US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Friday, July 29, 2011

Open Office

I might've mentioned that I decided to use a new word processor because one of my publishers had something included in the contract that I needed to have Change Tracking software or had to get it.

Change Tracking?

I've been using Microsoft Works for years and thought I knew every little things hidden inside the software. But, this wasn't included. So, here comes Google Search!

Lo and behold - I found it! In MS Office. And that's not something I had - or could afford to buy.

I ran across Open Office and remembered reading about it in various writer's forums. So, sucking in my gut, I downloaded it. But, as usual, I figured I knew so much, I just went ahead and started using it.

Uh, isn't there something somewhere about reading a User's Manual? I quickly found it had a whole lot of bells and whistles Word didn't - and didn't have one thing Word did - a somewhat decent grammar checker. And, the whole reason I downloaded wasn't that easy to use - tracking changes, comparing documents and merging documents. So, showing my ignorance, I went to the support website and asked my dumb questions - and got plastered for it! I got responses from two _moderators_ who were downright rude!!!

Well, I finally wised up, checked around and finally found the User's Manual. I downloaded all the pdf. files and quickly learned what I needed - except for how to add a Spanish Dictionary extension.

I figured out how to get around the grammar checker shortcoming by converting an OO document to MS Word, using that grammar checker, then converting it back to a new OO, then comparing the two to see and accept the changes. I even just learned how to remove some words from the dictionary that don't match what I need for my writing - example Señor instead of Senor.

Someone on the OO support forum suggested I go ahead and download LibreOffice as it has more updates and gadgets. But, someone else told me to stick with learning OO before I go any further - probably the best instruction I've found on the site.
So, as I continue to use OO and find out all the little goodies, I'll try to share them here. And, I hope all of you who have or think of downloaded will do the same. What do you like best about it? What drives you crazy?
One thing I just noticed, the text files come out far smaller than the Word files!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Army Ocean Cruise

[Just wanted to share some memories of a young man embarking upon his first true adventure.

Aboard a US Naval Troop Ship

In April 1958 with the pomp of the U.S. Army’s Engineer School’s graduation ceremony behind me. I, along with my buddy Harold, received orders to an engineer field maintenance platoon somewhere in Europe. The orders only indicated an army postal office, so we had no idea where. The orders also didn’t tell us how we were to get there, directing us to a replacement depot at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

We arrived at the Repo Depot and were shown to our rooms, a large squad bay in a barracks dating back to the Second World War. It had two floors, each with a large open bay. Double bunks lined both sides with wall lockers to stow our duffel bags. The décor was a dull olive drab with tile floors shined mirror bright. Sergeants had special rooms at both ends, so they were not required to mix with us plebes.

A Specialist Four informed us our assignment was somewhere in France, but not where.

France? Gee whiz. How exciting. That sounded great. I’d heard how beautiful and romantic France was. Great wine. Beautiful women. Awesome food. We could hardly wait to learn when and how we were going.

It took two days of Kitchen Police, Policing the Area [picking up tiny bits of paper and cigarette butts], along with polishing floors until we were told we weren’t going to McGuire Air Force Base but to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Our orders directed us on an ocean voyage. How neat!

The olive drab bus probably served school kids a decade or so earlier. With duffel bags on our shoulders, we loaded up, filling all the seats with our big, heavy bags on our laps. We were all kinda surprised as there was only one bus.

There were no freeways or interstates between the fort and the city. I have no idea how long it took or even which bridge we crossed. I’d seen New York twice before, so the towering structures no longer impressed me. Harold came from Redding, a sort of small place in Northern California. That was his first time and he kept craning his neck to see everything.

The main gate had a huge banner welcoming us to Brooklyn Navy Yard and a sailor with an armband marked “SP” for Shore Patrol, came aboard the bus to ensure no Commie spies tried to get in. We drove through endless warehouses until we reached the docks. I’d been on fishing boats and the ferry between Long Beach and Catalina Island, so the troop ship impressed me as being huge.

