Amid my mostly futile efforts to try combining multiple fairly substantial tasks - like writing, exercising, and house-work - within individual days, I ran across a snarky astrology page that was a revelation. Libra, my sign, is described as "Indecisive. Tries to balance everything".

Trying to balance everything might be a good description of my problem here. Or rather, trying to balance everything in a single day. It struck me - particularly as I close in on the end of the For Fun Fantasy Novel, finally - that the analysis at the end of the day really should be qualitative rather than quantitative. I don't mean that stuff doesn't get done, but I need a better metric than 24 hour cycles. I may get 5000 words a week done whether or not I write every day, but if I spend a day devoted to writing, rather than a half-hour here and there because I'm trying to do other things too, and those 5000 words are better when I can devote more time in one sitting to them, then what sense does it make to do everything in pieces?

Likewise, for work on the house. One of my upcoming projects is to rip up a small section of carpet and put down tile, for instance. It makes less sense to do this in several chunks than doing it over one or two days, and like those 5000 words, the quality of the job would probably be better. I can concentrate on tile without thinking "But I haven't written today...", or writing without thinking "There's still a lot of bare floor..."

So I just have to somehow un-corkscrew myself from Libra-ness. I might have had an easier time learning to balance, but we'll see. Maybe it's just a matter of getting out of the habit of going to bed thinking "What have I done today?" and replacing it with "What have I done this week?"

The exception to this, though, is exercise. Some things I can put off, but I put off exercise at my peril. Three times a week would be enough, or has been in the past, as long as it's consistent. This is something I need to keep up regardless of what else is going on the rest of the day, for my own long term (much, much longer than a week) sake.

Another bit of time unfortunately just opened up for my next few weeks, too: Amazon has cancelled its Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest this year. I've been a judge for that contest since its inception in 2008, and figured that being annual and being Amazon, I could solidly expect to do it again this year too. Nope. I heard from my Publishers Weekly editor, [personal profile] rosefox, yesterday that it was being scrubbed, with the official notice arriving today. Ah well. I thought it was a great thing and I hate to see it disappear. Some of the manuscripts I read were real stinkers - one year all of them were - but there were others I thought absolutely brilliant, and I'll miss those. RIP, ABNA.

* * *


Anyway, as I said above, I'm closing in on the end of No Word in Death's Favor. I might even wrap it up in another two chapters and perhaps a small epilogue. Then I'll connect the dots from chapter to chapter so it flows better, and then eventually decide whether or not I think it's any good.

I went into it not thinking about publishing as the major goal but experimenting with things I hadn't tried before, or not tried much. Publishing or not will enter my mind more thoroughly once it's finished. I'll try not to let the fact that I spent ten months on it influence my decision; aside from the fact that much of that time was spent not writing while I worked on New House, the extra time was also built in from the start because of all the experimenting (and, yeah, playing around in the name of experimenting).

Then again, I might really like it. We'll see.

And after that...maybe a Secret Project. I call it that because it's probably something I'm not supposed to be writing. But offhand I can't recall any time such a prohibition stopped me.


PROGRESS REPORT )

I know I've been off of Live Journal for awhile when it takes me a moment to remember my password.

I've been spending a whole lot more time doing New House stuff than doing new writing, but I have been getting a bit done, and New House isn't the only thing to blame. Since this is the (still-untitled) For Fun Fantasy Novel, I decided to up the stakes and the fun by making it experimental across the board. I still write story notes, for instance, but I've done next to no outlining, writing by pants-seat instead. Trying it out to see how it feels.

I'm also doing most of the world-building as I go. I come up with a great many of my story ideas by writing the story anyway, so this may not be that much of an experiment, but it's still intriguing to see what extra stuff happens to pop in my brain as I'm typing. I've had a few surprises, and many of them have been wound up in the manuscript, or notes to use for later.

I may write out of chronological order - ward off writer's block by skipping ahead to places where I already know what happens. I've usually avoided this because I do come up with so many ideas as I'm writing that things may change radically by the time I get to the previously written part, but it's not without precedent. When I hit a major block during the writing of The Course of Heaven ages and ages ago, I skipped ahead to the last third of the book. That worked spectacularly well; I finished that third, something like 50,000 words, in a month. I'll plow straight ahead when I can, but will hold my breath and dive in to other pools when I can't.

More vaguely, I'm also pursuing parts of the story I might not have if I was writing more typical to my process. Like the lyrics of my entry title say, watering the handsome weeds. I'm a big fan of weeds anyway, especially since I don't consider many of them them to be weeds. There's one thing I'll miss about my Old House, and that's the fact that if you waited a week or so beyond when most normal people would mow the lawn, the whole front yard would explode into a riotous mix of oranges, yellows, and purples...all from what most people consider weeds. If I had consistently mowed when I was "supposed" to, I would have never have seen all those wildflowers blossom year after year.

I'm hoping this book works along the same principle.

All of this makes the traditionalist in me nervous. I spent years building a writing process, and I've had some successes with it, though admittedly not as much as I would have hoped or always in the places I like. With my Shenandoah series, Arizona series, and To Murder an Empire out there, I've got plenty of material to submit to publishers, which gives me a lot of breathing space to play and experiment. So that's what I'll do, while I have the chance.

(I do wish I could think of a title I like, though. That always makes me feel better no matter what other challenges are going on with the work-in-progress.)

So, five chapters in. And the inaugural Progress Report, even though it opens with chapter five:

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 7/13-14/2014


New Words: 4100 (3500 / 600 ) on unnamed fifth chapter. (I may not have chapter names, just the names of the characters they center on.) Royal wastrel Jared, who is also in command of an army company, gets burned (some of his men literally) by accidentally creeping up on the edge of a secret.

Total Words: 17,750.

(Here I almost wrote "Book Year" out of habit. Thanks, last eight novels I wrote!)

Reason For Stopping: Finished the chapter / Added some details, then re-finished the chapter.

Mammalian Assistance: At any given time, Vegas the Writing Assistant and Nate the Fae Catcher test out their new spot atop a small bookshelf beneath the Writing Room Window.

Exercise: One walk with Tucker and one walk with Laurie and both dogs around the neighborhood.

Stimulants: Just apple cider. Non-hard.

Opening Passage(s): I don't really care much for it but it works well enough for filler until I go back through . . .

“Shal’s bones, what is that wretched smell?” the soldier riding just behind Jared whined.

Jared suppressed the urge to pull the young idiot nobleman from his saddle and beat him to death with his own helmet. Jared had ordered quiet, but Ridyard, come straight to their punishment legion from the Shalkarian capital, was green, and well-born, and having trouble following orders from anyone who wasn’t his parents, General Nayim included. They rode through damp marsh-forest where the trail was little better than a cow’s wish, giving an enemy plenty of chances to make an ambush, and the wet would muffle most sounds of the hidden. They shouldn’t be riding at all through country like this, only marching — any rougher and the horses wouldn’t be able to move. But General Nayim ordered them to reach the coast in three days, and they had already burned through half that time negotiating the hoof-sucking path and humid, fetid air that choked the breath out of soldiers and horses alike.


Darling Du Jour: Nothing springs out at me.

Submissions Sent Out In June: 2 to magazines.

Total Submissions Out Right Now: 11 to magazines, 2 to book publishers.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Oxford History of Britain by Kenneth O. Morgan; Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, by Peter Brown. Also reading a speculative book as a Publishers Weekly review that I'd love to rave about here except I can't tell you what it is.
Copper Heart is finished.

Well, the first draft is. Eventually there will be lots of editing and trimming, and I can already think of a few parts I want to do some general rewrites on. But otherwise...Copper Heart is finished.

And of course, I'm at that typical but momentary post-novel place where "Now what?" is running through my head like a airborne banner pulled by a zeppelin.

There's plenty to claim my attention. I'm still in holding patterns over The House and my car repair (I do need to replace the engine after all - stupid timing belt that hadn't shown any signs of giving out). Then there's the ongoing marketing of Lest Camelot Fall. I got a weird but awfully good feeling from the fact that I suddenly had three interview offers in the last few days, all from book review bloggers.

On top of that, the first book blog review of Camelot went live tonight. I wasn't necessarily planning on reading my reviews, but this was the first book blog review I've ever gotten (as far as I know). So I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, and...was pleased. Very pleased. The reviewer enjoyed the book immensely. He was also one of my recent interviewers, so our Q&A will be showing up sometime in the next few days.

Finally, I'm at am impasse about what to write next. I'm debating if I want to go ahead and eventually start work on the fourth / final / unnamed next Arizona Book, or set the series aside for the time being in favor of doing the next historical near-and-dear-to-my-heart epic, The Great River, my big historical novel (series?) about the Mississippi River. Both Arizona and the Mississippi are clamoring for my attention and love in equal measure, and I love them both in equal measure.

Like the Shenandoah Valley and Arizona, it's not just the history I'm attracted to; I have personal connections with the river as well. And, you know. Riverboats. I can't resist riverboats. I've been hooked on them since I was a kid - getting to play the steam-powered organ atop the texas deck of the Julia Belle Swain as it cruised up and down the Illinois River when I was 12 sealed the deal - and I plan to have lots of riverboats in The Great River.

