McBride At Rest

McBride At Rest

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Little Teddy and the President's Funeral

Today is a Teddy Day, a day during which Nita babysits our six-month old grandson. This morning was not typical, as she and I and Teddy spent two hours in front of the TV watching the funeral service for President George H.W. Bush.  I found it to be a dignified and stirring service which made me proud to be an American and a Christian. I won’t dwell on the pageantry or the terrific tribute speeches except to say I was holding my breath for son George W to get through his talk without choking up. He almost made it, and I say hoorah for him for getting that far.  A eulogy to one's father or mother has to be the hardest talk any man can ever give. 

I also loved the Episcopal priest’s display of the little plaque that President Bush had given him. On it is engraved “Preach Jesus every day. Use words if you must.” Amen to that.

The part of the service that prompts me to write this blog post is that as expected grandson Teddy maintained his infantile behaviors throughout the service. He played during the talks sometimes babbling to himself, and he ignored the choirs and the hymns. He took a nap, then  slopped his way through some mashed carrots, drank a bottle of mama’s milk, and played on the floor. Until the near the end.

When the man soloist closed the service by singing the Lord’s Prayer, Teddy stopped messing around in his grandmother’s lap and simply sat still, staring with wide eyes at the TV from the opening “Our Lord Which Art In Heaven” until the closing “Amen.”  The soloist with the tremendous tenor voice didn’t hurry. Yet Teddy stayed with him all the way.  Teddy may only be 180 days old, but this morning the little guy already recognized and honored Jesus's prayer when he heard it. That made grandpa proud too.

So, Rest in Peace, President Bush, from our Grandson Teddy and the whole McBride household.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Four States That Are Not Geography

There no novel writer’s point to this post. Nope, this one is about ‘states,’ and not the geographical ones. This one is all about my sweetheart Nita, who as a young gal in a state of confusion, married me a long time ago. Our marriage has resulted in two sons who tricked two beautiful young women into marrying them, and now Nita and I are the grandparents of a bounty of young’uns.

Last week being Thanksgiving, #2 son and family stayed with us for most of the week. A loving family is a beautiful thing, but it is not restful when two become seven, or eleven when #1 son and his family join in. Chaos is the natural state of such times. But the week was a wonderful sort of chaos, what with the cooking, playing, and ongoing chatter. And the new swing out back didn’t hurt, and little Rory’s second birthday cake was a hit, too. As was the Saturday trip to our favorite Mexican Restaurant in Austin.

Then came Sunday morning when Nita headed to church before others were even up, to sing in Morning Glory, our church’s contemporary early service music group. After that service, she joined the robed choir for the traditional service. Then home to bid goodbye to #2 son and family. Then a much-deserved nap, then back to church for the annual ‘Hanging of the Greens’ and chili supper. Whew. Call Sunday a busy state at the end of a long, but special week.

Now it’s Tuesday, and I’m sitting across the living room from Nita while she holds our fifth grandchild, little Teddy. Nita shares babysitting duties with Teddy’s other granny while his mom is at work. Teddy caught the local ‘crud’ that is going around making life miserable for those so affected. Nothing fun about coughing, a snotty nose and a fever. He is normally a good little six-month old guy who squeals in happiness and entertains himself. But not with the crud. So, yesterday, Nita held Teddy for eleven hours, cooing to him, bathing him, and rocking him, and is immersed in the same routine today. A state of nurturing love that is the specialty of moms and grandma’s. Teddy may have the crud for a couple of days, but he is one lucky little guy.

So, my after-Thanksgiving prayer of thanks is for sweet Nita and all the other grandma’s in the world who live every day in a state of sharing their wealth of love and their seemingly boundless energy with the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A friend sent me a blog post last week written by a novelist of middlin’ success. The blogger is a professor by day, so he doesn’t support himself as a novelist. His big question was ‘Why do we keep writing novels that so few people will read?’  This from a guy who is far higher on the ladder to novelist fame than me. He’s halfway up to the top rung of the ‘annointed ones,’ while I’m still looking at the bottom step.  He claims that over his career he has made enough in book royalties to buy three cars. Hmph.  I’ve made enough in royalties over six years to buy three tanks of gas. Well, maybe a little more, but you get it.

His big point was that writing is hard work. I love the quote, “Easy reading is hard writing.” Oh, so true.  I can’t really remember what the guy wrote as to why he keeps writing. Obviously, he must enjoy the process, challenging, frustrating, and mentally strenuous as it is. He must also feel some level of gratification with his published books and his status among his friends and in his professional circle as a novelist. I ditto all those reasons.
For me, writing goes beyond enjoyment. It’s a compulsion. I’ve been a chronicler of my life experiences since my brother and I started regularly exchanging hand-written letters back in the early ‘70’s.  I still keep records of all sorts of odd things, like all the vehicles I’ve ever owned—motorcycles,  cars, trucks, vans, and SUV’s, color and cost included.

