McBride At Rest

McBride At Rest

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Betty Lou

I’ve not written in a month. We just returned from a wonderful vacation trip to Alaska and I promised Nita that I’d leave my laptop at home and just be a tourist. It was a good idea, even if I immediately became a bit “twitchy.” Happily, as the days of sightseeing and animal-watching flowed along, I got better. Maybe it was the micro-breweries we kept discovering. 

Nonetheless, as soon as we walked over our threshold two nights ago, I made a bee-line for Recliner #7 and the laptop. I can’t say the keyboard sang under the touch of my fingers, but it was a nice moment.

Today is another story, though. I’m sitting in a hospice hospital room with my 91-year-old mom, who is a cancer victim. Her life story, not a short story, but a cheerful novel of family, tight budgets, music, books and travel is well into its final chapter, and likely close to the last paragraph. I’ve found that endings to wonderful books often bring on tears and leave me a bit melancholy. I’m grateful for having experienced the author’s story, sad it’s over, but I understand that every tale well-told and life well-lived has to reach an end.

We’re not immortal, wouldn’t want to be.  I love my mother dearly, and I’m grateful for her long life, and blessed to be able to share her last days or weeks. But like I just wrote, endings are sad, regardless of faith and a loving family.

All Mama’s grandkids are coming in this weekend. The doc says there should be some hours of clarity where she can squeeze young hands and pat cheeks and they can give her hugs.  

I expect I’ll write more about Mama later, but suffice to say now that she was a sixteen-year-old bride of World War II. She rode a bus from Houston to Knoxville, Kentucky to marry my soldier dad before he shipped out for England in 1942. Mama won’t tell this story, but Pop has sworn that their second night together after the wedding ceremony in the chaplain’s living room was spent under blankets in the chaplain’s yard, since not a room was to be had.



Here’s a photo of Mama and her great-grandson Jackson last October at our local library’s Authors Night Event where I was one of the featured writers. That was a highlight for me to share with Mama since she’s the one who hooked me on books and reading at a very tender age.  And Jackson’s big sloppy smile had to warm Mama’s heart.

I intend to dive back into the 1800’s any day now and wrap up the Defiant Honor story of John McBee and Faith and Levi and the others. But for right now, Betty Lou--Mama--has my attention and I need to hold her hand and stroke her cheek, for my sake, as well as hers.

By the way, hospice hospitals are absolutely wonderful. 








Thursday, August 18, 2016

Green Shorts

Since the Olympics are winding down and in a rare feat, an American lady won a medal in weight lifting, and since school is about to start, here’s one high school memory that I don’t mind sharing.There’s no Civil War link this week.

Green shorts at Longview High School were a questionable status symbol because athletes didn’t earn them. Athletes earned letter jackets.

Green shorts were earned in physical education class and were the prize I most yearned for in the spring of 1967.  Green shorts were awarded to those who earned an A+ on the six-weeks test in PE class. Everyone else wore white shorts.

The test was the same each six weeks:  In one class period complete 80 sit-ups in two minutes, 60 squat-thrusts in one minute. Do 40 push-ups, and 20 chin-ups.  No modifications, no grading curve. Six weeks to prepare for one hour of testing.

Coach told us about green shorts on the first day of school and I imagined my chances of going to the moon were just as good as my earning them. Sure enough, for a year my efforts landed shy of “green short” status, although I was morphing from a soft dumpling boy into a semi-dumpling.

During my senior year, I signed up for PE again, just to earn those damned shorts. For five grading periods, five tests, I kept my grade at an A, but couldn’t quite reach the trophy standard for sit-ups and chin-ups.

Finally, I had one last six-week test to reach the green short standard. If I was going to join the elite, and wear shorts of honor in class, they had to be earned during the next test.

With determination, I managed to top out on all the tests but the chin-ups, and they were last. I had never done 20 of them without dropping off the bar.  On that test day I did 18.

I had done the math many times, so I knew I had earned a 97.5 and had missed the mark again. I was in the locker room pulling off my gym clothes when Coach called me.  I went, dejected, until he handed me a pair of green shorts. “Glad you made it, Mac.”

