America

Many people in the United States are unhappy with its national anthem. Some complain that it's too war-like and mean. Others find it hard to sing. However, I believe that it has a redeeming value in the question that it asks: “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” I ask myself the same thing almost every morning now almost two hundred years after Francis Scott Key penned that question.
Key was a captive of the British while their fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor all day and night, until 3 am on the morning of September 14th. He wondered why the shelling had stopped. Had the fort fallen? That would seem the most unlikely outcome. The British had besieged the defenders since September 12th during which time not a shot had reached the British ships from the fort's guns. Thus, Key stood (popular myth has him standing atop the bulwarks, clinging to the ship's standing rigging to steady himself) as he strained to see which flag flew above the walls: The American stars and stripes or the British Union Jack. Alas, not a breath of air stirred and the flag hung limply from its standard, its nationality indistinguishable.

Why didn't Key ask one of his captors? Most likely, they couldn't have answered him. They were awaiting word from Robert Ross, the British general who led the troops that had disembarked at Sparrows Point, at the confluence of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay, and were supposed to capture Baltimore. Ross's force had already captured and burned Washington. Surely they could brush aside the Maryland militia and recreate their victory in Baltimore. When Ross's courier arrived, they were stunned to learn that he was dead and that his forces had been defeated by Sam Smith.

 
 

Good Read

Writers are readers, avid readers. Like you, we're always on the lookout for a good book. Come join us on a blog hop as we visit some of our favorite authors. 

What's a “blog hop”? It's a trail of links from one author's website/weblog to another. This trail leads to articles about the characters populating books in progress, soon to be published, or recently released novels. Now meet mine: Nick Andrews, an American who joined the Army just in time for the Korean War.  
Studies have shown that as many as 20 to 30 percent of soldiers never fire their weapons in combat. No, I'm not including those in the rear echelons. I'm talking about combat troops, under fire. In some skirmishes, it has been reported that fewer than a third fired their weapons. Unfortunately, the research does not include the reasons why they didn't return fire. Some may have been too frightened to emerge from their foxholes and fight back. Still others may have been unable to find a target. The ones I'm interested in are those who simply couldn't overcome the natural reticence to kill another human being, even one who is attempting to kill them.

I created a story set in Korea during the war there to explore this issue. I created a character, Nick Andrews, an ordinary person with whom readers can identify. He's been well-trained to fight as an Army Ranger, but never taught to kill. That's a skill that can only be learned on the battlefield.

 
 

Opinion

There are only two arguments that matter in support of granting citizenship to all who have slipped across the borders without permission. Political arguments do not matter. Latin Americans, especially Mexicans, argue that they have more right to occupy the Southwestern territories of the United States than US citizens inasmuch as the land was stolen from them. I addressed this issue in another posting regarding the legitimacy of conquest wherein I argued that the Spanish conquest of these regions is no more legitimate than the US conquest of them. In other words, we only stole what was stolen. Indeed, you would be hard pressed to find a square inch of habitable land on planet earth at any point of history that isn't held by right of conquest. In this posting, I would like to address a far more important issue: The Rule of Law.
Obviously, those who have entered the United States without permission will be bewildered by my obsession with The Rule of Law. Their mere presence is clear evidence that it is of no importance to them. Sadly, many native born US citizens are likewise bereft of any understanding of it. The absence of civic lessons in our public schools, as well as many private schools, has denied them the opportunity of learning its importance.

 
 

Good Read

Can you unplug from your iPad, iPhone, and iPod, sit alone, and just think? I do, quite often. Indeed, When I turn to other stimuli, I prefer any form of entertainment that will inspire me to seek a quiet corner and reflect on what I have learned. It matters not whether it comes in fiction or nonfiction stories. Truth is simply true, and it belongs to anyone willing to embrace it. The Somme: The Darkest Hour on the Western Front by Peter Hart is one of those books, full of true incidents, and it gives people like me something to think about.
Battle of the Somme
Infantrymen advance into no man's land
Hart's book illuminates the battle of World War I in which nearly 1 million men were either killed or wounded in during the brief period of July1 to 18, 1916 on the banks of the River Somme in France.

The Somme chronicles the events leading up to the battle as well as the carnage that ensued. It is this early part of the book that caused me to reflect on my war, the one in which I participated, Vietnam. It dwells not only on the engagement of forces, but also on the steps and missteps that led to it. We become familiar with the heads of state, mostly royal cousins, trading notes in familiar language, and their respective statesmen giving the appearance that they want to avoid the unavoidable, and yet secretly rushing to war. We learn how the armies came to meet on the bucolic plains of rural France where they had to improvise an infrastructure to support the men and machines of war. I paused to remember Vietnam after reading this part inasmuch as America's military victory in Vietnam, a place where so many others had failed, was largely based on logistics.

