The Baggage of the Past

For years I have said, “You cannot go back; you can only go forward.” Recently, this was demonstrated to me in a very real way.

As many people know, I was a Civil War Reenactor for many years. I joined the hobby in the early 1990s, met some great people, saw some amazing places (Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Manassas, The Wilderness, Sharpsburg/Antietam, Vicksburg, Olustee, Brooksville, Pleasantville, Richmond, Atlanta, Charleston, Shiloh, and others from Maryland to Texas), and eventually met the gentleman who would introduce me to my wife of 22 years. The sounds, the smells (the wool of the uniforms, the leather accessories, the canvas tents, the burning wood of hundreds of campfires, the gunpowder), all filled my senses and gave me a profound feeling of reliving the past in a very real way.

Yes, there were the usual cast of characters in reenacting: the half-pint little dictators who believed that their reenacting rank was their real rank and let it go to their heads both at reenactments and in their real lives, the “thread counters” who would find fault with everything that you did because it wasn’t 100% authentic in their minds, the yahoos who thought that they were still fighting for the causes of the war… but there were also the vast majority—like me—who were there to experience and to teach the trues history of that turbulent time period. And before you ask, yes, I had both a gray and a blue uniform in my closet.

Shortly after I got married, I began moving around the country because of my work, making it impossible to be active in reenacting. But I never stopped loving the hobby. When we finally settled in a place where I knew we’d be staying for a while, I was able to become active again, and my family joined me. This brought new joy to the experience for me.

Then, about five years ago, I found myself on the receiving end of a coordinated effort to rob me of the joy derived from reenacting. Two different groups of people from two different reenacting organizations that I belonged to went out of their way to harm me, my reputation, and my position in the two organizations. Their tactics and motivations were so disgusting that I left the hobby. But unlike before, this time I sold all of my uniforms and equipment, my collections (except for a few pieces of memorabilia that held special meaning to me), and the bulk of my book collection, which was extensive. I turned my back on the thing that had literally changed my life and had been the cornerstone of my activities for over twenty years.

In the years since, I have often missed the hobby and the people I used to know. But the longer I was away, the harder it became to stay connected to those people—including the man who introduced me to my wife and had been like a brother to me for nearly thirty years.

In the early days of reenacting, two films had a tremendous impact on me: Glory and Gettysburg. When I watched those films, I could smell the smells, hear the sounds, and feel like I was right there with the actors on the screen. But a few weeks ago, Glory was on television. It had been years since I watched it, and I was curious. I sat down, turned on the movie, and… nothing. No sensory experience at all. I was just a guy watching a movie on television. This was unexpected. Was reenacting no long part of my life’s blood? I had to put it to the test. I pulled out my super-deluxe copy of Gettysburg, loaded it into the player, sat down, started the movie, and… nothing. No sights, no sounds, no smells… even my memories of having been to Gettysburg dozens of time didn’t come into play. It was gone from me. Like a thief in the night, the hobby was now dead to me.

Looking back, I miss the people, I miss the way reenacting once brought me joy, but I don’t miss the nonsense and the folks who go out of their way to ruin the hobby for others—as if they and they alone have the right to determine who get to be part of “their” little club. I fell victim to those folks, and they succeeded in tainting my experience so well that even my memories are harder and harder to recall with any joy.

I now live in the same metropolitan area as when I first began reenacting. I don’t associate with any of my fellow reenactors, I belong to no reenacting or battlefield preservation organizations, and I participate in no heritage events. It’s as if that part of my life never happened. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that reenacting’s only purpose was to introduce me to my wife, and once that happened, the hobby no longer had purpose for me, and my mistake was trying to continue in the hobby long after its purpose was done. I was trying to go back to those happy times leading up to meeting my wife, instead of moving forward with my life. I’ve learned my lesson.

The journey with my wife continues, but without the shackles of the past trying to hold us back from where we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to be doing. Some amazing things have happened to us since leaving the hobby, and I predict that the best is yet to come.

