McBride At Rest

McBride At Rest

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanksgiving & 'Nature Red in Tooth and claw'

This little reflection on American history came from a reenacting friend, Terre Hood Beiderman. She does 1860’s civilian reenacting, often as an adjunct to our Civil War military events. Terre is a favorite of mine because she writes well, is quick and laughs at things, and even more because she made a soup-stew of unknown ingredients that saved my hungry buns ten years ago. That stew came unexpectedly on the third day of a four-day campaign reenactment in the ‘Howling Wilderness’ of the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. Here she is at the civilian camp back then feeding a friendly Reb nicknamed ‘Ox,’ while she hides under a period sunbonnet that definitely is not just for show.

The other image is me as a damned tired Yankee private after four nights of sort-of-sleeping on the ground, and four days of marching, doing sham fighting over twenty miles of trails in the Howling Wilderness. My little Honda Civic and the Payday candy bar I’d stashed therein never looked so good or tasted so sweet.

So with that introduction, here is Terre’s Thanksgiving Reflection:
“The feral cats who live in these woods hiss and howl if I look at them, and dodge away. Good. That's part of their job, to not be too friendly. They keep the squirrels under control in the pecan orchard and shoo the birds out of the muscadines and scuppernongs. Occasionally I put some food out if they look too lean, but I do not want them dependent.

This morning, I separated out from this great bird, the liver and lights, heart and neck. I put them on to simmer in a little pot until it all fell to pieces with the poke of a fork, and poured it over some of the dry food. I let the whole thing cool before carrying it out to where I always put out water for the feral cats.

I can see their tails lashing and curling over the unique bounty. Their matriarch stands aside, disdainful of the handout. I saw her with a bunny early this morning, and watched the whole pack knocking squirrels out of trees in yesterday's rain. They do not need this feast, because they work and provide for themselves quite well. The half-grown ones climb higher in the trees than the adults can, knocking squirrels to ground into waiting jaws, then coming down for their share.

Nature red in tooth and claw.

As we celebrate plenty, in a culture that has tipped over into greed and competitive consumption, think also of those who came to this land unprepared, who recorded one winter as The Starving Time, and survived on the humanity of natives, and on hard work.

Like the feral cat outside my window, with the bunny in her jaws, our history is not always pretty. But it's ours. And has something to teach us.”

I asked Terre if I could borrow that short essay for my blog because the feral cats remind me of the early Texas Rangers I wrote about in A Different Country Entirely. Needed and appreciated by grateful civilians, but sometimes you had to ignore the bunny in their jaws.

As for my own after-Thanksgiving post, take a gander at my two grandsons together on our backporch last week. Little Rory is into rolling balls and crawling right now, and his cousin Jackson is all over Thomas the Train these days. But there shall come a time when Grandpa will get them both into Civil War duds with drum sticks in their hands and drums on their hips, beating a marching cadence for me and their dads and Marvin (Rory’s Mama Meredith passing as a male soldier). Hopefully, that'll happen one day while I'm still on the green side of the grass.

Finally, on top of all the other family thanks I had this Thanksgiving, I’m tossing out one more, without an illustration, an omission for which you'll be glad.

I was at a reenactment near Houston the weekend before Thanksgiving, camping, soldiering, and peddling my books. The first cold night I made my old man stumbling trip to the plastic port-a-can at 4:00 am in the darkest dark. Boy, was I surprised and oh-so-grateful that when I pulled the door open to start the ritual of doffing coat, vest and suspenders, and worrying over the chance of my car keys leaving my trouser pocket to fall into you-know-where, a LED light in the ceiling turned on automatically. Unexpected light in time of need is joy, and I was thankful.

This post also marks my blog site passing the 20,000 views mark. Thanks to each of you for that.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Holiday Cavalry Battle

Happy Thanksgiving Holiday!

Since 1999, I’ve spent the weekend before Thanksgiving at a Civil War reenactment just north of Houston at a place called Plantation Liendo. It really was a 2,000 acre plantation during the 1800's, The stately big house was built in 1853 and still stands, shaded by giant pecan trees. During the early days of the Civil War, a Confederate training camp was located on the property. Later, a prisoner of war camp for Union soldiers captured along the Texas coast and in Louisiana was close-by. All to say, Plantation Liendo is a great Texas location for a Civil War reenactment.