There's another option. Laurie suggested that maybe my next book should be one written strictly for fun. I'd already been thinking of something that could fit: my alternate history fantasy about young Charlemagne, A King By No Magic. That was the one I tried writing in 2007 and '08 that never really came together, though I've had a number of ideas since about what to do for it. I rather like that idea, although it comes with the logistic issue that I recently packed all of my Charlemagne-related books.

By the way, I'm not complaining about the indecision. I've been through periods where no writing project really grabbed me and the work was half-hearted. I like being in a position where I'm having to decide where to go next.

And honestly? If I wasn't trying to buy a house and pay for an expensive car repair, I'd take Bing Crosby's and the Andrews Sisters' advice, and I'd already have a plane ticket to Arizona in hand. Or maybe somewhere along the Mississippi.

At any rate, I present my last Progress Report for Copper Heart.

PROGRESS REPORT


New Words: 2800 on scene 3 of 3 of the epilogue. A telegram and some reckless courage save Copper Heart from disaster.

Total Words: It came in at a nice round 170,000. So yeah, like I said, I see lots of trimming in my future.

Reason For Stopping: Finished the book...and I was kind of freezing.

Book Year: 1888.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas ran in just long enough for Hayes to decide she didn't want to come in (since Vegas was there). Once Hayes left, Vegas took off too.

Exercise: Took Tucker for a walk a fair way up the local mountain.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: I’ll be damned if I let this town die, Harry Boyd caught himself thinking. The sudden thought surprised him, considering that killing Copper Heart was what he had in mind when he came back to town.

But in that time, especially since returning Will Beckett and taking over half the town’s operations in the place of the opium-addled town boss, Harry had sipped more than a few drinks of power and affluence. He discovered that they were a mighty powerful whiskey indeed.


Darling Du Jour: The last sentence - which I didn't think of until I was very nearly ready to write it. It's not spoilery, but I don't figure I'll post it here since it wouldn't make any sense without the context.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Now and again we writers (myself included) mourn what we think of wistfully as the good old days of publishing. There is some truth in thinking of certain eras as good for writers, though like with any such nostalgia I doubt things were completely as good as all that. Groucho Marx just gave me a reminder of this from a distance of nearly fifty years.

I was window shopping for Groucho's memorabilia on eBay when I discovered (for a mere $7,199.10 - discounted $799.90 from the original Buy It Now price) a 1966 letter that Groucho wrote to some fellow named Syd. Syd has just come out with a novel. Groucho tells him that he knows unsolicited advice isn't worth a whole lot, but "since you're an old friend of mine, probably because we don't see each other too often, here's the advice."

If you want to increase the sale, I suggest you go on the Johnny Carson show, the Merv Griffin Show, the Jack Douglas Show and any other show that you can get on. I remember when Louis Nizer had his book out a few years ago, you couldn't turn on the TV set, either locally or nationally, without seeing him plugging his book and, if you didn't see him, you could hear him on radio.

It's not very pleasant work, revealing yourself publicly, but with rare exceptions, this is what writing books has reduced itself to. So dive in and, in the process of doing this, you may become a great actor. With a white wig and a pillow under your vest, there's no reason why you couldn't play King Lear. So think about it.


Groucho himself, living legend that he was by this point, went on talk shows whenever he was hawking a book. Even his brother Harpo did when he came out with Harpo Speaks - and Harpo didn't actually talk, so that was quite a feat of public relations. If Harpo could figure out ways to promote his book by doing nothing more than honking a horn he had tucked into his belt, I could probably come up with some decent ideas myself.

I think the one of the biggest problems with publishing today is just that everything is in so much flux. Whole literary paradigms and ideologies are being rewritten, or outright broken and then glued back together in different shapes. I do understand that for many authors, things were better in the past. But there are also great authors out there now who are getting chances to publish they might not have had a few years ago. I suspect one way or another, things will even out eventually.

Though if anyone can figure out a way to get me booked on the Johnny Carson Show, I'll leap at it.


PROGRESS REPORT FOR 3/15/14


New Words: 1900 on the epilogue of Copper Heart. This finishes up Epilogue Scene 2 of 3, and wrapping up the murderous Blizzard of 1886-87. Characters survived, though not entirely intact.

Total Words: 167,200.

Reason For Stopping: Finished the scene, and did so just as Laurie was getting the dogs ready for a walk that I wanted to come along for.

Book Year: 1886-87.

Mammalian Assistance: Once again, Vegas the Writing Assistant is flaking out on me, wanting to come in the Writing Room when I start work, wanting to leave five minutes later, and then wanting back in as I'm finishing up and leaving for the day.

Exercise: Walking around the neighborhood and campus with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Turkey Hill Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

Today's Opening Passage: The snow was still coming down the next day and wagons were long since useless, so the only cowmen going out in the storm were those who dragged a travois behind them. Owen would go out first and come home last, never allowing himself any rest, violating his mother’s rule about coming back by dusk—that third day, wind howling and the cowmen and their wives taking turns to desperately peal the mess bell, Owen and Puck finally dragged themselves back through the snowdrifts, horse and man with head lowered nearly as far as they could go without falling over, well after one in the morning.

Darling Du Jour: Not exactly a darling, but about as plain and stark as the rest of the scene . . .

The bones of the dead cattle left where they fell were ground up for fertilizer. The fertilizer was sold to their neighboring farmers, starting with those who sold Kate hay.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

I made what appeared to be progress today on the two fronts of my ongoing personal sagas: The house loan and the deathly ill car.

I was awakened this morning (at what is a normal hour to decent folks, but not necessarily those of us who work late) by The Bank's insurance division wanting to ask some questions about The House for purposes of homeowner's insurance. I presume this is a sign that I have not been summarily rejected despite my egregious lone late payment out of six credit references, but I couldn't give them an answer when they asked if I knew my closing date. So they went to call the loan officer, who turned out to be out for the day, with the message to call me if she could tell me anything beyond "in process". But I've gotten kinda used to waiting. Admittedly the warm weather makes it a lot easier and me more cheerful.

I also finally gave up on hearing back from the mechanic who told me he'd come get my car out of the library parking lot (where it had been sitting since the end of February--bless the campus police for not giving me grief about it loitering there so long) by last Friday. I left a message on his voice mail last Thursday afternoon to no avail. My father-in-law recommended both a mechanic and a tow truck to chauffeur my car to the mechanic. I managed to knock out some writing between the morning bank call and the afternoon tow. I know it's off to be fixed...at least this is my fervent hope...but there's still something heartbreaking about seeing your car disappear into the distance at the rear of a tow truck.

People have wondered from time to time over the years how I manage to get any writing done when I've got so many things (these and others I don't talk about because while they impact me, they're not my stuff to tell) going on around, beside, and through me. I can only answer that my alternative in such situations would be a much higher likelihood of a marginal to middlin' breakdown. I'm not sure how I could completely stop writing altogether during such times.

PROGRESS REPORT


New Words: 1700 on the epilogue of Copper Heart. This puts me about half or two-thirds of the way through the second of the three scenes. This scene chronicles the historically vicious Blizzard of 1886-87 that smashed the cattle industry and swerved the direction of the American West. (It's also where I'm writing about something that James A. Michener wrote about before me, in Centennial, so I have to try extra hard to tamp down the inferiority complex.)

Total Words: 165,300.

Reason For Stopping: Going to meet the tow truck.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: None, although Vegas jumped up on his box pile just long enough for me to take a picture to make all of you good people think he was helping me. Don't be fooled.


0312141249



Exercise: None to speak of.

Stimulants: Turkey Hill chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Today's Opening Passage: The signs were hidden so well, buried in the thickening bark of trees and fur of animals, they would be easy to miss if you did not think to look. They waited unnoticed by most, by people who had suffered through the hottest and driest summer in recent memory while enjoying years of mild winters, who would not want to see what was coming even if they could. Their blindness would soon be equaled by an unapproachable whiteness no man would be able to see through.

Darling Du Jour: Roberto felt its coming first as a restlessness. An odd discomfort amid spring days already reaching past one hundred degrees underneath a miserly sky. He prayed Catholic prayers and sang O’odham songs, and while the sense of unease intensified there were few hints at the source. As Geronimo rampaged across Arizona and Roberto joined Kate and the cowmen guarding cattle and especially Silverstar’s brood, Roberto turned inward as much as looking out for enemies, walking the Himdag and pleading to know what disaster was approaching them.

The subtle but cunningly laid answers were given by all of those beings who would suffer alongside the people. The cattle and other animals whose coats were growing extra thick for the coming winter. The burrowing snakes and rodents who dug deeper than Roberto had ever seen before. The cottonwood trees thickening their bark. The sparrows and towhees, warblers and canyon wrens who usually lived in Arizona during the winter continuing south without stopping.

Roberto would gaze at the sky as he patrolled the ranch or hunted stray cows; it was clear innocence, not revealing its plans, but everything else betrayed it.


Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

I haven't posted many pictures of my writing space before...maybe one or two over the years. But I took a couple of shots today as part of my (potential) post-move reconstruction of shelves, and figured I'd post them here.

These are the changeable spaces: The first picture is a shelf by my Writing Computer that has items related to whatever I'm writing, the second is the top of my computer monitor, which has a mix of transitional and more-or-less permanent items.


HPIM6798
All of these items came from Arizona, except two:
The laser-cut Kokopelli was purchased locally, and the pottery sherds are from private land in New Mexico.


HPIM6799
The stone-looking pieces lining the front of my monitor are half of a set of Cienega phase artifacts
a friend from Arizona sent me. The other half are lined up at the head of my keyboard.



At any rate, I'm one-third of the way through the epilogue of Copper Heart as of today, and once the book is done, all of my Arizona items will be packed up. As to where they'll go if I get a new place, I'll cross that threshold when I come to it.

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 3/10-11/14


New Words: 2400 (1300 / 1200 ). The death of someone who's been a character since early in Arizona Book 2 (aka Wolves in the Desert) gives Eva an answer to so many Hispanic families being displaced from their farms and ranches by Anglos.

Total Words: 163,600.

Reason For Stopping: Groggy yesterday from lack of sleep and finally took a nap / Finished the scene and needed to get ready for work.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: None. All the cats were gathered around the open windows letting in the lovely 70-plus degree day.

Exercise: None to speak of.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage(s):

Yesterday: It seemed that half of the Pimeria Alta—or at least half of the Hispanics in the land—were turning out for the funeral. This did not surprise Eva. The one they came to pay their respects to, to pray for her soul's quick release from Purgatory, had been so well known and loved in the land for so long, and on both sides of the border, she might as well have been a legend.

The woman herself would have laughed at that and called those people fools who called her legend. Though secretly she would have chuckled fondly.

Mostly, though, she considered dying an inconvenience, an interruption to getting work done.


Today: But when they were gathered, these stones ranging from cobbles to ones Eva could barely carry with two hands, with enough piled to build a six foot-high nicho, she could only stare at them blankly. What was she supposed to do next? She called herself a fool for thinking the knowledge might magically appear inside her head. Feeling exhausted and defeated, she went to bed for the night, expecting nothing more the next day than what she expected from every other ordinary day.

Darling Du Jour: Nothing springs out at me. Or maybe I'm just tired.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

The one upside to trying to get everything organized and packed for a move (or at least, when you're hoping to move but don't know if you will or not) is the stuff you run across that you haven't seen for ages. Two of the items I ran across yesterday were a couple of journals I kept in 1984, I think as school assignments. The first one opens on January 18, 1984, with a line filled with fate I didn't recognize at the time: "Today I started my story that I based on 'Centennial'".

In January of '84 I'd just been writing for a few months, and the book I'm referring to in that line - I ended up naming it The Trek West, my grandmother's suggestion - was only the second book I'd ever started, and my first historical novel. I'd go on to write something like 500 pages by hand on loose-leaf paper, covering over two centuries of history in the Midwest.

But here's the thing: I was so determined, and so fascinated by Centennial (the miniseries based on James Michener's book--I wouldn't end up reading the novel till that summer), and I was such an eager writer that I started working on The Trek West even before the miniseries was finished. Five days later, according to my journal, I'd written 113 pages, totaling nine chapters. By the time May rolled around and I started my second journal, I'd reached the 1930s and the Dust Bowl.

Now here's the thing. I wasn't exactly a meticulous researcher (though I thought I was at the time). I did a lot of my writing at the expense of school work - not only writing instead of studying and doing homework, but on a few occasions I even wrote during classes. I ended up going to summer school that year so I could move onto high school - and while I passed my summer school class, I spent all of my free time each school day in the library doing research for The Trek West.

And yet, all that said...dang.

Thirty years later, I'm a much better writer (thank Heavens), I'm more meticulous and calculated about the writing and the research, and obviously I still love what I'm doing. I do lean towards being obsessively persistent, especially when it comes to submitting my work to magazines and other publishers. I certainly wouldn't flunk out of school or lose a job or some such thing for writing nowadays.

But when I look back at those entries and the ferocity I attacked writing with when I was thirteen (and for years afterwards), I have to admit that I do miss feeling that way...just a little bit. Maybe more.

So in honor of 13-year-old me, I spent part of the rest of the day writing, determined that I wouldn't stop for the day until I'd finished the final chapter of Copper Heart. I still have the epilogue yet to write, but I did plow on through to the end of "The Renegades". And I could hear my younger self asking me from across that time gulf, "See? That wasn't so hard, was it?"

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 3/8/14


New Words: 2250 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. Geronimo at last surrenders and is shipped off to Florida forever; Riley decides what he does not want to do with the rest of his life.

Total Words: 161,100.

Book Year: 1886.

Reason For Stopping: See above.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas the Writing Assistant was up on the box pile and all ready to guard it until I opened the kitchen window to the unseasonably warm Outside. Then he was all about guarding the window, primarily from the other cats.

Exercise: Walked around the neighborhood and campus with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Peach cider.

Today's Opening Passage: That night Goyakla sat by a fire with his four best warriors before him. Three of them were also members of his family and they looked at him expectantly, hoping he would say what they did not have the courage to speak first themselves. The fourth was Lozen, her face a determined, stony mask.

Darling Du Jour: I like the last few paragraphs (which came to me right before I got to them), but I'm not going to post them here because they're kinda spoilery.

Submissions Sent Out In February: 13 to magazines, 6 to agents.

Total Submissions Out Right Now: 12 to magazines, 8 to agents, 2 to publishers.

Writing-Related Sacrifice: I'm not just piling stuff together for packing, but also going through numerous items that suffered mild to major mildew damage in our basement. One of these items was a binder with several hundred pages of printouts that comprised my primary research notebook when I wrote The Course of Heaven back in 2002-04 - the novel that got me back into serious, regular writing. I kept a few dozen pages of things I particularly liked or had information that might be hard to find again...I'll figure out what to do with the mildew smell later. But the rest, including the binder, went into the trash.

Other Writing-Related Stuff: Looking over the galley of a short story that was immensely fun and personally gratifying to write. It's for an anthology which I'll talk about when I'm given the OK to do so.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Not much to post about here lately, at least not much I want to - house loan is still up bouncing in the air and mocking me from above, car is still dead and waiting for the mechanic to be able to get to it - and a myriad of great and sundry things have otherwise been commandeering my attention from writing both here, on the novel, and elsewhere. As it is, the Progress Report I'm posting below is four days old - I've only been averaging writing one or two days a week, though at least the word counts are higher to make up for it when I do get to banging away at the keyboard. Volcanic eruptions and all that.

And by the way, if you didn't see this in the numerous other places I posted it, Lest Camelot Fall is the current giveaway on the awesome, fun, and informative English Historical Fiction Authors website. You can enter it by posting a comment with your e-mail address here.

And just because, here is a picture of Tucker the Big Dog rocking out to our recent blizzard.


HPIM6665



PROGRESS REPORT FOR 3/1/14


New Words: 3900 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. Geronimo decides to do his (final) final surrender.

Total Words: 158850. "Yes, the danger must be growing / For the rowers keep on rowing / And they're certainly not showing / Any signs that they are slowing . . . "

Reason For Stopping: The Writing Room is still only heated passively by whatever heat bleeds in from other rooms, so I was kinda frozen.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: Hayes the Baby Cat (splayed across lap, chest, and shoulder) wanted to guard me from...pretty much anything that wasn't her.

Exercise: Walked around the neighborhood with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Peach cider.

Today's Opening Passage: Gus was back in the desert, back in Mexico…but this time he felt stronger and more vital than before. Than ever before. It was as if he drew his strength and sustenance from the sun and the wind themselves, as he, Lieutenant Gatewood, and only a handful of others rode alone through the wastes to convince Geronimo to surrender one final time.

Darling Du Jour: There was the passing thought in the back of his mind that he was using up everything he had, all the rest of the years of his life, pushing forward with this effort. That once Geronimo was caught and shipped off to prison in Florida, Gus’ last breath would leave him and he would drop dead where he stood. It didn’t matter. He knew this was exactly where he was meant to be, and that he must see this through, for the span of his life had wholly been urging him to this last ride into Mexico and back.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

This week's quasi-Out-of-Context Quote:

Laurie to the World in General: "Ladies, if you don't help your husbands shovel snow, you won't have the muscle mass to fight when the Zombie Apocalypse comes!"


PROGRESS REPORT FOR 2/18/14


New Words: 1550 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. A year after his so-called "Final Surrender", and after seeing some signs that included an accidental leaving from some other characters in the book, Geronimo realizes that he almost certainly have no choice but to give up to the American soldiers once and for all. From here all that's left is Geronimo's surrender, which will finish off the chapter, and then a two- or possibly three-scene epilogue.

Total Words: 155,100. I actually hit and whizzed past the 150K mark back on February 5th (progress I don't think I reported here).

Reason For Stopping: End of scene, and some post-blizzard work to do.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas came in briefly to guard his box pile, but doesn't much care for the new box on top. I've switched it for a box he does like sprawling on, so we'll see what happens in our next installment of Danny The Cat Slave.

Exercise: Shoveling driveway snow; a round trip walk to campus.

Stimulants: Peach cider made in one of my old, brief abodes (Frederick, Maryland).

Today's Opening Passage: When Goyakla rode ahead alone as they made for their mountains strongholds, his companions let him. When he took less joy in raids and killing White Eyes and Mexicans, they said nothing. They pretended not to notice when he occasionally glanced to his side where there was no one, and when he sat before a fire facing a companion no longer there.

Darling Du Jour: He asked his Power for a vision of this, but no vision came. Perhaps this was the wrong place. Perhaps he should be alone. He climbed out of the arroyo where they were hiding up a rocky, jagged hillside, where high above him he spotted a mountain goat perched on a ledge as certainly as if it was part of the rock.

It was a good thing to see. Such a sight once before, just outside the cave with the powerful drawings, convinced him that the Dineh were like that goat. Always part of the land and going places no White Eyes could ever reach. Like that goat, it looked down upon everything below knowing that in such a high place nothing could reach it.

Goyakla didn't see the eagle until it grabbed its prey.

It swept down swiftly and with no warning but did not carry away the goat. Instead it sent the goat tumbling off its perch. The eagle feasted on the broken corpse.

Every muscle in Goyakla’s body seized. He had seen the eagle many times before — not in visions, but as a symbol representing America on everything the soldiers carried. Making himself walk back to the camp was more effort than planting barley on the reservation.


Lest Camelot Fall stuff: So far I've gotten five yeses from book reviewers willing to look at Camelot (though no guarantee they'll review it), one interview by another author / book blogger (already done but not yet posted), one giveaway contest (by fellow Musa author Liz DeJesus), and three spotlights (one of which has already appeared).

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Signed contract for The House has been sent along to the bank. And so the waiting and escalated hope begins.

Had a reader of Lest Camelot Fall become the first one yesterday to point out historical goofs. Actually most weren't goofs, just places where I probably should've been clearer. I'm still kicking myself over one, though: where in my head I was thinking "herbal brew" I wrote "tea" and then never caught it in three rounds of edits, despite tea proper only coming to Britain a thousand years after Camelot takes place. Le sigh.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I don't know if I tend to be overly slavish to historical accuracy, beverage slips aside, and I do tend to exercise some literary license, but there are plenty of lines I won't cross, and places where I'll stand my ground. I've been digging my heels in a lot lately while writing about Geronimo, just because there's so much misinformation about him out there--or just "things people know that just ain't so", as the saying goes.

Let's start with the movie Geronimo: An American Legend, because it incorporated a giant host of things that just weren't so.

Quick run-down if you haven't seen it: Geronimo (played by Wes Studi) is being brought in to the San Carlos reservation by Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) and narrator Lt. Britton Davis (Matt Damon), but is restless and unhappy there. When U.S. soldiers kill a holy man called the Dreamer, Geronimo breaks out. Gatewood finds him with the help of the Apache scout Chato (Steve Reevis) and Geronimo offers to surrender, but breaks his word again. Brigadier General George Crook (Gene Hackman), head of the Department of Arizona, resigns, and is replaced by the uptight martinet Brigadier General Nelson Miles (Kevin Tighe). Gatewood, Davis, Chato, and Chief of Scouts Al Sieber (Robert Duvall) go hunting for him in Mexico, Sieber is killed in a bar fight, Gatewood finds Geronimo and convinces him to come back with terms of surrender being that Geronimo will spend two years imprisoned in Florida. The Chiricahua Apache scouts are arrested and sent with them. Davis quits the army in protest.

So, what did the movie get right? Well, the names. There was a holy man called the Dreamer who was killed by U.S. troops. General Crook did resign after Geronimo's last breakout, and was replaced by Miles. The Apache scouts were indeed arrested. And, well, that's about it.

First of all, the movie compacts events--the Dreamer's death was several years before Geronimo's final breakout (and Geronimo wasn't there when the holy man was killed). The final straw was, of all things, that the Apache were forbidden to make and drink tizwin, an alcoholic beverage fermented from corn. Gatewood and Davis only rode together in the first days immediately after the last breakout; after that, troops of cavalry and a hundred Apache scouts were sent to hunt Geronimo down.

After a few grueling months in the Chihuahuan Desert south of New Mexico with no success, Britton Davis actually quit the army at this point, not after the war ended. Al Sieber, mostly crippled from years of hard desert service, essentially quit here too--refusing to go south of the border again. Despite his 1886 "death" in the movie, he lived on until 1907--ironically dying by way of a falling boulder while overseeing an Apache road work crew. (Local legend says an Apache rolled the boulder on top of him.)

General Crook is about the only one who is portrayed with more accuracy than not. Gatewood comes close, though the real Gatewood, unlike handsome Jason Patric, was gaunt almost to the point of being skeletal, and that only got worse as he chased Geronimo and his health failed. Wes Studi was about a generation younger than the real Geronimo, but did an excellent job portraying the warrior's perpetually scowling, grim face. Britton Davis was ambivalent about the Apache themselves, but not Geronimo--he hated Geronimo, calling him vicious, treacherous, and intractable. Nelson Miles is portrayed as a hard-arsed martinet, and he gets a bad rap in history books because the history writers tend to prefer his rival, General Crook (as did Britton Davis). But the truth is that Miles was almost as sympathetic toward the Apache as Crook, and had spent years advocating fair treatment for Native Americans and--in his own words--letting "Indians be Indians". He said that our failure to do this was a big part of the reason we had so many problems with them, along with enforcing laws on them that they had no say in, and occasionally being "unmercifully cruel" in our punishments.

Screwing around with history as much as the movie does is way above and beyond literary license, as far as I'm concerned. You don't need to alter the facts this much to make a good story; there are plenty of good stories inherent in things as they really were. I consider rewriting that much not only akin to historical blasphemy, but also outright laziness.

There are other things I'm not writing about, simply because I think they've been overdone. I don't have a long sequence of Geronimo's attacks on whites, for instance. Not that I don't have any at all, but you know it's happening, so there's no need to beat it into the ground for effect. I've concentrated more on other stories that tend to get left out of books and movies, like the story of Geronimo's 2-year-old son, Little Robe. That wasn't his real name, but a nickname given by soldiers who captured him and his family. (They had been with Geronimo--the Apache took their families to war with them.) Little Robe captivated the soldiers at Fort Bowie, and they were devastated when he met a tragic end. Those are the things I focus on more because details like that have always fascinated me.

Of course, nobody may read the book. It may bomb even worse than Geronimo did. But at least I'll have written the book the way I wanted to and thought it should be.

PROGRESS REPORT )

For some reason I had a bit of a hard time getting started with today's batch of writing...

0130141244



...but when I finally got down to plunking the keyboard I managed a fair amount. Along with my normal writerly impulses I was driven forward by two things: One, realizing that if I'm diligent I might have Copper Heart finished by next weekend. And two, next weekend we're supposedly going to get somewhere between 11-14 inches of snow, and if I'm done with the book I won't feel at all guilty about going out and enjoying the deluge.

Anyway, yesterday and today I've been writing about Geronimo's so-called "Final Surrender", which really wasn't. Despite Geronimo's original offer of surrender--in which he gave the speech that included his famous quote "Once I moved like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all"--he bolted immediately afterward and rampaged through the Southwest and northern Mexico for another six months. This led to the resignation of General George Crook and the ultimate surrender as negotiated primarily by Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, who met Geronimo with only a handful of men rather than an army at his back.

And I've been writing about Geronimo for two books now, introducing him when he was four years old. He will be gone from my Arizona books after he leaves on his prison train to Saint Augustine, Florida, since he never returned to Arizona, and after all that time it's going to feel quite strange for him to be gone.

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 1/29 AND 1/30/14


New Words: 3750 (750 / 3000) on what is now chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. I didn't just start a new chapter, exactly. I decided that my original chapter 3 was too long and broke off the last third for chapter 4. "The Renegades" doesn't refer solely to the Apache.

Total Words: 147,700.

Book Year: 1886.

Reason For Stopping: Getting ready for work.

Mammalian Assistance: See above picture for Hayes the Baby Cat's help. Vegas also came in to guard his box pile (and repeatedly grab my right hand) towards the end of the writing day.

Exercise: Walked to work and back yesterday; just a bit of poking around the woods with Tucker today.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage:

Yesterday: There were many things you could say about General George Crook, Gus thought. But today it was that he got right to the point.

Today: Gus’ latest meeting with Geronimo came in a peaceful, almost idyllic spot south of the border. Water rippled through a ravine filled with cottonwoods and willows and other lush, almost tropical plants. There alone, or with a girl—not that Gus had a girl, he flushed briefly to remember—it would have been magnificent. But then the Apache arrived decked out with gun belts and colorful blankets Gus guessed had been stolen from Mexicans since the attack that killed Captain Crawford, and suddenly the ravine was more choking than paradise.

It also wasn’t lost on Gus that the name of the spot where they were having the parlay was the Canon de los Embudos: the Canyon of the Tricksters.


Darling Du Jour: The white man’s name was C.S. Fly, and he was from a town called Tombstone — although Kaywaykla had no idea why the White Eyes would be so reckless as to name one of their towns after the site of a grave. It was like they were asking spirits and evil to come down on them. He just relegated that to the back of his mind as yet another thing he would never understand about the whites.

But he did understand their obsession with taking photographs. He knew whites and Mexicans didn’t have minds as good as the Dineh; they couldn’t remember the stories their people told through the generations, and so found other ways to record them, like writing. He hadn’t been surprised that Captain Bourke was writing down everything everyone said; that was the only way the whites would remember it. Kaywaykla almost felt sorry for them.

Their photographs were another thing they used to remember. So he wasn’t surprised when one of them brought a camera and asked permission to take pictures of the Dineh, including sitting down with the soldiers. ...

Many of the soldiers looked horrified — Kaywaykla noticed with hidden amusement — as Fly told Goyakla and the others how he wanted them to look. Whatever the newspapers might do with the pictures, though, Fly was not making the Dineh tell bad stories about themselves. They posed on their horses. They posed holding rifles and wearing their gun belts. They posed alone or lined up with the canyon walls behind them. They posed with their families — Goyakla even stood in the center of one with his son beside him, and the son holding Goyakla’s baby grandson. Kaywaykla admitted to himself that while the posing felt strange, something about it also felt good, with a rightness to it.

At once he knew that even if they all surrendered tomorrow and never saw their land again, they would never be forgotten.


Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: None; right now it's all research and review.

Conveniently timed just a week after Lest Camelot Fall appeared, this article goes into some detail about the "dark" period between the Roman Empire leaving the island and the Saxons taking the lion's share of it.

Most everyone interested in the period knows about the Saxon invasions and the Celtic population retreating to Wales and Amorica, which became known as Brittany ("Little Britain") due to the influx of immigrants. But this piece talks about other neat stuff, like archaeological evidence for Celtic victories around A.D. 500 (supposedly the time when Arthur, or his historical basis, flourished), that most of the Saxons went back to Germany after they participated in the invasions, and how many of the Romanized members of society didn't flee the Saxons, but allowed themselves to be ruled by them, and even took Germanic names.

That last bit was personally interesting to me. If the medieval records can be believed (slim chance that, but it's fun to wonder), some of my ancestors were Roman aristocracy in Gaul, a family named Ferreolus, at the time the Empire collapsed there. According to said records, in one generation you had a bunch of Ferreoli with Roman names; in the next you had Germanic first names with Ferreolus as a surname; and then a generation or so later the name Ferreolus disappeared altogether. There's really no reason the same thing couldn't have happened in Britain too.

Anyway, I spent a few hours of yesterday trying to catch up with how much writing I didn't do this past week, and succeeded fairly well. I had glaring goal posts to reach: I wrote a couple of scenes that I realized after some extra spot research were out of chronological order, so yesterday's mandate was to fill in the scenes that would put everything in its proper place. That done I retired for the night, cracking the ice from my pants as I stood up from my Writing Chair in the unheated Writing Room (except whatever heat bleeds in from other rooms) and realizing that thanks to typing, my fingers were the only parts of my body with any feeling.

(That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Yesterday was all about getting the work done.)

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 1/25/14



New Words: 3200 on chapter 3 ("The Seekers, 1882") of Copper Heart. Geronimo's first final surrender.

Total Words: 143,950.

Reason For Stopping: See above. And to keep my blood from freezing.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas came in for about three minutes, felt how cold it was, and decided this really wasn't for him.

Exercise: A bit of walking in the woods with Tucker. Mostly standing while he sniffed at something super-interesting, and untangling his leash from trees.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: That long paragraph I mentioned above, which I'm not quite certain I want to expose to the public just yet.

Darling Du Jour: Actually, that very same paragraph.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The World is My Home by James A. Michener; Crossover by Michael Jan Friedman. Both re-reads.

When I started writing what is now the Arizona Saga, and to some extent when I dove headfirst into historical fiction in general, I started having an increasingly hard time deciding how to portray the perspectives of conflicting groups: Native Americans against the Spanish, Native Americans against Anglos, Native Americans against each other. It wasn't that I had any good guy-bad guy notions here, that one group was all good while another was all bad. It was just that the groups' own portrayal of themselves and reports of their actions often wildly contradicted those from other groups.

I'll give an example based on what I'm working on now, Geronimo's final campaign and the army's massive pursuit of him, because the time period (the mid-1880s) is so well documented. Geronimo wrote an autobiography. The man who finally brought him in, Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, wrote an account. The officer who rode with Gatewood through the first few months of the campaign (but not afterwards despite what the movie Geronimo said), Lieutenant Britton Davis, wrote an account. And the papers by the two generals who pursued him, George Crook and Nelson Miles, survive to be read.

And it's an understatement to say their accounts don't necessarily agree.

Geronimo explained and defended his actions, naturally. Gatewood respected and admired the Apache, as did General Crook--who said outright that all of the Apaches' deprivations against whites were retaliations for what the whites did first. Davis was ambivalent about them, but (again, despite Matt Damon's portrayal in the movie) despised Geronimo, calling him intractable, vicious, and treacherous. (In real life Davis actually quit the army a few months after Geronimo's break-out, not after the final surrender a year later.) General Miles didn't much care about the causes, but wasn't nearly the hard-assed martinet that the movie and history both portray him to be.

I can read their accounts, and find that what Geronimo wrote about something was utterly different than what Gatewood and Crook wrote about it, and both were totally apart from what Davis wrote about it. So how do I write about it?

Instead of fighting the paradox, I decided to embrace it.

When I spent a couple of hours chatting about all things Arizona with Marshall Trimble, the state's official historian, he offered me a piece of advice that has been more profound for me than he mkight've meant: Don't try to hide the bad things about people and what they did. What he meant was that a lot of books portray certain legendary historical figures as knights in shining armor and ignore their flaws or try to gloss over them. But what I've also taken away from that was the idea that within reason, I should take these people at their word.

That's proven to be a lot simpler than I imagined it would. When I write Geronimo, I write his actions specifically as he thought of them--including the way he saw raiding and killing as necessary. When I write about Crook and Gatewood, the soldiers are just doing their duty but are sympathetic to the Apache. When I write about Davis, there is anger and a broken trust that won't be repaired. And so on.

Strangely enough, I found these pieces all fit together more seamlessly than I could have hoped. Because really, there wasn't one black-and-white truth here; every group did both great good and great bad, and their POVs provide their own personal reasons and justifications for each. I don't try to hide what each group would have thought about what they did, even if it was justifying something horific.

There have been exceptions to this through the series. Like deciding that the much-reviled Indian agent J.C. Tiffany was actually mostly innocent of the charges his contemporaries and history have leveled against him, and that he was mostly framed, after reading period documents. But overall I've just decided to go with each of these people / characters want to lead, and see where they take me.

If I want to tell their stories, I figure I should just tell their stories.


PROGRESS REPORT FOR 1/18/14 )

I managed some writing today, the second batch this week, while doing two things: Gearing up for the release of Lest Camelot Fall TOMORROW (the all caps is the way I'm thinking of it, not trying to get attention), and being well underway in the process of trying to buy a house. Writing has felt like a luxury with everything else going on, though it's also more necessary than ever just to keep my head on straight.

Right now there are multiple major uncertainties in my life. Even after jumping into the house-buying process I still have my doubts about whether or not it's the best idea, though the other options (including trying to stay where I am) are likely to prove even more difficult. As it is it's still far from certain that I'll be able to buy, but at least unlike the last time I tried to buy--at the peak of the credit crunch and banks gathering into the Department of We Don't Want To Loan Money Right Now Unless Your Credit Score is 800 And You Can Put 20% Down--I haven't been cut off at the knees.

Whatever the outcome, though, I'm still packing. By "packing" I mainly mean packing books. I have enough books that I figured I'd better get a good head start, and at fifty boxes that average printer paper box size I'm still only a third of the way through the library. This accounts for a big chunk of otherwise-writing-time in itself. I would take my books to the metaphorical desert island before nearly any other material things, but a few thousand can certainly make moving a wee bit more of a logistical challenge.

And of course, as I've been shouting to the rooftops, Lest Camelot Fall is out TOMORROW. (Yep, still shouting in my head.) Fourteen months after I sold the book to Musa, so the steam's been building for a long time. I don't need to detail my thought process here; it's stereotypical enough that you can guess. Mainly it revolves around me being afraid that I won't sell more than about nine copies. And trying to think up ways to promote it that aren't among the myriad of methods that would make people want to grab my ears and twist.

(At least I caught that typo in the very first line of the book in time, so that's something! That woke me up at a few 4 a.m.s.)

But these things and writing fall into two opposite categories:

House and Book Release? Much if not mostly out of my control. I can do some things. Fill out and mail paperwork. Blog about the book or make a YouTube video. But quite a lot of both, maybe the lion's share, are out of my hands.

Writing, though? Now that I can control.

I think that's the key to the whole writing while distracted thing. Often I'm distracted because I feel like I have little or no control over something (or things, or multitudes) going on in my life. But while I can't control what happens to my writing after it's released to the world, the placing of myself before the Writing Computer in the Writing Room (usually with Vegas the Writing Assistant perched by my side) is totally do-able, and the location where I am master of my world (and the world of the poor suckers I'm writing about). Sending out submissions is also within my power--I hurled out three short stories back to back yesterday, just because I could.

There's my balance. I takes my power where I finds it. House-buying? Book release? Whatever. Sure, there my collaboration with the universe is my choice. But when I'm pounding away at the keyboard (and I do pound, having learned to type on an old Hermes manual typewriter, though it's also cathartic), I create the universes, Jack.

PROGRESS REPORT )

With my part in the final editing of Lest Camelot Fall done (except maybe for some line edits) and still waiting to hear back whether anyone likes the synopsis I came up with for The Secret Project, I'm back at work on Copper Heart - though not exactly how I expected. I'm learning again to my good cheer that you should write when you can. The results can be surprising.