Two smoke stacks rose above a dull gray superstructure. It had masts fore and aft. I shook my head. Why masts on a modern steamship? One of the stacks had huge letters announcing its name. I must admit that, after all these years, I can’t remember whether it was the General Patch or the General Rose. In any case, the hull had long red rust streaks cascading down the sides pierced with long lines of small circular holes. It didn’t exactly present an inviting façade. I later found a plaque indicating it had been launched some time in 1943 and guessed it’d been across the Atlantic more than one or two hundred times.

The buss turned down a very long pier and pulled up next to the boat. Uh, excuse me - I was quickly corrected that “she” was a ship. A sailor walked over and waited while we grabbed our gear and got off the bus. Once lined up, he led us to a long ramp thing with handrails. But, how much good would they do us as we needed one hand to balance the heavy duffel over our shoulders?

The tide was out, so the gangplank wasn’t steep. A sailor in clothing that certainly wasn’t military led us down some steep ladders or stairs or whatever they called those things. That wasn’t all that easy carrying duffel bags.

The senior man of our small, motley group was a specialist fifth class (equal to a sergeant but without the authority of a noncom). He was in charge simply due to his seniority. He had about as much gumption as a slug. He’d never led anything in his life. We were shown to an area in a huge bay. An endless array of poles with cots racked four high confronted us. The canvas cots were folded and it was up to us to decide who got which. Being innately lazy, I took the bottom bunk, as I had no desire to try to climb into the top.

I think the first thing that hit me below decks was the smell. The mass of human bodies had not yet entered, so the aromas came from stale seawater and diesel fuel. Add that to the confined space, and there was little doubt that no few passengers would spend time in the head, as they called the latrines, or hanging over the rail.

By the way - where were all the bodies that would normally fill the space?
And, if course, as we were about as important as slugs, nobody was going to tell us.

Once we’d secured our duffel bags to the stanchions, we were allow to go up on deck. I do remember there were forty-seven of us. As the bus was designed to hold forty-nine passengers and two seats were vacant, it wasn’t hard to figure out. Anyhow, that gave us freedom of the deck so we wandered around. On the side away from the dock, we could look out over a whole bunch of ships. There were a few sleek destroyers and some other vessels that appeared to be for shipping things (not too hard to guess as one had a bunch of CONEX containers being lowered into a hold. These Container Express things were made of corrugated metal and a very drab olive color. We were all very surprised to see tug boats with US ARMY painted on their smokestacks and crews wearing army fatigues. One skipper wore a floppy officer’s service hat with the distinctive warrant officer insignia. The other tugboat captain wore an equally floppy cap with bright yellow master sergeant stripes. Heck - none of the others had any idea the army had boats and crews. Harold and I did from our engineer mechanic’s school.

The ship had apparently been waiting for our pitiful number to board as the steam whistle high above us blew a couple of blasts that echoed back from across the oily water of the harbor. The tugboats replied and great swirls of foam appeared behind them as they pulled the ship away from the dock.

The tugs towed the ship out into the river and we began our voyage. We passed the Statue of Liberty and I thought how neat it was to see something given us by the people of the country I was going to spend the next two and a half years serving in.

Fair weather blessed us as we sailed down the east coast. At last, a crewman informed us we were on our way to Savannah, Georgia where we’d load troops from the 3rd Infantry Division on their way to Germany.

I had no idea which side of the boat was Port and which was Starboard. I did know what the bow and stern were. If the left side was Port, why should it be called that when we sailed south and the coastal ports were on our right side? Yes, I looked it up. Starboard comes from an old word for the side the boat was steered on and, as most were right-handed, they steered from the right side of the boat.

The waves didn’t rock the boat too much. But the side-to-side motion was a lot more unnerving than meeting them head on. We, of course, had plenty to do. The military cannot let soldiers idle, so there was more than a few things to keep us busy. First was cleaning and mopping our sleeping areas, along with the head. As there were just a few of us, we ate in a dining area on the deck-level looking out to sea. That meant we took turns doing Kitchen Police; washing pots and pans, peeling spuds, serving the others and all the things needed to keep the kitchen area clean to military standards. Thank goodness there wasn’t anyone else but us as we ate where the sailors did.