When I was taking part in tabletop wargame tournaments, I recorded the details of every single game I played. (I wasn’t a very good tabletop general.) When I became a Civil War reenactor, I began an ongoing color-coded table of every reenactment I attended, weather included. And I wrote eighty articles about reenacting for the hobby’s national magazine, The Camp Chase Gazette.

I still write annual Christmas letters to enclose with the Christmas cards we mail. (Yes, we still buy cards and stamps).  And now, I blog and write novels that not very many people read.

Why?  Because I can’t stop myself. I’m addicted to words. Not so much the spoken word, but the written word.  I’m not real outgoing at social gatherings. In fact, I’m a classic wallflower who enjoys being on the edge of a group watching and listening to the others. That said, I’ve done my share of being a ‘sage on the stage’ during my career as a high school principal and teacher-trainer, so I know I can do such things, I just prefer not to. But leave me alone—with a legal pad in the ‘70’s, a typewriter in the ‘80’s and a laptop computer since the’90’s ‘—and  I start spewing words.

Isaac Asimov once was asked what he would do if he was told he had only eight minutes to live. His answer, “Write faster.”
So, there it is. I’ll write J you when I decide not to write anymore.

Meanwhile, here is my newest novel: A Different Dragon Entirely.  

I’d describe the book as historical fiction about the great Comanche Indian Raid of 1840 and the subsequent Battle of Plum Creek, except that one of the two main characters is a mutant giant flying horny toad dragon.  Honestly, it’s more of a girl-meets-dragon bromance.  The whole thing is just for fun, although I did stay true to the recorded first person accounts of the Indian raid and the battle. I borrowed the title and some characters from my novel about the Texas Rangers of 1855, A Different Country Entirely.

But the horny toad dragon is my Texas-esque creation, vaguely inspired by Naomi Novik’s series of novels about the wonderful dragon Temeraire during the Napoleonic wars.
The Kindle version is available on Amazon right now, and the paperback version will soon be, if not already. Those folks at Amazon are nothing if not efficient. Good thing, since they just about own the economy now.

Anyway, I hope you will take a look on Amazon, and maybe buy an ebook or a paperback. Just click on the cover image of the book over there to the right.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Buffy, Boudicca, Joan, and Mally

Tomorrow’s elections across our nation are important, so I hope you have already voted or will vote tomorrow. I early voted, and for the first time ever, I made a small donation to a Congressional candidate, one who is running for a House seat that does not even represent the town where I live. All to say this cycle of national elections does indeed matter. So vote, please. And in all cases, may the candidates prevail who keep to the high road of speaking to the issues with ideas and optimism, and not the candidates who build their campaigns on bashing their opponents and preaching fear instead of hope.

Now, onward into the past: Dragons. I’ve learned while websurfing in search of early Druid dragon images that dragons have been a universal element in our myths and literature through the ages and around the globe. The Chinese have been big on dragons for thousands of years. Then there’s Saint George of England famously slaying the dragon. There are Middle-Eastern dragons and Indian dragons. African dragons and South American dragons. 

And now, there is a native Texas dragon--Leine, the only flying, acid-blood spurting, giant horny toad that I’ve discovered. Leine is the dragon half of a girl-meets-dragon duet. 

Since my new novel—A Different Dragon Entirely—is not an inter-species romance, Leine’s gender is female. On the outside, she is covered in amber scales, has a wide, oval-shaped body, short legs, a stubby neck behind a ring of tall horns on her forehead, and sports batwings. Yet, behind her fearsome visage, on the inside, she is very much a human woman.

Mally, the girl half of the pair, is not modeled after Buffy the Vampire Slayer of TV fame, but she just came to mind. Young, lovable, smart, pretty, and full of grit when needed. Buffy and hopefully both Leine and Mally are all a bit campy, with wit and snark at times.

Mally is student of Latin, which happens to be Leine’s language, and she reads the classics. She admires the Celtic warrior-queen Boudicca and the French saint Joan of Arc. Both young women led armies of male warriors and have proved to be statue-worthy in the homelands. I think they are good role models for a pioneer girl who rides on the back of a horny toad dragon and confronts outlaws and Comanches. At least as good as Buffy whose fictional fame came from killing unkillable vampires.

The first proof of the paperback A Different Dragon Entirely is under review right now, and hopefully the paperback and the e-book will be available on Amazon by Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.

And did I already say: VOTE !