I smiled as I clutched the green prize, yet I know my eyes still said, “Nah, Coach, I missed it by one chin-up.” 

I wish this story had ended there, but sure enough, a few minutes later, Coach came over to my locker, and contritely said, “Sorry, Phil, I was wrong. You needed one more chin-up,” as he held out his hand for the green shorts.

I wore white gym shorts in PE the rest of the year. The sky didn’t fall, and no one called the principal to complain that the teacher’s mistake shouldn’t have been corrected at my expense. No one suggested I be given another test.  No one suggested that Coach fudge the grade to protect my self-esteem.

I’ve never forgotten that I missed the mark on my last shot at the green shorts, but I also know I was treated fairly, and I know that I had not done all I could to prepare for the last test. I hadn’t coasted, but I hadn’t done extra chins every day either.

Over the years, as a career educator, I’ve had occasion to talk to many teachers about what qualities are shared by the best teachers. I never hesitated to identify my PE teacher as the best I had.  My choice often irritated “academic” folks, until I told them the story of the green shorts. While that personal tale of my near-miss would simply garner sympathy from some, others “got it.”
 
They got that Coach had done a lot of things right. Coach had laid out his learning expectations on the first day of class. Coach had clearly and concisely told us how we were going to be tested and graded on the curriculum.  Coach spent a substantial portion of every class period preparing us for the test. Coach enriched the curriculum with games and sports, but always focused on his primary goal of developing our personal fitness.

Coach didn’t inflate grades or give easy “extra credit” assignments. Finally, perhaps most importantly, Coach was honest with me, admitted his math error, and didn’t let me walk away with a coveted prize “almost” earned

In August of 1997, thirty years after I missed the green shorts, my neighbor convinced me to go to the new gym in town and try weight lifting with him, I’m still going. Yes, there is a chinning bar in Mike’s gym. It doesn’t haunt me or tempt me. Too much.    




     

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Punishments Now and Then

As a fourteen-year-old ninth grader in the 1960’s, only once did I go through the indignity of being told to bend over so a man teacher could swing a wooden paddle and bust the hell out of my rear-end. It hurt. It likely hurt so much I kept my smart-aleck mouth zipped more often in class.

I was an assistant principal at two Dallas high schools in the ‘70’s when corporal punishment was an acceptable and expected form of discipline. I swung the paddle.  When I was principal of the high school in Lockhart in the ‘80’s, we kept paddling as an option in our quiver of disciplinary arrows, but used the board less and less as the years passed. 

I expect that by now, 25 years later, the paddle is an extinct dinosaur in public schools. Having received and given “licks,” or more delicately “swats,” I’m glad corporal punishment is gone. My experience was that “spare the rod and spoil the child” is wrong. 

Sure, the “rod,” or paddle, worked with some kids, like me. But a phone call to my mother would have worked just as well.  As a school principal, I found that the paddle more often simply hardened a child towards adults and school.

I’ve wanted to say that to someone for quite a while, but I’m uncomfortable enough in my history of participation in school paddling, that I’ve remained silent about it until now. Those memories are not of my best work as a principal.

Having said that, I admit to silently wishing I could use a B-B gun to sting the occasional jerk at the top of the gym bleachers who would decide not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at football pep rallies.

The armies of the 19th century had no such qualms about applying the rod, or the lash, or the red-hot branding iron, as means of disciplining soldiers. 

They also did indeed shoot deserters to death on occasion as a deterrent to other home-sick and war-weary soldiers.

In the first two Captain McBee Civil War novels, I didn’t include the punishment of a soldier in the plot, but just last week the storyline of Defiant Honor prompted me to choose among several punishments routinely doled out for “minor” misbehaviors.

In 2016 we blanch, as we should, at the cruelty of the punishments in the armies’ quivers of discipline options. Suffice to say, times were different and harder.

