Monday, May 30, 2011

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Throughout my twenty-plus years in the US Army and since, I have had the privilege of serving with and knowing a lot of men and women in uniform who served from Europe and the Pacific during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
US Communications Zone, Europe [France]

I served during the time when many in uniform were there against their will at the behest of the Selective Service System. The vast majority of them served with honor and did their best to live up to their oath of office. Some of the bravest were Conscientious Objectors who worked and accepted the role of volunteering to participate in medical research. They knew and understood that their actions would not only help military personnel but civilians all over the world. Medical advances we take for granted today came through the participation of those men. Most amazingly, they served at the Presidio of San Francisco during the height of the Anti-War Movement and not one single one of them dishonored their oath or uniform to participate.
 Sixth United States Army
I've served with commissioned and warrant officers of all grades and types. Some came from Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, others through Officer Candidate School and many were "Ring Knockers," graduates of the US Army Military Academy. I know more than a few crusty old Warrant Officers who'd come up through the ranks and others fresh out of chopper school.
3rd Infantry Division
The vast majority of them were professional, patriotic individuals who proudly wore their uniforms. There were, of course, a few who thought more of themselves and their careers than those they served with or had serving under them. They were certainly the minority.
I am proud to have worn the uniform. I feel honored to have served with and under such good men and women. 
Military District of Washington
So, I ask all who read this to do what I do whenever I meet a servicemember, simply say "Thank you." You have no idea just what that means to them.

Thank you!
 [some of the shoulder patches I wore]  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Writing When You Finished - But Aren't


So, I finished revising, reviewing and editing the second novel of my Father Serra's Legacy trilogy - quite happy with the final result, if I say so.
Sent off a short story about military life to a publisher who wanted to see it.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed, waiting to hear from the six publishers considering two of my novels.
Waiting to see and review proof copies of novels I uploaded to CreateSpace for paperback publication.
Have another novel outlined and know where it's going - but, I find it hard to open the file to work on it.
What in the world do I do now?????



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blood in the Meadows - Excerpt






Today's post in an excerpt of Blood in the Meadows, one of the novels I have on Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel. {Check the page for direct links}

It is a thank you - and teaser - for all of you who have accepted my inviation to drop in here. Every time I look at the count, it warms my heart.

