Saturday, May 30, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 22: Early Momentum Counts

Hey! Back to words and not a video. Why? Dunno, really. Just felt like typing some thoughts rather than speaking them.

Keeping a Record

So, Summer 2020 started this week. In case you missed the video in which I talked about the summer writing season, we have a longer-than-normal summer this year which means there are more days and weeks to start and complete projects: 104 days and 15 weeks. Minus the one we just completed.

I woke early on Monday and got back to one of my current stories. One of the best things about earmarking a certain day to begin writing is the eagerness to start. I woke with hardly any effort so excited was I to pick up this Calvin Carter story again.

The enthusiasm continued throughout the work week. Each morning, I started a new habit: wake a 5:00 am and get the writing done before the day job kicks in. I’ll admit: the writing muscles were a tad rusty, but the week went by with new words added to the story and a new transition into Act III. Can’t go wrong there.

I have resurrected an old habit I used to do: keep a word count record per day. Incredibly motivating. Heck, yesterday, I reached a logical conclusion—and the alarm I set to tell me to stop writing and get ready for the day job was sounding—and I realized I had 599 words. Argh! I left it alone and got ready. But it’ll be nice to see those numbers climb.

Another thing that spurs me along is a schedule. If I frequently put myself on a Starting Date, I rarely resort to a schedule. That is, be finished with Project A by a certain date. But I have now. I want to see how it works. If it motivates me to ignore alarms and write even when an alarm’s blaring, I might be onto something.

So, the Summer Writing has kicked off well. How about your writing?

Murder by the Book and Zoom

Did you catch the Facebook Live session yesterday with McKenna Jordan, Gregg Hurwitz, and Michael Connelly? You didn’t? What’s up with that? For nearly an hour, Hurwitz acts as interviewer to Connelly, writer interviewing writer, but with Hurwitz acting as host as well as fan. Excellent interview, including the viewer questions. It’s on Murder by the Book’s Facebook page so go watch.

Grant – The Mini-Series

The big television event of the week was the History Channel’s three-part, six-hour mini-series on Ulysses S. Grant. Loved it. As a historian, I welcome popular histories that can reach a broad audience. I wrote a review about it yesterday in which I give more details. Highly recommended.

The Next Video

I kept up with The Road to The Empire Strikes Back video series this week with Episode VI: The Music. I’ve had a blast with this series and this was one I looked forward to the most (apart from the movie re-watch). Empire ranks in my Top 5 soundtracks of all time.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Grant the Mini-Series – A Popular Reassessment

As soon as I saw the commercials for History TV's mini-series, “Grant,” I knew I wanted to watch it. The big name attached to the project—Leonardo DiCaprio—wasn’t the draw. For me, it was the sight of actor Justin Salinger dressed as Ulysses S. Grant. From just the commercial, it felt like the 18th President was again alive.

The excellent casting was a harbinger of how good this documentary is. Based on Ron Chernow’s 2017 biography, Grant, the six-hour mini-series examines the life of the hardscrabble man from Ohio via a series of on-camera historians discussing various aspects of the man and reenactments featuring Salinger. The high production values are on full display for most of these reenactments, especially the one involving the Civil War. It makes you want more. I could have easily watched another six hours.

The vast majority of the six-hour running time naturally is devoted to the war. What I especially appreciated was the reassessment of Chernow’s biography on full display here in this mini-series—not surprising considering he wrote the screenplay. I’m a degreed historian who wrote a thesis about the Civil War, but even I didn’t remember all the modernity Grant brought to bear when he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in 1864. As Chernow and the historians note, Grant was the first modern general, one who could see the entire battlefield (nearly encompassing half a continent) and act in concert. I’ve often thought that had some of the generals from World War I learned lessons from the American Civil War, fewer soldier would have died in The Great War.

Winston Churchill remarked once that Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after every other option failed. Chernow made the point that Grant, having been a failure in his early military life and his civilian life before 1861, was almost the perfect choice for Abraham Lincoln. Unlike other generals, Grant had the fortitude to try something. If it failed, he tried something else. But at least he tried. True, failures from a general meant death, but it was war after all. I found it a nice reminder that for all the talk of Grant being a butcher, his losses often were less than Robert E. Lee’s.

As interesting as his war years are, I would have enjoyed more from his presidential years. That’s the forgotten part of Grant’s history. So many of us—if we remember Grant’s two-term presidency at all—think of the scandals, but there was so much more to it than that. The historians touched on major points, but I wanted more. Which, naturally, led me back to Chernow’s book. If you are reading this on the day I post this (29 May 2020), the Kindle edition is only $1.99. That’s two bucks for a thousand page biography.

But as the show ended, a remarkable thing occurred: I grew sad and somber. Mixed with Grant’s heroic struggle to keep the cancer at bay while writing his memoirs, the historians discussed how Grant’s admirable personal reputation has been diminished—sometimes actively—in the century and a half since Appomattox. I’m not sure why and how Chernow selected Grant as his subject, but I’m very appreciative that a reassessment has started.

And this mini-series is broadening the audience. It’s very well done and highly recommended.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode VI: The Soundtrack

Today, I continue my look back forty years at the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Now, it's the soundtrack.

Here's the link to my YouTube channel when I discuss the music of John Williams for "Star Wars II."

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode V: The Movie Re-Watch

It was 40 years ago today that I saw the sequel to Star Wars for the first time. I watched it again yesterday after a long time not seeing it and I recorded some thoughts, including some rather emotional ones about Han and the carbon freeze chamber and what he did.

The video is up on my YouTube channel.

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 21: The Summer Writing Season

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode IV: Marvel Comics

Here's a link to my YouTube channel where I discuss the issues of Marvel Comics' Star Wars title in the months immediately preceding the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 20

Today, I discuss a recent interview with Larry Brooks and Joanna Penn about Larry's new book, GREAT STORIES DON'T WRITE THEMSELVES.

Dave Grohl quote:
The Foo Fighters frontman received a handwritten letter from Springsteen a few days later that he said "explained this very clearly": "When you look out at the audience, you should see yourself in them, just as they should see themselves in you."

Read More: How Bruce Springsteen Humiliated Dave Grohl

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode II: The Trailers

Today, I continue my video series examining the months and moments and mementos forty years ago leading up to the release of the very first Star Wars sequel.

Episode II focuses on the trailers. I have a little bit of Mystery Science Theater to this episode as we watch the trailers together.

Here's the link to my YouTube Channel.

Have a look and leave a comment letting me know what you thought of the trailer back then and now.


Monday, May 4, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Part 1 - 1977-1980

I’ve started a new video series looking back forty years ago this month as everyone anxiously awaited the release of The Empire Strikes Back, the first sequel to Star Wars. In future episode, I’ll discuss the music, the toys, and other things, but today, I focus on that magical time between the first two movies. I’ve written about it before here.

I show off some of my collectibles that I still have and just talk about life with Star Wars in the years 1977, 1978, and 1979.

Here’s the link to my YouTube channel. Hope on over and check it out. More importantly, please share you memories, either here or in the comments at YouTube.