Works in Progress

Watching a real 70s show: The Rockford Files

While I've been retro-watching the 80s shows of my youth, my memory does in fact extend into the 70s as well.  Sad to say, the few attempts I've made to go re-watch old programming did not go well.  Hulu had M*A*S*H on about a year ago and I could not get into it.  It was painful to sit through.  Maybe one of the later seasons would be better, but neither my wife nor I could stomach it.

However, The Rockford Files has aged reasonably well.  It's got the usual detective tropes and comically unsafe firearms use that is emblematic of the period and as I'm closing in on the halfway mark of the first season I can see why it was successful.

James Garner is perfect for the role of Jim Rockford and he has the easy charm and charisma that is sorely lacking in today's stars.  He's genuinely interesting to watch.  Such qualities made often made the difference between schlock and decent programming.

The setting is of course iconic - a guy who lives in a battered trailer set up in a ocean side parking lot.  The interior is nice, but it's constantly the target of various break-ins.  While perpetually broke, Rockford nevertheless boasts a sweet ride - a gold Pontiac Firebird.  This of course anticipates the 80s tropes where private investigators have sweet rides and/or helicopters (or speedboats, or whatnot).

Rockford therefore walks the line between being plausible and relatable (perpetually broke, often beat up) but also admirable (handsome, has cool car, total ladies' man).  There is not a trace of the Mary Sue in this show, which demonstrates how far Hollywood has fallen.

I'm not sure how long I will stick with it, but for now it's a welcome diversion while I finish publishing Walls of Men and recharge my batteries for my next creative venture.


Coming down the home stretch - Walls of Men update

The proof copy arrived yesterday and - as expected - there were a few things that needed to be fixed.  The maps seemed grainy, so I both lightened them up (they are monochrome) and I re-rendered them to a higher resolution.  This should result in crisper images.  Certainly they look better in the electronic format.

Other tasks included listing the maps and completing the table of contents.  I made a few final edits to the introduction and the went through making sure the formatting was optimal.  The final step will be completing the final version of the index.  At that point, it will be ready to publish, but I will wait for a second proof to arrive before taking that step.

I've learned the hard way that patience pays off, particularly in the non-fiction genre.  That make sense, because who is going to trust a history book riddled with formatting errors?  There's also the value for money aspect.  I'm going to charge a decent amount of money for Walls of Men because I've put a great deal of time in on it.  It's also more than 360 pages long - the longest book I've ever written.  All of which is to say it is going to be priced accordingly.

One thing I want to avoid is the mad scramble to correct errors that marred the launch of Long Live Death.  For that reason, I'm going to be extra cautious.

That being said, this is a self-published book, and I hope people won't nit-pick it to death.  Anyhow, it will be out soon enough and then I can take a break for a bit.

 

 


The proof for Walls of Men has been ordered!

Almost there!  Before folks get too excited, I'm not out of the woods yet.  I know there are some mistakes still in the draft, but fixing them won't change the layout or page count.  I intend to correct them at the same time as any other mistakes which I find.  At that point, it can go live and I can get on with my life.

One area of concern for me is the maps.  To keep costs low (and simple) I went with a monochrome color scheme.  These are just sketch maps, nothing particularly elaborate and suitable for a compact paperback.  Still, if they need work, that could induce some delay.

All those caveats aside, I think it will be ready in a matter of days, not weeks.  After that, it's all about spreading the word.

The print version has 360 pages, so quite a bit bigger than anything I've yet done.  I can't wait to see how it feels in my pixel-stained hands.


Authorial mission creep

I was going through some old emails and read with amusement my earlier goal of having Walls of Men submitted for publication in September. 

As if.

On the plus side, it is getting very close to that point.  The text is good to go, it's been formatted and what is holding me up right now is tweaking the maps.  I originally only projected a dozen or so of them but as I started building them, I realized that I needed more than twice as many.

These aren't particularly detailed, mostly just clarifying parts of the text - which is exactly why I'm adding to them.

You see, the maps have to go into the book, and it's nice to have the things referenced shown in the map.  Thus my original idea of just having outline maps of the various dynasties has mutated into some thematic ones as well.

To be clear, these are monochrome and quite simple, which is why I find it so easy to add to the collection. 

Even so, I'm most of the way done.  If I can get some quiet time this weekend, I may well get the thing submitted at last.

But first, I have to stop thinking of new maps to include.


My new life as a civilian

I don't generally dwell on personal details, but as anyone who has looked at my body of work knows, I have done a bit of military service.  More than 20 years, actually.

That came to a close at the end of last year.

I'm looking forward to have more free time - that whole "one weekend a month" thing got to be a real drag after a while.  It seemed that every important event was slotted against drill, which not only wrecked the weekend itself, but cast a shadow of fatigue on the following week.  The weekend after was then a game of catch-up on chores. 

It played havoc with my writing schedule.  I might be writing at a good clip and then drill (or a training deployment) would pop up and that was that.  I might lose a whole month.

Folks sometime ask me how I could write at all given the pressures of two jobs plus a family, and the answer is that it became my creative outlet.  I gave up watching broadcast television and cable years ago.  Over the last couple of weeks I've joined the kids in playing console games, but that's also a function of having Walls of Men near completion.  I like to take  break after one project before diving into the next.

My new catch phrase is "people write what they know," and I'm looking forward to incorporating more aspects of that life in my work.  Yes, I wrote Three Weeks with the Coasties while still serving, but I also pulled some punches (and had to get it approved by DoD).