Like spring cleaning—getting rid of items around the house that are no longer needed—we all need to clean out our lives, removing those items that no longer add value, that no longer move life forward, that no longer have a purpose. You cannot go forward if you’re clinging to the baggage of the past. I discovered that the hard way. Don’t be like me!

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Apple iTunes Has (Accidently?) Turned Into Ransomware!

If you use Apple iTunes and you have ever changed the email address associated with your Apple Account (Apple ID), PLEASE READ THIS.

I use iTunes Version for Windows 10. Since 2007, I have has three different email addresses tied to my Apple Id (changes in ISPs), I’ve used iTunes on 4 different computers and 5 iPods, and I’ve never had a single problem at all moving my songs between computers, listening to my music, or syncing my iTunes with my iPod… until last week.

For the first time ever, when I plugged in my iPod to sync my music, iTunes told me that my computer wasn’t authorized for my iTunes account. I entered my Apple Id and authorized my computer (it’s new). When I tried to sync, I got the same error message, but it had pre-filled in the email address that I first had with my Apple ID (not my current email, which I’ve been using for over 6 years). Since that email address is no longer attached to my account, the attempt to re-authorize failed. At that time, iTunes locked out 62 songs that I had purchased under that email address (out of 650 songs that I purchased using that email address), and deleted them from my iPod. The files are still on my computer, but I can no longer access or play them.

I called Apple Customer Support, and after over an hour talking to 5 different “geniuses” in customer service, technical support, application development, and management, their solution was to suggest that I just repurchase those songs since Apple no longer had the purchase records from that email address. And to make things worse, they couldn’t guarantee that the rest of my songs purchased under that email address and the other old email address (over 1100 songs altogether), wouldn’t be locked out the next time I accessed iTunes.

Where I come from, any computer application that seizes files on your computer, locks you out of them, and then demands that you pay money to get them back, is called Ransomware, and that is exactly what iTunes has become. I escalated this to Apple Corporate, but so far they haven’t even done me the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of my complaint.

I absolutely refuse to pay to get back something that I already bought through iTunes and have had no problems playing for the 13 years that I’ve been an iTunes user, and I don’t believe that I should be victimized by Apple’s poor record-keeping. If they’ve lost old purchase records, that’s on them, not on me.

I don’t believe for one minute that I’m the only person who has had this problem. And if you’ve ever changed the email address tied to your Apple ID account, you’ll probably have it, too, at some point. We need to let Apple know that this is unacceptable and that we expect them to fix their problem. Demanding that we pay again for what we’ve already purchased through them is not a solution; it’s a crime. Don’t let them get away with this. Speak up.

#AppleSucks #iTunesIsRansomware #IWillNotBeAVictim

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Announcing the Release of My Latest Novel!

Announcing the Release of “The Legacy of Shadows – Book 9 of the Knights of the Saltire Series”

My latest Action-Adventure Novel was released today and is now available via Amazon at the following links! Other retailers will be carrying it soon as the title makes its way through the distribution channels.




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Have Your Manuscript Edited or Don’t Publish It

As a published author, I cannot say enough about the need to edit – multiple iterations of editing –any manuscript before it is published. And I also cannot say this strongly enough: the worst person to edit a manuscript is the person who wrote the manuscript! Authors are simply not objective enough to edit their own content ruthlessly, and our minds see what we intended to say, rather than what we actual wrote/typed on the page.

It typically takes me two years to complete a manuscript: 23 months of research, story development, outlining, and drafting the manuscript in my head, and one month to actually type the manuscript on my computer. Most people only see the last month and think that I crank out manuscripts wicked-fast. That’s not true, but I do type quickly once I get going.