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Frog Legs and Cave Paintings

As a teenager in the 1960’s I went frog-gigging just one night. If you are thinking You did what?, it’s a fair question. You see, I grew up in East Texas behind the Pine Curtain where fried catfish and fried bullfrog legs are both popular meats. Except for raw oysters just scraped out of their shell, there’s probably no uglier, nastier looking creature that mankind has learned to eat than an East Texas mudcat or bullfrog. Oddly, after you get past the wide mouths and skin that doesn’t have scales like normal fish or reptiles, both catfish and bullfrogs have tasty white meat that cooks up real nice.

Back to the sport of frog-gigging, two friends and I did it in a flat-bottom aluminum fishing boat during a dark summer night. One paddler sat in the back and eased the boat along near the lake’s bank. One spotter sat in the middle and ran the bright circle from a powerful flashlight along the weeds growing in the shallow water near the bank. In the seat of honor, the hunter perched himself upfront, wielding the frog-gig trident spear. Our trident was homemade in a metal-shop. The three points were barbed like big fish hooks and the spear was an old garden tool handle.

When the spotlight caught the sparkling eyes of a bullfrog, we eased up until the hunter could make a quick thrust, aiming between the two eyes. We took turns at the three positions and after a couple of hours had impaled nigh-on a dozen croakers, and missed as many more. Smart bullfrogs quickly disappeared underwater when we made noise or were too slow or off-target with the gig thrusting. But some frogs just stayed still like deer caught in the headlights of a truck and met their end. The dumb ones, I guess.

The only danger in our night of frog-gigging came from the chance that a pair of gleaming eyes in the dark water would belong to an aggressive water moccasin and not a passive bullfrog. I don’t remember if we actually saw any cottonmouths that night, but knowing they were around added some spice to our adventure.

Cleaning the frog legs was less fun, since the legs had to be amputated and skinned for cooking. It was also a little freaky since the legs would not stay still, even after being severed from the rest of the frog carcass. Honest. A last protest to meeting such an unnatural end.

Here’s the point, our East Texas bullfrog legs were big. As big or bigger than fried chicken wings—not drumsticks which are chicken legs, but the hinged wings. Our froglegs were so big that four of them, battered and deep-fried, made a big serving.
Fast-forward fifty years to my ordering frog legs as the main course at a country restaurant in France last week. Here’s a photo of my plate before I began munching my way through the little bitty things.
They were cooked up real nice, seasoned and tasty, with or without a garlic sauce. But they came from mini-frogs, way too small to be called bull frogs.

Since I’m talking about French cuisine and I mentioned raw oysters earlier, here’s a photo of French tartare—raw hamburger meat that my sister ordered at a different cafe. I snagged a bite from her plate and decided beef is best eaten at least somewhat cooked.
And since I’m an old Civil War reenactor, here’s a photo of my mock battle with a native Frenchman who took umbrage at our visiting his 18,000 year-old art museum in a cave. 
It is the last place in France where a limited number of tourists are permitted each day into the cold narrow cave to see the actual paintings just a few feet from your face. The life-size and colorful wall renderings of buffalo and horses were very darned beautiful and remarkable, It was worth taking on that skinny hairy guy to see them.

As for a book link, my visit to the French cave to see the prehistoric artwork has caused me to upscale the size of the cave painting of my giant flying horny toad dragon in my new manuscript. After all, we have to do everything bigger in Texas—frog legs and fictional cave art. J

Friday, June 29, 2018

Two Airborne Rescues by Women of Valor

I’m writing another novel about early Texas in the 1840’s. One of the characters is the child of a ‘mission Indian.’ The girl’s name is Scottish, Angelina Cromarty, because the character’s father was Scottish.

Yes, I’ve written a plot in which a priest from Scotland knocked up a Native American who lived in the village next to the Alamo Mission. This was in the 1700’s, before San Antonio grew up around the old mission, that turned into a fort, that turned into a US Army warehouse, which finally turned into Texas’ most famous iconic structure and tourist attraction.

I was brooding about whether creating a horny priest  was being fair to the situation back in the 1700’s, when the Catholic Church worked diligently to Christianize as many Native Americans in this part of of the world as they could. Then I saw an online image of this wonderful 1930’s mural. It is still on display on the wall of an old mission building near Goliad, Texas. Apparently, during Texas’ Centennial celebrations, at least one artist shared my less than pure suspicions. Take a look at the entire mural, then the segment of special interest with the padre and the bare young native woman, and see if you agree with me.

Today I watched a short political campaign video of a woman running for a seat in the US Congress. She's from Round Rock, a suburb just north of Austin, Texas. She is married, mother of three kids, has a big upper arm tattoo, and worked as an F-16 mechanic for five years before she went to Air Force flight school.

