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 12.10.4.2 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.

Hardback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1950560090/

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1950560104/

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y8V251R/

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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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