The photo is from last weekend’s cavalry skirmish that is a standard part of our sham battles. I’m including it here because with a little ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, it reminds me of the historical fight between Captain Callahan’s mounted Texas Rangers and the Mexican army cavalry they encountered and fought on Mexican soil in 1855. That wild melee fought on horseback is part of the climax of my new novel, A Different Country Entirely.

The reenactor on the far right is a friend, Edward Teniente, whose wife took the photo. The image has riders waving short muskets and shotguns and Colt pistols. Too bad there’s not any lances or swords, but you can still get a feel for how chaotic it must have been when several hundred charging horses met and mingled with the riders shooting at close range and hacking at each other.

In contrast to the bellicose action poses Edward and the two Rebs to his left are displaying, note that the very young Reb facing Edward on the pinto horse in the middle is more tentative, not quite ready to mix it up with all those crazy older guys. That rider probably reflects most soldiers' first battle experience.

Since horses are large dangerous beasts which scare me, I took part in the same battle as a Union infantryman. Here is a photo, also from Mrs. Teniente’s camera, of our company firing a front-rank volley towards our brothers in gray.

One last image of our company before the battle. I like this photo, not because of my snow white beard or dandy red fez, but because I’m next to a young man enjoying his first afternoon as a rifleman in the front rank, instead of being a drummer behind the action. Since my two grandsons are too young to play in our sham battles, I thought of Koal as my surrogate grandson for the hour we were elbow-to-elbow comrades in arms. And he did just fine. He is a spunky kid.

To close with a self-serving comment: With Christmas coming on, please consider buying a McBride novel as a gift for someone. And if, perchance, you have already bought and read any of my novels, a rating and short review left on my Amazon page would make a greatly appreciated gift to me.

Now, eat lots of turkey this Thursday, and when you are out shopping on Black Friday, slip a few dollar bills into the Salvation Army Red Kettle when you pass one.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween and Apaches


I love this day that rolls around about once a year. It’s the day that I can shout out that another McBride novel is for sale on Amazon. That’s today! And in 2017 the day is—October 31---HALLOWEEN!!! Gotcha, didn’t I? J

Trick-or-treating tiny goblins aside, my new story starts in a very Halloween-esque manner with a damned scary meeting between a young newly-wed couple near New Braunfels and a trio of Lipan Apache warriors looking for horses to steal, but perfectly willing to demonstrate their brand of casual savagery when unexpected opportunity presents itself. (I dare not call such a gruesome encounter serendipity)

The new book’s title is A Different Country Entirely and it’s a Texas Ranger novel, quasi-western, quasi-military. It’s the fictional telling of an historical event orchestrated by a cantankerous Texas Ranger captain, James H. Callahan. If you watched the Lonesome Dove TV miniseries, and remember Ranger Captains Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, you have a fair notion of the real Captain Callahan. While my Apache head bad-ass is not named Blue Duck, I have Wild Cat, a Black-Seminole historical bad-ass who raised some hell in South Texas.

As a result of such ongoing depredations, in 1855, Captain Callahan led 115 mounted volunteers-early Texas Rangers—into the forbidden landscape of northern Mexico to find and punish the Apache Indians who had been raping, murdering, burning, stealing, and sometime simply taking women and children in Texas, and then seeking sanctuary across the Rio Grande, the border separating Texas and Mexico.

Callahan’s expedition never confronted the marauding Apaches, but his young Rangers did cross paths with several hundred Mexican soldiers, with very mixed, very violent results. The real historical story is the exciting core of my more far-reaching personalized retelling and elaboration of the recorded factual expedition. 

Even with a Halloween Book Opening, there are no ghosts or vamps or were-beasts. It is historical fiction about Texas Rangers, after all. But there is a lot of action and a candid look at Texas in 1855, which was not a place for the weak of heart— absolutely A Different Country Entirely.

