Have you ever written a book review?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Favorite Savas Beatie book of 2008?

Hello History Fans,

Since a few people have emailed or called to talk about their favorite books, I thought it might be smart to keep it light through the next week and do the same.

Here are two questions I hope a few of you will take the time to and trouble to answer:

1. Name your favorite Savas Beatie title from 2008 and why (a sentence or two will suffice.)

2. Name your favorite Civil War or military history title published by another press, and tell us why.

Thanks, and Happy New Year too all of you, and I hope 2009 offers us peace and prosperity. At the least, it will be interesting (and yes, I know the the old curse.)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas

I wrote this for a local paper about six years ago (back in my editorial writing days). I hope you enjoy it, and wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.

How can Christmas be here again?

Feels like only a year ago we spent a small fortune on a dead tree, hauled it home, stuck a branch in my son’s eye trying to get the thing into the house, and then waged a mini-world war with my wife over the all-important issue of whether the tree was straight. It was, of course, but dutiful husband that I am, I grabbed the sappy trunk with my freshly washed hands and pretended to adjust it until my wife victoriously announced “perfect!” (I take my little victories wherever I can find them.)

I have always loved Christmas and all its trappings. But as I grew older and left behind my youthful lust for gifts, I discovered something strangely schizophrenic about this ostensibly happy time. My grandfather Ted (or Papou in Greek) once hinted as much to me when I was about ten. My sister and I were decorating our tree while Papou sat nearby watching the tradition with his usual skeptical interest. An Andy Williams Christmas record accompanied the moment. Papou reached out and held my arm.

“What does all this mean to you?” His usually cheerful smile had been replaced by a sad demeanor.

“Toys and no school for three weeks!” shouted back the happy boy who no longer exists.

He smiled when I leaned over to kiss his shiny bald head. “When you get older and have a family of your own,” he sagely advised, “Christmas will be different for you.” After seeing my puzzled look, he added, “Older eyes do not always see just the happiness.” He nodded knowingly, but I had no idea what he meant.

I think I do now.

At this time every year for the past decade I have had exactly the same dream. Exactly. I am about fourteen. It is a cold and snowy Midwest Christmas day, and my extended family is squeezed into the old house—chatting, yelling, arguing, laughing, kissing, and hugging. (If you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you have met my entire family and know how I grew up.)

The dream never changes. I drop a load of freshly cut firewood in front of a hot roaring hearth, walk into the dining room, push open the heavy swinging oak door, and peak around the corner into the kitchen. My maternal grandma (Yia Yia) locks her bright hazel eyes on mine and flashes her brilliant white teeth as she pulls a fragrant Christmas lamb from the oven. My Papou is standing nearby at the cutting board, gripping his white bone-handled knife while waiting to carve the meat. He smiles and says something to me, but I can’t make out his words. Holly, our wonderful and long-gone German Shepherd, is waiting impatiently beneath the cutting board, ready to lap up the occasional drip of juice or misplaced scrap of lamb.

Great Uncle Bill, the one with a bum leg (suffered during a championship soccer match or World War I, take your pick), is sitting on the living room sofa next to my equally old Great Uncle Louie, who is dressed, as he always was, in the only suit he owned.

Fussing over the table behind me is my mom, four decades younger than she is now, while my Dad, always busy but rarely helpful at such times, walks from one room to the next as if unsure what to do or how to do it.

And then it happens. Each of them fades away, one by one, in the order of their passing. Only my mother remains when the dream ends. And she is old again.

“Older eyes do not always see happiness.”

Now I realize now what Papou was trying to tell me: Gather your family around you and cherish your time together, for everything is fleeting and nothing stays the same. Those you love and have near you today will one day leave you. And that day is always sooner than you think. Those who are young will grow old, and those who are old will pass on.