Consider these well-documented punishments:

Should I “buck and gag” James Fisher, the private who incurred the ire of his company commander? That means tying up the soldier like a roasting chicken going on the spit, with arms bound over his bent knees and a rag stuffed in his mouth.

Or have him stand on a stump wearing a sign all day? 

Or put a barrel over him and parade him around the camp for hours?

Or should I make his infraction serious enough to tie him to wagon wheel and use a whip to lash his back up to 39 times, drawing blood with each stroke? 

Or brand his cheek with a letter, forever publicly designating his sin to all who see him?

Since Fisher’s infraction wasn’t too serious, I chose to have him “ride the rail” from dawn until dusk. You can see the period drawing of that particular punishment and see an actual Civil War photo of two soldiers straddling a split rail as punishment.



Note the large wooden “toy” sword held by the man on the rail in the drawing. It would have been really heavy and added to his ever-increasing pain as he endured the weight of it on his shoulders for hour after hour.

Interestingly to me, both the drawing and the photo image were done during the 1864 siege of Petersburg, Virginia, the same setting as in Defiant Honor where I needed to punish a soldier. It was during the long hot summer when both armies were manning earthworks with little activity, but lots of discomfort and boredom. Day after day, week after week, of living in a sweltering smelly dusty ditch, elbow-to-elbow with other soldiers, always with the danger of a sniper shooting you if you raised your head too high. Just the sort of situation when young men screw up.

If any of you readers are modern veterans and care to tell the rest of us how military discipline was-is administered in the  20th and 21st centuries, I urge you to offer a comment.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Honda Car Names and Trench Warfare

Honda makes great cars, we’ve owned several. But they missed the best possible marketing ploy for their popular small size SUV, the “CRV,” which to the Japanese executives in charge of nomenclature and branding of their products, means “Compact Recreational Vehicle.” Three members of the Alamo Rifles, my Civil War reenacting group, drive Honda CRV’s. I’ve driven mine for six years now, and the CRV has happily and efficiently hauled people, muskets, and reenacting gear all over Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

I dare not write how many miles I’ve driven my CRV to Civil War reenactments, because my wife reads these blog posts and can do the math to turn mileage into gasoline costs. Once she did that, I fully expect I’d find some expensive bling around her neck when I get home from the next such trip.

If Honda would just give me a call, I’d give a sterling testimonial for my CRV—my Confederate Reenactor Vehicle. The Japanese having a long proud military history they could have tapped into when naming cars for the American market. They could have deemed the CRV the SRV, “Samuri Reenactor Vehicle.” But, at least in America, Honda has not taken to in-your-face brand names, like American car companies have. I mean the McBride’s have also owned Honda cars called Accord, Civic, Fit, Odyssey, and Passport.  How absent of testosterone can a name be? None of those Barricuda, Charger, Cougar, Sting Ray, or Mustang muscle car names for Honda. But surely there’s a middle ground for Honda car names that aren’t so darned polite. 

I mean, I wouldn’t expect a Japanese car company to name a car sold in America the “Banzai.” But “Mushroom Cloud” might work, or “You Yanks Won the War and We Will Never Get Over It (Y2W4NGOI).” Those names would NOT attract young urban hipsters. Although the last one, if it were the name of Honda’s pick-up truck, would likely sell well in the states of the old Confederacy. Enough of that.

Today’s blog post is not really about the inexpensive, efficient, and dependable imported cars that helped Japan get even after WWII by showing America that Detroit was making over-priced crappy cars. Today’s post is to remember WWI in Europe, where one hundred years ago danged near every nation in Europe and many beyond, crisscrossed the landscape with thousands of miles of trenches and wire and machine guns. 

The presence of the newly developed rapid-fire machine gun made trench warfare obsolete even as the Great War began. Four European nations each sacrificed over a million young men to the remedial classes the machine guns provided. The generals on both sides saw the slaughter, but were locked into tactics they knew, regardless of the price. The USA, late to enter the war, lost over 60,000 young soldiers in our own “Banzai” attacks on German trenches. All total, WWI caused over 11 million military deaths and 7 million civilian deaths from 1916 to 1920. It’s a mind-boggling number. The 600,000 military deaths in our American Civil War pales next to the 11 million dead soldiers who fell in Europe during WWI. We are a stubborn and violent species, no doubt about it.

