Today feels like a different kind of day for me.
It is the first time in 5 years that I am not working on a book deadline. 2009 will see the release of my 5th and 6th titles as yesterday I finished off a draft manuscript and expect to receive a proofed version back of another in the coming weeks. It takes a tremendous amount of work and time to research and write history books (or any book for that matter) and I have sacrificed countless hours with my family and friends in order to pursue this passion of mine. At 37-years old, I have been very blessed and I am absolutely certain that my successes as a writer are not at all due to my own efforts, but from the grace I receive from above, and the support I have around me down here. I’m proud of the books that I’ve published to date and feel that I am getting better as both a historian and author. (The first book I released back in 2005 had 80+ pages. This last one I co-wrote will have over 400.)
My plate isn’t completely emptied as I still have the occasional article, tour, lecture, and media piece, but for the most part I am finally freed up from the major tasks that demand the majority of my attention. It feels… relaxing and I haven’t felt that way in a very-very long time. I can actually go home at night and not have to work after the kids go to bed. Spending 12 hours at a keyboard is ridiculous. It’s summertime. I have a beautiful pool, and now I can finally use it without looking at the clock and worrying about my schedule. Getting back to a 9-5 lifestyle is something I absolutely crave – and require.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not done writing books, but I am taking a much-needed break as in no new publishing contracts for the rest of this year. (Honey, you can bookmark this post and use it against me at any time.) I am also never-ever going to work on two books at the same time. That’s nuts. Thank God one of them is a chronicle-collection, which required more quoted transcripts than original narrative.
As of today, my attentions are going to be better spent. I’m taking the family to Disney World on vacation. I’m having lunch today with a dear friend I haven’t hung out with in years. I even had a celebratory cocktail for the first time in 3 years and it tasted g-o-o-d. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our professional pursuits that we neglect the personal ones that really matter. I’ve been extremely lucky as I have an understanding wife and co-workers who give me the space to do my thing, but I have not been practicing work moderation in any way. It has cost me many relationships and tarnished my sense of priorities. Thank God I have my church to keep me grounded. So now seems like the perfect time for me to get a life, regain some friends, pay attention to my wife, and walk away from the keyboard when it’s quitting time.
Of course I’ll continue to blog, I’m not crazy or anything...
Only 9:50 a.m. and already a great day!
I just printed out the completed rough draft for “Confederate Encampments of Spotsylvania County: Campfires at the Crossroads” AND I’ve been busy this morning recording radio spots for AM 1230's TravelHost segments. (Plus there's bagels in the kitchen!) It doesn’t get any better than this folks.
UPDATE: In an effort to leave you, my beloved readers, with something that is actually interesting to read and not just a self-centered mention of my salivation over free bagels and a microphone, below is a short excerpt from the Winter Quarters section of my upcoming book “Confederate Encampments of Spotsylvania County: Campfires at the Crossroads.” This highly-original study is not all painful recollections of camp life and death. I also include some fun pieces and little-known events. For instance…
It is understandable that troops who were stuck in winter quarters would search for new forms of merriment in order to break up their day-to-day routines. Although a thick blanket of snow made for uncomfortable sleeping arrangements it did allow men to be boys. Sometimes snowball fights would erupt, pitting large groups of soldiers against one another. It has been said that the largest military snow exchange occurred in Northern Virginia on January 29th, 1863 when a group of Texans initiated a battle against their compatriots from Arkansas. The melee spilled over into other camps and resulted in a scuffle involving over 9,000 soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia. Similar friendly engagements took place across the county of Spotsylvania.
Entry from the journal of John Elsten Cooke, staff officer with General J.E.B. Stuart, ANV Cavalry:
Camp “No Camp” (Spotsylvania, VA)
Jan 30th ’63 …A great snowball battle among the Brigades which was worth seeing. Yesterday Hood’s Texans & Georgians issued from their camp near Lee’s Hdqrs. and led by Gen. [Brig. Gen. Micah] Jenkins attacked and routed [Brig. Gen. Joseph B.] Kershaw’s SZ. Carolinians camped toward Mrs. Alsop’s. Inflamed with victory the Hood boys today advanced in battle array with flags flying and led by their officers against [Brig. Gen. Thomas R.R.] Cobb of [Maj. Gen. Lafayette] McLaw’s Div. (as Kershaw is). The camp is just back of ours in the pines. The scene was a lively and funny one. The Hoodites charged into the camp, drove out the Andersonites [Wofford] and put them to rout. But they rallied got reinforcements, and drove the Hoodites from the woods, across the Telegraph road, and into the fields, with storms of balls (snow).