I personally use a multi-layer approach to manuscript editing. As I complete a chapter, I have three members of my editorial team perform a grammar and line edit. That way, once I’m finished with the first draft, I’m also finished with the second draft. Then the manuscript goes into the content/continuity edit phase, where the story is mercilessly picked apart to determine if: the story is interesting, the story as written is entertaining, the pacing is appropriate, the characters and dialogue are believable, and all parts of the story agree with each other. This last part is key, because as I change one part of the manuscript, I have to remember to change the other parts that reference or build on the part that I just changed. I have had to change entire opening scenes before – including ones that I built the entire story around – because while I loved the scene, it really just didn’t work. I would not have realized that on my own; it took an editor to make me see it and force me to rethink major parts of my story’s plot.

Once the content/continuity edit phase is complete, I put the manuscript aside for a month or so. Then it goes into final edit, which looks for grammar issues created by applying the various edits (there always are some), and takes one more look at content and continuity. Only after that edit is finished do I submit the manuscript to my publisher.

However, that’s not the end. Sometimes, my publisher will suggest changes to strengthen the story or remove extraneous/inappropriate material, which then have to be applied to the manuscript. And once those changes are applied, my publisher sends the manuscript to at least two proofreaders, who look for any remaining typos or issues. Now, you’d think that all typos would have been caught by this point, right? Wrong. Editors and authors are only human, and things get missed. My newest novel, “The Legacy of Shadows,” just came back from the first proofreader, who found 65 typos. Sixty-five! And I’m grateful for every one she found. There’s nothing worse than a typo that takes someone out of the story, ruining the experience of the reader.

When it comes to editing, there are no shortcuts. It is a long, sometimes tedious, often expensive process, but without it, a great story will be lost amidst lousy writing. And with three million new titles published every year, no author can afford to allow lousy writing to be published. Do yourself and your readers a favor: have your manuscript professionally edited – multiple times – before it is published. If a quality story is what you’re trying to produce, you really have no choice.

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Emotions Are A Choice

Here is a truth that no one likes to hear:

No one else – and I mean NO ONE else – can make you angry, sad, or happy. Being angry, sad, or happy is a CHOICE that you and you alone make. Granted, people may do things or circumstances may occur that make it easier for you to choose to be angry, sad, or happy, but it is still your choice. Your emotional state is an extension of you, not a reflection of others.

If you want to be angry, then be angry. But Own It! Acknowledge that you’re not angry because of what someone else said or did, but because you CHOSE to be angry. If you want to be sad, then be sad. But Own It! Acknowledge that you’re not sad because of what someone else said or did, but because you CHOSE to be sad. If you want to be happy, then be happy. But Own It! Acknowledge that you’re not happy because of what someone else said or did, but because you CHOSE to be happy.

You are in complete control of how you react to the situations around you. Stop blaming others for your emotional state. If you enjoy being an enraged person or a pissy person or a frightened person or a worried person or a weepy person, then by all means knock yourself out. But if you want to be a happy person, then BE A HAPPY PERSON. Choose to be happy, and you WILL BE happy. It’s that simple. Stop making it complicated; it’s not. Make your choice, own it, and live it!


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The Secret Of The Universe

I’m going to share with you the true secret of the universe: there is NO road to happiness.

Happiness is neither the journey or the destination. Happiness is neither the getting or the having. Happiness does not come from a person, place, or thing. Happiness is not the result of something you did, something that was done for you, somewhere that you went, something that you achieved, someone that you met, someone that you love, a parent, a spouse, a significant other, a child, a pet, a job, a paycheck, a performance review, a car, a home, a city, a vacation, the start of something, the completion of something, or any other THING that you can think of. Nothing can make you happy, but then again nothing can make you unhappy. Think about that for a moment.

Happiness is a choice. Period. If you choose to be happy, you are. If you choose to be unhappy, you are. Happiness – true happiness – cannot be affected or influenced by anything outside of your own consciousness, even though the world will try to tell you that it can. Happiness comes from within and nowhere else. You control your happiness completely, absolutely. Just as finding love cannot make you happy if you choose to be unhappy, a painful breakup cannot make you unhappy if you choose to be happy.

