The Eleventh Minute of the … Have You Forgotten Yet?

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Perhaps if we take  a moment to remember that today is Veterans-Armistice-Remembrance Day; that at eleven past eleven this morning in 1918 The War to End All Wars ended; and then take another to really read Siegfried  Sassoon’s poem – written in the trenches – we would stop churning out veterans.

HAVE you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow

Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same — and War’s a bloody game. …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.
Do you remember the dark…

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About that Civil War Novel in Seven Parts

cropped-wilderness2.jpgWilliam Hanlin needs help . . . okay, William’s obviously pretty self-reliant and the mysterious J.A.W. is long dead but, well, his story needs a little help getting out there.

As some of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time since July putting together a narrative non-fiction book proposal with several sample chapters.

That’s out there – all 86 pages of it – with a literary agent out of New York I was referred to and . . . we’ll see.

In the meantime, there’s William, the project I vastly prefer to be working on. Two books done, William left out in the woods near Mechanicsville VA in the early morning hours of the beginning of the Seven Days battle.

The third book, The Widening Gyre is two-thirds typed, completely written, and about four weeks from being ‘finished.’ Less with help. Or I wake up tomorrow with the sudden ability to type fast and well.

The Hanlin novels are not in play with the agent. My choice, I was asked about them.

Here’s the deal – the fourth novel, The Blood Dimmed Tide is half Death-sedgwickwritten and edited as well. The novel in seven parts is outlined in depth, chapters, scenes, and long strings of dialogue have been written all the way through, including the ending.

As someone who’s read a few thousand novels, I can say with confidence that you haven’t seen anything yet.

If I went the traditional route with this the best case scenario for the release of The Rough Beast (Volume 7) would be around 2021 – it takes them 12-18 months to go from manuscript to print.

I love the Hanlin books, I want everyone else to love the story as well. I also want it over (I do, after all, know how it ends) so I can move on to other, partially written, fully outlined novels. That includes, as my friend Fred deduced months ago, J.A.W.’s story after he parts from William’s company.

1384800895013-AP-Finding-Lincolns-AddressWe’ve had a lot of great reviews, I get emails all the time, calls to get this to Netflix or HBO, etc. What we haven’t had is great sales, largely attributed to my hedging on the distribution channel and not spending to promote.

I have ample evidence, however, that the first two novels have been widely loaned out. A while back I was told by a video store (remember them) owner that the most stolen title in the industry was Office Space. Love the movie – I don’t know why but it somehow makes sense. It’s a neat little tidbit when you’re a bestseller, but …

Anyway, here’s what I want to do: I would like to sell 500 signed copies of the first two books from my ecwid site – signed because I want/need to add to my email base. I get no information from Amazon on who bought the books, have no way to communicate with those readers, though a few have sought me out (thank you).

So, everyone on the list will start getting some perks in the next monthSAM_1322– a monthly newsletter with insights and historical notes; deleted scenes (there’s quite a few, actually); the option to be galley readers if you wish, earn rewards for spotting misprints, and errata; vote on covers; get Forlorn Hope T-shirts (in the works); a lot more.

For my part, I need to put money into promotions, do a few ads, go on the road to book clubs and bookstores. I also need to go to Gettysburg for a day or two to walk the areas where I expect William and the 21st to walk. (Yes, I already know, exactly where and when and what happens July 1-4 1863, I just need to be sure it’s feasible on foot within real time constraints).

I did this at Antietam last summer was thrilled to death that what I envisioned William doing on September 17, 1862 was, indeed, possible. As you will see in The Widening Gyre. I will also be headed back to the Shenandoah Valley where the bulk of Pitiless as the Sun occurs.