Basic training and the advanced school accustomed me to coffee. There was milk and soft drinks provided, but I first broke with my Mormon upbringing against drinking things with caffeine soon after arriving at Fort Ord for basic training. Army coffee had been powerful, but that on the ship was about as high octane as any I’d had. I also learned the secret of military coffee making when I watched a cook add eggshells to the coffee grounds in the massive coffee urns.

The food was far from haute cuisine. However, it was plentiful and nourishing. We ate on steel trays, passing down a line while the cooks and KPs slopped ladles of food into the various compartments.

The voyage didn’t last that long. As the sun rose the next morning, the ship
shoreward and we watched a small speedboat pull up next to the ship. We were told it was the harbor pilot and he quickly climbed the ladder thrown over the side. We then slowly sailed up a river that narrowed as we moved inland. The skyline of Savannah couldn’t compare to The Big Apple.

Civilian tugboats came alongside to nudge the ship against the docks. There were two other ships upriver from us and cranes busily lifted huge, corrugated steel CONEX containers on board. We watched transfixed as they began to lift tanks, armored personnel carriers, Jeeps and trucks from flat railcars into the holds of the ships. As each item was unloaded, their crews grabbed up their duffel bags and marched to one of the two gangplanks to our ship.

We also watched as the two masts of our ship turned into cranes to load endless boxes and crates into holds fore and aft. They contained food and the rest of the stuff to take care of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of soldiers boarding.

It immediately became apparent the few of us who were not members of the 3rd Infantry Division were in for a long, difficult voyage. A three-striper sergeant (the next to lowest noncom rank) led his squad into our bay and immediately decided he wanted our area near the head (bathroom). We had to move our things to an area far from anything convenient. Tour moves continued with the arrival of other groups until we ended up in the least inviting space in the bay.

Loading proceeded quickly and we spent only one night tied to the dock. Division cooks quickly took over the various dining facilities and we instantly found ourselves on KP - again at the direction of a staff sergeant. Our bay held one infantry company so we were under the thumb of a crusty first sergeant who did not look kindly upon non-infantry types. His brown Ike Jacket was loaded with rows upon rows of ribbons showing he’d served in War Deuce, as well as Korea.

As the name refers, this jacket was designed by General Eisenhower during WWI and became standard when I enlisted. Yes, we wore the same brown uniforms with brown boots.

I was fortunate to be one of four of us topside when it came time to sail late the next day.

Our time topside and at the rails became drastically curtailed. As a kid, I had seen lots of movies and newsreels that showed how rough and difficult crossing the Atlantic could be. Fortunately, it was April and the weather treated us kindly. We encountered no storms. (At least from Mother Nature.)

I have learned great respect for those who serve in the combat branches of the military. However, as a brand new, green recruit with two scrolls showing I was a fully qualified repairman of very complicated and large building machine, that was far from my thoughts. The guys surrounding me were a bunch of “ground-pounders” with no skills besides marching and digging holes in the ground. It was made worse by the total disdain exhibited by the grunts against us few clerks and grease monkeys. 

However, the voyage was far from boring - at least for me. I learned military customs and law in boyhood. It came when I was a Boy Scout. I understood the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and that it was a big NO-NO to talk back to a soldier of senior rank. However, I also had (have?) a bit of a temper. It flairs quickly and subsides just as fast.

I had a day off from what seemed to be constant KP or latrine duty. I made the mistake of not leaping out of bed when Revile sounded. My endearing Buck Sergeant came along and kicked me through the bottom of my cot, screaming at me to hit the deck.

I boiled. I slowly rose and looked him straight in the eye and said, “You are an ignorant, illegitimate offspring of a female canine.” I then turned to gather my clothing.

“What did you call me?” he screamed. When I didn’t repeat it, he turned to one of his grunts and asked what I’d said. “He called you a stupid bastard son of a bitch, Sarge,” he said.

My fellow transients (as we were called) covered their smiles, but some of the sergeant’s fellow grunts who didn’t hold him in very high esteem, snickered loudly, some even laughing.

The sergeant turned beet red, clenched his fist and ordered me to follow him, not letting me put on anything beyond my skivvies but my combat boots. He marched me to his platoon sergeant, told him what he’d been told I’d said and demanded I be punished for it.

