The best thing about being a midlister is you get to write about a wide variety of subjects. These different jobs often support one another. For example, I was in Rome last week research a military history book for Osprey Publishing and at the same time wrote a travel series for Gadling. I didn't have a huge amount of time for sightseeing so I decided to focus on a single subject. The result is Vacation with the Dead: Exploring Rome's Sinister Side. I'm covering things like the Purgatory Museum, Renaissance tombs of Rome, and military museums in Rome. Upcoming posts will be on saints' relics, Christian catacombs, mummified monks, and more! My editor made a cool pinbox that I've added to the sidebar here.
Another advantage of writing about many different things is that you get into interesting conversations with all sorts of people. Staying at my hotel in Rome were two young Italian guys who looked like soldiers. I asked them if they were in the army and they said yes.
"What part of the army?" I asked.
"Army, yes," they answered in halting English, not understanding the question.
"No, I mean, Alpini, Bersaglieri, Caribinari?"
Their eyes lit up. Not only did this foreigner know something about the Italian army, but he actually gave a damn! Almost instantly a bottle of fine Sardinian lager was pressed into my hands and much drinking and conversation ensued. It turned out they're members of the Alpini, Italy's elite mountain infantry. We talked about their duties and Italian military history, like the grueling battles of Isonzo fought high in the Alps during World War One. They also talked about their frustration at not being able to serve in Afghanistan. You have to be in the army three years before you can apply to go. Imagine, these guys actually want to go to Afghanistan! I hope they get a chance to kick some Taliban butt.
That's what being a writer can do. Would these two guys, half my age and barely speaking my language, have gone on a bender with me if my research hadn't given us some common ground? It just goes to show you never know who you're going to meet in the business of writing.
[Top photo courtesy Eurocopter, bottom courtesy Italian Army, both via Wikimedia Commons]