Frontier Forts

Fort Martin Scott was one of several forts built by the Army to protect settlers from Indian raids. Established in 1848, it was the very first frontier outpost established in Texas. Units garrisoned there patrolled the area contiguous to the Fredericksburg-San Antonio Road and included at various times forces belonging to the 1st Infantry, the 2nd Dragoons, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry.

Today Fort Martin Scott is a historic site operated by the City of Fredericksburg. It  is located two miles west of the city on Baron’s Creek. Although the only surviving structure is the limestone guardhouse, the site has been restored to its original design and now includes the post commander’s quarters, sutler’s store, laundry, military hospital, enlisted men’s barracks, quartermaster’s warehouse, a stable with barn, and a blacksmith shop. The site is open to the public and hosts historical reenactments twice yearly. Its mission is to “preserve, protect, and promote” the State while opening dialogue and debate about its multicultural heritage and the historic significance of these frontier forts to the development of Texas.

The Army’s string of frontier forts extending into the Panhandle and New Mexico were believed to have been a major factor in subduing the Southern Plains Indians. In reality, they were too widely dispersed and poorly manned to be much of a deterrent to their raids. They did, however, significantly enhance the country’s economic growth and settler’s expansion into Indian lands. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Adobe Walls

The 2nd Battle of Adobe Walls was fought in June 1874. The Southern Plains Indians hoped to use a triumph there as a springboard towards total victory in their Messianic War to finally drive the white man from sacred lands.

Though the outpost in West Texas would be abandoned after the attack, the Indians suffered a defeat that would herald their eventual subjugation and movement onto reservations.

The town, such as it was, consisted of the saloon, two stores owned by Leonard & Meyers and Charles Rath & Company, a blacksmith shop owned by Tom Keif, and a large corral for the horses. Though the annual buffalo migration could bring upwards of two to three hundred hunters into the area, at the moment there were only twenty-eight men and one woman present.

Most of them were not hunters. In fact, they were mainly the merchants who supplied the buffalo hunters with their provisions, the saloon keepers who made sure they didn’t go thirsty, and the cook and his wife who provided their meals. – excerpt from Palo Duro. 

Today visitors to the battle site will find little to mark the historic location. A few granite headstones have been erected and enclosed by protective barriers, but there is minimal evidence to suggest the importance of the 1874 confrontation.

The site does, however, remind visitors of the loneliness and isolation of the outpost/town as it existed at the turn of the nineteenth century. Cattle have replaced the buffalo that once roamed these same grounds, but otherwise not much has changed. The plains remain vast and flat with little in the way of trees or distinguishing landmarks to provide a sense of direction. It is only when you stumble across the granite markers that the battle site’s existence even becomes evident.

On the one  hand the memorial at Adobe Walls evokes feelings of neglect and lost significance. On the other, it serves as a symbolic reminder that the Plains Indians way of life disappeared not long after their defeat here.

The Promise

This past week millions of the faithful all over the world celebrated the holiest period in the Christian calendar – Easter week – Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem followed by his betrayal, trial, execution, and resurrection.

This earthly existence will end for all of us; sometimes tragically or unexpectedly, and inexorably as we age and progress towards completing the circle that began at birth. Christ’s victory over sin and death opened the door to eternal life and should have erased our fear of the grave. Yet we tenaciously cling to this life and many either reject Him as the Son of God or question whether an afterlife truly exists.

My book Silver Taps is a personal memoir that examines death in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing. It looks at our indifference when we confront death in the abstract and our profound grief when it occurs to someone we love, and it asks why faith consoles, comforts, and gives hope to some but only results in anger and unanswered questions in others.

It was written to elicit thought by my children and grandchildren. Hopefully, it also evokes thoughts and reactions from my readers.

Ironically, we marvel at the miracle of birth. We embrace life with all its ups and downs, triumphs, and tragedies. It is only death, the last leg of the this circle that we both fear and mourn. We fear the unknown. What lies beyond? Anything? Or is this the sum of our existence? We mourn because in embracing life we formed tangible bonds and attachments and feelings that in death are no longer present. The dead are still there in our hearts and minds. But we can no longer see them, hear them, reach out to them, touch them, and feel them. We wish we could. We wish with all our hearts that it was possible. That is why we have faith. In faith there is hope of reunification with everyone that we ever loved who’ve preceded us in death. That is the promise. – excerpt from Silver Taps.


Preferences & Promotions

How we choose to read a book is determined by our own personal likes and dislikes. I tend to be “traditional” in the sense that I prefer a hardbound copy of a book. I like the weight, texture and even the smell of a book, the ability to mark a passage so I can go back to it later, its durability, and its place within the collection of titles that I own.

There are pros and cons to every format; hardcover, paperback, e-book, or audio book. In addition to the reasons cited above, I prefer hardcover books for their stand alone utility (no electronic devices are required.) The same can be said for paperbacks, with the added advantages of lower cost and less cumbersome packaging.

However, as this blog proves, we live in a digital age where computers, tablets and smart phones provide instantaneous access to the latest releases; there is no requirement to go to a bookstore to buy a copy or wait on its delivery from some retail outlet. Downloading an e-book is quick, certainly more economical than a physical copy, fonts and print sizes even lighting can be adjusted, switching between titles is easy, and, should your Kindle, Nook, or iPhone need replacement, your book collection is backed up and stored in the “cloud.”