In any other situation, the most it would have earned me was nonjudicial punishment levied by the company commander. It would probably have resulted in confinement to quarters and maybe a fine. However, as we were aboard ship and I wasn’t assigned to any element of the division, the legal types determined I had to appear before a Summary Courts Martial.

The sergeant stood to one side as a major read the charges and asked if I was guilty or not. One of the division’s lieutenants had been appointed as my defense and advised me to keep my mouth shut and let him talk. He pled guilty with mitigating circumstances, indicating the sergeant had kicked me out of sleep. I was asked to repeat the words and told him I couldn’t remember them. He asked the sergeant and he couldn’t repeat them either. Someone had made a statement and that was read into the record.

The end result was losing my pretty yellow private first class stripe, having two-thirds of my pay forfeited for three months and an additional three months restriction to base. All for telling off an ignorant, acting three-stripe sergeant.

From that time forward, the sergeant’s superior kept a close eye on me. I got every crappy job and detail possible. I learned the fine art of chipping thick layers of paint from metal, sanding it clean, then repainting it with the same ugly dull color. I discovered why old movies showed sailors on their knees rubbing the decks with stones - it’s to make the deck less slippery when it gets wet.

The good thing about working the decks was being outside the ship’s holds and the growing aroma of human bodies crowded together. 

Entering the English Channel was a milestone for all - especially me as it meant my torture was nearing an end. We could barely see the famous White Cliffs of Dover off to the west.

Crossing the Atlantic hadn’t been all that rough. But, the Channel was choppy and it rained from the moment we entered until we sailed into the North Sea to turn towards Bremerhaven, Germany. I’d never seen a major harbor before and couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of that major German seaport. New York’s harbor was tiny in comparison. Ships beyond count sailed in and out. Endless piers with cranes busily loaded and unloaded ships. I quickly appreciated the skill it took to guide an ocean-going vessel through the traffic to a relatively small pier.

As the division troops had to wait for their equipment to be offloaded, we transients were first off the ship. They bussed us to another replacement depot where we were blessed by a night of sleeping on a double-tiered bunk in an environment that didn’t constantly move. The mess hall food was military-standard, but didn’t smell of diesel fuel and seawater.

We lined up early the next morning after breakfast and Harold and I first learned our destination - first stop, Saintes, then to some place further south called Landes de Bussac. There was even a map on the wall to show it was near a big city called Bordeaux.

We were led to a platform next to a train with US ARMY TRANSPORTATION CORPS boldly splattered on the cars!
So, the army not only had a navy, but trains too?

Welcome to Europe! Welcome to Germany! We sat, glued to the windows, watching the new world pass by. With only a bit over a decade since the end of the war, the rebuilding amazed us. Houses and buildings were laden with flower boxes bursting with colorful blooms. Clean streets dominated the vista and we saw no trash lying around. It was everything I’d expected.

Then, the train stopped and our car was disconnected and switched to a French locomotive. We had to wait while French policemen came through the cars followed by US Military Police. Why on earth did they have to inspect us? Who did they expect to be on a US military train? (I also noticed they didn’t seem to know the regular use of bathing facilities.)

The change in the countryside shocked me. The houses and buildings were a gloomy, sooty gray and I saw signs of destruction left over from the war. The French wore drab clothes. There wasn’t a single Bridget Bardot or her equal anywhere in sight. In fact, I quickly learned that most of the women we encountered had not yet become accustomed to the regular use of a razor. I also rapidly became aware of why perfume and cologne had been invented.

Welcome to the land of boors, snobs and drab colors. What an end to my first ocean voyage.

The End - and I hope you enjoyed it!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

PART IX - On to Advanced Training

It was a strange bus ride home from Fort Ord. Duple knew how angry I was with her and we spoke little during the long ride. We stopped once or twice to stretch and eat. Otherwise, she stared out at the passing countryside while I did something all soldiers are trained to do - take advantage of the chance to sleep and rest.

