Sunday, January 16, 2011

The son also rises

It's amazing how addicting some blogs can be.  I have to limit how much time I spend going through them, or else I'd never get anything done.

In the past few days, I've been catching up on my reading and adding material to my site.  (Note the links on the right-hand side of this page.) And I've found some really good stuff.

I specifically wanted to point out this excellent bio of Robert Todd Lincoln.  Robert is especially close to my heart, because he's such a key character in my book, so I've spent a lot of long hours with him-- in a manner of speaking.

I should point out, of course, that the Robert Lincoln in 1871 is a fictionalized version of him.  He's very close to the real person because I never violated any known facts, and all of his family problems-- including his brother's death, his mother's illness, and his separation from his wife-- are true.  But I did have to invent a lot of details, because the real Robert Lincoln was so private that we don't know what made him tick.  I based all that on a friend of mine, who also grew up in the public spotlight and later struggled to be his own man.

In real life, though, I do think Robert has gotten short shrift from history.  He really was a big mover and shaker, especially in the second half of his life.  In fact, he was right up there with John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie, and he traveled in the same circles; but nobody remembers him that way.  We remember him as the son of Abraham Lincoln.  Part of that was Robert's own doing because of the way he shied from publicity, but I do know it bothered him.  I can't say I blame him-- I wouldn't want to live my whole life in my dad's shadow either.

At any rate, those are my two cents on the subject.  The linked story speaks for itself.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The reports of my slacking have been greatly exaggerated

So here I am, blogging again.

I'm actually kind of embarrassed over the state of this blog, because it looks like it's been abandoned. This is my first new post since June, and I haven't posted a full-on entry since April. Even my book's Facebook page has only had a handful of updates. So if I didn't know better, I'd think I'd dropped off the map.

The truth, though, is that I've had other things on my plate. I just turned in five screenplays and will be interested to see if anything comes of them. (Shopping them around can be just as hard as the actual writing, if not more so.) I'm also working on two more film scripts, along with a stage play and a book. And of course I've been juggling my day-to-day life; among other things, I moved to a new place in July, and my brother lived with me for a few months. It's been a blast, no doubt about that, but it hasn't given me much time to myself.

Now, for the first time in ages, I get to spend a day home alone. Which means I can kick back, relax, and catch up on all the things I'd put on the back burner.

I have to say, blogging feels downright liberating. I like being able to write without any pressure. It's a nice break from the way I write professionally, in which I agonize over the littlest details. I completely agree with what Mark Twain said in that the difference between the "almost right word" and the "right word" is like the difference between a lightning bug and lightning. I'm always scared that someone will find a silly mistake-- maybe a continuity glitch, a historical inaccuracy, or an old-fashioned plot hole-- and I go through my work with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it doesn't happen.

Fortunately, when I'm blogging, I don't have to do that. I can say what's on my mind and leave it at that. And if my sentences aren't grammatically perfect, well, they're still better than most of the atrocious writing that you'll find on the Net. (If I ran the world, most Twitter users would be prosecuted for crimes against the English language. But that's another topic for another time.)

I won't pretend that I'm the best-qualified writer to do this. I've only seen one writer who could crank out great material day-in and day-out, and that was the late great Mike Royko. He lived before the days of blogs or social networks, of course, and I'm guessing he would have pooh-poohed them if he'd been around to see them. But he did write daily newspaper columns for over thirty years, and he never wrote a bad one. I have no idea how he did it, but I'm impressed that he did.

Even among novelists, there so many who are funnier or wittier than I am. Gore Vidal is a perfect example; I may disagree with a lot of what he says (especially when he talks politics) but he's such an entertaining speaker, and he can spout off such wonderful zingers, that I can't help being entertained. James Ellroy is a hoot too, partly because he's so crazy; I'll never forget the time I saw him tell another well-known writer to f*** himself.

I don't fall into that category or caliber of writers, nor would I pretend to. But I do like to articulate what I'm thinking. Writing is how I make sense of the world, the same way other people may paint, write music, or whatever the case may be. It's therapeutic, and it helps me work through any issues in my life. (1871 is a perfect example. I wrote a lot of it while I was going through a breakup, so many of the characters' internal conflicts paralleled my own. I hadn't intended for that to happen, but that's how it turned out, and I felt a million times better once I'd gotten those neuroses out of my system.)

At any rate, I've promised myself that I'll be better about updating the blog.  I already have ideas about what I want to talk about, and I'm always open to suggestions.

Just be forewarned: if I do go a while without posting (heaven forbid) it doesn't mean I've disappeared. It just means I've got my hands full, and you can punish me for my neglect if you see fit.