Here’s a suggestion: choose happiness, and it will be all that you experience in your life. Choose unhappiness, and you’re trapped in a life not worth living. What a waste of your potential! We all have an infinite capacity for happiness. Why choose anything else?

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New Novel Coming Soon From William Speir

“The Besieged Pharaoh,” coming in 2019, will be William Speir’s 15th Novel and 5th Historical Novel.

Before the palace intrigue of King Louis XIV’s Versailles, before assassinations and corruption plagued the Roman Emperors, Pharaoh Amenhotep II of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty reigned over the greatest kingdom in the known world during one of its most dangerous times.

Amenhotep II sat on the throne of Egypt when the ten plagues of the Hebrews were visited upon his people. So terrible were these plagues that he finally allowed the nearly two million Hebrew slaves to leave, hoping that their departure would end the calamities that nearly destroyed all that he and his forefathers had built.

After the disastrous encounter with the fleeing Hebrews at the Red Sea, Amenhotep returned to his capital defeated and facing an uncertain future. The firstborn children of Egypt had been killed. Crops and livestock were virtually destroyed. Pharaoh’s people, recovering from infestations of insects and frogs, were grieving for their children and on the verge of starvation. Pharaoh’s queen was enraged that her husband was unable to get justice for her son. Pharaoh’s other wives all wanted their sons to be named as Pharaoh’s heir and were willing to do almost anything to achieve that. Pharaoh’s priests were humiliated that the “living god of Egypt,” as they declared Pharaoh to be, was defeated by the god of slaves. Egypt’s neighbors saw Egypt as weak and no longer able to defend itself, and Egypt’s conquered territories no longer believed that Egypt was strong enough to hold them. Even Pharaoh’s great army began to question if Amenhotep were the right king to lead them.

Amenhotep had only a handful of allies to help him navigate the plots and intrigue that plagued his palace upon his return. Will his enemies succeed in assassinating him and placing one of his sons on the throne, or will Pharaoh find a way to stay one step ahead of the plots and intrigue so he can save his people and return Egypt to its former glory? 

William Speir’s fifth historical novel takes you back to ancient Egypt during the aftermath of the Hebrew Exodus and explores what life must have been like for a Pharaoh besieged on all sides by his people, nobles, priests, wives, children, soldiers, neighbors, and enemies.

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The True Meaning of Parenting

In the 20 years that I’ve been married, I have learned many valuable lessons. Perhaps the most valuable lesson involves children.  Parents, once you have children, your right to make decisions that are in your own best interest ends right there.  Once children come along, EVERY decision that you make must be made in light of what’s in the best interest of the children, even if it means giving up everything you’ve ever wanted and everything you’ve ever worked to achieve.

When I got married, I became a father of two beautiful children on the same day. I had spent years building my career as a management consultant, and I was poised for promotion to executive management.  It was everything that I had been working so hard to achieve.  But my wife and children needed a husband and a father who was home every night, not someone they only saw on weekends and holidays.  So I walked away from my career and chose one that best served the needs of my family.  It wasn’t the easiest transition, and it meant moving every few years to go where the work was, but it’s what they needed, and as a parent, I understood the obligation that I had accepted when I agreed to be a father and a husband.

I have no regrets about how my life turned out, and when I look at my kids and how they turned out, I know that I did the right thing. They are what mattered, not my job or job title or income or prestige.  When I agreed to marry my wife and become their father, they became my whole world, which is the only right course of action for any parent, in my opinion.

Parenting is our gift to the future. It doesn’t matter what we individually achieve, it doesn’t matter what personal goals we met along the way.  All that matters is that we raised our children to the best of our ability, because that’s our true job – the only job that matters.

If we don’t put our children first in our lives, then our children are nothing more than accessories to be displayed as we pursue our personal wants and desires. If you just want an accessory as you march on toward what you want, buy a painting, buy a stuffed animal, buy a new car, but don’t have children.  They are precious, and they require everything that you are.  They don’t need your money or your house or your car or your country club membership, they need you to be there for them when they need you.  Be there for them!  In the end, it’s all that truly matters.