Basic training changed everything for me at home. The house was the same, the neighbors greeted me as if I hadn’t been away, and I got some smiles for wearing my uniform. And, everyone greeted me with handshakes and hugs when I went to church. The youths I'd know were now grown up and had far different interests.

But, the biggest change came when I went out to Redlands. Having no car, I had to take the Greyhound. The people were nice and the Lunts waited for me at the bus station. The other guys my age were gone but the young gathered around, curious about what it had been like to go through basic. However, the greatest change was at the Wednesday evening social event. None of my old buddies were there! Ned and Donald were up in Utah attending college and Tom was involved in working with his father. And, the girls, while very nice, had their eyes on other guys.

Against my will, I made the visit I dreaded; with the man I had thought was my father. Jack [he was no longer Dad to me] and Kit were far more interested in their little girl. Patty looked at me as a big brother but that didn't ease the anger and hurt I felt at having been lied to.

    It was with a great deal of relief that I packed my things and headed for LAX. I had never flown in anything but the WWII trainer my mother and her boyfriend had died in. The Boeing-C7 looked impressive out of the window of the terminal. But, the sleek Connie caught my eye. Something about the three rudders and aerodynamic nose spoke of safety and speed. Even then, boarding the more mundane Boeing was enough of an adventure.

I seem to remember our landing twice on the way to Washington, D.C. - I have no idea where. I was seated next to a man who'd served in Korea and he was extremely nice to a new recruit, as he could tell from my uniform. He gave up his window seat so I could sit transfixed to catch glimpses of the country passing below through breaks in the clouds.

Arriving at Washington National Airport told me right away my vacation was over and I was back in the army. A huge sign directed all military personnel to a particular section of the terminal. Once there, another sign segregated the officers from the enlisted personnel. A Specialist Five grumbled for a copy of my orders, then pointed me to a waiting area. “A bus for Fort Belvoir will be here at thirteen hundred hours. Make sure you're on it.”

The area was run by the USO and had a lot of amenities for military personnel. There were all sorts of military types there; Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. We tended to gather in our own groups and I found the ones waiting to go to Belvoir. We chatted about where we came from and, when I said Redlands, one of the guys grinned and came over, offering his hand. “I'm from Redding. Everybody gets the two mixed up.”

His name was Harold and I had no idea then we'd be spending well over two years together.
I'd been to the Washington area a couple of years earlier with my Boy Scout Troop so it wasn't that strange to me. The bus arrived and we all loaded on, Harold and I sitting next to each other. I was able to point out a few things as we drove, even remembering where Mount Vernon was. 

Of even greater surprise was learning Harold and I would attend the same school for Engineer Equipment Maintenance. He had worked on such stuff in his hometown, growing up in an area with a lot of timber.

Advanced Individual Training (AIT) was far different from Basic in many ways. But, in others, it was similar. Daily PT followed by breakfast, then off to class. I must tell you that, although it's been a whole lot of years, I remember how well the material was presented to us.

We not only had classroom work but they actually took us out into the field and taught us how to operate each piece of equipment. To me, that was the best part of all. The reason was simple – how could we fix 'em if we didn't know what they were supposed to do?

And the classroom work was also hands-on as pieces of equipment were laid out before us and we took them apart and put them back together. It was like learning to field strip a rifle. We only took them apart enough to clean, oil and replace the major parts.

Barracks life was somewhat different but we still stood foot and wall locker inspections, had GI Parties cleaning the area to include latrines, pulled Sentry Duty and – yes! - Kitchen Police. But, we were there to learn how to fix some serious pieces of equipment and that was what they had us concentrate on.

Harold and I graduated one/two from the class and were selected to go on to more advanced training. And then, I got an introduction to something my life in Southern California had not prepared me for – a major, road-closing snow storm. I awakened in the middle of the night to visit the latrine. I glanced out of the barracks window, amazed to see nothing but white. It wasn't that cold inside but someone went into the basement and fired up the oil-fueled heater.

We couldn't fall out for Revile as the snow had piled up and sealed the ground floor doors shut. Some guys from upstairs went down the outside staircase where someone from the post engineers met them with shovels. They had used bulldozers to clear snow from the streets. As soon as we got out, we were put to work with snow shovels. Even with hundreds of us working, it took at least a couple of hours before we could make our way to the mess hall.