I've probably said before that I don't put a particular emphasis on the change of the calendar, but for once, the diving line is pretty stark. 


Passing and renewal: 2022

When I saw the news of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's death, my immediate response was "of course."  The timing seems to align with the passage of so many other things.  A lot of the color and goodness has left the world of late, and the darkness that had long lurked in the corners now seems to be moving to the center of the room.

I am not one of those Catholics who insisted that Benedict never resigned his holy office and that Francis was an antipope.  In retrospect, it is clear that Benedict knew that the corruption within the Church was beyond his ability to remove, and that having done what he could to make necessary corrections in doctrine (especially in the English language version of the Mass), he selflessly stepped aside.  I think he saw the damage of having a weakened Pontiff at the head of the Church and did not want to repeat what he regarded as Pope St. John Paul II's mistake.

I'm not normally one for year-end roundups or New Year's resolutions.  I think more in terms of seasonal cycles rather than calendar changes, perhaps a legacy of my school days, where the end of the school year (which coincided with my birthday) was when I paused to reflect and also look ahead.

Still, the end of 2022 now has additional significance.  The coming year will have no "shadow pope" to clutter Catholic discussions.  On a person level, my youngest child will complete high school in the spring, ending that particular era for our family.  I will enter the new year as a civilian, which is another change I am still adjusting to.

And yes, I will also publish Walls of Men, a project that I thought to complete over the holidays.  That was my original plan, but I instead took the time to visit with friends and family, do some light reorganization, and above all, get some rest.

It seems appropriate to remember Benedict at the vigil Mass today and I will be one of many to do so.  Rest in peace.


Walls of Men Publication Update

Between the holidays and other goings on, it's been a struggle for me to finish the edits and formatting of Walls of Men: A Military History of China.  I'm now well behind schedule, but am still making progress.  I'm still hoping for a pre-Christmas launch, but the overriding concern is that this be the most accurate and professional-looking book I've ever done.  The topic is complex, the names can be confusing, and at the very least I want the fewest spelling and grammar errors possible.

To that end I'm reading it aloud to my family, which is slow, but is finding all manner of small things that I need to correct. 

After that, I will format it for publishing and I anticipate that going reasonably quickly as I've done this many times.  After that, I'm not sure.  I'd like to do some fiction writing, but audiobooks are "a thing" and I may take some time to record these.

In any event, it is moving forward with as much speed as I can apply to it without compromising its quality.  I'm sick of getting people who say my book is great and but for typos they'd give it five stars.  Hopefully I'll turn on the corner here.

 


Veterans Day, 2022

Later today I will be playing "Taps" for the last time as an active service member.  Amidst all of the changes of the past couple of years, this is one that has come in an entirely unexpected way.

Just as with storytelling, how an experience ends can have a profound impact on how one looks back on the whole thing.  I've written before about how a botched conclusion can not only wreck a particular film or book, but trash the entire franchise.  I'm talking about you, Star Wars.

As I wrap the 21st and final season of "A.H.Lloyd's Remarkably Uninteresting Military Career," I'm definitely getting same vibe as watching the lamentable last season of Miami Vice.

Maybe it will look better in re-runs.

On the positive side, I will have a lot of spare time and  more much more latitude to vent my spleen on military affairs.  This opens up new areas of writing as well as more time with which to do it.

Speaking of writing, Walls of Men is now undergoing its final edit prior to being formatted for publication.  It's been through my hands and those of two test readers, but reading it aloud has found a great many areas of improvement.  I think this will be standard practice for me from now on.


The Great Wall of Edits

The test readers have finally finished their labors, and we're now coming down the home stretch of Walls of Men.

This project really got out of hand developed beyond what I expected.  Based on my experience with Long Live Death, I figured I could hammer out a concise military history of China in little over twice the time it took me to write about Spain.  I was wrong.

Badly wrong.

Target completion dates kept slipping backward, from March to May to July to September.  I'm now reasonably confident that I will at least have a proof copy printed in November.

On the plus side, the feedback is very positive, which is great.  On the other hand, I've got a bit of work ahead in terms of cleaning things up.  I'm not really bothered by that because almost every one of my books has required a post-publication update as new typos and mistakes are brought to light.  Given the scope of this particular work, I'm willing to delay final publication until it's as clean as can be reasonably expected.

What next?  I'm not sure, but I need a break from the non-fiction realm.  Things are too stressful and disappearing into a world of my own creation will do me some good.  Both Vampires of Michigan and Battle Officer Wolf are long overdue for sequels, and I've been thinking about both of them.

I'm also looking at a revised one-volume version of Man of Destiny with some new content added to it (along with improved cover art).

To put it another way, I've still got stories to tell and things to say and with my impending retirement from military service, I'll have a lot more time to do it.

 


Back to work at Bleedingfool.com

While I was in the throes of writing Walls of Men, I decided to forgo other creative activities.  As a result, my output here and elsewhere suffered.

Today my first new content since June appeared on Bleedingfool.com: a scathing review of Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai.

The review itself is less significant than the fact that I finally have time to do something other than research or write about China. 

Don't get me wrong, it's fun to take on a major project and feels great to get it behind you.  Still, it's also tough to give up sidebar hobbies and just grind away on a single topic.

I'm still decompressing from the effort, and am taking something of an intellectual vacation in terms of heavy reading, but the notion of getting back into turning out short pieces is appealing to me.