or Native Americans. The two author guests of honor, Margaret George and Sharon Kay Penman (Edward Rutherford had to skip the conference for a family emergency), gave enjoyable and encouraging talks at the two suppers on Friday and Saturday evenings, and Trish Todd's editor address at Saturday's lunch left many of us feeling maybe publication isn't so impossible after all.

But best of all was the chance to mingle with old friends and new, to speak with writers who have lots of books in print and with those who, like me, are still struggling to get published. To meet with my friend whose second book just came out this year, and know that the last time I saw her she had just signed her book deal and a few months before that she was right where I am now--unpublished but determined.

I left energized and inspired, believing in myself and my words and confident that one day, sooner or later, I will realize this dream. And aware that I have choices ahead of me: I can wait for the dream to come to me, chase after it like a hungry dog--or hunt it down with a club.

I've got my club in my hand. Watch out, dream.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

What a Weekend!

Status report: Halfway through Chapter Nine. Almost 25,000 words into the first draft. It's going a lot slower than I wanted it to, but it's going.

My wife and I started the rest of our life together this weekend. We attended a training program called Discovery! Relationship. You know, I thought we had a pretty good marriage--but this weekend, we took it to the next step. This weekend, we acquired the tools to go from good to great.

The idea behind the Discovery! training programs is simple: get into a big room with a bunch of people, strip away the excuses and lies we use to protect ourselves from the things we don't want to talk about, and start digging. It's thorough: you end up confronting issues you thought you were over. It's hard: you dig into yourself, uncovering places where you're still raw and bleeding, then you dig some more. And amazingly, it's safe: when you are in a convention hall full of people, all baring their hearts, many of which bear wounds deeper and more profound than your own, you feel a sense of security and cameraderie like none I've ever experienced. And you leave a different person--or in the case of this weekend, a different couple--than you were before, more secure in your own skin, having confronted your old issues and ready for whatever new ones life throws at you.

It seemed like a cult before I went, because no one who has been through it will talk about it and because no one has a harsh word to say about it. But it differs from a cult in a critical way: where a cult conditions its members to remain inside and avoid interacting with the rest of the world, this equips its trainees specifically to go back into the world--healthy and capable, finally able to become what they might without standing in their own way.

It was an amazing weekend. My wife and I are both exhausted, but excited. We accomplished more in forty-eight hours than we have in the last three years, and left there more in love than we have been in a long time.

I'm going to the first phase of the individual training in two weeks. I'm sure only of a couple of things: first, it will be hard, and scary, and exhausting. And second,it will be worth it.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Status Update, and a Good Story

So first of all, status is right about on track. Just finished Chapter Seven. A little over 21,000 words toward my 100,000 goal.

Second of all, this is just a great story. Seriously--how often does a gesture of sportsmanship like this one make the news? Stories are usually all about controversy, or tragedy, or who's doping, or who's breaking his contract, or who's going to jail. This one is about a high school basketball team doing the right thing--even though it ended up losing the game.

It's the kind of story we want our kids to read about sports.

Basketball--or at least the NBA--has developed a bad reputation in the last several years--bad enough a guy I knew used to refer to it as "thugball." And lately, it seems the NFL has been driving hard for the thugball label.

Here's hoping we start seeing more stories like this, and fewer thugball stories.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Status Update

All right. Finished Chapter four. 12k words out of 100k!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Remember This Day

I can't let this day end without writing something about it.

Today was a historic day.

Not solely because our first black president took office, although that is a historic accomplishment.

Not solely because we have now executed forty-four consecutive transfers of power without violence and without an outgoing leader trying to change the rules to hold onto his position, although in the history of nations that is an accomplishment without equal.

I think today is historic because, for the first time in my adult life, the new president doesn't seem like Just Another President.

That seems like a terrible thing to say, and something I couldn't even have conceived until very recently. After all, how could there be anything ordinary about the President of the United States? But President Obama has distinguished himself from his predecessors in a way I would not have thought possible until I saw it:

He has inspired millions in this country to feel like we are part of the solution to our own problems.

Think about that for a moment.

I was too young to vote for George Bush, but I remember him as a good man who ran and won because the country wanted more Reagan, and he was the next guy. When it turned out he wasn't Reagan after all, we elected somebody else.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice. Liberals love to lionize him, but really, he ran because he wanted to be president. He had an agenda, but no purpose other than--he wanted to be president. We gave him his two terms and were not entirely unhappy to see him go.

I voted for George W. Bush twice, too. I think we elected him (the first time) because we figured he would be adequate to the job in a calm time, when it didn't seem like we really needed a leader. The second time, we elected him because he was the guy bailing the boat, and the other guy didn't seem to have any new ideas except I'm not that guy. So we gave him his second term and many of us were not at all unhappy to see him go.

They had their moments, but for the most part each of them was Just Another President. Ho hum. And most of us were content to sit back and let them lead, to stand ready if the call came but otherwise knuckle down and take care of our own.

Now along comes this new guy, and a lot of us see him and sit up and take notice. We look at him and say wow, there's something different about this guy. He's--well, I'm not exactly sure what it is, but it's different. I think I like it.

For the record, I wasn't one of the folks who sat up and said that. Not until election night. Not until I'd already voted for John McCain--another good man who probably would have been adequate to the job. But Just Another President.

But that night I saw two speeches that moved me. One was a gracious concession from a good and honorable man to his victorious opponent, wishing him the best and offering his service to the incoming president. The other was an address from a true orator, in which he revealed to me for the first time that whatever he is, he is not Just Another President. And I began to realize things could be better, that Just Another President isn't the most we can expect, after all. That here is a guy who doesn't just have an agenda; he has a Purpose.

And today, he took the Oath of Office and he stood up and he told me: I am here to work. But I can't fix everything on my own. Get up off your ass and stop waiting to be led, and together we'll make something different happen.

He told me I can be part of the solution to my own problems, and to my country's. That my civic responsibility hadn't ended on election day.

That part of my civic responsibility is making sure my kids understand, making sure they know what it is to be American, that their voices are important even between elections.

That part of it is teaching my scouts how to be men, and how to do important things men, and dads, need to know.

That part of it is making sure the student from Mexico who lives with us has what she needs to succeed, so she can graduate and take her turn making America better, or Mexico better, or both. Or maybe even more than that.

That part of it is giving blood, something I haven't done in a while, so someone might live who otherwise might not.

That part of it is using my words to help others understand how I feel, so maybe they can reflect on how they feel.

In a way, the hype surrounding this election and inauguration has an element of tragedy to it. Because no man can possibly do everything our country seems to expect of President Obama.

But just maybe, if we all work together and do our part, we can make something different happen. Maybe, by doing what we can, we really can make things better.

I'm rolling up my sleeves. Let's get to work, Mr. President.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Status Update

Just finished chapter three of my current project. 10,275 words complete of 100,000 or so.


Well, Here We Are

And so we begin. New year, new plan. New blog.

You know who I am: the guy down the street, or the one at work. The one who thinks he's a writer. Who dreams of one day cashing those big royalty checks and, in the meantime, gets to live here in the real world.

Which really ain't that bad, all things considered: I have a great, supportive wife, great kids, and a job that pays the bills.

I'm not entirely sure what I mean to do with this space, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Probably keep up with my writing progress. Maybe offer some unique (or not so unique) observations on life. Probably post an occasional historical bit of interest to me. And, you know, maybe complain. We'll try to keep that part to a minimum.

See you back here soon!