Texas Blood: My Review

Texas Blood Book CoverTexas Blood: Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands is far more than the genealogy of author Roger D. Hodge’s family. It is the story of the land itself, the past and present history of the border Southwest.

It isn’t an easy book to classify. It’s scope is as big as the state – a rambling account that is part memoir, travelogue, and history book. Meticulously researched, it can at times read like a textbook. Moreover, people, places, events, and the author’s thoughts are not presented chronologically and the juxtaposition of time and place can be disconcerting to the reader. However, if you can adjust to the many digressions that result from Hodge’s stream of consciousness style of writing you will encounter a lyrical, unsentimental, and sometimes brutal account of the Lone Star State.

The reader must decide whether Texas Blood refers to the blood that runs through Hodge’s veins or the bloodshed that has flowed ever since the conquistadors attempted their conquest of the New World, Native Americans (including the Apache, Comanche, and others) perpetrated depredations against Anglo settlers and each other, or the drug cartels fought to expand their narcotics and human trafficking networks. Violence has always been a part of Texas’ past and present and Hodge is unflinching in his account of its impact on the state.

The probability that anyone would choose to live in such rugged country and endure the unbelievably harsh and cruel conditions therein seems unlikely, and for this reason Hodge has retraced the  footsteps of his ancestors… to find the answers to their settlement in West Texas. “What was it that brought my people to this particular place? Why would  anyone attempt to settle in this unforgiving landscape? What were they searching for that was found here, in the devil’s own country, alongside his namesake river?”

His attempt to resolve these questions has yielded a richly descriptive portrait of the contested borderlands along the Rio Grande. It is the story of human habitation. It is the story of a country and its hardships. It is an ode to the land and its people from Native Americans, to European settlers, to today’s occupants. It is the story of the ongoing struggles along the international boundary with Mexico. It is the continuing saga of Texas.

Presidential Libraries

 

Recently the nation watched as our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, was laid to rest in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M University. As a graduate and former cadet I was especially proud to see the student body and citizens turn out along the route and witness the Corps of Cadets render honors as the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin passed by.

The news coverage had me wondering which of our Presidents also located their libraries on college campuses. Surprisingly, there were only three; Lyndon B. Johnson (The University of Texas in Austin, Texas), Gerald R. Ford (The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan), and George W. Bush (Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas). *While the Gerald R. Ford library is located in Ann Arbor, the museum is a separate facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These four are among the fourteen Presidential Libraries federally maintained and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The facilities not only provide a broader understanding of the Office of the Presidency but information specific to the individuals who aspired to and achieved the highest office in America. They house their memos, letters, policy decisions and ceremonial/personal artifacts.

This formal Presidential Library System didn’t exist until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his belief that the historical records and artifacts associated with his presidency were a part of our national heritage and needed to be preserved for future generations of Americans. Prior to that time these items might have been sold, lost, deliberately destroyed, or subject to ruin because of poor storage conditions by other libraries or private collectors.

FDR was the first to raise private funding for the construction of a library and museum and ask the National Archives to be responsible for its administration upon completion. In 1950 President Truman followed suit, and in 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act establishing privately funded and federally maintained libraries.

Because the facilities are built with private funding each President is allowed to choose the location. Additionally, up until President Reagan’s administration, access to and inclusion of personal property was at the discretion of the former President. Since then any records created or received in conjunction with constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are considered property of the United States government.

For further information on all fourteen Presidential Libraries I recommend visiting the official website at:     https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries

Finally, this post comes just before the holidays so I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!

Fierce, Funny, and Female: Guest Post

FIERCE, FUNNY,
AND FEMALE

A Journey Through Middle America,
the Texas Oil Field, and Standup Comedy

by
MARTI MacGIBBON
Genre: Memoir / Drama / Humor
Publisher: Stay Strong Publishing
Publication Date: March 20, 2017
Number of Pages: 412 pages
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