The-Peninsula-Va.-The-staff-of-Gen.-Fitz-John-Porter-Lts.-William-G.-Jones-and-George-A.-Custer-So, I’m hoping you all can take a few moments out of your day to help promote the Hanlin series – send emails, I’ll be posting on my blog and Facebook, (if you haven’t already, please follow and all that stuff). LinkedIn, etc, could use a quick recommendation/ share. If you know of book clubs, Civil War groups, etc., please ask them to try it … if they’re not in the middle of nowhere, I might just be available to talk to them. Any and all ideas and referrals are welcome.

I’m thinking of doing a moderate Kickstarter campaign so I can really ramp this and the next two books up and take the time to put together a teleplay – I do have a few places to send one. Gifts would be everything from ebooks, to paperbacks, T-shirts, framed pages of the original manuscript, and, springing for a B&B for two nights for a couple of people to tour either Antietam or Gettysburg with me. If anyone has an opinion on this, please (please) let me know.

That’s it… Thanks so much for your encouragement . . .

And You May Ask Yourself …

… How did I get here?

I had a sudden realization earlier this week that sort of rocked me. Perhaps it was an epiphany. Either way, it began an hour or so after listening to Tom Brady get all gushy about his personal trainer-slash-guru, then all preachy about his health regimen and reached full-blown ‘holy shit’ proportions a few days later.
534733749CH00381_Super_BowlIt started with the news last weekend that Brady’s guy had been banned for life by the FTC for selling a supplement that cured …. everything and anything that was terminal. Indeed, he and his infomercial partners claimed that out of 200 terminal with a Pandora’s box of ailments clients, only eight died. It was that stuff you see being sold while you’re flipping through Seinfeld and Star Trek Next Generation reruns at 2:30 am. Oh, and Brady’s guy claimed to be a doctor.

Okay, fine, that’s was thirteen, fourteen years ago and I, most certainly, am the first one to say, ‘okay you fucked up, let’s move on.’ However – you just knew there was a however – he got slapped again in 2012 for pushing a drink that helped prevent concussions. Neurosafe. Powder, when mixed with presumably water and ingested regularly it was supposed to minimize the effects of a concussion.

Brady and Wes Welker endorsed it for the year or so the crap was out there image
before the FTC swooped in again and shut that down.

By the way, Wes Welker endorsing a concussion prevention powder is pretty much like using Lou Gehrig to push an ALS cure.

Brady was asked about this on WEEI sports radio Monday morning, his response was predictable, if not a little creepy. His trainer/guru/business partner/kid’s godfather is an amazing trainer, masseuse, nutritional expert, and a whole lot more.

Again, fine, every fabulously wealthy family has the right to have it’s very own Rasputin. What could possibly go wrong with that?

imageBut, Brady went on to explain how Western medicine is lacking. As he grew up one hell of a high school athlete in two sports, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he did so without having to fight off polio, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and small pox.

I can handle that, though, it’s not like you can’t find that stuff on Facebook feeds all day everyday. Brady, though, went a step further and talked about how ‘ridiculous’ it was that athletes had Tommy John surgery and ACL replacements, strongly indicating that those injuries were the athletes fault, they weren’t prepared.

This pissed me off, but it’s not the epiphany. It pissed me off because it’s a ridiculous assumption, he’s playing (great) today because his torn ACL was replaced (via Western medicine), and I had my ACL torn 25 years ago in a combination of artificial turf, really good shoes, and getting hit exactly right by a large human that nothing could have prevented save not driving to New York that morning.

All this stuff came out Monday morning. It was re-aired several times. Some people came down on Brady, more, a lot more, rose to his defense and, because he’s won 4 Superbowl titles and is married to a supermodel, began a long litany of completely and utterly bashing Western medicine. I mean, a guy with those accomplishments must know everything, right?

Thus the epiphany began. I’ve been a Patriots fan since the early 70s. Had no choice, really, there were only a couple of games on a week, my father was a Giants fan, so …

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

… the Pats it was. They sucked and they were fun. They fumbled and bumbled, were run by an Irish American family that wasn’t about to remind anyone of the Kennedys – or any half-way successful family of any ilk, for that matter. They built a new stadium for about $14.95, the day it opened the toilets backed up and, well, it was ugly. They also lost 31-7.

I was there the afternoon they clinched their first AFC East Division title in 1978. We got tickets that day, the upper stands were far from filled. It was cold, had a white-out snow squall in the second half, the temperature dropped, they had to come from behind against a woeful Buffalo Bills team (is that redundant?) and we stood for most of the game – not from excitement but because the stadium had aluminum bleachers – no seats.

Their coach resigned the next day, they had co-coaches for, surprise, their only playoff game.

They alternated between loveable losers to flat-out incompetents to marginal playoff contenders. We had to cheer for individual ‘stars’ the great-and-would-have-been-greater-if-for-better-teammates Sam the Bam, the tiny Mack Herron, the too-tough-for-his-own-good Steve Grogan, the franchise’s greatest pre-Belicheck player, John Hannah. It probably says it all when your best player is an offensive guard.image

A few good things happened, somehow they got to the Super Bowl to be fodder for the Bears and … well, maybe a few others. Mostly, they provided entertainment and the occasional hope.

That’s my epiphany. Somewhere in the last 15 years I’ve gone from cheering for the loveable underdogs to cheering for a team with a fan base so spoiled by winning, so steeped in the mystique of the Patriot way, that if Tom Brady or Bill Belicheck suddenly announced that they sacrificed a virgin to insure a victory over Peyton Manning, their approval rating would be around 60% (with another 9.8% undecided while debating the definition of ‘virgin’) by their fanbase.

I’ve realized that somewhere along the line I traded in the Tony Eason deer-in-the-headlights Patriots for the 1947-1964 New York Yankees. Bloodless, unemotional, business is everything, unsentimental, unsympathetic, unapologetic winners. As Joe E. Lewis said, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel.”

I’m suddenly, after 50 something years, on the side of the bullies and today’s NFL doesn’t have lovable losers any more. Instead, they have a ton of mindless, joyless mediocrity, and a whole lot of excuse making. “The balls were .2 psi below regulation;” “the crowd was too noisy,” “the GM texted the coach during a game,” “the lights went out,” “they broke an unwritten rule,” “they announced the change to 80,000 people but we missed it,” “they had bounties on us,” and so, so much more.

main_11The only thing that keeps me from bagging the whole thing is that, like the corporations in Rollerball (the original, please) the NFL and the other owners have had it with the Patriots for not playing the three, five years of good and rebuild, the league, schedules, and draft are built on.

Okay, so they’re a bully – a really big bully – being picked at by a bunch of bullies unused to being bullied.

I’m not sure what direction to go from here. Not sure it matters with the Cubs close to the World Series and the apocalypse that will surely immediately follow should they win.

I’ve made no decisions. But I really hope Brady plays until he’s 50, because, based on his evangelical explanation of his diet, he’s going to be really insufferable when talking about it is all he has to do all week.

About Mr. Smith . . .

According to the somewhat archaic rules of non-fiction book proposals I’m supposed to mention competing books (well, books with the same general theme), note what makes Any Day Now different, and not comment about quality – just in case the proposal ends up in front of the editor who green-lighted the book I slam.

I’m not sure I get this part of the deal, presumably, like every other type of creative endeavor, a whole lot of crap sells and the editor/producer can embrace the cash while holding their nose on a pretty regular basis.

Anyway, I’m breaking this ‘suggested’ rule because this . . . competing  . . . title is just too contemptuous to ignore any longer. Plus, everybody I’ve (extensively) ranted to about it have carefully and compassionately pointed out that I need to bring this to the attention of a broader audience (i.e., not them).

So, it goes like this:

IMG_0694This the Amazon page for Jeff Smith’s book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis. Smith was a politician, now teaches at The New School, was convicted for lying to federal officers about election malfeasance. The book is interspersed with the story of his political rise, tracks from his many readings/research on prison, and sprinkled with his surefire ideas on how to fix the thing (and probably get back into politics).