Now, when I watch my two wonderful kids laugh and cavort around the tree, hanging the special ornaments and mementos that mark the milestones of our lives together, I make an extra effort to soak in the moment, to absorb the significance of the experience, to appreciate my wife and family and my good fortune like never before. To give thanks.

Thank you, God, for everything that I have. I am a very blessed man.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

OT (sort of): Free Markets, and THE BOOK

This article caught my eye, primarily because Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of my three favorite books (I argue with myself about the other two), I am a businessman and entrepreneur, and I think government regulation in almost every way is about as evil as (you choose the adjective).

I heartily encourage you to read this article, Who is to Blame. It shocks me that something this good is in Newsweek (the Economist or Financial Times, sure, but TimeNewsweek??) Two miracles in a single week.

From a publishing perspective, Atlas Shrugged is a giant. It was published more than 50 years ago and has never been out of print. It still sells six figures each year. According to a 1991 Library of Congress report, Atlas Shrugged is second only to the Bible in its influence on readers' lives.

If you have never read Atlas Shrugged, I highly recommend you do.

One of my early college instructors told me it would change my life.

"How," I asked.

"It will confirm who you are, or who you are not."

Intriguing, no?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Incestuous Nature of . . . Book Publishing

Le Provocateur, also known as Dimitri Rotov (look for his likeness in a post office near you), usually hits the nail on the head when he picks up his witty pen to poke and prod. He has done so again, brilliantly, with his Logrolling-in-our-time essay.

And people wonder why The New York Times is going bankrupt faster than my son can wolf down a $9.99 tub of Red Vines?


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Publishing Layoffs Hit Random House and Simon & Schuster

"Yes, Virginia, book publishing is NOT recession proof," said Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers. "It's sad day." Read the entire article here.

No, the important issue is not that Pat Schroeder managed to string together words that make sense for the first time since childhood. (I will never forget reading a review of her autobiography that included this description: "Now I know what history looks like through the eyes of an idiot." But I digress.

The elephant in the room is about quality, flexibility, and treating people right. You can run a big company for a long time, and even find and put out a mega bestseller like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and still lose your job.


Well, let's use a phrase my grandfather often muttered when he took me somewhere for lunch or dinner and was disgusted by the service, the setting, or the meal. "Teddy," he would say, shaking his head slowly as he withdrew his unlit cigar from his mouth, turned it over, and waved it around to make his point. "The people who are running this business today are not the people who built the business yesterday."

Think about it.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Steel Boat, Iron Hearts" and "Hunt and Kill" to appear in German Language editions

A pair of our U-boat titles, Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman's Life Aboard U-505 by Hans Goebeler with John Vanzo, and my own Hunt and Kill: U-505 and the U-boat War in the Atlantic (edited, with tremendous assistance from every chapter contributor!) will be published by Ullstein, one of Germany's finest publishing houses. (Ullstein, by way of reference, has published several editions of an earlier compilation I edited called Silent Hunters: German U-boat Commanders of World War II).

We have always worked hard to maximize our authors' work by selling into specialty markets, to book clubs, and into foreign languages whenever possible. There is always money sitting on the table with any book; the question is usually one of time, energy, and opportunity.

If you like high adventure in the form of submarine warefare, I can recommend both.


Luzader's "Saratoga" Heading for History and Military Book Clubs

We are proud to announce that Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution, by John F. Luzader (October 2008) has been chosen as an alternate selection by the History and Military book clubs. Congratulations, John.

The book has been a big hit at the park and among Revolutionary War readers, primarily because of Mr. Luzader's deep research into the original sources, and his willingness to let the sources shape the history, rather than allowing popular opinion and compounded errors dictate his storyline.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to Publish Without Perishing

"Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it."

Hmm. That sounds oddly familiar.

The New York Times occasionally spills ink on something worthwhile. Accidentally, mind you, but when it does so we like to point it out.

THE gloom that has fallen over the book publishing industry is different from the mood in, say, home building. At least people know we’ll always need houses. . . .

Read on.