The paperback for $15 from Amazon would make a Christmas present that will keep someone in your family saying, “What? Sorry, I was reading,” during the holidays. Promise. And there’s a Kindle download for you for $5 so you can be the distracted one. Double Dog Promise.

Here’s the long, but direct, link to the page on Amazon:

I hope you'll take a look on Amazon. Try the "Look Inside" feature for a jump-start about those bad Apaches. You will immediately find yourself in midst of a something that will twist your innards.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Texas Ranger Captains or Navy Captains

I've just finished reading the hardback book I bought at our Lockhart Evening With the Authors fund-raising event. It's the first in a series of 1800's US Navy adventure novels, The Shores of Tripoli.

Just for fun, I'm throwing out some comparisons of the The Shores of Tripoli to my about-to-be self-published novel about the Texas Rangers in 1855--A Different Country Entirely.

I paid $28 plus tax for the Tripoli novel I bought from the Barnes and Noble table at the event, and it was published by Putnam Co. His book is going through a gatekeeper publishing house, and mine is going directly from my house to Amazon. No gatekeeper, no national distribution.

I'll charge $15 on Amazon for A Different Country Entirely. His Kindle edition is $14, and I'll charge $4 or $5. We'll both be on Amazon, but I'll only be on Amazon, and he'll be in Barnes and Nobles stores and libraries nationwide   He'll sell thousands of copies, maybe tens of thousands. I'll sell dozens, maybe hundreds.

I sat with James Haley, the author of the Tripoli book for over an hour as his table host, so I heard him say quite a  few things. Among them that he was contacted and contracted by Putnam to write the six-book series--one book a year, which is the pace I've been writing, editing, and publishing my 'craft' novels while I enjoy retired life.

I hope you might read both books with an eye for how they are similar and different.

Here's my own take: I think A Different Country Entirely compares darned well with his Tripoli book. Little modest unbiased me. 

While my main character is a young early Texas Ranger off on a politically complicated, ill-advised mission into a forbidden land, his main character is a young US Navy officer off on a politically complicated, ill-advised mission into forbidden waters--and land.
We both sent our main character to rescue maidens fair taken by the indigenous people of the desert. And surprise, both succeed, his with benefits, mine not so much.

I think my characters, historical and fictional, are as robust as his, and I think my dialogue is better. His characters speak as authors wrote in the early 1800's--more formally and sometimes stilted. My characters speak as I've heard Texans speak since the 1950's.

He covers more macro-history context, but almost lectures it from time to time.

I think I do better at painting a feel for the details of the main character's environment while on the military missions, but maybe not.

We both only included only one sex scene, and both scenes are to provide a sympathetic character an introduction to the joy of sex by a willing young women in an odd situation, and both scenes somewhat stretch things.

We both get mileage from anecdotes about farting. (Some men never grow up. Instead we write adventure novels.)

Both stories have a likable character who is a military officer son of a wealthy North Carolina plantation owner who defends the practicality of slavery to his main character friend.

Both have military captains--mine of Texas Rangers, his of warships--who are flawed and aggressive and self-promoting as they blunder along more or less doing what their political bosses want.

Both have slave characters who are smart and likable. Mine has a larger role.

Both novels are definitely from a white American male perspective of the world and don't wash out the racism that permeated our culture in the 1800's. His is quite critical of the Arab world through the lens of the American navy officers, with a shot or two at the British. Mine reflects the Texas Rangers' casual violence towards Mexicans, Blacks, and Native Americans, with a gig or two at the French and German settlers in Texas as well.

Both use subterfuge to lure the enemy close. He uses flags flown by warships. I use a badly made dummy of a woman.

Both have battles in which American firepower prevails, but in the end the Americans captains confront that they are far from home and short of men and supplies.

He works released caged lions into a battle. I don't, but wish I could have.

Both use letters written by the main character to others to review the reader of what he just read.  I think I do that less obviously than he.

Both have an Afterword to tell readers which characters and events are fictional and which are historical.

My thanks to author Haley for the use of his novel as a serendipitous foil for mine.

I'm finishing the final editing and Kindle formatting of A Different Country Entirely and will post in large letters when its available on Amazon sometime very soon. A week or two from now, I hope.

Have a fun Halloween!