It continued to snow all day, that night and the next two days. We had heavy overcoats, boots and gloves so more than a thousand soldiers were kept busy shoveling sidewalks and roads. The rough part as the entire fort was cut off from the rest of the area. Virginia state workers couldn't clear the major highway so lots and lots of civilians were stranded.

And yes, the mess halls ran low on food to cook. So, a warehouse was opened and we all ate K-Rations and C-Rations. At least we had the mess halls to heat our food and drink.

Harold and a lot of the others just shrugged it off. Ah yes – Army life.

Once everything was cleared away, it stopped snowing and we went back to learning how to be heavy construction equipment mechanics. Once again, Harold and I finished numbers one and two in the class. We even learned we were being sent to Europe to the same outfit. We didn't know where only that it was a separated platoon of an Engineer Field Maintenance Company.

Off to Europe!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The hospital was located in the older part of Fort Ord where the in-processing center was. The buildings were converted WWII barracks with ramps connecting them.

I spent the first couple of days in bed, a tube stuck in my arm with something dripping into my veins from one of those plastic bags hung on a wheeled metal pole. I wore one of those stupid robes that tie in the back and leave your buns open to the whole world. I had blue cotton robe to put over that and blue slippers so I could make my way to the latrine.

There were three of us to start but it didn’t take long until the ward was full and they had to expand it to the one next door. As nobody quite understood what was wrong with us, we were quarantined and the staff wore masks. Fortunately, some docs came from a lab back east and quickly diagnosed us as having a new and very virulent version of influenza. That’s when we first heard of Asian Flu.

It wasn’t a case of lying around and doing nothing. Even with the IV’s in our arms, we were expected to keep things clean to include mopping the floors and daily exchanging our linen. We had a color television set and plenty of books. A community area had card tables with lots of game and puzzles. That’s where I learned more about Pinochle and thought I knew how to play poker. [I soon learned I didn’t!]

The hardest part of the whole thing was the regular blood-letting. The nurses came through three times a day to take blood samples. I never knew there were so many places to find veins from which to take my blood. And, I remember more than once actually sticking the needle into my own veins to draw blood when the nurse was busy with another patient.

They released me - at last. Of course, my original company had graduated so I was sent to another, one week along in the cycle.

I'd exercised once the IV was gone. Most of that was walking the endless halls with occasional things like sit-ups and push-up. So, I wasn’t that out of shape. Within a day or so, I was back up to speed with the daily calisthenics.

The new Drill Sergeant was very different than my first - he got right in your face and let loose a string of epithets to turn one’s ears red. I had no idea such profanity existed - difficult after having heard it from the adults I grew up around.

At least he spotted my proficiency with the Manual of Arms. He assigned me to the company drill team where I learned some of the truly fancy moves such as the one below.

They, of course, didn’t start us out with bayonets on our weapons! That would’ve been suicide.

When they at last took us to the rifle range, I was not surprised when I managed to qualify as an Expert. That earned me the right to familiarize myself with the M-1 Carbine and I also qualified Expert with that.

The rest of training went without a problem. My time on the ranch helped me to go through all the other stuff such as crawling through The Pit, on our backs with our weapons on our chest, going under barbed wire with a machine gun firing live rounds over us. I looked forward to going through the field exercises and training. And, when they got to the point of taking us on five and ten mile hikes, I enjoyed them.

If it hadn’t been for latrine duty, kitchen police and guard duty, basic training was almost enjoyable.

The best thing about basic was making friends. Not only with the guy in the bunk above or below, but the rest of the squad and platoon.

This is where I’m going to show one of my major failings - I can’t, for the life of me, remember the names of any of the guys I served with! I can close my eyes and see their faces. I can remember us doing things together. It becomes worse as I think towards the end of my military career but we won’t go through that here.

[The above is only an example of the uniform I wore. The patch on the shoulder was different at Fort Ord but is the one I wore at Fort Belvoir. I know I had to look that young and it makes me smile. Ah but the years go by so fast!]

