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!

https://www.languagewitch.com/

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.

 

 

Saving the Buffalo

In 1876, when Charles Goodnight established the “JA Ranch” in the Texas Panhandle, it began with a modest earthen structure where he and his wife, Mary Ann (who he affectionately called “Molly”) lived until he could build a proper home. Eventually the ranch would encompass some 1,335,000 acres and over 100,00 head of cattle.

At the time an estimated 10 million buffalo roamed the plains of Texas and the southwestern United States. However, by 1890 the systematic slaughter of these herds had reduced that number to less than 500. Goodnight unsuccessfully experimented with cross-breeding his cattle with buffalo, but it would be his wife Molly that would be credited with saving the species. Molly appreciated the buffalo’s linkage to the history of the plains and requested her husband round up calves orphaned by hunters who killed the cows for their hides, but left them to starve by the dead carcasses of their mothers. Charles Goodnight was skeptical but promised to bring them in.

Charles Goodnight was as good as his word, bringing in stray calves to the ranch for his wife to raise. Many resisted the effort to domesticate them and died, but Molly Goodnight hand fed the remaining buffalo calves and began maturation of what would be the descendants of the plains buffalo. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Read my novel to learn about the importance of the buffalo to the Southern Plains Indians and their near extinction as the result of over hunting and the deliberate policy of the U.S. government to defeat and subjugate the various tribes. Visit the Goodnight Historical Center in Goodnight, Texas to gain more insight into the buffalo’s rescue at the hands of this courageous and visionary pioneer woman.

 

 

Standing Rock – “Water is Life”

On February 23rd the Army Corps of Engineers (the federal body overseeing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline) closed the Oceti Sakowin Camp where protests against plans to build the oil pipeline through sacred Indian land had been ongoing since August 2016. The closure ends this chapter in the dispute between the Standing Rock Sioux and Energy Transfer Partners LP, but the matter is far from resolved. The Standing Rock Sioux claim the pipeline threatens the environmental quality and sacred nature of the water at Lake Oahe, and have filed an injunction to withdraw the easement that would allow the project to move forward.

However, tribal and federal claims to the land conflict. Though the land was granted to the Indians in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, the treaty remains contested to this day. Energy Transfer Partners LP contends that the pipeline crosses private land while the Sioux hold to the conviction that the area is tribal or treaty land and that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution “grants treaties as equivalent to the Constitution itself.” As a sovereign nation, the Sioux assert their right to control the integrity of their natural resources. They have never accepted monetary compensation from the U.S. government for broken treaties. To do so would cede the provisions of the 1851 treaty.

Historically, Indians have not fared well in disputes with the federal government. The ruling in December that temporarily halted construction until a thorough evaluation of the environmental risks could be completed has given way to an executive order issued January 24th to “expedite” approval of the pipeline’s completion. The protesters apparent victory celebrated just a few months ago has once again been affected by a change in administrations. The final outcome is yet to be determined, but the parallels to the past  are striking.

What the majority [of Indians] didn’t comprehend and couldn’t understand was that as U.S. expansion continued westward, it meant the circumstances as well as any promises made today would change tomorrow. It mattered not that these promises were put in writing. A different day, a different administration, a different treaty; each time the new document diminishing or totally negating any assurances previously given. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Standing Rock represents the ongoing fight to preserve Native American cultural traditions and sovereignty. You can read about the Southern Plains Indians struggles in my novel.

Roping, Bronc & Bull Riding, Barrel Racing, Livestock Exhibitions and Chuck Wagon Cooking

The 68th San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo is currently ongoing (February 9-26, 2017.) Nationally, rodeos have been held since the mid-1880’s. Multiple locations lay claim to staging the first rodeo; Santa Fe, New Mexico – 1847, Deer Tree, Colorado – 1869, Pecos, Texas – 1883, and Prescott, Arizona – 1888, to name just a few.

The sport grew out of the cattle industry and showcases riding and roping skills, the working practices of herding cattle. And, just as today’s exhibitions and shows stir the public’s imagination, the adventure of moving large herds across the Southwest led countless cowboys to sign on with the large ranches and cattle barons to take their livestock to market.

It took tremendous courage and fortitude to brave hostile terrain, uncertain weather, attacks by Indians and rustlers, as well as the recalcitrance and unpredictability of thousands of cattle easily spooked by lightning strikes, random noise or other predators. It required specialized skills that included knowing how to brand the animals without burning their flesh, sawing off horns that grew too long, and administering medicine when disease threatened the herd.

The cowboys worked 24/7. Anyone shirking his duties or causing problems along the trail faced swift justice. The trail boss exercised absolute authority.

Feeding the cowhands required innovation. The distances traveled didn’t allow each rider to fend for himself; he couldn’t carry the quantity of provisions needed for the duration of  the trail drive, nor did he have the time to cook his own meals. Texas cattleman and entrepreneur Charles Goodnight is credited with solving the problem with the invention of the chuck wagon. The wagon carried necessary supplies and utensils and elevated the importance of the person selected as cook.

The selection of such a person took into consideration not only his acumen with horse flesh, but his ability to forego sleep while brewing and doling out coffee all hours of the day and night; cooking up biscuits, flapjacks and bacon for breakfast, and beans, cornbread and stews for lunch and dinner – all without affecting the rotation of the riders or their duties on the trail drive. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Read about Charles Goodnight and his epic cattle drives along the Goodnight-Loving Trail in my novel, and visit your local rodeo to witness living history.

Black History Month

In the aftermath of America’s Civil War freedmen and former slaves served in the United States Army throughout the western frontier in all black units. This past Sunday, February 12th, members of the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association donned period uniforms to pay tribute to these men and woman (Cathay Williams enlisted in the Army under the pseudonym William Cathay– the only documented African-American woman to serve posing as a man.) The living historians at the Institute for Texan Culture in San Antonio wore uniforms representative of the 9th Cavalry and the 38th Infantry, proudly articulating the little known story of their forebears who, in spite of institutional prejudices and a hostile and unforgiving environment, mapped huge swaths of the American Southwest while protecting settlers, cattlemen, the U.S. mail service, and lines of communication stretching from east to west.

Their distinguished record of selfless service to this country is part of the story told in my novel.

The Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy would be similar to that experienced by generations of blacks serving in the United States Armed Forces. Their bravery and accomplishments would go unrecognized until long after their unmarked graves in the Trans-Pecos and the Southwest were overgrown and disappeared. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Press Release

Marketing yourself as an author is not a one-stop process. Besides an online presence, reaching out to the media is an important step in reaching a wider audience. Page Publishing has assisted me in this effort by sending out the following press release. Just as it is intended to raise visibility through their points of contact, its inclusion here is a means for me to ensure its distribution to any of you who might not otherwise see it except through this medium or associated websites.

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