Getting Started . . . Week One for Rudolph

As the ink dried on my contract with the University Press of New England, it occurred to me that the idea I’d had in my head for so long–a cultural history of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer–would now need to be put on paper! Words and ideas, floating in my head, would need to be keyed into my desktop computer.

That would require . . . lots of work, actually. For the non-writer, a beautifully printed, competently edited book seems like a magical thing: it just appeared whole in the local bookstore. The writer, however, knows better!

Here’s a short “to-do” list:

  1. Call my editor, get to know one another, make sure we’re on the same page.
  2. Budget my library and research trips. Figure out where the money’s coming from.
  3. Plan library and research trips.
  4. Actually go on research trips, collect data, and bring it on home.
  5. Read, re-read, and digest collected data (after recovering from research trips).
  6. Start turning digested data into paragraphs and chapters.

I’m sure this list isn’t complete, but it’s a pretty good start. Writing a book is lots of fun . . .  but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work.

Underwood Model 5 (1914)

Underwood Model 5 (1914)

Lankford Lecture at the Flagler Museum (December 2013)

Here’s a lecture from December 1st, 2013 at the Flagler Museum in Florida. martin-luther-on-christmas-eve-with-his-family

The Most Famous Reindeer of All . . . Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

There’s only one thing worse to a writer than a deadline: no deadline at all!

I do not like the downtime between book projects, mostly because I get a bit scattered. With a book and a contract, I have a goal. Without one, I’m a man in search of an occupation, a spy without a mission.

It was with great relief and excitement, then, that I recently signed a new contract with the University Press of New England. And the project? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: An American Hero. The book will follow the trajectory of Rudolph from his promotional beginnings at Montgomery Ward to his appearance on vinyl and TV (and comic books, View Master reels, stuffed animals, lamps, etc.).

The book will have lots of photos/illustrations (75), and should be mucho fun to research. Updates, illustrations, and journals of road-trips to follow . . .



Book–Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights (RTE Radio 1)

Discussion of Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, & Silent Nights on RTE Radio 1. 00892v

A Classic Rock Christmas

keithrichards_blogAs a teenager, growing up in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, classic rock was my music of choice. Even in the depths of December, though, my local station–WROV, the Rock of Virginia–played very little Christmas music. Why? Mostly because there was very little to play. There just weren’t any Christmas songs–in 1979-1980–by Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, or Aerosmith.

Still, I do remember a handful of tracks that got regular airplay. Keith Richards’ version of “Run Rudolph Run“ came out in 1978 and Paul McCartney, the following year, released “Wonderful Christmastime.” Both the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” (1977) and Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975) were staples, as was Lennon’s “Merry Christmas (War Is Over)” (1971). Others included the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” and David Bowie/Bing Crosby’s “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

As a wildcard, I’d also mention the Who’s “Christmas” (1969), one of my favorites from Tommy.

As the seventies spilled over into the eighties, recording Christmas songs suddenly became cool again and there’d be a lot more records for DJs to spin. In 1979-1980, though, classic rock Christmas songs were slim pickings.

Untitled, 12/07/1929 (Holiday Cartoon)

ARC: Henry Ford was one of America’s (and the world’s) richest men; he was also known for his parsimonious habits. In reaction to a female historian including $100 in her will for Ford, cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicts a smiling Ford, dressed more like a child in knickers and polka dot tie, commenting: “Oh, I do love the Christmas ‘giving’ season.”  12-07-1929_S-071_46_Berryman

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, And Silent Nights: A Cultural History of Christmas Songs (WAMC Interview).

An interview with WAMC.  vintage_radio_by_jesse-d4xymyv

Christmas 1914 (Puck)


Winter Scene (Winter Art)

LC.  08892v

Old-fashioned Christmas carols have staying power, remain cherished favorites (Toledo Blade)

An article that I was interviewed for . . .  in the Toledo Blade.  01512v