This is the Sixth US Army shoulder patch.

At last, it came time to complete our training. I was very surprised when Duple [the woman I’d known all my life as my grandmother] showed up. She’d ridden the Greyhound bus up from Los Angeles and was in the stands for the graduation ceremony. I’d already packed my things and had my orders to the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvoir. So, once the parade was over, I gathered up my duffel bag and went with her on an army bus to downtown Monterey. There were several buses that went each graduation day to the bus terminals [Trailways also operated back then], the train station and the airport.

Step One was over. Now on to the next!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

News and New Stuff

Well, after holding my breath, I opened my email this morning and there was a contract from Bluewood Publishing, Ltd. I read it carefully and found the terms more than satisfactory. Not only are they seeking world wide digital format [ebook] but also print rights. I gladly signed and sent it back, along with a lot of the information they needed to start on Father Serra's Legacy, Book One, The Sailor and The Carpenter, El Marinero y El Caprintero.

The part that caught me by surprise was a requirement that I have software that does Change Tracking. Huh? What's that?

I've been using word processors since the late 1970's and computers since the early 1980's. I bought a PC with XP, then upgraded to this one with Vista [Yeah, I know - I need to upgrade to 7] and work with MSWord daily. I never HEARD of Change Tracking and my software doesn't have it! 

Well, thank you Google Search. First thing I found was that it's a feature of Microsoft Office - which I don't have and can't afford to upgrade to. Then, it showed something I've seen people refer to but never really paid attention to - Open Office. Well, I checked it out, and as it's FREE[!!]. I downloaded it.


There it was. The help menu makes it quite easy and I now know how to compare two different documents to see the changes and even how to merge one with the other. A few of the control commands are a bit different but I notice it actually takes up less space than MSWord or WordPad.

Now, it's a case of converting my working files to Open Office so I can use it on a regular basis.

If any of you use it and have tips/suggestions, feel free to comment and perhaps you will not only help me but a lot of others who use it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

News Releases and New Publisher

I listed the following on various writing forums but wanted to put it up here for my other followers. Each of these sites will send out FREE press releases. Each guides you along BUT YOU need to prepare the blurb to attract various people to the work you're announcing. I sent one out for Lost Wages in Las Vegas and just have to wait to see what, if any, responses I get. Here they are:
Press Method
Free Press Release Center
24-7 Press Release

Click Press
1888 Press Release
Free Press Release
Express Press Release
PR dot com

I would also like to tell everybody that I am going to have a second publisher. While I've been very happy with XOXO Publishing, I just didn't feel right about having them publish my trilogy, Father Serra's Legacy. I contacted a publisher who expressed a desire to publish it and received a reply, "Will send contract as soon as I receive the manuscript." I sent it, as well as telling XOXO I was withdrawing it from the consideration. Their reaction - Good Luck. Just hope you're dealing with a reputable publisher. When I told them it was Bluewood Publishing Ltd., they were pleased. Check 'em out!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Final Draft - Sonora Symphony

Well, it looks like this is the "final draft" of the cover.
Can anyone spot the minor quirk in it?
The most important to me was getting rid of the Purple Cowboy and replacing him with a soldier - as that who the main character of the story is. Even the cell phone fits in a bit as he bought one at the Base Exchange.
The Saguaro signifies the Sonora Desert and Brother Coyote is singing to his family.

Here's a short blurb of the story:

Staff Sergeant RAY DANIELS,  a modern Cherokee warrior, uses a traditional dream snare to blot out the memories of his brothers-in-arms spilling their blood in a Taliban ambush he believed he should have stopped. A Papago Indian Elder helps Ray call upon his spirit helpers to heal his body, but they are unable to mend his bruised soul. A Cherokee healer assists the Elder and several Papago folk healers to lead Ray through an extremely dangerous rite using Sacred Datura in which Elder Brother, I´itoi an ancient Papago spirit, shows him his past -- and restores his future.