This book is the celebrated prequel to the critically acclaimed, nationally award-winning and bestselling memoir, Never Give in to Fear. In her raw, vivid, and unabashed style, author Marti MacGibbon delivers a sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious, always engaging account of her passage through trauma, betrayal, and loss in adolescence and young adulthood to discover her inner badass self. As one of the first women to work as a laborer in the Texas oil field, she set off explosives and staked oil wells before realizing her childhood dream of becoming a successful standup comic. Marti introduces readers to a wide range of characters in her life: from sleazy authority figures, wannabe Sixties musicians and crazed Corn Belt cult leaders, to Texas oil billionaires and wildcatters, to wild-eyed redneck coworkers who robbed banks on their lunch hour―in the company truck. The book includes scenes with iconic comedians, Hollywood entertainment industry moguls, and a legendary bluesman, and offers insights into resiliency, courage, and self-empowerment.
WINNER, 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Humor
WINNER, 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Women’s Studies 
WINNER, 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards in Women’s Health
WINNER, 2017 Beverly Hills Book Awards in Women’s Issues 
WINNER, 2018 Independent Press Award in Humor
WINNER, 2018 Independent Press Award in Women’s Studies 
WINNER, 2018 New York City Book Book Award, Women’s Studies
FINALIST, 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Memoir (Overcoming Adversity)
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PRAISE FOR FIERCE, FUNNY, AND FEMALE:

“Being funny is a survival skill. Fierce, Funny, and Female is not only a survivor’s tale but an inspirational story of overcoming the unthinkable, again and again…Her courage and comedy make Fierce, Funny, and Female a winner.” — Foreword Clarion Reviews

“An effervescently witty…chronicle of perseverance and the power to overcome the darkest of days…Perhaps the most rewarding chapter in this chatty, affecting book is the concluding one, where MacGibbon lists the tried-and-true pearls of wisdom that continue to sustain her…” — Kirkus Reviews

Fierce, Funny, and Female is a thoroughly engaging memoir packed with witty observations, high adventure, and a glimpse of behind-the-scenes Hollywood. Highly recommended!” — Midwest Book Review

“MacGibbon is a natural storyteller, and her life story is a most interesting one. The characters she has run across during her life journey are well-drawn and absolutely fascinating, particularly the good ol’ boys in the Texas oilfields.” — San Francisco Book Review

GuestPost

Build Your Creativity and Invite More Fun into Your Life

You don’t have to be born a genius, a gifted person, in order to be creative; you can develop and build your own creative genius. The key to creativity is action. A person who thinks of innovative, exciting ideas, and then doesn’t act on them, is an imaginative person, but not a creative person. The act of creation brings something into being.

Whatever you think, whatever you believe, you become. Believe in your creative abilities and motivate yourself daily. Sometimes staying motivated means taking one or two baby steps per day. Other days, you’ll accomplish two or three giant strides. The key is to stay in the game. Keep chipping away at your project and it will take shape before you know it. Your genius will emerge, one day at a time.

Let go of limitations — open yourself up to opportunities. Throw your brain a curve ball — try something new: make changes in your daily schedule, drive a different route to work, rearrange your furniture, wear different colors or clothes than usual. Learn a new language. Shake things up. Free yourself to think outside the box. Avoid negative self-talk that stifles innovation. Instead, make affirmations such as, “I am creative,” or “I’m a prolific writer,” or “I have a unique vision and voice.” These are self-enhancing statements that build confidence and switch on creativity and charisma.

When it comes to unleashing your creativity, go “crazy.” The primitive part of the brain speaks of fear, listing all the “shoulds and shouldn’ts,” and the “ought tos” and “could’ves,” which hampers creativity. Often the craziest idea, the one most feared, is the one to explore. Try embracing the things that unsettle you, or the things you’re inclined to immediately reject — you may discover a creative wellspring which will feed your productivity. Allow your imagination free rein, never giving in to the urge to downplay who you are. Stay loyal to yourself and your goals.

While you’re creating, remember to have fun. Fun helps you stay energized and enjoying the process. Here are 11 ways raise your fun quotient and build creativity:

  1. When you wake up, take a few moments to visualize yourself surrounded by love and beauty, and filled with purpose and the power to realize your dreams. You can see it in your mind as a movie, a still photo, or a series of images. This action primes your subconscious mind to the idea that wonderful things can happen.
  2. Get outdoors and into nature. Take a walk in the park. Sit under your favorite tree and enjoy a beverage. Step outside at night and spend some time star gazing or appreciating the moon.
  3. Laugh whenever possible. Watch funny movies and television shows. Call up an old friend and reminisce about crazy, embarrassing, or ridiculous past experiences you’ve laughed about together. Reading humorous memoirs will help you remember/recognize ways to see the humor in your life. Watch standup comedy¾live or on TV.
  4. Join a group and share new experiences with new people. Take an art class. (Paintnite https://www.paintnite.com/ offers a night out in a restaurant or microbrewery combined with oil painting on canvas. Sierra Club can connect you with a hiking group. Try taking an improv class. The rule of improv is: Always say yes! Agree with what your improv partner has created, and go with the flow. You’re saying, “Yes, and…
  5. Do emotional check-ins. During the day, take a moment to observe your emotions, then describe them to yourself. This keeps you in touch with how you’re experiencing life. Use creative words for your feelings, that is, don’t use “good,” “great,” or “okay,” but be specific. This can be a fun word search, even if you’re feeling peeved or frustrated. Finding synonyms for annoyance and frustration can lead to sarcasm, then on to goofy hilarity.
  6. Crank up the volume on your favorite music! Jump up and dance to it. Lean back and luxuriate in it. If you’re driving, sing along with it, even at stoplights, and especially if you’re stuck in traffic. Don’t sweat the drivers around you, even if some stick-in-the-mud eyes you with disdain. You rock, so rock your commute! Fun is contagious, you might even spark a sing along in the next lane.
  7. Just before leaving the house, look in the mirror and tell yourself, “Dang, you’re cute!”
  8. Take a meditation class. Mindfulness meditation is easy, and it’s fun. The number one rule of mindfulness is, “Refrain from judging.” This is a cool way to open-up your mind to new attitudes and experiences, right?
  9. Do nothing. Yes, give yourself thirty minutes or an hour a day that is absolutely free and is only for you.
  10. Be kind to yourself and others. Forgive yourself and others. Give freely of your time or resources, to someone or something that serves the greater good. These are “feel good” acts.
  11. Take gratitude breaks during your day. Make a gratitude list on paper or in your head. Express gratitude to a co-worker, a neighbor, or a friend. Begin and end each day giving thanks.

A compelling speaker and storyteller, Marti MacGibbon delivers high-energy presentations and writes books on overcoming adversity, addiction and recovery, and inspiration, with humor and a genuine, down-to-earth style. She’s experienced critical situations that no human being should have to face. In the past, she hit rock bottom in every possible way as a hard-core drug addict, was homeless, and was trafficked to Tokyo and held prisoner by Japanese organized crime. Her story of triumph is testimony to the power of the human spirit. Marti lives her message. She reveals simple, effective strategies that anyone can use to get back on track, build resiliency, reduce stress, and cultivate a sense of humor.
Marti is a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, certified addiction treatment professional, Gorski certified relapse-prevention specialist, and member of the National Speakers Association. She’s been interviewed in Entrepreneur, Investor’s Business Daily, on ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and numerous radio shows. And she’s funny: Marti traveled all over the U.S. as a professional standup comic and performed at the Hollywood Improv and Comedy Store. She is founder, producer and host of Laff-aholics Comedy Benefit for Recovery, an annual charity fundraiser in Indianapolis featuring nationally headlining comedians. She also serves on the outreach committee of IPATH, Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force.
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The Last Kingdom: My Review

The Last Kingdom is the first book in a series by Bernard Cornwell on the reign of Alfred the Great, A.D. 871-899. The title refers to the Kingdom of Wessex which was the last to holdout against the Danes after they raided and captured the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia. The Danes sought to colonize what would eventually become England and replace its society with their own to include the worship of the pagan gods Odin and Thor.

 The story actually begins in 866 A.D. with the introduction of Uhtred of Bebbanburg who at age ten witnesses the death of his father at the hands of the Danes. The death will initiate a blood feud to regain his title and lands which in the course of time (Book One covers the next ten years) will see Uthred raised by the Danes but ultimately aligned with Alfred.

His allegiance will be tested repeatedly as he tries to reconcile his previous life and religious beliefs with the Viking warrior lifestyle and the promise of Valhalla.  It is a struggle of conscience between the piety of Christianity, belief in a loving God, and a place in heaven versus his predisposition toward the pagan gods, militarism, and the thrill of battle. Participation in Viking raids and fighting in a great shield wall earn prestige and status on earth while also promising an afterlife with endless merrymaking. The Church and priesthood, on the other hand, offer a life of quiet reflection and scholarly pursuits with the hope of saving one’s soul. 