My Civil War link is that on this 100th anniversary summer of the horrible WWI trench warfare battle near Verdun, France, I’m writing about the trench warfare battle that took place over the summer of 1864, just 52 years earlier, around Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. Grant and Lee didn’t need Germans, machine guns or mustard gas to cause 70,000 American casualties that summer. They both ordered attacks and counter-attacks over the killing fields between the concentric rings of earthworks surrounding Richmond, until Lee’s army was bled dry. It was a terrible time in a terrible war.

The photo this week is just one young man, not dead, but a WWI English soldier who didn’t need words to tell of the horror of his war. His manic eyes and humorless grin said it all.


As I write this week in the Defiant Honor manuscript about the Yanks from New Jersey and the Rebs from Texas who met in bloody battle on the earthworks at New Market Heights just east of Richmond, that Brit soldier’s face will haunt me. I’ve promised him that I will keep my writer’s voice somber and the characters in blue and gray appropriately defiant in the penultimate fight of the Fifth Texas regiment.


Monday, July 11, 2016

One Galveston, Two Archibalds, Three Grandkids, and Ten Thousand Views

Ten Thousand. That’s a number I’ve been watching for, and it rolled up while we were vacationing in Galveston last week. 10,032 is the number of “pageviews” that my 90 blog posts have cumulatively reached during the past two years. One pageview is when one reader opens one blog post.

I suppose 10K is small potatoes to big-time bloggers, just like 10K is a short run for marathoners. I've met a lady who writes somewhat profane in-your-face books about divorce. They are popular books. Her husband says she has an ever-renewing audience of angry women whose husbands have cheated on them and her blog has or will reach a million pageviews.

I'm not writing about divorce, but there is romance in my novels about a war that ended over 150 years ago. And I’m thrilled that you, my friends and readers have taken my blog to the 10,000 pageview mark. Thank You.

Last week our family of two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandkids, and one more in the oven, joined Nita and me for a week on the beach on Galveston Island. Nita and I have always enjoyed the place. Nothing like beaches, seafood, and fine old homes. I’ve also reenacted there several times, since the historical Strand section of the city of Galveston is one of the rare Civil War battle sites in Texas.

Being old, even at the beach I'd wake early, start the coffee pot, open the laptop and write on the newest chapter of Defiant Honor. Most days I got in a few pages before the whirlwind granddaughters and lap-seeking grandson awoke. Then I'd shut her down and morph from Hemingway to Granddaddy and cook bacon, eggs, and biscuits for eight, before we all hit the sand and surf.

During those few early morning hours I brought Galveston into the manuscript. Neptune made me do it. I mentioned the Tremont Hotel and St. Joseph’s Church by name, since the little clapboard-sided St. Joseph’s was built in 1859 and is where son Todd married daughter-in-law Maggie five years ago. The Tremont Hotel opened for business even earlier, and after being rebuilt twice after fires, and cleaned out after hurricanes, is still open. It's also where Todd and Maggie rode in a carriage from St. Joseph’s for their first night as Mr. and Mrs. McBride.

During the Civil War, the protected bay made Galveston Island a haven to the sleek ocean-going blockade runner ships and their captains. Thus, the Tremont Hotel  and St. Joseph’s Church seem fitting locations to slide John McBee into the world of blockade runners.

Here’s a historically terrific Civil War image of three blockade running ships at the wharf in Galveston.  Even in this grainy image, you can see the size of the ships by finding the horses standing on a dock near one of them. Each ship has visible sail masts and slanted steam engine smokestacks for their side-mounted paddle wheels.  They were indeed the greyhounds of the Gulf. Oddly, the long sleek vessels with low profiles remind me of the WWII submarine we toured at Seawolf Park on Galveston Island.