*     *     *

Calmate, Roberto. The money makes it all worthwhile. She is young and will get over it.”
    The gunman looked at his friend and didn’t say a word. He knew it would do no good. Girls meant nothing in his society, only something to be used. Their age counted little.
    However, the abused girl was Roberto’s baby sister and he had looked after her from the time she lay in her crib. In addition, she looked up to him with total trust.
    I have betrayed her. She will never be the same and will remember this terrible time forever.
    The fact that she would have a huge amount of money for her future did not count.
    How can that arrogant pig desire a baby?  His wealth gives him any woman he wants. Why my little Magdalena?
    Roberto blamed himself. His Highness had ranted through the suite, demanding better food and wine. He quickly tired of the five call girls brought to him, finding them insufficient for his voracious appetite.
    And, to make matters worse, he used a great deal of the white powder, something no sane drug dealer did.
    Nobody dared complain or even suggest he acted wrongly. He was, unfortunately, the only son of The Don, the heir to the drug empire. He instantly killed anybody who dared confront him or even hint at anything out of the ordinary.
    Roberto had made the huge mistake of looking at Magdalena’s picture in the suite. Unaware of Olegario’s presence, he was startled when a hand appeared over his shoulder to take the picture from him.
    “Roberto, what a sweet little angel,” the Colombian’s voice cooed. “I would be honored to meet her. Perhaps we could play together?”
    Roberto struggled to contain his feeling of horror. He knew all too well what Olegario meant by the word play. Santa Maria, ayuda mi, por favor, he silently pled, pleading for Saint Mary to help him. “I am so sorry, Señor, but she is at school at the moment.”
    Once Olegario set his mind on something, he would not waver. He ordered Roberto to follow as he left the suite with his bodyguard and took the elevator to the basement garage where his big Mercedes waited. He demanded and Roberto told him the location of the school.
    Poor, sweet, innocent Magdalena could not see the evil in the man who smiled and invited her to enter the impressive vehicle with her big brother. She did not see the horrid lust in the man’s eyes as he undressed her with his eyes.
    Olegario order the driver to take them to Circus Circus where, with Roberto close behind, he gave the little girl anything she wanted. They spent several hours in the arcade and an equal amount of time on the rides.
    At Olegario’s order, Roberto called home to tell his mother that he had his sister with him and, biting his tongue under Ernesto’s glare, explained she was okay and perfectly safe.
    Roberto almost collapsed when they returned to the suite.
    As he took the little girl’s hand and led her into the master suite, Olegario softly said, “She will have enough money to live very well for many, many years.”
    That did not ease the pain and hate filling Roberto’s heart. It might cost him his life but, at the first opportunity, he would stop the terrible abuse of his sister. Forever.
    *     *     *
    The team formed up several blocks from the tower. Once again the damned Feds had stepped in to take the limelight - and glory. Another bragging right for their vaunted War on Drugs that produced results more like minor skirmishes.
    All the agents and cops wore flak vests, helmets with visors, and as much body armor that they could carry. They carried AR-16s, considered almost as good as the weapons Velez described the guards in the suite carrying. Each individual possessed the grainy photograph available for Ernesto Olegario, including explicit instructions not to hit him with a fatal shot.
    “I don’t care what it takes,” Caruso told them. “We want this guy alive. He knows a lot and we might be able to get something out of him before he gets all lawyered up.”
    “Not likely.” Chambers grumbled to himself. “He’ll be out of jail before we can finish booking him.”
    Uniformed officers secured the building guards, claiming that a wanted killer had been seen entering the building. Two of Olegario’s people stationed in the garage were quickly silenced, but only after a minor skirmish.
    The team raced up the ten flights of stairs, avoiding the elevators. The thought that a guard might see the numbers moving and would be alerted without a call from the security people down below. They silently slipped into the vestibule, one pair stationed in front of the door to the other luxury suite.
    One of the attackers slid a spy lens under the door, quickly scanning the interior of the suite. He raised five fingers twice, followed by two, counting twelve guards in various positions within the room. He then pointed in each direction to indicate how many were located where. The special team comprised all ex-military types who’d been through combat and knew full well how to enter hostile spaces. One of them prepared to ram open the doors while two others armed flash bang grenades.
    The entry went flawlessly.
    No sooner did the door go down than four blinding explosions filled the room with light and noise - completely disabling the guards.
    But . . .
    As the squad entered, two guards burst out of the room holding the coke, their automatic weapons blazing. Two agents went down, hurt but not wounded due to their Kevlar vests.
    “The master suite!” Caruso yelled, directing two of his men in that direction.
    At that instant, the door to the master suite burst open and a man came out. It was Ernesto Olegario, wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
    “I give up!” he screamed. “Do not shoot me!  I . . .”
    He was cut short as one of the stunned guards seemed to clear his mind, half-rose and, with a scream of pure hate, emptied nine rounds into Olegario.
    The receiver barely locked on empty when bullets from several agents spun Roberto around, driving him to the floor.
    Time seemed frozen until a little girl, naked, ran from the master suite to the dead guard. She dropped to her knees next to the dying man and screamed. “Roberto! ¡Madre de Dios! (Mother of God) Roberto, don‘t die.”
    Robert’s eyes brightened as he saw his sister’s tear-stained face. Slowly, a smile formed around the dribble of blood and he gurgled, “He will hurt you no longer, mi Hija.” The veil of death descended upon his eyes.
The child buried her face in her brother’s bloody chest and would not let go of him. 
    A female agent had been assigned specifically to deal with the child and quickly moved to the girl on the floor. She wrapped a blanket around her and tried to console her. It only took another three or four minutes until the emergency medical people arrived and took the girl into their care.
    “Ah shit!”
    The team’s sergeant looked at Caruso in surprise. He’d never heard the agent swear.
    After calming down a bit, the DEA man took out his cell phone and made a call. When someone at the other end answered, Caruso identified himself. “I’m sorry, Sir, but Olegario was terminated by one of his own people. He was surrendering when the guard shot him. We are certain he was the girl‘s brother.”
    The conversation after that was brief.
    The coroner had seven bodies to deal with. The other five severely wounded men were taken to the county hospital’s jail ward.
    The two agents who’d been shot suffered only severe bruises.
    They evacuated the child to the same hospital where an examination revealed she had been repeatedly violated and drugged. She would not stop crying and praying for her brother.