Next, she served five tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot. She flew rescue missions to pick up wounded soldiers and fliers, until she herself was eventually shot down on a mission. She was rescued by another helicopter, and fired a weapon defensively from the door of that helicopter once she got on board. She was awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for her valor.  Pretty admirable military service record. Her name is Mary Jennings Heger.

I have a goofy writer’s connection to Mrs. Heger’s story. By coincidence, today, the very same morning I read about candidate Heger’s impressive actions as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, I am writing a similar scenario. Only the Heger inspired character in my Texas history dragon fantasy novel, is the giant flying female horny toad dragon herself.

Six hundred marauding Comanche warriors have burned down the town of Linnville, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico (that happened historically) and captured a few Anglo women during the raid. (also historically true).  My horny toad dragon and her two female human companions/riders are going to fly cover for the Texas militiamen in pursuit of the Comanches, and attempt to rescue the women in the confusion of the coming battle. (the historical Battle of Plum Creek.) The plan will go awry, but there will be brave and heroic women in the middle of the action, both of the human and dragon kind.

To be sure, writing a fantasy dragon-based historical fiction novel about early Texas has garnered glazed-over-eye reactions from some of my men friends. Granted, that most dragon fantasy books seem to be set in the middle ages or on alien worlds. But I love Texas. and I’ve always loved dragon tales, and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this one.  No apologies here. Maybe no sales either, since Comanches and dragons are not usually paired together in the same tall tale.  We’ll see later this year when it’s a done deal.

Meanwhile, kudos to combat rescue pilot, and now, Congressional candidate Mary Jennings Heger. Good luck in November, Ma’am.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Barbells and Bluebonnets and Murder

Barbells and Bluebonnets.  To me that image sums up Texas as well as any pairing of objects iron-hard and nature pretty.  The photo was taken by my friend Carol Finsrud, who is a life-long track and field athlete, now over 60, and still winning medals at international events.  The framed picture hangs on the wall of the restroom in her husband’s gym, The Old Texas Barbell Co., in little Lockhart. 

Today’s a good day to mention Carol’s husband, Mike Graham, because as I type this post, Mike is undergoing heart triple-by-pass surgery. Mike’s a strong guy, as you might imagine, and I’m betting on a successful operation and a quick recovery. Nonetheless, I’ve been sending up prayers for Mike since I awoke today.

Now for the horror of the week. The most recent mayor of the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras has been a forty-year-old guy named Fernando Purón. He’s also a strong and brave guy who is running for a seat in the national congress. Yesterday, he gave a campaign speech blasting the Zeta drug cartel and promising to stand firm against them in congress, as he’d done as mayor of Piedras Negras. After his speech, Purón stood talking on the front steps, and an assassin walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head, killing him.

Purón is the 112th candidate or office-holder—almost all of municipalities—to be killed by the cartel terrorists’ assassins since last September. That’s right—112 assassinations in ten months is the current price for defying the Mexican drug cartels. Over 1,000 other candidates have stepped away from their campaigns, quitting in fear for their lives and their families’ lives. Talk about domestic terrorism.

The town of Piedras Negras also plays an important part in my last novel, A Different Country Entirely. In fact, the ‘alcalde’—the mayor—is a minor character, as he was during the historical unfolding of the Texas Rangers’ military incursion into Mexico in 1855. In the historical primary sources from 1855, the mayor is portrayed as a fat man who tried to protect his town in the presence of 150 heavily-armed Texas Rangers.

The Rangers had crossed the Rio Grande chasing after Apache raiders who regularly terrorized the Texas frontier and then escaped to their mountain strongholds in Mexico, where it was illegal for the US Army or the Texas Rangers to pursue them. My book is about the time the Rangers ignored the international border, defied international law, and went after the Apaches in Mexico anyway. The Rangers certainly did not assassinate the alcalde of Peidras Negras, but they did intentionally set fire to the town to cover their escape from Mexico after a battle with the Mexican army. You can read all about that episode in my novel.

My blog point is two-fold. First, history is harsh. Maybe border towns have an especially hard time, especially those towns that are gateways between two countries.

Secondly, the murderous drug cartels scare the poop out of me. It’s hard to imagine 112 assassinations of candidates and office-holders in neighboring Mexico in the past ten months. My hat is off to those brave candidates for public office who are still standing firm in the face of the physical threats and ongoing assassinations.

In my third McBee Civil War novel, Defiant Honor, the title references the Texans in the Confederate army who persevered until the end, and the regiments of blue-uniformed US Colored Troops who fought bravely against those iron-hard Texans during the last year of the war.

But that was 150 years ago. Right now, today, I do believe the Mexican men and women candidates for office are earning that title, and I salute them for their defiant honor.