In searching for an appropriate historical sea-going ship captain to "borrow" for my plot, I uncovered a real blockade-running gent by the name of Archibald McNeill, whose plantation house is now the centerpiece of a little state park in Florida. It was McNeill who smuggled the real Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin out of the country in May of 1865 while he was being hunted by Union cavalry right after the war ended. Remember that Benjamin is already a character in the McBee story.

A Google search for the name of Archibald McNeill, I found another Archibald McNeill. This one was an ex-Congressman from North Carolina who emigrated to Texas in the 1830's when Texas was a Republic, before statehood, before the Civil War. He disappeared in the Arizona desert during a storm while leading a band of gold-diggers from Texas to California during the 1840’s gold rush. 

I don’t subscribe to Ancestor.com, so I wasn’t able to search for a possible familial connection between the two historical Archibald McNeill’s. But the timing and location of the two Archie’s fit my writing needs, so I dubbed them father and son and crossed the paths of the younger Archie and John McBee, in Galveston, of course.

The McNeill family and the port of Galveston also allowed me to insert a past, thwarted romance for John McBee, back before Faith first heals his bloody feet in Virginia. I thought learning of her new husband’s old flame would be just the thing to show another facet of Faith’s character, especially when that old flame is now a widow who pops up unexpectedly. If you intend to read Defiant Honor when it’s published in a few months, I hope that little preview titillates, but doesn’t spoil.

Speaking of injured feet, here’s one last modern Galveston warning: Beware the ocean. We’d read about a new bad bacteria that’s floating in the surf around Galveston Island. It has seriously infected a few swimmers. I am lucky living proof. Look at this photo. It’s my diseased feet. I caught “Croc Pox” on the Galveston beach. 

Actually, my foot pox came before I waded into the surf. It seems the air holes in the tops of my beloved orange Crocs drew the sun like a magnifying glass and burned little round “pox” marks onto my dainty feet. You just can’t be too careful. And don't always take me too seriously. 

Finally, after ten months of offering my first two Civil War novels as Kindle downloads on Amazon priced at 99 cents, I’ve upped the price back up to a whopping $2.99. Nita and both sons were adamant that they don’t buy books that even the author thinks are only worth 99 cents. I had lowered the price of the two books as a marketing ploy to tempt Amazon shoppers to try the first McBee book, Tangled Honor, and then get hooked. Now we’ll see if the 99 cent tag helped sales or actually dissuaded would-be buyers.








Monday, June 27, 2016

Free State of Jones vs Aim Small, Shoot Small

Last night my son and I went to see The Free State of Jones movie. I wrote about the upcoming film on another post back in March. We went to the late showing, so I went to bed at 1 am with images of the movie dancing around in my head. I probably dreamed about it, but really can’t remember this morning if I did.

I’ll say unequivocally say that fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey did one hell of a job portraying the complex and compelling man who the main character, Newton Knight, must have been. Either you like actor MM, or you don’t, when he gets deep into a character. I’d put his  performance in The Free State of Jones up there with his role in The Dallas Buyers Club. In both he portrays a man who is quiet most of the time, but utterly intense all the time. Driven. Going against those in control and helping others who are also under the thumb of an unreasoning and abusive authority. Yeah, a Robin Hood character, sort of. Maybe. And look at those eyes.


The Civil War aspect of the movie seems pretty well done. There’s a lot of grit and ill-fitting, rumpled, dirty uniforms on the Mississippi Confederates. The early battle scenes were bloody and filled with gore, reminding us that men don’t die cleanly when hit by a cannon ball. The field hospital scenes were bloody and pitiful. The scenes in the swamp made me utter a prayer of thanks for air-conditioning, while I sat in the really frosty theater.

Linking to my own Civil War stories, I’ve been anxious that my three main women characters are over-the-top in their propensity for violence, since all three of them finally use guns to dispatch bad men.

Boy, do I feel better about my Faith, Elizabeth and Edwina characters. after watching those Mississippi gals last night whip out their muskatoons, shotguns, and pistols and go about some serious getting even. No Mild Molly’s in my McBee novels or The Free State of Jones film.