*     *     *

Next post will be an except from another.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oops!

What a horrible title that was!  So, yeah, I just fixed it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oops!

Just found my last post was wiped out when Blogger went nuts!
And, as stupid as I am, I didn't save it to my hard disk so I can repeat it.
Ah well - it wasn't that big of a deal.

Cozcacuahtli, the Aztec vulture that ate my post!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Free Classical Books

California Indians had loads of these as pears were plentiful in coastal waters.

Today's is a brief post, a pearl for my friends and followers.


Check out Project Gutenberg for lots of FREE downloads! My favorite series in The Wizard of Oz and I now have every single one stored in my PC.

Check it out and enjoy!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cartier's Ring - A Review

My First Book Review on this blog -

Reviewing other novels is not the purpose I started this blog. But, I pay close attention to those blogs where reviews are given. As I result, I became aware of the above historical novel available on Amazon.com:

Now, of all genres, historical fiction is, by far, my favorite! I think I’ve read every single Horatio Hornblower novel, just about anything I could find on ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome. I’ve read so much pre-historic stuff that I couldn’t even begin to catalogue them. I love the Clan of the Cave Bear author Jean Auel and am thrilled she is coming out with another in the series. The Sarbandes’ First American series is also a favorite as is Sue Harrison. So, the minute I saw the review for this, I had to check it out.

So, okay. I took a long, hard look at the cover. Now, I am certainly not averse to attractive young ladies showing their, er, “attributes.” But, I am wondering at the purpose of this except to draw those seeking prurient content. Then, I realized it was all of those - and more.

I am not saying the natives of North America were prudes in the same sense as the Europeans who came there. But, they were a very practical people and dealt with their climates appropriately. Many natives living in warm/temperate climes wore as much or as little as they needed to be comfortable and do what they needed to survive. Columbus found Carib Indians wearing little or nothing - they didn’t need to. The same held true with tribes in the southeast, southwest and into modern-day Mexico. At the same time, those who lived in milder climes covered themselves to protect again the weather.

What was common wear for those living in the northeast and Canada? Men usually wore loin clothes and leggings to protect themselves from the heavy vegetation. As reported by early explorers, women and young girls wore long-sleeved shifts with knee-length hems. This was not so much for “modesty” as common-sense protection.

As someone pointed out, they also covered themselves with various fats and oils to protect themselves from the massive swarms of biting and stinging insects! In fact the term Red Man comes from the coloring of the various substances they used - not their actual skin tones.

So, why is she wearing a skirt? Ancient Chinese wore something similar to a skirt and Scottish men wore kilts. But, the skirt as such did not appear until the 19th Century in Europe and among the most trendy here in the USA. Therefore, it is totally out of place in the early 1500s, which is the time frame of this novel.

That she carried a bow did not bother me in the least. Indian women often fought alongside their men and there are a lot of stories about how some of the bravest, fiercest - and most cruel - warriors were women.

So then, getting past the cover, I began reading. In general, the writing was acceptable until - I was hit in the face with contractions. I cannot remember a single novel about Native Americans using them. While they were used in ancient Greece, it was not the way the people here in the Americas spoke. It jarred me. Now maybe there are readers who either won’t notice or don’t care but historical fiction and history in general is something I deeply care about.

The next thing came when the word “alright” appeared. This is another modern word - or at least one that comes from Middle English that definitely would not be part of the Indian’s vocabulary. There were several other modern words but I had become sort of numb to them by then.

And then came the names. In books by the authors I mentioned above, authentic names are frequently used - at least to introduce the character. But, to make it easier on the reader, they often show an equivalent that makes sense in English. An example is Amighie for a member of the “First People" in a Harrison novel. But, when appropriate, she gives us something like Knife Maker to make it easier to follow. In this novel, at least as far as I read, that never occurred.

There was a scene when a band of warriors attacked the home village of the heroine. She was not there and it was being shown in the POV of a minor character . Most of the exposition and dialogue is written using passive verbs. “He felt fear.” Instead of “Terror filled him.” I received no sense of the panic at the attack or the strong determination to stand, fight and protect their home and family.

Perhaps Cartier’s Ring will appeal to young readers. Hopefully it will give them a bit of a history lesson on the arrival of the French in Canada. I sincerely hope so. But, I also hope they will not think it is completely factual and take the time to do their own research on the subject.