My normal work day runs from 4 in the afternoon to about half-past midnight. This is actually ideal for me because I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a Morning Person; this way I can get up when I choose, write through the late morning to early afternoon, then go into work. This changes when the campus is on a break, like now for Christmas, and suddenly I go into work at 8:30 a.m., meaning I'm working through my prime writing hours. So I adjust to writing in the evening instead.

But that didn't necessarily work out so well this week. There were other things needing my attention first as soon as I got off work. I found my free time starting well into the night instead, when my attempts at writing haven't been so hot. (How I can be a Night Person while doing my best writing in the late morning and early afternoon, I suppose I'll never know. Maybe my brain percolates while I sleep and I wake up ready to hit the keyboard. Anyway.)

My default assumption this past Monday was that I wouldn't be doing any writing, especially since I was sleepy (having come to the library at 8:30 that morning after closing it 8 1/2 hours earlier). But then I walked Tucker the Big Dog around our neighborhood on a chilly night. Not only did the cold walk snap my brain awake, but--as is often the case when I go for walks--I started having Book Thoughts, and by the time I got home I had most of the next scene in my head and was rarin' to write. So I did, and in the next hour managed to not only pull off 1600 words, but words that I thought were much better than those I'd written the day before...during my normal writing time.

I tried it again last night, when I didn't get home till after 8 pm, since I had a pretty good notion of what came next, and did another 800 pretty decent words.

Lesson to self: Apparently as long as I don't have to stare at a blank screen with a blank Writing Brain, I can write at most any time between midnight and 9 am when I have any awake left. And no matter what I may think of what I get down during those odd hours, as the authorly saying goes, it's better to have a page full of words that you can rewrite or toss than an empty sheet.

Meanwhile, since apparently I don't have enough writing-related stuff on my plate, I'm once again looking over small presses while contemplating the idea of trying to publish a collection of my published poetry. Now if I could just write the poem that the collection would be named after I might be golden.

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 12/15-17/13


New Words: 3400 (1000 / 1600 / 800) on chapter 3 ("The Seekers, 1882") of Copper Heart. 10-year-old Agustin Alvarez comes up with a less-than-unique way to solve a family problem, and sets himself on a dark path as a result.

Unless I'm forgetting something, once this particular storyline is finished, in another couple thousand words or so, I have Geronimo's final campaign, then a two-part epilogue, and Copper Heart will be finished.

Total Words: 127300.

Book Year: 1885.

Reasons For Stopping: Getting ready for work / Sleepy / Sleepy.

Mammalian Assistance Poor Vegas the Writing Assistant is quarantined while we make certain he's not sick. In the meantime, Nate has come in briefly to clear any Snollygosters out of the Writing Room for me.

Exercise: Walks with Tucker around the neighborhood; one campus walk with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Sunny Delight, original flavor.

Today's Opening Passage(s):

Sunday: The victory had been a great one, Carlos reflected, and one he actually never expected to win despite how hard he and Eva labored for it. Mexican farmers once again winning a battle against Anglos over water rights — the most important right in the desert as far as they were concerned — not with a song this time, but in court.

Monday: Agustin Luis Maldanado Alvarez might have only been ten years old, and this was not yet something he could necessarily put into words, but deep down he was aware that twice he had been saved from death.

Tuesday: Agustin came back into his own mind when he heard what sounded like his name on the wind.

Darling Du Jour: And Agustin was likewise aware that had he not acted, this might have been his third escape from death — or this time around Death might be especially perturbed with him and make a greater effort to kill him. The previous two escapes had not made him more religious like it did his sister Carlotta, as his mother hoped, but got him thinking that maybe Death wasn’t all that interested him, or maybe even came to like him a bit. Respect him.

That if Agustin was bold enough, Death would slip on by him and leave him untouched.

None of this came out of Agustin’s mouth when his screaming father demanded to know why he had shot the Anglo, though. It wasn’t close enough to the front of his mind. Foremost in his thoughts and what he told his father instead was, “He chased off Miguel and his family.”

For Agustin, that was the crux of the matter. Miguel Arpaio was his closest friend, and Miguel was being forced to go far away, maybe never to be seen by Agustin again.


Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney / [personal profile] j_cheney; The Given Sacrifice by S.M. Stirling.

For a little while now I've been investing, including more recently in stocks. Nearly all of this is tied into my retirement, so that I have the possibility of retiring someday (from a day job, anyway, not writing). Some of this stock purchasing has been done by investment counselors who are a fringe benefit of my employment, and some of what they've picked up are pre-made portfolios by companies like Vanguard and Wells Fargo, which is handy when your hours are devoted to other things than following the markets.

The downside of these portfolios and other aspects of the middleman investing is that I can't necessarily tell them "I don't want to buy stock in X and Y". This hasn't become an issue yet, but there are a few companies out there that I have serious issues with, including moral and ideological ones, while other companies have majorly screwed over people I care about. Often in time some companies have fit both categories. So I would hate the thought of investing in them, but I may not have a micromanagement choice if I want to keep the rest of the stocks around.

But there's a simple solution that others have used which is very attractive to me: Protest dividends, which I also call Irony dividends. That is, if you can't ditch the company you don't like, you take the amount you earned as a dividend and donate it to / invest it in a company or organization that competes with or opposes them.

Don't like, say, that oil company responsible for a major spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Match your dividend amount as a donation to an environmental group that's butting heads with them.

Think that seed and pesticide company is leading us to monopolized ruin with plants that can't produce their own seeds? The one suing Midwestern farmers into oblivion? Donate to an organization that is forcing them out of localities...or perhaps spend that money on a visit to your local farmer's market or cooperative.

Or in other cases I could end up simply continue something I'm already doing. If I hate the insurance company that did a financial number of some members of my family (not a hypothetical example), then I just keep paying premiums to their competitor for a policy I already have. And maybe extending my coverage.

Granted if the dividends are high, this could be an issue--as in, I might not be able to match the money. But the stocks I have are so spread out, with no more than a few shares in any one company, I don't really think this will be a problem. If it is then I'll figure out an alternate solution. Volunteering is certainly not beyond the pale.

In the meantime the writing continues, only one minor character (who will loom much larger in the next book) decided he preferred a more violent method of problem solving than a matching contribution.

PROGRESS REPORT


New Words: 1900 on chapter 3 ("The Seekers, 1882") of Copper Heart. Brooding over Will's mysterious disappearance with Pastor Overton, Ulpian Shively is haunted by a vicious ghost from his own recent but too-soon forgotten past, and learns that no good deed goes unpunished.

Total Words: 118600.

Reason For Stopping: Exercise, animal care, and getting ready for work.

Book Year: 1884.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas the Writing Assistant popped in for a moment but strangely wanted right back out. Then later, after I was done, he tried to convince me that I should go back in the Writing Room and write some more with his help.

Exercise: Two extended neighborhood walks with Tucker. Though time-wise, the majority of the second was spent with him sprawled out on his back in the grass begging for belly rubs.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: The residents of Copper Heart quickly learned to give Ulpian Shively a wide berth after Will suddenly and mysteriously left town with Pastor Overton. Shively still made his daily rounds of the businesses but talked to no one. They’d never seen such a thunderstorm in his face before and it unsettled even the hardest miners, who feared that Shively’s rule about being strict but fair with troublemakers might lose its second half. Old man he might be at fifty-six, but he could still far out-shoot the second-fastest draw in the Verde Valley.

Darling Du Jour: Shively himself didn’t know what to make of his own mood. He noticed the change in the town’s tenor around him but was too tied up in frustration to care more than marginally. He managed to still drink like a gentleman, never imbibing so much he couldn’t shoot convincingly at a man-sized target. But beyond that he felt as if the whole mountain was crumbling beneath him.

He often replayed the last few weeks in his head like a poor actor who could never quite get his lines right. He hadn’t figured out how Overton got in the house, and didn’t buy the more blindly faithful residents’ unhelpful suggestions that if it was God’s will, then God would have veiled Shively’s eyes. During the war his troops had been caught out by Yankees too many times for him to take the idea of any kind of divine veiling seriously. But he couldn’t ignore how his gut never once sent him a warning signal about the itinerant old preacher.


Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: E.L. Doctorow and John Maddox Roberts.

Two bits of book news near and dear to my heart that I wanted to pass along:

Tales of the WNU



First, Titan Books' last Philip Jose Farmer-related work, Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, edited by Win Eckert and Chris Carey, was released yesterday. This is a collection by Farmer and others about the storyline he wove where great 19th and early 20th century literary heroes like Sherlock Holmes and Doc Savage possess nearly superhuman abilities thanks to being descended from people who were near the (real life) late 18th century impact of a meteor just outside the village of Wold Newton, England. SF Signal also has a page where you can read the introduction.


Musa Birthday



And second, if you like e-books, Musa Publishing--the publisher of The Matter of Camelot--is celebrating its second anniversary this month by offering a 30% off sale on books from a different imprint each week. This week's sale is for romance, from their Calliope line.

As for me, I added a bit to Copper Heart and tentatively changed the name of chapter 3 to "The Seekers".

PROGRESS REPORT


New Words: 1550 on chapter 3. The specter from the Becketts' past, Zonas Overton, has convinced Will that they must return to the old Apacheria together to atone for Will's family's old sins, or burn for eternity. Will wonders if literal or metaphorical prisons are worse.

