On Woodworking, History, and Writing
And what's it got to do with anything else...
When I started my blog, then this newsletter, I hoped to sell books... lots of books. I have sold articles to Strategy & Tactics, World at War, and Against the Odds, and had some modest book sales all my books based on what I provide links for, so I am not entirely disappointed.
The work, however, doesn't stop. Reading, on average, three books at a time (albeit slowly), and writing, at this time, three (This Redhead: The Dialogues; Tug of War: Bombers in the Pacific; Steele’s Hammer: Luxembourg, December 1944), with two in rework (Crop Duster: A Novel of World War II; Devil’s Own Day: Shiloh and the American Civil War).
I also have to finish the article based on a bunch of WWI artifacts from a fellow named Harley Washburn, who joined the US Army in 1918 and went to France. There's also my article on the evolution of the cruiser in the coal-burning age, and another on Confederate Mississippi River ironclads. Those need to be done. And then there's my ages-old essay on Pickett's Mills (an 1864 Civil War battle in Georgia, en route to Atlanta) that I really should dust off and do something with, and that other piece I started on the development of flame weapons in the 19th century, and that long-promised essay on HP Lovecraft and WWI (he tried to enlist in 1917, but somehow his family put the kibosh on that).
I enjoy building things, be they stories of people and events or objects of wood or plastic… and increasingly brass. I concentrate my weekends on working with my hands, either out in my wood shop in the garage or building models in my basement. I had abandoned the wood shop when I could no longer feel my hands well enough to be safe around sharp tools or even sandpaper. Having had that issue resolved and having recovered enough from the surgery required, I’ve gone back to turning perfectly good lumber into sawdust, splinters, shop fixtures, household trim and small furniture, in that order, or to build whatever suits my fancy when I look as my small stash of model kits. My pseudo-Roman catapult is still in process. Next, I think I’ll build that Mosquito model that’s been calling my name for a while.
But in the shop I have to improve my power tool storage, square off the end of my bench deck, flatten my bench plane sole, remount my grinder so I can sharpen my chisels more accurately, and start on another set of picture frames before I embark on making a series of signs with my router…
Oh, I'll then take some time and write this newsletter, pay court to Evelyne, do whatever bidding the kids need, clean house, tote barges, lift bails, splice the main brace on Fridays...
What’s all this got to do with history?
Well, this is just my experience. Other scribes of the past have faculty and staff meetings, budget meetings, classes to teach, book tours, marketing strategy sessions, agent meetings… their list is longer. In between, they take some time to write the books that we all read and use so avidly. But at the same time they also do at least some of the stuff that I list above. If you thought we just muss around in the sources, scrivening away in our genius-like manner, you have another thing coming. We have lives just like you do; maladies, families, hobbies, and households. A team of people not unlike me produced that book on your shelf. So if this footnote or that phrase seem just off, maybe it was because a bathtub drain’s backed up… somewhere, again, and that plumbing conundrum and subsequent bill just happened to have been on that line editor’s mind when he looked at those errant entries in that scholar’s work.
This Redhead: The Dialogues
My ever-vigilant editor/muse and I have been working on This Redhead since last winter. Because of its literary form—entirely external dialogue—it’s not a straightforward book to write. Keeping the dialogue exchanges—him; her; him; her—balanced for 50k words is a great deal more challenging than I had ever thought possible. The story is simple enough, but telling it that way is a lot harder than you might think.
This Redhead: The Dialogues, however, will, I swear, be done next week. Expect to see it early next year.
National Old Maid's Day
On 12 November:
1847: James Young Simpson employed chloroform as an anesthetic for an operation in Scotland. It wasn’t the first time doctors used an anesthetic in medicine, but it was the first human use of chloroform for surgery.
1969: The Mi Lai story broke through the Dispatch News Service. Coming nearly two years after the massacre, it still gave the Nixon administration something of a black eye for maintaining the coverup. Ironically, it was on this day in 1948 that Tojo Hideki was sentenced to death in Tokyo.
Finally, today is NATIONAL FRENCH DIP DAY. If you’re into roast beef sandwiches dipped in au jus, today’s the day to indulge.