Perhaps the fastest growing medium is the audio book. Seasoned narrators bring stories to life and all the “reader” need do is listen. Technological advances have unquestionably changed behaviors, and many consumers would much rather allow someone else to interpret the written word for them. Additionally, audio books open up the literary world to those with vision impairment, learning, or other physical disabilities who otherwise have limited access to the art form.

My two books, Silver Taps and Palo Duroare currently available  in hardcover and e-book formats, with the latter soon to be released as a paperback. Additionally, I’m initiating a limited promotion via Amazon and Barnes & Noble to make the e-book version available at a reduced cost. Beginning April 15th it will be on sale for $6.99 (the regular retail price is $9.99). The promotion will run for two weeks.

What are your preferences regarding format? Do you prefer a book in hand, availability via electronic media, or listening to a recording? Do author promotions influence your decision to make a purchase? Retailers and book publishers collect data of this type, but it’s also important for the writer to receive direct feedback because of it’s potential impact on future releases.

So, what are your thoughts? Send me your comments. They most certainly will be appreciated and factored into publishing decisions for my next book!


Book Promotions

One of the promotional tools available to authors to market their books is a book signing, either to targeted audiences or the public at large. Sometimes these events are accompanied by readings of selected passages followed by question and answer sessions. At others they involve greeting potential buyers as they visit libraries or book stores where the author has received approval to display and sell his or her latest work. In the latter, the encounters with book enthusiasts may elicit brief discussions but no formal presentation.

Signings may involve nothing more than affixing a signature to the title page or book jacket or, at the discretion of the buyer, may include a short message or dedication personalized with the recipient’s name. In either scenario, the buyer weighs the potential benefit of owning a signed copy of any given work should it later become a best seller or the author gain literary recognition. And sometimes, it’s just nice to own a copy with the author’s signature.

Besides increasing readership, such signings can also be used to support specific organizations. As a proud graduate of Texas A&M University my writing has allowed me to give back to my alma mater in coordination with organizations that support fellow Aggies. The Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association graciously allowed me to participate in their annual “Rally to the Guidons” that brings together former Corps members to relive their days as a cadet, and the San Antonio A&M Club also hosted me at one of their weekly luncheons when Silver Taps was released.

Similar promotions are underway to promote Palo Duro. Though I don’t have exact dates yet, when I do, I’ll be posting them here and I hope to see you at one of these future functions.

Language Witch

Every writer, regardless of his or her acumen with the written word, needs a second set of eyes to review what they “think” they have written. The problem with editing a manuscript yourself is that no matter how many times you go over your draft, you often find yourself reading what you think you wrote versus what is actually on paper. The mind’s eye doesn’t actually see the mistakes in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It is too focused on content, not style.

I have been most fortunate to have a friend and colleague who has been willing to invest the time and effort it takes to thoroughly review someone else’s work. Such activity is no small undertaking. Not everyone possesses the attention to detail to discover errors while at the same time taking plot, character development, and overall context into consideration to highlight the editorial and narrative corrections that are needed. While substantive changes to a submitted manuscript are at the discretion of the writer, ignoring proper use of language… syntax, spelling, etc., can destroy even the best story.

My editor of choice is Jen Bucholtz –

In spite of my attempts, Jen’s thorough review caught numerous grammatical errors that otherwise would have remained in the text. Jen is a writer in her own right – “there is no goat,” May 25, 2013 [about her military tour of duty in Afghanistan] – and her experience publishing a manuscript significantly abetted my efforts to get this book professionally edited and published. Jen writes under the pen name Jennifer Dunham. – exerpt from “Thanks” in Palo Duro.

Jen Bucholtz and Christianne Morgan have formed a new company to continue helping writers with editing, formatting and transcription. Their website is up!

If you need communication services, I highly recommend Language Witch!

Sixth Leading Cause of Death

When I began this blog a little over a month ago it was with the intent to promote readership of my books and initiate a dialogue on their subject matter. To date I have focused my posts on my historical novel Palo Duro. However, in keeping with the theme that “Life is History,” I found myself reflecting on the passage of over 100 years since Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described the symptoms of cognitive impairment and brain damage, now a recognized disease that bears his name.

There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Today’s drugs mask symptoms but do not treat its underlying cause nor delay its progression. Citing a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) report some 44 million people currently are affected by the disease. That number is projected to rise to 135 million by the year 2050.

My father was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and my earlier book (a personal memoir)  delves not only into our relationship,  but the terrible effects of dementia and my family’s efforts to understand and cope with his mental deterioration and eventual death.

Alzheimer’s is such an insidious disease. I believe the worst aspect for the individual with the disease, at least at first, is knowing what is happening and being unable to do anything about it. I know the worst aspect for anyone that takes on the responsibility of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, is the certainty that currently there is no cure and no matter what you do the disease is fatal. Drugs and therapy may slow the disease’s progression, but memory will fade  and eventually even family members and friends will become distant and often total strangers. In time the disease will render the individual totally unable to do anything for themselves. The body becomes a shell, and the mind a quagmire of jumbled images and information that if processed at all only results in confusion, anger and despair. – excerpt from Silver Taps.

I encourage anyone with a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s disease to advocate for further research leading to a cure. Even if you are fortunate to not be personally affected at the moment, should the WHO’s projections hold, it is highly likely that you will be sometime in the not too distant future.