Ah, I can see that you are thinking. What does he mean, “...America's military victory...”?

 
 

Good Read

The daily news is pregnant with inspiration for stories. The photo below that appeared recently proved especially inspirational, at least to me.
Mexican Protest
Click to read "Conquest"
Obviously, it is an excellent example of a "Straw Man Argument", a form of propaganda wherein these people are arguing against those who contend that all Mexicans are "illegals". We must surmise that "they" are those who oppose amnesty for all Mexican immigrants. Personally, I don't know of any such people, do you?

 
 

Writing

It's a helluva lot easier to write a book than it is to sell it. To be honest, it's even harder giving one away than writing it. I should know. I've done both. Well, again, to be honest, I haven't really sold that many.
Picture
Click to see the new synopsis
Even the cover art can be a real Herculean task. Look at it? What does it look like to you? A romance novel? Maybe. But, what is Che doing floating ghost-like above the lovers? 

Then there's the title. The working title was Rumba. That was the first edit. Rebels on the Mountain is better, but not by much.

I suppose it's time to repackage it. I doubt if the publisher will be willing to pay for it so it will have to come out of my pocket. He might be inclined to make the investment but for the fact that it hasn't sold enough copies to recoup his original outlay.

The manuscript itself doesn't seem to be holding back sales. Indeed fourteen of the sixteen reviews it has received are 5-Star. The others are 4-Star and one of those was the most effusive in praise.

At any rate, I've started with a new synopsis. Please read it (below) and let me know what you think. Thanks.

 
 

Humor

I wish I were a humorist like Mark Twain, someone who could help people laugh at our foibles and defuse the anger that pervades political discourse these days.
Anger in politics is nothing new, not in America. We the People have been persecuting each other since long before we even became a nation. The Sons and Daughters of Liberty frequently rallied to tar and feather Tories and then run them out of town on a rail. The end of the Revolution didn't end the acrimony. Legislators caned one another on the floor of Congress or retired to the edges of Washington to add orifices to each others' bodies with pistol and sword. Then came the Civil War, the biggest political brouhaha of all times.

Things didn't get any better in the Twentieth Century. Labor unionists and armed thugs hired by mine and mill owners regularly dented each others' craniums with brickbats and billy clubs. And, let's not forget General MacArthur leading the troops to disperse World War I veterans who wanted nothing more than their promised due. Need I mention the Civil Rights riots, KKK lynchings, and assassinations?

 
 

Good Reads

Ever since ReadWave began tracking the geographical locations of readers, I have received a notice whenever 50 people located in the United States have viewed one of my stories. Of course, many more than that have read these stories before ReadWave began this service.
Failure story title art
Click to read on ReadWave
The most recent story to earn this distinction is "Failure", the tale of people who don't learn from their mistakes. "Failure is, of course, included in the collection of my short stories that appears on this website.

The thing that I find most interesting is that I have a popular following in other places. A large number of readers in all cases are located in London, England. I even have a modest following in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Although I have not yet been discovered as an author, certainly not a best-selling author, it is satisfying to learn that my stories are being read and appreciated. I hope that every reader knows how much I appreciate them.
 
 

Good Read

The electoral tide in America seems to be changing in 2014 and may have repercussions well into the future that I have chosen to explore in this, my latest short story.
Ambushing the President title art
Click to read the short story
Ambushing the President appears together with the complete collection of my short stories at this website. 
 
 

Good Read

History is our story written from a distance in time. The writers of history depend upon official records and, in modern times, film and photographs, as well as letters and diaries to study historical eras. Christian Hill's record of his service in Afghanistan, Combat Camera, should help them as well as it helps us in understanding what is happening there.
Christian served four months of 2011 as a Combat Camera Team leader with the British Army's Media Operations Group in Afghanistan. He shares with us a unique vantage point from which to view that conflict. Every soldier has a different perspective. Infantrymen see little beyond a fifteen degree swath a few to a couple hundred meters in depth depending upon the terrain. At the other extreme, pilots see the war from the vantage point of altitude, but miss many details. Christian's view of the war was far more comprehensive than first-hand experience. He gathered it second hand, collating soldiers' stories, as well as intelligence reports.