Total Words: 116700.

Reason For Stopping: To attempt another Tucker Walk (see below), and then get ready for work.

Book Year: 1884.

Mammalian Assistance: None.

Exercise: 1 1/2 neighborhood walks with Tucker. The 1/2 was the first one, when there were a couple of Stranger Dogs in the neighborhood and Tucker was more interested in trying to meet them than walking.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: Will was not among Overton’s early visitors. The story spread that the old preacher somehow got past the otherwise invincible-seeming Shively, so the first people streaming into the jail to look at the old man wanted to see the curiosity. For those initial few he rarely spoke, sometimes acted as if no one was there even when they spoke to him first. When he did speak he would say only, “I am not here for you.”

Darling Du Jour: Nothing springs out at me.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow; Hannibal's Children by John Maddox Roberts.

This past Saturday my friend Mary / [personal profile] viedma and I headed up to the still-open despite being federally-run Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic tour, lots of photography, and a 3-mile hike to a 150-foot waterfall. The sky was blue and clear, and the day warm and pretty much perfect for October in the Appalachian Mountains, so we decided to keep most of the political chat to a minimum aside from making fun of the government for closing all the public restrooms and picnic areas. She doesn't much care for most political discussions in general, and at one point tried to ascertain why I keep jumping into them when their usual effect is to raise my blood pressure.

Some of it is knee-jerk reaction. I've also said, partly seriously, that written arguments in the heat of the moment help me sharpen my writing skills. But honestly it rarely has anything to do with the discussion at hand at all. I've half-joked that my writing is just an excuse to do research, and the same applies to online arguments as well.

Never mind the big stuff going on right now, though I have been reading up on Obamacare (I even read the entire bill once over the course of two weeks) and what the various factions have said about shutdown possibilities over the past three years. It's the smaller stuff that's garnered my interest.

Nothing structured, just wherever the current takes me. A discussion about the House of Representative's powers led to a reading of Federalist Paper #58 with commentaries, for example. Federalist 58 urges the House as a check and balance against the Senate, including the power of the purse. I'm always intrigued by picking apart the mind of James Madison.

I also got into a civil argument about the first three chapters of Genesis--the Creation and the Fall--but eschewing the English translations as much as possible to study the Hebrew text. I don't even resemble having any skill with Hebrew, and I don't take the English translations completely literally. But a pretty direct translation I own with facing Hebrew text allows me to revel in the poetry of it and plunge into the multiple shades of meanings of words. My favorite is that "living" in the term "living creature" is neshem, which can mean living, or breath...or possibly soul, creatures with a soul (including the animals!), though I gather that neshama is more properly translated as soul. But in the Hebrew--like many other languages, especially ancient ones--breath and soul are intertwined.

It's likely that Federalist 58 and neshem will never wind up in any fiction of mine (though anything seems possible, especially when I throw in poetry too). Maybe they will; I draw ideas from everywhere. But that's not really the point. I revere ideas and the language used to express them when that language is meant to unfold rather than obscure, and James Madison and Hebrew are among the top of the list. This is the thrill of discovery for me--and at least at the moment I wouldn't have jumped into either of those if not for online discussions I might "logically" have avoided. They might raise my blood pressure, but the after-results mellow me back down and carry me someplace farther than I'd been before.

Such breaths and my soul always get intertwined.

And even better, I also committed book-writing and exercise today.

PROGRESS REPORT


New Words: 1600 on Chapter 3 of Copper Heart. (I didn't include the chapter name here since I plan to change it, and stick the original name as Chapter 1 of Book 4.) Just as the religious revival in Copper Heart following the town's burning is simmering down, a familiar face from the Becketts' past (that is to say, from Book 2) re-emerges and rekindles it in a big and somewhat disastrous way.

Total Words: 115150.

Reason For Stopping: Off to exercise, eat lunch, then get ready for work.

Book Year: 1884.

Mammalian Assistance: None. As is often the case, Vegas realized his mistake too late and tried to get me to go back into the Writing Room for more work after I was done.

Exercise: Walked Tucker around the neighborhood. At the fitness center, I did a mile on the elliptical with a 3-minute cool down: An 8:45 mile, mostly 6-7.5 mph and a high of 9.9 mph. This was followed up with five ten sets on a pull-down weight machine, three sets at the 8/12 setting and two at 9/12. I'm still amazed at how just that little bit of lifting will wipe out my backaches for days.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: Will held tight and sat out the religious revival that swept over Copper Heart in the months following the town’s burning. There were still stubborn embers here and there two years later. But they were finally starting to go out until the old man appeared, carrying little more than the clothes on his back—not even a Bible—and a name that Will only heard his father mutter in anger, a best-forgotten ghost of someone the Becketts had thought long dead.

Darling Du Jour: He was in his eighties and looked every day of it. Each crag and wrinkle was testimony of a year under the Arizona sun. He hardly appeared to be stronger than a tumbleweed at first, his back bent and his clothes so travel stained they would never be clean again, but his body was so etched with soil that clean clothes on him would be permanently dirty by day’s end anyway. His voice was frail and his white beard long. He claimed to be a preacher but he was a preacher without a Bible, though he couldn’t remember if his Bible had been stolen by Apaches or white miners down to Bisbee or Tombstone, or maybe if he’d lost it somewhere just north of the Tanque Verde or on a failed journey up to Fort Defiance. He wasn’t of a mind to replace it just yet, though, since he said he’d memorized all the most important parts anyway.

Submissions Sent Out In September: 2 to magazines, 1 to an agent, and 2 to publishers.

Total Submissions Out Right Now: 8 to magazines, 6 to agents, and 2 to publishers.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: None.

I think I'm going to have to write a fantasy novel again someday sooner rather than later, one way or another, be it another historical like To Murder an Empire or something with straight-up unique world-building. As much as I've enjoyed writing the Old West passages, particularly the scenes with the Earp brothers, I found myself especially looking forward to scenes with a character named Roberto Kicking Horse, who is the Tohono O'odham (formerly known as Papago) senior vaquero (aka cowman / buckeroo) of my fictional cattle ranch along Pantano Wash near Tucson. The reason is because I incorporated a few traditional O'odham elements that wouldn't be out of place in a fantasy novel either.

This storyline centers around a horse named Silverstar, an exceptionally intelligent equine who finds his way into young Owen Marrak's care--Owen being the son of the ranch owners but who wants nothing more than to be an ordinary cowman--and then finds his way back to Owen after rustlers try to steal him. Through a series of almost mystical events Roberto becomes convinced that Owen is an unwitting Kawiyu Namkam, a Horse Meeter, someone who would receive an animal power by way of a horse or a spirit in horse form. Roberto becomes more convinced of this when Owen falls sick with what Roberto believes is a staying sickness brought on by the "devils" who help cowmen who are good to their cattle and horses, and bring sickness to those who aren't.

Roberto knows a major crisis is coming for the animals, long years of drought, but Owen refuses to see it. And so he refuses to act in the way Roberto believes Silverstar is urging him to. What I wrote yesterday brought that particular storyline to a head, writing what feels like fantasy elements but is perfectly grounded not only in what could happen, and what did happen from an O'odham point of view, but also ties in with plenty of tall tales that came out of Arizona from the late 19th century. Owen's refusal to do what needs to be done doesn't come with punishment exactly, but there are consequences, subtle but an indelible loss that he'll remember till the day he dies.

Yeah, so I wrote this storyline just like I write fantasy. I enjoy how sometimes it's the smallest decisions, the seemingly inconsequential mistakes, that have the longest and hardest reverberations. Because all too often that is the way of things.

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 9/28/13


New Words: 2000 on chapter 3 ("The Conquerors") of Copper Heart.

Total Words: 112850.

Reason For Stopping: Finished the scene, and needed to get some other work around the house done.

Book Year: 1884.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas checked out the room but wasn't interested in sticking around.

Exercise: Gave Tucker an extra-long walk around the neighborhood; walked around campus with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Ice water on a cool late September mountain day with the window open.

Today's Opening Passage: When Roberto asked Owen the next morning what he’d dreamed Owen told him “Nothing” and meant it. At least there was nothing Owen remembered, or cared to. Whenever he tried exploring the memories of his night hours all he found was a deep and terrible emptiness, an unending wasteland he was trying to ride through. A worry burrowed deep in his heart that the more he tried to ride towards what he’d dreamed, the more lost he’d get. When he saw Silverstar waiting expectantly in the corral Owen felt overwhelmed with relief. A cowman knew his best friend was a good horse, and Owen was sure there was nowhere this horse couldn’t bring him home from.

Darling Du Jour: Owen dropped into a chair and guzzled down part of a canteen that had appeared in his hand. “What were we talking about last night?” he asked, fighting bleariness.

Roberto sat across from him. “What do you mean to do about the feed yards?”

“Why do you keep asking me that? I won’t have them. I’ll fight Ma on it. Cattle need land to wander and grass to graze. What else would you give them? Corn from the new Mexican farms, is that what she’s thinking? Cows can’t eat corn. It’ll turn their stomachs.”

“They can’t eat grass if there is no grass to eat. Dry years are coming.”

Owen capped the canteen and tossed it to Roberto, who took a short drink and then set it aside. “We’ll do what we’ve always done,” Owen told him.