Cornwell lets the reader know Uthred’s thoughts and inclinations by relating his tale from the perspective of an old man looking back on his life. The first person narrative combines humor and pathos to capture the significant historical events of the period, the people involved in them, and the savagery of the times. It also firmly establishes the series and subsequent books as must read experiences to know the outcome of Uthred’s story.

One final note, keeping up with the names of places will be a challenge to many readers. Refer to the listing of Anglo-Saxon place names at the beginning of the book for their spelling at the time of Alfred’s reign and their more modern versions. Similarly, character names and relationships can be confusing. Variations of the same name were common. As an example, “Ealdorman AEtheired, son of AEtheired, brother of AEthelwulf, father of AEtheired, and brother to another AEtheired who had been the father of AElswith who was married to Alfred.” Don’t let this dissuade you. It all sorts itself out, or will in the next ten books!

 

 

Covey Jencks: Guest Post

COVEY JENCKS
by
SHELTON L. WILLIAMS
Narrated by Kathy James
Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
Publication Date: February 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 229 pages
Audio Book Length: 6 hours, 38 minutesSCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey, and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 
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PRAISE FOR COVEY JENCKS:
 
Williams seamlessly braids a murder mystery with a love story and a drama about the pervasiveness of racism in the South… The author’s prose is buoyantly eccentric, both insightful and self-effacingly humorous. And the clues Covey and JayJay track down are meted out to readers with impressive judiciousness: The author never prematurely surrenders so much information that the conclusion is rendered foregone while the tale’s swift pace prevents it from becoming tedious. An engrossing crime drama that’s both entertaining and provocative. — Kirkus Indie

 

GuestPost

BY SHELTON WILLIAMS

Covey Jencks has been with me a long time, but it took my grandchildren to bring him to life. Covey had been a character in a previous unpublished book, but I never forgot him. When my four grand kids started getting older, however, I told them “Deputy Dan Stories.” Deputy Dan was always as old as the child listening; he worked at his dad’s car wash; and he always solved a crime. After each case, Odessa’s sheriff awarded Deputy Dan a piece of wardrobe that made him more officially a crime solver: a cowboy hat, boots, a belt, and finally a star. The older they got, the more the stories related to current events. The confrontation at Charlottesville, VA., in 2017 prompted me to dust off Covey Jencks to help explain bias, why lives matter, and a bit of history. I thought that would be better than simply telling them: “It’s complicated.”

 

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  
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A Grateful Heart

agriculture autumn background decoration
Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

The Thanksgiving holidays and the recent Lone Star Book Blog Tour of Gratitude: The Art of Being Thankful by Vickie Phelps has me reflecting on the many blessings in my life and how I or anyone expresses one’s sincere gratitude.

It is not enough to say “thank you.” That expression is used daily, often without thought, as a polite response to something said or done on our behalf. It reflects civility and manners but no deep introspection. Sincere gratitude on the other hand requires effort. It is a conscious choice to acknowledge that every event, every person is a gift.

I sometimes struggle with my feelings over the loss of family and friends and the holidays only accentuate those emotions. It never gets easier to accept that there are empty chairs at the table. The premature loss of my two boys and my godson will always weigh heavily on my heart. Neither it is easy to reflect on dear friends and family members who succumbed to cancer while five years after my own diagnosis with the disease I am cancer free, nor to reconcile the combat loss of fellow brothers-in-arms while I somehow remained unscathed.

It would be easy to allow grief and acrimony to outweigh other considerations. However, while I’ve no doubt that in quieter moments I will shed a tear or two and ponder why everything occurred as it did, I thank God for every moment that I shared with each and every one of them. We can’t alter the past but we can choose to remember how blessed we are that our lives were forever impacted not only by events but by every person with whom they were shared.

Tomorrow is the appointed calendar date for public acknowledgement and celebration of divine goodness. Yet, because we live in an increasingly secular world where the presence of God in our lives is diminished, questioned, ridiculed, or rejected outright, the holiday observance too often consists of little more than watching parades and sports on television and consuming the Thanksgiving meal without a moment of silence or prayer wherein we acknowledge the many blessings given to each of us.

As you gather with friends and family consider your own circumstance and pause long enough in your celebrations to sincerely express your gratitude with a thankful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!