Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another American Hero

"Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater."

The man who spoke these words had every reason to fear and hate, but he chose to live his gentle life another way. Born into slavery in 1864 in Missouri, he, his mother, and his brother James were stolen by night raiders. The two boys were returned (for payment) to Moses and Susan Carver, their childless white owners, who raised them as their own. Taught the rudiments of reading and writing by "Aunt" Susan, George later began a long, grueling odyssey to obtain the education he desired. Besides having a brilliant mind, he also possessed a genius for painting.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited him to the new Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama to head the "agriculture department"--which existed in name and on paper only. Carver took his students to the trash dump to reclaim items which he turned into lab equipment. He traveled among the impoverished farm families in the vicinity, teaching them how to plant gardens for nutrition and others for beauty. When long years of cotton production left the soil useless for producing more, he showed farmers how to plant peanuts to return depleted nitrogen to the earth.. When bumper crops of peanuts rotted in barns, he went into his laboratory and developed hundreds of uses for the simple plant.

In life, and after his death, he received many honors and was a close friend and consultant with automaker Henry Ford. In 1937, Ford had an elevator installed at Tuskeegee to accommodate his friend's declining health and strength. Before he died in 1945, he donated his life savings to establish a foundation for continued agricultural research. 

A committed Christian who credited God with all the knowledge and information he discovered to impart, Carver also gave his students eight cardinal rules to strive toward keeping:
  • Be clean both inside and out.
  • Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  • Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  • Win without bragging.
  • Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
  • Be too brave to lie.
  • Be too generous to cheat.
  • Take your share of the world and let others take theirs
George Washington Carver is buried beside Booker T. Washington on the grounds of Tuskeegee University.
His epitaph reads: He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world. 

For more of his wise counsel, follow this link.

Scroll to the bottom of this Wikipedia bio for a reading list on his inspiring life.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Now about those REAL heroes...

I said I would be blogging about some real heroes, so here is the first:
 Desmond T. Doss
 the only CO (conscientious objector) to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Technically, he wasn't a CO, because he rejected a work deferment and enlisted with the provision that he would never bear arms--simply save lives as a medic. He was taunted and harassed, and at least one officer in his company tried to get him thrown out of the Army. Desmond's deep faith sustained him, and he persevered.
He first saw action on Guam, but it was during the long, bloody battle for Okinawa that he prayed, "Just let me save one more" and single-handedly took at least 75 wounded comrades from under fire (including one of the officers who had tried to get rid of him) and lowered them from a ridge to safety with a knotted rope contraption he had ‘accidentally’ invented in training. Finally wounded himself, he was being carried to safety on a litter when he saw a badly-wounded comrade. He rolled off his litter, tended the soldier before crawling the rest of the way to the aid station. President Truman presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

His story is told in a documentary called “The Conscientious Objector”. This fascinating documentary is a must-see! In speaking of Doss during the making of this film, one of his former detractors admitted that he himself could not have endured the cruelty of his fellow soldiers--but Doss did.

Mr. Doss died in 2006 and is buried in a military cemetery in Tennessee.

You can read more in-depth about this unsung hero by following this link:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grandpa and the Outlaw Sam Bass

Emmett Leatherwood was exactly one month short of his 5th birthday in 1878 when 27-year-old Sam Bass died in a shoot-out with law officers in Round Rock, Texas, not far from where Grandpa lived in the sleepy central Texas town of Lampasas. Years later he wrote, "The Ballad of Sam Bass was on the lips of every school boy."

Sam Bass was born in Indiana, it was his native home,
And at the age of seventeen young Sam began to roam.
Sam first came out to Texas a cowboy for to be-
A kinder-hearted fellow you seldom ever see.

I would listen with rapt attention as Grandpa told me the story of poor Sam's untimely end and sang to me in his deep rumbling voice. 

Sam met his fate at Round Rock, July the twenty-first,
They pierced poor Sam with rifle balls and emptied out his purse.
Poor Sam he is a corpse and six foot under clay,
And Jackson's in the bushes trying to get away

"Poor" Sam, of course, was an outlaw. A thief. Robber of banks and trains, holder-up of stagecoaches, absconder of cattle money from a drive he headed up. An all-round rascal and more. 