Tens of thousands of farm women in the Civil War South were left alone and isolated to make do and keep the farm going without their menfolk who’d gone to soldiers. Many of those left-behind women lived in war zones. Did those real women often, or ever, finally get pushed to the point of gun violence to protect their homes and families from foraging soldiers from either army, or hungry deserters, or outlaws intent on rape? It’s not something you read about in period memoirs.

Son Todd and I expected the film to have clearer distinctions between the good guys and the bad guys, like Mel Gibson’s The Patriot movie about the American Revolution. (Aim small, shoot small, one of the great father-to-son instructions I haven’t forgotten from that film.) Not so for McConaughey’s new film, and that’s a compliment. Newton Knight and the others display lots of human flaws, unlike Gibson’s true-blue father-patriot character.

WARNING: BEGINNING PREACHING PARAGRAPH
In real life, we know when an act is right or wrong.  But…We’re people, and people can muddy the water very damned quickly, can’t we? We all get caught in circumstances where the contradictory commitments in our lives make it tough to do the right thing—even though we know which thing that is. It’s the hard choice, the choice we just don’t want to make because of uncomfortable consequences. Granted, we all have our moments of doing the right thing, and feel really good about doing so, smug even. And we all have moments of doing the other-easier- thing, or doing nothing, which is the same. All too often we choose not to rock the boat.  END OF PREACHING PARAGRAPH

Another personal sidebar about The Free State of Jones is that an ancestor, my great great great grandfather William Gill served as a private in the 6th Mississippi Regiment. That’s the outfit featured in the film as the Confederate regiment sent to eliminate Newton Knight’s band of Unionists, deserters, and runaway slaves. And grandpa William would have been one of those dirt poor Rebel soldiers like Newton Knight had once been. Gramps Gill had a family and farm in Mississippi, and was drafted into the army, but he didn’t walk away like Newton Knight. Instead, whatever he thought about being a soldier, he stayed and soon got wounded and died.

On the surface, The Free State of Jones film appears to be a true history-based tale to illustrate that the Civil War in the South was a rich man’s war and poor man’s fight, exacerbated through military conscription laws that exempted sons of wealthy slave owners. The film clearly shows that slavery was brutal and bad and that reconstruction was brutal and bad. It even follows a plot thread of Newton Knight’s true-life grandson to underline that race relations between black and whites in Mississippi, until at least 1948, didn’t get much better.

The heart of the film, as voiced by McConauhey-Knight in so many words, was that all sorts of people, not just African-descended slaves, are subject to caste systems and circumstances which can make a nigger out of any of us. (Sorry to use the N word, but it’s a quote from the movie that fits.)

Race or religion certainly are usually, but not always, at play, even in our informal, but well-entrenched, American class system. Sometimes it’s politics, as happened when the Confederacy started running out of soldiers, but exempted sons of slave owners from the army draft. Equal rights are rarely equal, are they? Personally, I think that’s a fair lesson for a thoughtful action movie to embed within the violence and drama.

I'm glad Todd and I saw the film. But, it's a head-scratcher, not an "aim small, shoot small" sort of tale.

Since I’m on a movie roll here, we also went to see the Independence Day sequel. Nothing like a second alien invasion twenty years later. Happy June.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers Day Post, Now and Back Then

Today is Father’s Day, Hallmark’s other highly successful marketing ploy. Cynicism towards commercially inspired holidays aside—

I’m lucky that my father Frank is alive, at age 95 still living a life split between acts of service to others through church and hospital volunteerism, and mutually giving and receiving care with my step-mother Della, and taking well-deserved naps. Pop will also talk your ear off about the adventures he’s experienced in his long life. Gotta love the old guy, so, Happy Father’s Day, Pop.

I’m lucky that both our sons are now fathers, and grasp the importance of that job. So, Happy Father’s Day, Ben and Todd. Nita and I are incredibly proud of you. And thanks for the grandkids. Keep ’em coming.