“What’s that?”

“We conquered the land, we conquered the Apache. We can conquer drought too.”

But Roberto was shaking his head. “You have conquered nothing yet, not even yourselves. You are going that way, but it’s only the way to ruin things. Ruin yourselves and the land.”

“We’ve done pretty good so far,” Owen said irritably.

“Because the desert is a bright and shining place full of songs and bounty. As many as you are and as many cattle as there are, it still provides. But it will not last forever. You need to learn to live like the O’odham with the Himdag, our Way. Take what is good and learn to live alongside the rest.”

“That hasn’t done you a lot of good, though, has it?” Owen felt ashamed of throwing these words at his lifelong friend but being sleepy made him shoot out words like he’d drunk a whole bottle of mescal or tizwin. “The Apache were always coming after you. And here we are, too, and there are a lot more of us than there are of you. And you’re saying you haven’t been conquered?”

“We live on our own land. We raise our own cattle. We are Catholic, but we also still have the Himdag. The Apache tried to conquer, and see where they are. You are conquering, and the grass and the water are going away. But the O’odham are still here as we have always been, doing what we have always done.”

“Sure we’ll take what’s good,” Owen murmured, “but why should we have to live with what’s bad?”

“That is life, Owen. Sometimes I am up here”—he held his hand high above his head—“and things are good. But when things are so good, I know that someday bad things will come. And when I am down here”—now he held his hand just above the dirt floor—“and things are bad, the one thing I know for certain is that someday things will be good again. If you try to stay up on top all of the time, that is not natural, and things will be much worse when you come down again. When you fall things may be destroyed. That is just the way life is.”


Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: Finished up George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons.

History can be a wicked trap.

In the Internet Age many of us are aware of the "Wikipedia Effect": Someone posts something on one Internet source, then the next thing you know it's on 20 webpages, then 200, and after a short while people think there are 200 sources for a piece of information rather than just one that got replicated exponentially. This isn't new; for decades the equivalent were the AP and UPI wire services, where one story from them could be replicated exactly across hundreds of newspapers, right or wrong.

But it goes back even farther than that. I realized this past weekend that I'd snagged myself in an early version.

In this case, I was writing about a historical fellow named Joseph C. Tiffany, who spent two years as the Indian agent at the San Carlos Apache agency in Arizona, from 1880-82. The books I read that mentioned him...all secondary sources...vilified him not only as corrupt and a thief, but the worst agent Arizona had ever known. One of the worst ever in American history, perhaps. They had him in league with the infamous Tucson Ring (more on that later), a prime mover and shaker in reservation graft before he resigned in June of '82 citing health reasons and financial woes. The books quoted a grand jury investigation that all but blamed him for the ruin of civilization when they handed down thirty indictments against him, along with criticism by General George Crook, who both fought and supported the Apache, and Crook's aide, Captain John G. Bourke.

Sounds pretty cut and dried, doesn't it? Except...no. When I did some more digging into the primary sources I discovered that Tiffany was a scapegoated victim of the 1882 version of the Wikipedia Effect.

I won't go into all the gory details, but here are the highlights: The Arizona reservations at the time often got their agents through the actions of various churches, and the Dutch Reform Church--which oversaw the Apache--heard about Tiffany's energetic religious and business activities (he was nicknamed "Pastor Tiffany" by friends and enemies alike) and supported his appointment. He believed that the best way for the Apache to become civilized was through education and self-sufficient work, so one of the first actions was to start a program to build schools and irrigation. He fought the government when they wanted to take land away from San Carlos due to the discovery of coal and other minerals on it--and when the pressure got too much he fought to have the government pay the Apache for what they were taking. When he learned how food and other supplies meant for the Apache were being stolen before reaching their destinations, he often went to take receipt of the items personally--or supplemented them himself.

Sounds good so far. So how did this apparent do-gooder become known as Arizona's worst Indian agent?

Less biased contemporary accounts say that Tiffany was honest but "mediocre", completely out of his depth when it came to fighting the graft and machinations of the Tucson Ring--Tucson businessmen who were profiting from Apache supplies and warfare. Whether or not the Ring as an organized force really existed is up for debate, but there were grafters, and the last thing they wanted were self-sufficient Apache.

After Tiffany left San Carlos he went home to New York, and his enemies pounced. The accusations fell into two categories: Things that actually happened but that he wasn't responsible for--like the missing food--and things that were misconstrued, like his holding eleven Apache prisoners without charge for fourteen months. In reality Tiffany didn't want to hold them but the government ordered him to do so while they figured out their jurisdiction. In fact Tiffany previously released fifty-two prisoners over his term being held without charge, but the rumor started afterwards that they were in fact guilty and he let them go anyway. (Guilty of exactly what has never been determined.)

His enemies figured that with Tiffany in the East he would never be able to defend himself, so they could say whatever they liked. All in all the grand jury that investigated him relied on only two white witnesses--one of whom scooted out of Arizona before Tiffany came to trial--and several Apache who turned out to lie when they said they never received food rations from him. (They did get the rations, gambled them away, then got angry when he refused to give them more.) Then Tiffany did in fact come all the way back to Arizona to defend himself. The prosecution made a weak case, and all the charges were dropped.

But to this day you'll still see Tiffany's name in history books practically placed alongside Hell's demons. Those same books boggle over the fact that Tiffany was found innocent of all the charges against him. Simply put, he left Arizona for good afterwards while the grafters remained, and they found it convenient to perpetuate the Tiffany tale to hide their own wrongdoings. Every single account of Tiffany's supposed badness comes either from the grand jury report when they handed down the indictments, or the criticisms of General Crook and Captain Bourke--who came after Tiffany left and also relied on the jury report.

At any rate, I doubt my book will necessarily do much to restore Tiffany's reputation, but I couldn't let it sit. Part of yesterday's writing was rewriting Tiffany's main scene where--reading between history's lines--the prophet named the Dreamer made him nervous enough to break down and ask the Tucson Ring for help.


PROGRESS REPORT FOR 9/15/13


New Words: 1500 on chapters 2 and 3 of Copper Heart. Along with vindicating Tiffany, I also started the secret expedition that General Crook, with my characters Riley and Gus Beckett, led for two hundred miles into Mexico to capture Chiricahua Apache raiders right in their own Sierra Madre stronghold.

Total Words: 99200.

Reason For Stopping: More research, and other non-writing related matters to take care of.

Book Year(s): 1881 and '83.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas guarded his box pile (and occasionally my lap) while Nate guarded the table and window.

Exercise: Walking Tucker around the neighborhood; walking with Laurie and the dogs around campus.

Stimulants: More Icee-pops.

Today's Opening Passage(s):

Tiffany: “I have come to you because I need assistance with the medicine man,” Indian Agent Joseph C. Tiffany told the Tucson Ring.

The last people you want help from, Carlos thought. We will do exactly as you want. We can deal with this shaman however you wish. But I doubt you will want to pay the price for our help.

Crook: In late March of 1883 the Apache raid that Crook had expected, Arizona feared, and the Tucson Ring longed for finally happened: not Geronimo or Nana, but twenty-six Chiricahua under the leadership of a young chief named Chatto, who had not yet grown full of weariness of war and was more willing to challenge the American and Mexican armies.

Over six days they stoles horses from every ranch they visited, traveling at least seventy-five miles a day through Arizona and New Mexico, killing twenty-six people in the ranches and camps and kidnapping a six-year-old boy later found dead. Along with the horses and cattle they stole, they took sizable quantities of what they had broken out of the Sierra Madres wanting most: weapons and ammunition. They suffered only one man dead and the ten companies of cavalry sent after them never once caught sight of a single warrior.


Darling Du Jour: It probably won't mean much without context, but...

Riley also knew why the men would be hand-picked. The understanding with Mexico was that soldiers could cross the border in pursuit of Apache…though required to somehow let the Mexican authorities know what was going on as they did it, preferably before. There were also multiple districts whose commanding officers needed to be informed—and each Mexican officer had a different interpretation of the way the treaty should be carried out.

An offensive operation, however, was another thorny matter entirely. Nobody was clear on where the understanding stood there—or if it had any standing at all. Riley wasn’t clear what Crook’s orders were concerning such an operation…or if he had any orders at all. But Mexico was prickly about its territory despite facing its own Apache attacks. In fact negotiations were still ongoing and Sherman had warned Crook not to expect any modifications in the U.S. army’s favor. Riley was middling certain that General Sherman wasn’t giving Crook carte blanche to go raiding in another country.

Crook could see that Riley understood, and nodded with a faint smile. “When the time comes, captain,” the general said with gusto, “I will have you send a message to command for me: tell them that I will be ‘outside normal communications for an extended period’.”

When Riley left he couldn’t manage to think about the upcoming covert mission. Instead he remembered his Uncle Rodrigo at Fort Defiance, how that sad and bitter man waited until he was gunned down to admit to Riley that they were family.
I’ll not make the same mistake when I see Gus, Riley vowed. I’ll stay close to him for as long as I’m able, and let him know I’ve got his back for whatever he needs.

Weird Historical Fact Unearthed: Cavalrymen weren't the only ones who took cocaine pills when they were hurting. They gave cocaine to their horses as well.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin. Otherwise known as "Game of Thrones Season 5".

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February 2015

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