PBS’ Vietnam. A Must Watch.

Lynn Novick and Ken Burns have collaborated to produce a documentary that is a must see for every American.

It covers the war from all sides and does justice to both the military and political aspects. There are so many quotes from those interviewed that are striking, it’s clear why it took ten years to complete.

To watch it requires opening up my mind and my heart to the experiences. I’ve watched their Civil War series numerous times, but Vietnam raises the issue of “Too soon?”

No. It’s perfect timing. Our country was torn apart by that war and our country is torn apart now.

We’ve gone from looking down on combat veterans to the ubiquitous “thank you for your service” without understanding the journey and the hypocrisy between a draft army and an all volunteer army.

As a former North Vietnamese soldier says early on (I’ve only watched the first three episodes and it keeps me awake, thinking): “It has been 40 years. . . . In war, no one wins or loses. There is only destruction. Only those who have never fought like to argue about who won and who lost.”

Listening to President Johnson’s own words on tape is staggering. To understand the duplicity of a government that knew as early as 64-65 that the war wasn’t winnable, yet didn’t have the courage to make a decision in line with that knowledge is sobering and makes you think hard of what we’ve done since 9-11.

This is a series of personal stories and national stories. We need to hear them and take them to heart.

A Brief History of Computers and Cyber Warfare

This is from research I’ve done for Hallows Eve which is only two weeks out from publication. It’s certainly not a complete history, but it’s interesting. The part about Ronald Reagan and the movie War Games was something I didn’t know.


Click HERE to go to the slideshow





Writer Wednesday: Writers Block and Rewriting

Writers block? Mostly it’s being lazy. Everything about making a living as a writer is great fun except for one thing: bleeding onto the page.

We can find any excuse in the world to stop writing. And there are plenty of other things that can distract us from writing. When is writers block real? And how do you break through?

And rewriting? Some love it. Some hate it. We all have to do it.

I’ve put together a bundle just for writers, discounting my four main writing books. It’s available HERE.

Nine Eleven (Time Patrol) FREE today

Nine Eleven (Time Patrol) Free today and tomorrow, 9/12. The 11th of September resonates in history because of 2001. But it’s significant in other years.

In 1776, a peace conference was held on Staten Island between John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and the British Admiral Howe. This occurred while Washington had just retreat from Long Island to Manhattan. What if . . .

In 1857, a wagon train passing through Utah was ambushed by Mormons at Mountain Meadows. What if . . .

In 1973, there was a coup in Chile. Heavily influenced by the US. What if . . .

Still Standing. Lessons learned in 3 decades in the “arts”.

Ever see those “one-hit” wonder loops on Youtube? That show music videos of some individual or group from 20 years ago and you remember the song; but the singer? Hmm?

IMDB—International Move Data Base—is an interesting place to dive into. Sort of 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. What you begin to see is lots of actors/actresses who had one or two roles and then disappeared. Then you see someone whose face you recognize, but you can’t place the name, but they’ve been on show after show for decades, never starring but always there. Working.

Still Standing.

What’s the difference between a one hit wonder and Bruce Springsteen? Talent? Hard Work? Luck? New Jersey?

But more importantly, what’s the difference between someone who had a brief burst of success, then disappeared, and someone who has been a character actor for decades? Because there are a lot more character actors than superstars.

I wrote my first book in 1989. I’m still writing books for a living. I’ve seen a lot of stars come along and do great. But I’ve seen a lot more writers get a shot and disappear after their first book contract is over. In the indie world, I read the blogs and watched people posting great numbers during the golden age; now I don’t see those people on social media at all.

I’m still writing. 70 some-odd books. Still making a good living. I’ve had some luck. The biggest was timing with self-pubbing and eBooks coming along at exactly the right time for me. But I’d also written all those books and been traditionally published 45 times before that occurred and hit all the bestseller lists. Under four different pen names. I failed numerous times and reinvented myself. I did many things wrong. Still do. But here are a handful of things I think keep someone in the entertainment business STANDING after decades in the business:

Work hard. Sounds simple, but I can’t have a book without writing it. You can’t have a screen credit without taking a role and performing. You can’t have a song without writing it. You can’t have a career unless you keep producing product. That’s called work. Those who try ‘gimmicks’ might have brief success but not in the long haul.

Perform. You can’t have fans if you don’t ‘perform’. For writers it’s not only writing more books, it’s responding immediately to your readers on social media. Making your readers the priority. For musicians it’s live performances. Whether it’s in a stadium as an opening act, or some dingy bar.

Change: Insanity is doing the same thing again, thinking you’ll get a different result. If something we do fails, we try something different. We are willing to say the three hardest words to come out of a man’s mouth: I was wrong. Then we figure out how to do it right.

Be positive and good to work with. I’m willing to bet a lot of those successful character actors/actresses are extraordinarily professional to work with. They don’t show up to the set drunk. Or late. They take direction. They’re positive. They’re good people to be around. They’re a plus on the set, not a black hole. Yeah, you read about the successful ‘jerks’ but how many of them, even if they’re big names, don’t eventually go down? And they also consider what they can do to help others—everything isn’t always about themselves.

Network. When someone with some influence has to make a choice who to ‘pick’ and it comes down to someone they can put a face to and someone who is just a name, they tend to go with the face. For a writer, going to conferences, making meetings, is key. This year is the first where I didn’t go to Seattle to meet Amazon reps or do a major book conference, but I’m already making plans for Thrillerfest next year and some other networking events. But even the minor events I did this year are paying fruit in terms of networking. I can get better at it and will. My rule of thumb is it takes around three years for a network contact to bear fruit; sometimes faster. So . . .

Be in it for the long haul. This will be the subject of another blog post, but you ever hear of a novelist retiring? Actor/actress? Rarely. We write because we have to.

You never have it made. The second any writer thinks they have it made, their career is over. I’ve seen this more times than I can count.

Be crazy. Artists are not in the bell curve and if you study them, most are not on the ‘good’ side of the curve. In all my time writing I never seriously considered I would fail even though the harsh reality is that very, very few people can make a living writing, especially this long. I knew I would have hard times, and I did. I had drk times when it appeared as if I would fail. But, I had the attitude I think makes all the difference in the world. That is . . .

I WILL MAKE IT WORK. A successful artist sees rejection as an opportunity to do something else. A successful artist laughs into the face of adversity. A successful artist spits into the wind—okay, maybe not that one. They use adversity as motivation. No matter what happens, a successful artist has one core mantra: