Red over Red

Red over Red

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Digging Out

Like a lot of folks on the East Coast, we spent a good part of yesterday digging out from the storm. Nearly 24 hours of high winds and snow, and miraculously, we did not lose power (in Harpswell a gentle spring rain will usually knock the power out for two days).

Here I am with my sons trying to find the front steps under the snow. It's good to have a crew to supervise, like the old days. Alas, when I started flashing back and bellowing to rise tacks and sheets they didn't know what I was talking about, and judged it the proper moment to go inside for hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Book Blues

I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion tonight. They had former poet laureate Billy Collins on. He was talking about his forthcoming new book. He quoted a writer friend of his who said, "Having a book forthcoming is the calm before the calm."

Hearing that I nearly busted a gut laughing, not good when you happen to be driving on a country road in the dark and pouring rain. But I thought it was a hoot, and very insightful. I suppose you have to be a writer or married to a writer (my wife laughed hard too) to truly appreciate it. There is such a sense of anticipation as the publication date nears. You haunt the bookstores waiting for the volume's first appearance (the books that they anticipate will be best sellers often have what they call a "one day laydown," meaning the books all arrive at stores on the same day. Guys like me have to wait for them to trickle in), then brace yourself for the flood of positive reviews, interviews, author tour. And then...not so much.

That's not to say the phone never rings, the good e-mails don't come, the speaking invitations don't arrive. But unless you are David McCullough-esque in your stature, there is not so much fuss made about your new book as you think is quite right.

But we can change all that. Next March 1, be on the look out for this book:

And check out my web site, for upcoming author appearences.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Putting Boats to Bed

That time of the year. I am Skipper of a Sea Scout Ship, Ship 243, the Kennebec Rovers. Sea Scouts are part of the Boy Scouts Venturing Program, and is open to boys and girls 14 to 21. Being the Skipper is the equivalent of being a Boy Scout Scout Master.

The Kennebec Rovers prepare their boat for winter

In any event, our Sea Scout ship recently acquired a Bristol 24, a nice little pocket cruiser. We had a work party to get it ready to overwinter. I was so inspired by the young people's energy I went home and put a frame and cover on my own boat.

Me, my daughter Elizabeth (center) and friend Mary Catherine

You folks in warmer climes may not be familiar with this process. I remember when I lived in Los Angeles I was amazed that people talked about the "sailing season". It seemed to me that all year was sailing season. A December afternoon sailing in Southern California was like a late June day here in Maine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First Pass Passed - New Book on the Way

Just finished reviewing first pass pages on the new book. In the last stage of the editing process (at least the last stage that involves the author) the publisher prints out the entire book on loose sheets as it will look when it is bound. Then the author gets one last go-over. The publisher is adamant that this is only to correct spelling and the like, since they have to pay for any changes at this point, but in fact the author can make minor alterations. This is the last look the author gets before it goes to print, but of course by this point you are so sick of the book you can hardly stand to read it.

The new book is called With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginnings of the American Revolution. Anyone who has heard me speak knows that I have a particular interest in the early days of the Revolution and the confused way that it all came together. This book looks at that period, focusing on Boston and the unique part that the Battle of Bunker Hill played on the rest of the war.

More on that subject in later posts. But I have to say, I love the cover of this one!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

SIBs Ahoy!

By SIBs we mean Ships in Bottles of course. It's a hobby I used to enjoy, before Real Life began to eliminate any time for hobbies. But my friend Jim Goodwin in North Carolina has taken SIBing to a new level, turning pro a few years back. He made the SIBs for the movie The Lovely Bones as well as many, many custom bottles.

Now he's offering a course in SIBing at none other than Roy Underhill's Woodwright's School. (Jim was featured on one of Roy's TV episodes). Check it out! Anyone in the area interested in SIBs should take part.

More on Jim's work can be found on his web site, Carolina Ships in Bottles

Okay, now I'm flashed up to get SIBing again. I'll post a photo of the last SIB I made, once my daughter gets back from retreat with the camera (assuming she gets back with the camera).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Advanced Pirate Silliness

Here's a promo we did for the Maine Maritime Museum's Pirate Party. Calling on some of my old film making skill here (clearly quite rusty). My co-stars are Tomm Tomlinson, a.k.a. Crudbeard and Barbara Tomlinson, better known to authorities as Bloodthirsty Barbara. This was shot on board the schooner Sherman Zwicker at Maine Maritime Museum. My son Nate showed me how to embed it on the blog.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Voyage of the No Weight - Maine Maritime Museum's Square Rigged Pumpkin

Some pictures from the Damariscotta Pumpkin Festival's Pumpkin Boat Race. We built a square rigger for Maine Maritime Museum (a bring, to be precise) and my daughter Elizabeth took command, her first stint as captain. The No Weigh did pretty well down wind, but once Elizabeth rounded the weather mark and tried to claw to windward, things fell apart. Sails all aback, she had to be towed back to dock. Part of the problem of course was that there was no way to trim the sails or steer the vessel.

Next year we'll do better.

 Elizabeth Under Way
 The proud ship at the dock
 Captain Nelson and her first Command
 Jim Nelson prior to launching

Dissed by a Better Sort

The New Yorker recently ran a lengthy essay by Jill Lepore on the staggering number of books about George Washington, this in reaction to the new biography by Ron Chernow. In the piece she refers to the "boutique-y books about the man's military career, his moral fortitude, his friendship with Lafayette, his faith in God, his betrayal by Benedict Arnold, his 'secret navy...'.

That last, of course, is a reference to yours truly, and my previous book, George Washington's Secret Navy. I'm sorry she didn't mention Washington's gambling problem, as illuminated by my book George Washington's Great Gamble (I kid - the book is not really about that, though if your research is no more than a list of what an search brings up you might think so).

I don't know if the comment was intended as a dig to all who write about Washington, but I didn't really take it that way. She makes a point. And even I greeted news of the new Chernow biography with the thought, do we really need this?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh, Brave New World...

Still trying to navigate this world of electronic communication. Folks my age (forty-eight and holding) are in an odd place - the generation before was not raised with any of this stuff, and our kids don't know a world in which it did not exist. For folks like me, it all began to emerge in a big way while we were in our twenties. I can still recall my buddy Mike Berns' "portable" computer that he used to bring over to my apartment in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. He would put the floppy disk in and load DOS before he could load the word processing program. We would throw some brontosaurus steaks on the barbacue while we waited.

Anyway, the point is, folks of my generation are neither clueless nor are we completely at home in this virtual world. And so, like a visitor to a city with which I am sort of familier, I blunder forth.

I still have my web site,, with information on my books, upcoming appearences and such. But I have to admit, this blogging thing looks like fun.