As for myself, I strongly feel it is my responsibility as an author to be true to the facts of the time and people. It is what I owe my readers. I MUST do my research! I MUST ask questions to get the right perspective. Just because it’s “fiction” does NOT mean it doesn’t have to be factual!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Great Review

An Ancient Mexican Calendar

My thanks to the staff of Writer's Beat Quarterly e-magazine for their review of my e-novel, Blood in the Meadows, which is available on Kindle and Nook
It's a great feeling to know someone likes your work.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Unusual Place to Eat Mexican Food.



There are literally hundreds of Mexican restaurants here in Las Vegas. Among my favorites are:
Lindo Michoacan
Viva Michoacan
Bonito Michoacan
and Viva Zapata
and, of course: Mariscos Las Islitas that serves the best Camarones al la Diabla or The Devil's Shrimp - and I can guarantee it'll bring sweat to the top of your head..

But, much to my surprise, it turns out there's another Mexican restaurant serving decent food and reasonable prices - Cardenas Super Market on the corner of Bonanza and Lamb. We had time this morning and stopped in to grab something to eat. Usually, my wife goes in and brings something back to the car. But, I decided to go in with her. The place is amazing. They have a varied menu at reasonable prices and the atmosphere is most relaxing. You order and pay at the counter and a waitress bring it out to you - in paper plates with plastic utensils. Not exactly posh dining, but the food's good and inexpensive.

If you're in the area, try it out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Buffetting in Las Vegas

  

After more than 30 years in Sin City, I think I've had just about every level and quality of buffet there is. I even remember the cheapie one way back in the early 50s at what became the Hacienda Hotel, then Mandalay Bay.

So, I kind surprised myself when I suggested to my wife that, instead of going to The Egg and I for breakfast - a very nice place with good food and service - I suggested we try the buffet at Boulder Station Hotel and Casino out of Boulder Highway - a real local's place.

It wasn't bad at all. And, the price was certainly right. We paid $6 and change for the both of us! (Of course, we used the tips I give out about how to get the most for your money in Las Vegas in my book Lost Wages in Las Vegas.) The _normal_ price is $13.99 per person, or $27.98 plus tax.

As it turned out, the food wasn't all that bad. Of course, there are only so many ways you can cook eggs, bacon and sausage. Small waffles and pancakes and a variety of toasts and other breads. There was also a large selection of breakfast cereals, both hot and cold. But, it went beyond that. To the far right was the Dessert area with a wide variety of regular and no sugar added pastries. Next was Mexican food, although most of the food we think of as Mexican actually comes from places other than Mexico. My wife liked it because it had a dish called menudo with grits and cow innards that I've never liked. There was another with American, along with the usual carving station of turkey, ham and roast beef. Much to my surprise, it had homemade gravy to go on top of the scalloped potatoes.

As usual, there was the Italian section with lots of pizza. In case you didn't know, Pizza DOES NOT come from Italy. It started in a restaurant in New York City. There was another section with eggs to order, then another with several types of Chinese food.

Need I say that NONE of it was all that warm. The probem with steam tables and heat lamps is that it only keeps stuff tepid.

The next was the salad and fruit table - at least that was kept cold. Several types of lettuce, all sorts of stuff like tomatoes, onions, peppers, hard-boiled eggs and six different dressings. Also a pretty good choice of fruits to include lots of melons.

And the decor isn't all that bad. Lots of tables but booths to keep it from being a big, open barn. The attendants were efficient and it didn't take very long to get seated, even with lots of people in line.

Just a couple of asides. This multi-station buffet started out at the Rio and that particular place topped all the voting for many years. My personal favorite was the one at the Fiesta Casino out on Rancho when George Maloof owned it. He's now at the Palms but we haven't tried his yet. I have a feeling it's probably good.

Over the years, I've only tried one buffet downtown at Binions and a couple on The Strip. Didn't like any of them. I'm certain there are lots of people who have their own favorites both on and off The Strip.

What bothers me most is, what on earth do they do with all that food the pigs who grab up plate after plate then leave it to be taken away? I'd be willing to bet it could feed hundreds of family every day just from ONE casino. As there are FIFTY-SEVEN of them,  that means one heck of a lot of food!