What was the horror of the Hoodites to see Kershaw’s men, drawn up on their left flank, ready to attack. They halted and their leader rode forward and parlayed – he demanded assistance against a common foe – the Yankee Anderson [Wofford]. A long parlay, refused at first, but compliance at last, and the combined forces attacked the enemy. Anderson was drawn up on the crest of a hill, and fought with desperation but numbers overpowered him. He fell back in confusion, his foes pursued; and burst into his camp. “Come on boys!” was the cry “here’s your blankets, your cooking utensils, and everything!” Some thought they were in earnest. Then Hood as usual conquered.
The scene was a very good mimic battle. The men advanced and fell back, deployed, and charged – turned the enemy’s flank, and “carried on” generally like real fighters. They had guidons for flags; and the regiments marched in very good order to the battle. There were many officers galloping about with irresistible air of leading their men – others were shouting in furious tones to stragglers – and snow balls flew as thick as leaves in an autumn wind. I saw it from horseback and laughed heartily I think I will write it out for the Whig or the News.
Source: Trout, Robert J. With Pen and Saber: The Letters and Diaries of J.E.B. Stuart's Staff Officers (Stackpole Books, January 1995)
Praise for receiving praise
Yesterday I received a wonderful email from Gary Thomas, one of my favorite Christian authors, in regards to my Civil War devotional “The Southern Cross.” This book seems to have touched a lot of people as I get more feedback on this particular work than any other title I’ve published. Gary is not only a gifted author who has found a way to write spiritually influenced books that help married couples and parents, he is also a nationally recognized speaker. His books, DVDs and curriculum are used by churches all across America. Gary is also a Civil War buff and at one time, he edited the Manassas RT’s newsletter. We had exchanged books a few months ago and it is a real honor to have him comment on my work.
Michael, I am now 3/4 of the way through TSC and enjoying it very much. Some of those stories will play really well in future sermons! I was familiar with several of the stories, but they're so good it was nice to be reminded of them again. And then you pulled in many less familiar ones as well. The Whitman quote really hit me; for some reason, it just never dawned on me that the injured could lie there for days, not just overnight. The Lee quote about feeling responsible for his students was so inspiring, as Lee always is. With my son going to Notre Dame, it was fun to read about one of the school's early presidents; never made that connection before. I LOVED the nurse's quote you came up with: "I have never worked so hard in all my life and I would rather do that than anything else in the world." The Confederate Prayer is amazing, and before your book, I never made the connection that Stonewall's bravery was tied so closely to his belief in providence. Lots of great stuff there.
Thank you Gary. Your validation is a blessing indeed.
Visit Gary Thomas’ website and get your own copy of TSC
The Naked Historian: Behind the Scenes
This video explains my procedure for researching and transcribing source materials. It was filmed in response to viewers who are interested in my latest book for THP's American Chronicles Series.
Lights. Camera. History.
This afternoon I met with an associate of mine to discuss our upcoming TV spots for Stafford County public programming. Without giving away all the details, I was informed that we have been able to acquire a large collection of digital stock video footage from a generous donor that will be spliced together with the ‘live’ segments that we plan to shoot on site. In addition to ‘official’ tourism spots, we are also going to be producing some hi-end episodes of “The Naked Historian,” which is being expanded beyond the borders of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania to include Stafford County. This project will be fully underway by July. Before then, I’ll continue to shoot my own versions of TNH to entertain the masses. This weekend I’ll be out at Chancellorsville Battlefield shooting a special two-part episode. Stay tuned as I will be posting the videos here. This project is in addition to the documentary that I am helping to produce with a movie company out of GA. We begin shooting this summer with a full crew and local experts.