Stealing History

It’s dark right now. This blog is technically an hour late, though, since many of you wouldn’t see this until tomorrow, that’s not really my concern.

I’m having one of those couple of weeks where the day job is a bit more stressful than normal. A task that has been ongoing for what feels like years, but is really more like months is looking like it has come to an ending. But what that does really is “fry” me a bit as I keep trying to finish that last 10% of the project and it continues to snake away from me, doing its best to ensure that I’ll be back at trying to “finish it up” tomorrow.

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What this really does is make my evenings want to be less productive than I’d like. You know, that thing you actually have fun doing suddenly becomes the last thing you actually want to sit down and think about?

I need a jump-start, that’s what I need. Something that will just clear away the other stuff and reset me mind for the writing.

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You know what I’m enjoying right now? Hardcore History by Dan Carlin

Deep down I believe I have an addictive personality. When I’m into something I want to be “INTO IT”. I don’t just want to lurk around the edges of it. No, I want to jump into the deep end and learn and follow internet rabbit holes and stay up way too late figuring the thing out.

I’m in the middle of his series of podcasts on the Great War and by “in the middle of” I mean I’ve listened to about 10-12 hours worth of so far and still have about 6 hours to go (I think it is a 5 or 6 parter).

I found out about this podcast last weekend. I’ve probably listened to close to 20 hours at this point. I’ve entertained (re: bored probably) my wife with some of the little anecdotes he drops into the episodes. You see, this is the thing about history: it can be stale and end up as a bunch of dates and events that you memorized for that one test back in high school and then you let it disappear into the ether. Like a fish you didn’t want to eat in the first place.

<I actually like the dates and events, but that’s a different issue.>

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I knew this podcast was for me while listening to the episode about the Spanish/American War. Now, I have to admit, prior to the podcast I knew 3 things about that war:

1 – Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders fought in it

2 – The United States won.

3 – My favorite story from history actually comes out of this war. I remember reading it in the back of some history book and just loving it. And then Dan Carlin said he had a favorite story from the war… and it was the same one.

The story is this – at some point during this war, the Spanish forces are in retreat and the American commander – who just happened to have served in the Civil War on the Confederate side was now wearing the Blues – he gives the order to chase after them by saying “We’ve got those Yanks on the run!”

I just love the idea that in the din of war, he got a little confused or had a flashback.

But I knew I’d found the right podcast for me when he told that story.

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This podcast makes it a story. You start to know the players in the telling, and then, like one of your favorite novels or tv shows or movies, history takes a left turn when you were expecting something else and it makes you wonder “Are they making this shit up?”

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It builds and builds and maybe you know bits and pieces, but it will introduce the horror through first hand-accounts. He makes use of quotes to help illustrate the overall story.

But it is making me think about my own writing. Thinking about how to present things in the current projects. Too often I think I forget that there is tons of sources out there that can give me a better idea than any fictional work might be able to. What I mean is that when I’m writing an action scene and it isn’t flowing the way I want, then I’ll go to a book or two on the bookshelf and see how XXX author did it. I’m not looking to copy, but I want to see the techniques. How did they convey exactly what they wanted to convey.

They say you are supposed to write what you know. And that is true. I believe everything we write is from some piece of our own souls/memories/experiences and can only improve by taking it from our first-hand accounts.

I’ve written some fantasy, and the thing with fantasy you are going to write about death and carnage and war. And I’m lucky not to have experienced those things. So what do you do? Listening to the Great War and hearing the horrors those men went through described sometimes in ways I would have never thought of myself. Again, not that I want to lift their words, but it helps to hear those stories.

Still learning… still trying to figure it out for myself. Every day something new, hopefully.

I guess I could claim that it is writing research and that wouldn’t be a complete lie, but it’s more that I’ve gotta jump in on these. My iPod yelling at me that I have plenty of other podcasts that I still need to listen to…

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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