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.

 

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Father’s Day in the United States was celebrated this past Sunday, June 18th. At the time I was recuperating from major surgery and missed the opportunity to express my thoughts on the holiday. However, as there is no universal date observed worldwide (expressions of gratitude occur on different dates in different countries,) I still wanted to weigh-in with a few comments.

The genesis of the modern holiday in the U.S. dates to the early 1900’s, though an official Presidential Proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day wasn’t issued until 1966, and it would be 1972 before President Richard Nixon conferred permanence on that calendar day for our national celebration.

Expressions of appreciation for the influence of fathers in the lives of their children take many forms. For the living, it is common practice for dads to receive gift cards, flowers, men’s clothing items, or cologne. For the deceased, a more solemn observance might include a gravesite visitation or even posting a favorite photo along with a cherished memory on social media.

For many, the full impact of their dad’s influence on their character, personality, likes and dislikes, activities, associations and professions is not fully realized nor acknowledged until after he has passed away.

It is difficult coming to grips with the loss when it happens. My dad died 31 July, 2006 yet it would take me years to understand our relationship and finally put down my thoughts and pay tribute to the man who remains my hero to this day. In 2015 I published Silver Taps, a very personal memoir that honestly looks at the bonds between father and son and the expectations of each in the context of love, friendship, and respect. I sincerely hope that I honored his memory.

All sons, at some time in their lives, strive to please their fathers and intrinsically wonder whether they’ve met their expectations. Similarly, all dads wonder what impact they’ve had on their children and what their worth is as a father.Few of us ever get an answer to these questions. As a son, I never felt that I was the person my father wanted me to be. I was never the star athlete, I never rose to prominence in the Corps at A&M or during my military career, and I failed in my first marriage. As a father, I know that I should have done better by my children. I was often gone on deployment or getting reassigned at critical junctures in their lives. I could have been more sympathetic to their concerns and more flexible in my response. But these are afterthoughts, so perhaps this is a dilemma best left alone. No matter the generation, parents always expect more from and want more for their children. Because we do, we find faults in them and in ourselves. – excerpt from Silver Taps.

 

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.