Another Mass Shooting

 

The deaths of seventeen people at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day has again ignited debate in this country over what, if anything, can be done to end or at least impact the number of mass shootings in the United States. The debate focuses on the Constitutional right to bear arms guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment, the power of the National Rifle Association, what constitutes reasonable gun control measures, the need to address mental health issues and access to guns by the mentally challenged, and how to improve communications between law enforcement and social service organizations that may have prior knowledge of attack planning or indications that someone might carry out such an attack.

In the aftermath of this latest mass shooting social media is once again abuzz with prayers from the faithful for healing, comfort, and peace for the victims and their families. These are followed by dismissal of those prayers as ineffective or a waste of time by secularists. There are similar camps and arguments over access to military assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks and their ownership by ordinary citizens, with both sides of the divide ensconced in their positions. There are calls for Congress to arbitrate the discord and act, not along Party lines, but in response to the public outrage that demands that something be done. Sadly we have seen this all before and are very likely to go down this road again, again, and again.

Perhaps we’ll witness a different outcome this time. The teenage survivors of this shooting are determined to make this tragedy a turning point in the debate. A March for Our Lives demonstration is scheduled for March 24th in Washington, D.C.

There is, however, another factor that underlies the cyclical nature of these mass shootings and our response to them. I wrote about it previously in this blog (April 18, 2017) in the context of my reaction to the death of my father, but I believe it to be applicable to this discourse.

Though any loss is tragic, my feelings and reactions are directly proportional to how well I knew the deceased. I do not feel the same in the presence of strangers nor, I believe does anyone; we distance ourselves. We may be horrified by the brutality or enormity of it in case of wars or natural disasters [or mass shootings], we may empathize and find it sad that he or she is no longer with us, but we immunize ourselves and continue on without much further thought or reaction. – Excerpt from Silver Taps.

We must force ourselves to get past this human tendency. We need to identify with the parent who lost a child, to the sibling who lost a brother or sister, to the relative who lost a family member, to the teacher who lost a student or colleague, to the individual who lost a close friend. Their pain and anguish over these sudden deaths must become our pain and anguish. We must put ourselves in the mindset that this might have happened to me or someone I love. Otherwise our defense mechanisms will keep us from being invested over any length of time and once again  we’ll move on… until the next mass shooting.

 

The Roots of Evil

FEB 8 (1)

To date I have used this forum to promote discussion of my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro. However, a blog should also serve to engage readers’ interest in upcoming publications. Later this year I hope to release my next book, Tarnished Brass, which looks at America’s involvement in the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992, and the aftermath of that conflict to include the origins of the violent street gang MS-13.

The timeliness of this upcoming release coincides with recent news coverage and comments by the President and the U.S. Attorney General highlighting the growing threat posed by this organization.

Mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals who illegally entered the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 engages in a broad range of criminal activity characterized by extreme violence toward rival street gangs and those caught in the crossfire. The savagery of their attacks is the principal reason the organization has become the focus of Justice Department efforts to incarcerate or deport its members.

The gang’s mobility within the United States has resulted in increased violence not only in Los Angeles, but in the southeastern, central, and northeastern sectors of our country. Additionally, El Salvador remains one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America with the violence that characterized a war ravaged nation supplanted and exceeded by the violence perpetrated by MS-13 gang members.

Thoughts on Veterans Day

Veterans Day will be celebrated this coming Saturday, November 11th. I’ll be thinking of my father, CW4 Gerald L. Knight, U.S. Army, whose 30 years of distinguished service included several of America’s wars; WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and set me on the path to my own military career.

Dad died at age 89 from a heart attack and complications related to Alzheimer’s disease, and his passing led me to write my first book, Silver Taps, which honors his memory. He was and will always be my hero.

Though that first book was a very personal memoir, my genre of preference is historical fiction. As a student of history (I would not presume to call myself a historian) our understanding of the significance of the holiday is important.

The November 11th date traces back to the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 when an armistice with Germany ended hostilities and brought about the end of WWI, “the war to end all wars.” President Woodrow Wilson declared the date Armistice Day in 1919 and it was designated a national holiday in 1938. Subsequent wars resulted in the name being changed in 1954 to ensure that all who served in the military were honored for their patriotism.

So take a moment on Saturday to not only remember our past, but to honor the men and women who continue to wear the uniform. It is only through their dedication and sacrifice that we maintain our national identity, our individual freedoms, and our standing within the international community.

 

 

 

 

Sit & Sign

IMG_2197If you reside in the San Antonio area or are visiting from out of town, please stop by the Pearl on Saturday, October 21, at 11:00 AM, and come into the Twig Book Shop. They will be hosting me at a book signing featuring both my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro.

The event is scheduled in conjunction with the weekly Farmers Market which offers live entertainment, food trucks, produce for sale by growers from the surrounding area, and an open area where kids and even Fido can play or everyone can picnic. So, come and enjoy the day with the entire family.

I hope to see you there!

The Twig Book Shop is located at 306 Pear Parkway, Suite 106, San Antonio, Texas, 78215, off Highway 281 South.

Full Military Honors

Very few ceremonies are as poignant and gut wrenching as a military funeral, especially when the deceased is the recipient of full military honors. The solemnity of the occasion is underscored by the service men and women in their dress uniforms that comprise the escort platoon. Their bearing and actions bespeak deep respect and silent thanks for the selfless service and sacrifice rendered in times of war and peace in defense of our country. A horse-drawn caisson transports the remains to the grave site. An American flag is draped over the coffin with the blue field of stars at the head and the red and white stripes covering the length of the casket. All horses are saddled, but those on the right are riderless, harkening back to the days when horses were used to haul ammunition and provisions to the battlefield. A military band provides patriotic music. A rifle detail fires three volleys signifying duty, honor, country. Finally, the mournful notes of “Taps” are played by a lone bugler.

 

For anyone who isn’t aware, Taps was sounded for the first time in July 1862 during the Civil War. Subsequently words were put with the music. According to the official Arlington National Cemetery website the first were “Go to Sleep, Go to Sleep.” As the years went on many more versions were created, but there are no official words to the music.

This is one rendering – excerpt from Silver Taps:

Day is done, gone the sun,

From the hills, from the lake,

From the sky.

All is well, safely rest,

God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,

May the soldier or sailor,

God keep.

On the land or the deep, 

Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,

When the day, And the night

Need thee so?

All is well. Speedeth all

To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar

Goeth day, And the stars 

Shineth bright,

Fare thee well; Day has gone,

Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,

“Neath the sun, ‘Neath the stars,

‘Neath the sky,

As we go, This we know,

               God is nigh.             

This post is in loving memory of a very dear friend and brother-in-arms, Fred Roderick Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army,  laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, October 3, 2017.                                                                                                                                                                                         

A Very Personal Endeavor

Though both are based on the past, there is quite a difference writing historical fiction versus a memoir. One is based on events, people, and circumstances known to history while the other’s focus is unique to the author. Historical fiction requires topic research and some degree of subject matter expertise while a memoir is defined solely by the writer’s personal experiences. Historical fiction also uses plot devices and character development to drive the story while a memoir relies on the writer’s memories to relate a very private tale that hopefully strikes an emotional cord which resonates with the reader.

With few exceptions, the majority of my blog posts have related to my novel of westward expansion and the Plains Indian Wars. It is my more recent book, and I concentrated on it to build interest in a genre that not only reflects my writing preference but the focus of future book releases.

I didn’t initially promote my first book because it was a very personal endeavor that I wrote with my children and grandchildren in mind. It spoke to my relationship with my dad and his influence on me as I grew up. He was my hero, and I wanted them to understand why I held my dad in such high regard and why I wanted them to never forget him or the values that he tried to pass on to each of us. I must have succeeded to some degree as it was my children that encouraged me to publish and market my memoir. 

Later this month (August 26th) I’ll be holding a book signing at the Twig Bookshop at the Pearl in San Antonio that will feature both my books. And, while I’ve written extensively about my novel, I thought it important to return to the book that began my love of writing. In so doing, I hope that current and new readers of my blog might learn more of who I am and might also make a connection with one or more of the themes that I addressed in my first effort as a writer.

The book evolved into a personal journey, becoming a catharsis of sorts for me… coming to grips with the loss of the man I was privileged to call a friend, brother-in-arms, role model, and most importantly… my dad. Equally important, the book also allowed me to redefine my relationship with my sister after our father’s death. It is neither autobiography nor biography. It is merely the memories, anecdotes, and musings of a son written down for his children and grandchildren. If it finds additional readership, it will be the result of a chord or chords struck amongst other sons and daughters who remember a father who loved them and whom they loved. – excerpt from Silver TapsCompleted Book Cover

 

 

 

The Influence of Book Covers

The commonly heard expression “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is a metaphor, usually applied to people, that speaks to the judgments we make about individuals when we first meet or encounter them. We form broad brush opinions based upon their looks or actions in the moment without really knowing anything about them. We judge worth or value by outward appearance alone. However, if/when we really get to know that person, our preconceived notions may prove completely different from that which we imagined. But does the metaphor apply or hold true when we actually describe book covers?

Whether shopping online or at a bookstore, the first thing that is likely to draw our attention – before reading a synopsis or excerpt – is the book cover. We may have already narrowed our search for a good read by first looking for books written by specific authors or content that aligns with our reading preferences (romance, mystery, biography, war, history, etc.,) but the visual imagery on the jacket has an immediate impact on whether we pick up the book to examine it further.

Sometimes the image has little or no bearing on content. The design is simply a marketing tactic to make the book stand out amidst the multitude of available titles. Only the author and the publisher can decide whether this approach is appropriate, however, as a reader and a writer I believe there should be a connection between appearance and content.

Below are images of the jacket covers to my two books:

 

Silver Taps, my first book, is a personal memoir that pays homage to my father, a career Army officer, who served in World War  II, Korea, and Vietnam. The image of the folded American flag and wooden box depicting a soldier saluting the fallen was taken from an actual photo taken during his memorial service.

Palo Duromy most recent book, is a novel about westward expansion focusing on the Plains Indian wars at the turn of the 19th century. Central to the Indians way of life was the buffalo. It numbered in the millions before the herds were decimated as the result of deliberate U.S. government policy designed to force the tribes into subjugation and onto reservations. The image’s backdrop is a photo of Palo Duro Canyon that I took while doing research into this last stronghold of the Plains Indians, onto which is superimposed an artist’s conception of a buffalo hunt.

For anyone who has read either book, I’d appreciate your feedback on whether you think the images are representative of content. Even if you haven’t read them but you’re reading this blog, what are your thoughts on book jackets and their impact on book sales? Do they matter? Should they relate to content or characters in a book? Do they influence consumers? Whether you are an avid reader, a published author, or an aspiring writer your comments are important.