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It’s Time To Just Let Old Wounds Heal

Anyone who knows me knows that I love historical fiction. I am a seeker of truth, and I also believe that the heroic deeds of those who have gone before can inspire us to live our lives with higher purpose. I love understanding the historical context of events from the past and knowing more about the people involved. But I’m concerned about historical pieces that clearly can only serve to inflame and anger the readers or watchers (if the historical work is a film or television program).

For instance, there is a new historical film regarding events in Ireland during one of the famines. This is a dark time in Ireland’s past, and rehashing it (as evidenced by the preview of the film) can only serve to create discord between the viewer and those that the film portrays as the “evil enemy.”

Don’t we have enough things to be angry about today without having to dredge up events from the past to be angry about? Are the filmmakers and authors/writers worried that we might not be angry enough and therefore they have to create a reason for anger that wasn’t there before? What’s the end game? Isn’t it time to focus on healing rather than keeping the wounds raw and fresh and festering?

Historical works like this only serve to paint a target on a particular group of people and tell the world that hatred toward that group of people is the right response. All that these works do is create anger and hatred in subsequent generations over events that are no longer relevant to today’s society and should not become the basis for our present day emotional state.

I have always enjoyed watching the movies Braveheart and The Patriot, but I’m not blind to what their messages are. Braveheart’s message is: “All Scots are Saints, and the English are the Devil.” The Patriot’s message is: “All American Colonial Patriots are Saints, and the English are the Devil.” Yes, many of the events portrayed in these films did happen, but when presented so heavy-handedly, these films stop being about entertainment and presenting historical facts, and start being about manipulating the emotions of the audience to rub raw old wounds that should have long been healed.

In my younger days, I championed a number of historical causes. I tried to inflame the passions of others to address the wrongs committed against my ancestors. But over time, I learned that change does not come from inflamed passions. It comes from calm, polite, and honest conversations between differing parties to find common ground, to educate on facts and truths in a non-threatening manner, and to demonstrate a willingness to work together and impart messages to others that present historical facts in a way that enlightens without emotional polarization.

There have been atrocities committed in the past. I’m not blind to the fact, nor do I wish to pretend that they never happened or attempt to cover them up or justify them. But trying to inflame the rage of people to keep them angry about these events serves no useful purpose. It keeps people from being able to interact calmly, and in a world providing more than enough reasons to hate our fellow man for their beliefs, their faith, their ethnicity, their political leanings, etc., why add fuel to the fire by adding historical wrongs to the justifications being used to continue hating? Understanding history so that past mistakes are not repeated is vital to our future, but history cannot be understood from an enraged, inflamed emotional state. It can only be understood from a calm and rational state.

The truth about the past needs to be promoted, but not in a way that stirs emotions against others. Past wrongs committed toward our ancestors need to remain in the past where they belong. It’s time to let the old wounds heal so we can focus on healing the newer ones. There can be no progress for mankind unless we learn to heal, learn to stop hating, and learn to work together to redress the wrongs that have been committed toward each of us here today.

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Social Media – The Double Edged Sword

Social Media provides new and interesting ways for humans to connect with each other. People across the globe can see and respond to what you post. The power of this tool cannot be underestimated. But if you’re a published author, the danger cannot be understated either. I learned this the hard way.

I had a social media presence before I became a published author. I used it to further the causes and viewpoints about which I’m passionate. My friends/followers on social media cheered that I helped champion the beliefs we mutually held in common. The trolls and other detractors used my posts to trash me and my beliefs in public forums to help them feel better about themselves. It was all grand fun… or so I thought.

