“Back to one!” (Part 1)

Concussions from an artillery barrage ripple up the backs of Union infantry huddled behind a stone and earthen position nicknamed “The Angle.” Dust raised by cannon blasts swirl around the troops, penetrating their noses and mouths. “Get out of the way!” roars an artilleryman at the prone figures. “Move, move, move!” Several blue-clad soldiers roll…

An official “Re-enactor Mudder”!

Are you familiar with the term “mudder”? Originally it applied to a racehorse that ran well on a muddy or otherwise difficult track. Nowadays its meaning has expanded to include pickup trucks with the same capability. The newest twist is “Tough Mudder,” a $250 million industry in the United States, with over two million participants…

First person? Imperative!

In language, the imperative is a grammatical mood that “forms commands or requests, including the giving of prohibition or permission, or any other kind of advice or exhortation.” In a quarter century of participation in American Civil War re-enacting, I have had plenty of opportunities to see the variety of attitudes with which women and…

The Tower at Petite Vigne

The underlying reason for this blog’s existence is to track the progress toward publication of my novel, The Tower at Petite Vigne. I self-published the book back in 2010 but ultimately decided to re-write it, from the ground up. Having finished that task, I’m confident that I have a much better “product” with which to…

“Is that your natural color?”

Blame it on genetics. My dad’s hair turned white (not gray) when he was still quite young; the same thing happened to yours truly. I hadn’t thought much about it. The phenomenon did not make me look “distinguished,” let alone “mature.” If having white hair is one of life’s “punches,” I pretty much rolled with…

Sequel to a Bestseller: Charles Frazier

My first blog post on this topic described the relationship between Harper Lee’s novels To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and Go Set a Watchman (2015). This post develops the subject further by describing the experience of a more recent writer. The story goes that Charles Frazier, upon completing his first work, Cold Mountain, took it…

Sequel to a Bestseller: Harper Lee

This is the first of two postings concerning an interesting, and sometimes problematic situation in publishing: the sequel to a runaway bestseller. Like most aspiring authors, I hope the promise of my first work will convince a publisher to offer me a three-book contract, something that is fairly common. Doing so shows the writer that…

Concussion

In mid-August I attended a preseason football game at Heinz Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the National Football League team I’ve followed since my youth. Temperatures were in the low nineties with high humidity, and the Steelers lost to the Detroit Lions. All that being said, I found being at a professional game an…

To Know & Be Known #3: Cartoon Collection

The third part of this series is concerned with a way of knowing me that, compared to my commonplace book and personal library, may seem rather off-beat. I have collected editorial cartoons, cartoon strips and cartoons for years. At this point I reckon the binders pictured above contain close to a thousand or more of…

To Know & Be Known #2: Personal Library

Visiting a home for the first time, I tend to gravitate toward its bookcases when the opportunity presents itself. These repositories of knowledge communicate a variety of messages to the casual observer. For the purpose of this post I’m boiling them down to, 1.) expressing who the books’ owners aspire to be, or, 2.) who…

To Know & Be Known #1: Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe. “Commonplace” is a translation of the Latin term locus communis, which means “a theme or argument of general application,” such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books…

Ought I have a “Bucket List”?

Nowadays many people are in the habit of compiling “Bucket Lists,” catalogs of experiences they want to have or things they wish to accomplish before “kicking the bucket.” Curiosity about this phrase’s origin led me to delve into my favorite resource on the meaning of words, the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The theory regarding…