An editor has been assigned I think I will be able to work with - he's teaching US Marines stationed in Okinawa and should understand military personnel. Looks like things are moving along.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sigh. Me and Dermatologists

 Growing up in Southern California with blond hair and light skin, I did what the vast majority of the other kids did - hung out at the beach with no thought of anything but getting a nice tan. And, when I lived on a ranch, I spent hours doing chores or mowing hay or moving irrigation pipes with no shirt and no hat.

Now, I'm paying for it.

I've been most fortunate to have a series of skin doctors who knew what they were doing and found and removed the nasty cancer cells before they grew wild. [I was going to show a picture of one but they are all too icky to force upon all of you.]

So, this morning I found myself once again in a doctor's chair. The most painful part of the entire procedure is when the nurse jabs the skin on my forehead to inject the painkiller. For some reason, needles in the face hurt more than anywhere else on the body. When it came to the actual surgery, I felt nothing and the doctor - a new one as it was a special procedure called Mohs - was quick and efficient. But, because of the type and location, I spent an hour in the waiting room watching some stuff on TV that really teed me off while they sent it to a lab to see if he'd gotten it all.

He didn't. Back to the chair, more injections, another wait, one more surgery and another hour in that blasted, cold doctor's office to see if this time he'd got it all.

Ever wonder why doctor's offices and hospitals are so cold? It's to reduce the growth of germs and viruses.

Al last, I unsteadily walked out - the result of the anesthesia - with a big bandage on my forehead and an appoint for next week to go through it again.

I've lost count of the number I've had. But, I also constantly say my thanks to whoever it is watching over me that it's not yet the really serious stuff. How many suffered before we had the advances of today's medicine?

It also makes my Mexican wife relieved that her naturally darker skin protects her, her children and her fellow Hispanics from the same condition. Now to get a bit mystic here. Ever wonder just how little things like having darker skin in sub- and tropical regions protects one from strong sun while light skin derives from northern climes where the sun isn't as strong?

One little aside - I just learned that following my fellow bloggers using Google Reader DOESN'T increase the number of page views on those blogs!!!! It only counts if I actually click on and visit the blog. So, my apologies to all and, starting today, it's actually visiting your blogs.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A cover Already!

It's only been less than a month since I signed a contract with XOXO Publishing and their artist sent me a book cover to review. Here it is -

It really blows me away as it covers ALL the main points of the novel. Brother Coyote howling at Mother Moon signals it is night in the desert when all the creatures big and small come forth to hunt. The Saguaro cacti show it's in the Sonora Desert and there's my main character, savoring the symphony of the desert night.

I don't wish to speak badly of my other publisher for this novel but, after almost a year and a half, they hadn't even gotten to the cover. I'm still waiting to hear from my editor. But, if he/she is as conscientious as this artist, I'm really looking forward to working with him/her.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lost Wages in Las Vegas

The new, completely revised edition is now available - much cheaper - as follows:
In paperback at CreateSpace.
at Kindle 
at Nook 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Our Pledge of Allegiance

This morning, on my favorite Sunday morning radio show on KCYE , 102.7 fm, the Coyote, Country Chuck's Country Legends, I heard once again the folowing and wanted to share it this day before our wonderful nation's birthday.

"Boys and girls, I have been listening to you recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it appears that it has become monotonous to you or could it be you do not know the meaning of those words. If I may, I would like to recite the Pledge and give to you a definition of the words.
I----meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.
Pledge----dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.
Allegiance----my love and my devotion.
To the Flag----our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there is respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job.
Of the United----that means that we have all come together.
States----individual communities that have united into 48 great states. 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose, all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common cause, and that's love of country.
Of America.
And to the Republic----a republic, a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands!
One nation----meaning, so blessed by God.
Indivisible----incapable of being divided.
With Liberty----which is freedom and the right of power to live one's life without threats or fear or any sort of retaliation.
And justice----The principle and quality of dealing fairly with others.
For all.----which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine."

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our nation, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance "under God." Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said, "That's a prayer" and that would be eliminated from schools, too?

If you want to learn more about this exceptional comic/artist, check out here.

Country Chuck's Country Legends show can be listened to on your computer by a stream from the radio station site  It starts 6am PDT every Sunday morning and will also air. tomorrow, July 4th.