In short, pretty much nothing of what I plan to do, certainly not in tone, style, layout, or content. So why do I care?

Here’s the thing, though, that has me … flummoxed: I was up to 3:30 the morning this came out reading through as much as I could without ponying up the $13 they want for the Kindle version (it’s surprisingly a lot between free looks and his interviews). I couldn’t put it down, but not for good reasons.

Because the whole thing is off.

It starts with the blurbs and gets worse in the first 80 pages of the book – he served ‘hard time’, a year in a federal prison, he had to duck the attentions of the Aryan Brotherhood, was threatened by the KKK, had a front row seat to gang fights, racism, worked 40 hours a week in a hot, dusty warehouse for $5.35 a month, a whole lot more.

Problem is, this stuff happens, it just couldn’t have happened to him. He wasn’t in a federal prison, he was in a federal camp. He was never behind bars because there are no bars, in fact, there are no walls, no razor wire, just an honor system and a couple of COs.

There most certainly are no members – past or present – of the Aryan Brotherhood or KKK. Or recognized gangs for that matter. They are security risks and even with good behavior – in the case of the Aryan Brotherhood that would include the sudden ability to walk on water –  can’t go to a camp. Ever. Nor can inmates with ten years of more on their sentences and Smith introduces several of them when we finally get beyond his educational and political background and into the ‘prison’ around page 50.

$5.35 a month is the amount paid to inmates with no-show jobs like policing the compound. Everyone who actually works starts at $.30 to $.45 an hour and can work pretty quickly up to $1/hr. Stealing and smuggling stuff from the warehouse or kitchen because if you don’t the other inmates ‘will take care of you because they can’t trust you’ is not only a blatant lie, it’s right out of a bad movie.Inmates respect those who don’t take stuff and won’t jeopardize their good time, probably because it leaves much more for them.

It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that Smith’s stories are from high, medium and administrative prisons, relayed to him by inmates who had been in them at one time or another. He adapted them for his use.

Look, this guy’s judge gave him a year and one day sentence. He was allowed to wrap up his affairs before surrendering, was dropped off at the ‘prison’ by his wife, released to a half-way house after a little over 8 months – so, hey, about that title. The first clue he wasn’t in prison should have been when his wife drove past the federal penitentiary. Another hint you’re not in a real prison is being allowed to drive a car.

Here is his corrected Amazon page:

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My outage – and it  is outrage – centers around lying about his ‘year behind bars doing hard time’ and passing off inmate stories as his own in order to draw conclusions about the system that support his theories.Theories he claims he had before his arrest.

Look, he wants to write a book, great; he needs to talk about his intellectual prowess on every page while disparaging that of most everyone around him, okay; thinking he has the answers because he was inconvenienced for eight months, not remotely okay.

This pretty much makes him the Brain Williams of prison correspondents.

Adventures While Running #478

I went off the road and cut through an overgrown lane through the woods …

And a bear cub the size of a young Newfoundland cut across about 15 yards away, bounded into the tree line. I looked to my right, where he came from, in case mom was there.

She wasn’t, she was a few feet to my left standing, arms wide. I’ve seen a lot of bears lately, some really close, this was the first one I’ve ever seen standing. Bears aren’t nearly as cute standing as they are lurching away on all fours.

In the, er, ah, excitement of the moment, I never really saw this:

image

But I definitely saw this:

image

Another Saturday Run and Tainted Love

Ten mile run way out in railroad trail boonies, musical decisions and wild thoughts:

  • That’s it, I’ve had it, I’ve been wondering this for 40 some odd years and I’m no closer today than way back when  – what was he was doing with Julio down by the schoolyard and why was everyone so upset? I don’t get an answer to this it’s off the list because absent it I don’t really need all the images my imagination throws at me.
  • Moby’s Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad hit its midway point just as I was running behind a dog kennel – the barking meshed perfectly with the underbeat. It was at the 8 mile marker too, so the song was particularly apt. It stays, for now.
  •   The inanity and/or rudeness of bikers is directly in inverse proportion to the workout clothes they wear – with the exception of the total outliers like Speedo man last week and ‘Kim-Davis-Kathy Bates Misery Body Double-Carrie’s mom-Cockadoodle-Shaker-dress’ rider yesterday (both were fine). The ‘Breaking Away‘ I’m wearing two dozen logos but not getting paid a penny to do so crowd are universally fine to the tire impaired. It’s downhill from there with the guy in corduroy cutoffs taking the cake. By the way – if you’re not on your way to teach Political Science 101, what makes you wear an Oxford shirt on an 80 degree summer afternoon with a high chance of showers in the middle of nowhere? And yes, both of them were obnoxious to everyone else on the trail including squirrels.
  • Tainted Heart – it’s on the list for the race and it’s staying for the weird reason it reminds me of my favorite all time commercial:

The video was by Spike Jonze, it was banned from TV shortly after it aired because it was offensive to either/or trauma patients/nurses/surgeons/anesthesiologist/cardiac patients/the makers of EKG machines/guys named Richard. That was awhile back when people were really sensitive to things and insisted they be removed from the media.

  • At mile six it hit me that I didn’t even know Rick Perry was running this time around.
  • Nick Cave’s Brother My Cup is Empty, stays or goes depending on what stage it hits and whether or not I take it literally or metaphorically.
  • Mike Huckabee really believes that the Dredd Scott decision is still the law of the land and everybody just chooses to look the other way? I spent at least a mile and a half thinking of a test that should be given to everyone who decides there’s a burning need for them to be President.

A Quick Confession …

IMG_0697-0I’m going to watch the Patriots – Steelers tonight. Despite the fact I know, deep down inside that it’s wrong … or at least abetting … or enabling … or  a hundred other things. I mean giving the NFL money, no matter how indirectly, is akin to mailing a check to the Koch brothers.I mean, the NFL is evil, I know that, hell, my dog knows that. An evil not-for-profit that generates hundreds of millions a year on the backs of guys it has no interest in thirty seconds after their careers end. It has denied concussions, intimidated doctors and scientists and its own retired players.

The NFL owns ESPN. It can’t tell the difference between a serial domestic abuser and the Ideal Gas Law. It’s labor practices are, according to a days old federal court decision, abysmal, the guy in charge is something out of a Sinclair Lewis novel.

It talks, endlessly, about the integrity of the game but half its rules are there for gamblers. I’ve seen graphic results of that gambling. Swift, nasty, and graphic. Often.

It is geared toward mediocrity – parity in NFL company speak. The only other sport I can think of so invested in assuring everyone hits .500 and systematically goes after anyone or any team excellingmain_11 through the rigged schedules, drafts, and salary caps are the guys running Rollerball.

No one playing knows how to tackle, they use the helmet as a weapon despite what it’s been proven to do to the tackler. It’s so bad, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks brought rugby players to camp to try and get guys to actually use their arms.

I despise the rah-rah shit, the how football prepares you for life horseshit. The whole let’s endlessly parade the military out at every game, using ‘war’ and ‘battle’ as metaphors.

I despair that the Ravens offensive guard, John Urschel, is going to do something to his world-class mathematician’s head. I despair every time a retired player like Chris Carter opens his mouth on TV.

Any other organization in the country outside of Wall Street would never have survived League of Denial, people would have marched in the street to shut them down.

I know all this, and a lot more. And I’m still going to watch. Many games. I’m going to rationalize it by thinking the guys playing are playing because they love the game and it’s their choice and yada, yada, yada . . . and I was busy playing rugby and soccer through my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and was more concerned with my teams than any televised sport so it’s okay for me to sit and watch now. But, that’s crap and just makes me feel a tiny bit better.

I’m going to watch, I guess, for the reason most people watch – because I can’t not watch.