When I released my first book, I discovered the inherent danger of social media. Through my past postings on social media, I had created an image of myself which, right or wrong, stood out very strongly in the minds of friends and foes alike. As I began promoting my book, I realized that people on social media could not distinguish between me and my book. My book was being judged by peoples’ opinion of me as a person, not of me as an author. People offended by my past social media posts, who might have enjoyed my books, were not only determine to not read my books, they went out of their way to see to it that no one else read my books either.

I was stunned by this, and it took a while to decide what to do about it. Eventually, I took down my social media accounts and recreated them under my professional/author name. I determined that my posts would only include things about my books, books in general, publishing, and humorous items that would engage with my friends/followers and my potential readers. I decided that the only current events I would post about were things that related directly to topics covered in my books, and even then I agonized about sharing those posts out of concern for crossing a line that would reflect badly on my books. I had to reinvent myself on social media to keep people from judging my books harshly because of something that I may have done to offend them personally.

Over the years since I made this change to my social media presence, the trolls, for the most part, have gone away. I still use social media to interact with like-minded people who share my causes and beliefs, but I interact with them in private forums where the trolls cannot see what I post. I rarely post about my personal life because I want my posts to advance my books, not me as a person. In fact, I don’t really want people on social media knowing much about me as a person because my social media presence is not about me; it’s about my books. Other authors use (quite successfully, I might add) posts about themselves and their family members to advance their book marketing, but given the nature of what I write about, I have found that it doesn’t work for me. Each author has to decide how much of his or her personal self to reveal, but I suggest that any and all posts made on social media be viewed critically for their potential to advance your book readership – or at least not to detract from your potential book readership.

As published authors, we have the herculean task of tirelessly promoting our books so that potential readers will find, purchase, and enjoy the fruits of our labors. The market is exhaustingly competitive; over a million new titles are released every year, thanks to self-publishing. Our books have to stand out among that flood of new titles. Social media used properly can help get the word out about our books, but used badly can also give potential readers an excuse to ignore our books and purchase someone else’s instead.

Just as you don’t want to offend your publisher, who is responsible for preparing your manuscript for publication and helping you market your work, you don’t want to turn away potential buyers of your work by posting material on social media that they might find offensive. The old adage that “Any publicity is good publicity,” or “Controversy sells,” is bunk! There is too much competition for readers out there, and they’re not going to spend their limited dollars supporting an author who they find offensive in some way. Using an example of politics, which has become so polarized in recent years, it is a sad truth that conservatives rarely purchase books by liberal authors, and liberals rarely purchase books by conservative authors. If you have written a book that could appeal to anyone regardless of political leanings, can you really risk alienating half of your potential readers by using social media to make posts that might offend them? I think not.

I’m not suggesting that being a published author requires us to change our belief system, but I am saying that being a published author should impel us to be very cautious about how we share our beliefs through social media. Most of us joined social media sites to interact with like-minded people. But with the exception of a very few authors who write in specific niches, our books have a potential audience that’s much larger than just people who share our beliefs. I personally have very strong political beliefs, but my books appeal to an audience that has a wide range of political beliefs. Do I want to alienate potential readers because my posts on social media offend their beliefs? Absolutely not!

For published authors, social media is first and foremost a marketing tool. Once you make your book available to the general public, everything you do in public forums will reflect on your book. Anything you post that caters to your like-minded friends/followers has the potential to alienate a much larger potential audience for your book, hurting your marketing and sales efforts. It’s an awful risk to take if your goal is to be a successful published author (instead of the millions of unsuccessful published authors that come and go every year). The image you portray on social media should be tailored to what best promotes your book, not the various personal causes and beliefs that you champion.

Every author must decide how to best use social medial to market and sell his or her books. My suggestion is to be very cautious about posting anything that could turn away a potential reader. Use social media to create a positive impression of your books, not a negative one. To paraphrase a question used by one of those pyramid sales schemes, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be successful?” If your goal is to be a successful author, don’t risk offending potential readers of your books by posting things on social media that offend, inflame, or infuriate people who might otherwise enjoy or benefit from what you have written.

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