To keep this a blog about my Civil War novels, I’ll mention that fatherhood is a facet of the three McBee novels, a major facet, I hope. In fact, there are two fatherhood threads running through the ongoing plot.

Early in the first book, Captain John unwittingly, but without too much protest, lets himself become a secret seed-donor for a woman desperate to become a mother after eleven years of a barren marriage. Yeah, I know that’s a tough job I wrote into the first book for the main character, but…

To be fair, neither seed-donor nor woman intend for there to be any sort of relationship once he’s made his seed delivery. Silly woman. Na├»ve man. Both should have known that life is never that simple. I hope you, my blog readers have, or will, read the books to see how that non-intervention plan worked out.

The other fatherhood thread in the McBee novels was one of the questions I initially imagined as a driving force in the plot: Who’s Levi’s daddy?

Since you are still reading my blog posts, (thank you for including my blog in your reading life) you have likely read Tangled Honor, the first McBee novel. If, however, you haven’t met John McBee, Faith, and Levi, I’m about to be a spoiler.

Side Note: Who’s your daddy? is a phrase that has wormed its way into our culture, likely with racist provenance, likely going back to two of the most foul aspects of the foul institution of pre-Civil War American slavery: The acceptance of white men raping young black women for pleasure, and the literal breeding of slaves to produce better, stronger workers.

Mulatto (half-white) slave Levi is a product of the first foul aspect. Who’s your daddy? plays directly into the McBee story, as 20-year-old Levi is loaned to 40-year-old Captain McBee to be his body-servant—McBee’s personal slave valet and cook for the duration of the war.

Captain John McBee naively thought his seed donation to an essentially anonymous woman would be a one-night dreamlike experience, pleasurable, but quickly over and forgotten. I've tried to create John McBee as a character with a normal man’s tendency to compartmentalize the various aspects of life, and ignore early warning signs of interesting times ahead. 

Levi started as just another servant, a way for McBee to avoid the onerous personal chores that officers in armies throughout time have passed off to others, be they squires in the days of knights, or more recently, enlisted soldiers serving as aides, or in the Confederate army, body-servants who were black slaves. McBee simply didn’t see the Who’s Your Daddy? train coming when mulatto Levi, borrowed from his own mother, became his servant, sharing daily experiences and even nursing his battle wounds.

Just as I did with the Faith and John’s early reticent relationship, I tried to fold a growing mutual respect into the Levi and John, slave and master, relationship. Enough so that the question of Who’s your daddy? is a credible one to ask.

As the author, I’d love some feedback as to how well the first two McBee novels portrayed that growing master and slave relationship. Since I’m still writing the last novel, there is yet time to adjust, if that’s needed.

Back to Father’s Day 2016, in my real life, through volunteering with the Salvation Army, I talk to young mothers seeking financial assistance. More often than not, the father does not live with the woman and children. Not all the time, but usually, the young woman admits to not receiving child support. Reasons abound: Prison, unemployment, alcoholism, a new wife, whatever.

I view those guys with disdain. No, not disdain, I view them with anger and disgust. They have chosen to be seed-donors, but not fathers. Young unrestrained men who on a practical level, practice rape, not so much different from the white man-slave woman rapes of pre-Civil War America. 

Not all men need to be fathers. Some should never let themselves become fathers. But, if you are a father, if your seed causes a life to grow in some sweet gal, by God, be that kid’s father. It's a lifetime commitment.

OK, that’s off my chest for a while. 

Now, as I finish the third McBee book I need to make sure that my main character winds up the good father that I damn well expect him, and all of us seed-donors, to be.

To you readers who are dads--Happy Fathers Day! Hug your sweetie, spend some time with the kiddos in your life. And, by all means, have a cold beer sometime today. It’s our day.

And at 8 pm this evening, I’m going to be watching the big battle on Game of Thrones. Maybe young Bolton will find himself flayed on his own timber X. He is such a vicious villain, I can't applaud him, but I can take my hat off to the writer who thunk him up. I've learned there's an art to crafting a truly bad guy. Maybe I'll write a blog post devoted to my villains sometime soon.