 I was reminded of Sam and his crime spree during the recent man-hunt for the ex-LAPD officer who killed three or four people, then went out himself in a literal 'blaze of glory', making headlines much like Sam Bass over a hundred years ago. There's nothing new under the sun, and, as Sam has been forgotten, so will others be who followed his crime-soiled footsteps in much worse ways. 

But it strikes me with something of a chill that Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, and others of their ilk have become 'folk heroes' as the years have passed. True, they are part of history--a dark part. Movies and books have cleaned up their acts to some extent and, unfortunately, justified if not glorified their short, violent lives. It's still happening. While good people who sacrificed their lives for their fellow man are forgotten, these others live on. It's something to think about. 

Here's a link to a picture of Sam and his tombstone.

And tomorrow or the next day, I'm going to write about some real heroes.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bookmarked and Forgotten

I'm an inveterate cyber book-marker. You know, that blog I want to remember, the page which will make a great reference for a new story, information to re-use for something (not sure just what), websites to study, conferences to consider attending, how-to's for ebook publishing and covers, marketing tips...and on and on and on. Not to say I don't ever go back and check one out, but I confess I don't make as much use of them as I should.

So I'll share some with you. (I know you're out there 'cause I see the viewer stats for this blog!) There's a great crop of sites bookmarked under the label "Dictionaries". To wit:

Internet Slang and Dictionary Translator

Behind the Name: the Etymology and History of First Names

Gangster Talk

Just a Few Words That They Used
(Civil War Slang)

Twists, Slugs, and Roscoes: A Glossary  of Hard-Boiled Slang

British Slang: 19th Century Lower Class and Underworld

Urban Dictionary:  Biker Slang

And speaking of bikers, I'm still open for volunteers to read/review a beta copy of the first book in my new Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series:  The Bogus Biker.  Visit my website for the particulars. I still have a few decisions to make before the series goes "live".

Anyway, I hope somebody somewhere will find just the link you've been looking for!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who Knows What Evil (or Good) Lurks...

"The Centenarian's Secret" by Diane Speare Triant,, featured on the 5-Minute Memoir: Tales From the Writing Life page in the February 2013 issue of Writer's Digest would spark even the dullest imagination. The author relates a chance acquaintance with a 103-year-old man and the treasure trove of Civil War letters she found (with permission of his heir) in the ramshackle cabin which had been the old man's home. You have to read this story, so get the issue from the nearest newsstand or find it in your library!

The memoir set me thinking about 'hidden treasures' I have found or searched for without success. I knew my family had taken so many secrets to their graves, but I felt they were discoverable. The first hoped-for cache was in my grandmother's Bible, but though I paged through it meticulously and more than once, I found only the stuff of her life: phone numbers, newspaper clippings, a pamphlet, family snapshots, and my grandfather's obituary.

I moved on, after my mother's death, to what she'd kept in shoeboxes and plastic bags: mostly handmade items from my school days but also many, many newspaper articles on breast cancer (her cause of death) which told me what I already knew: she'd ignored the warning signs for years until it was too late.

My aunt left behind two class rings and several scrapbooks, as well as the love letters written by her husband-to-be (who was twice her age). Despite my pleas, my mother sat in my kitchen one afternoon and tore them to shreds. A step-granddaughter to whom my aunt was close would have treasured them, but I couldn't save them for her. Before my aunt's death, I asked for and was given a box containing a dress, pinafore, and shoes her mother (my grandmother born in 1875) had worn. Those are preserved behind glass.

A cousin, son of my aunt's brother, brought me several boxes of papers and pictures belonging to his father and asked me to go through them. Among the papers was a page from the same aunt's high school diary. She'd sent it to him and commented on how amusing it was--but within the lines penned by a teenager before WW I, I found the dark thread running through my grandparents' marriage.

Finally, on a remote mountaintop, where my great-great-grandfather had brought his younger second bride (and where he probably lived with his first who died with two years of their marriage after giving birth to a daughter), I found the remains of the house, an empty well, bits of broken pottery, a tin barrel rim, and other reminders that people had once inhabited this now-barren place. I lugged heavy (probably slave-made) bricks down the old wagon road and sighed with regret that the rumored blood-stained floor had rotten away. In 1876, within the now-fallen walls, my great-grandfather had shot his stepfather to death. It's a tangled tale, the twists and turns of which we'll never really know, but at least I'd stood where it happened.

All of this brings me to speculate on what I want to or am willing to leave behind for others to find. I've already shredded all the letters which passed between my husband and me. I've destroyed, with unholy glee, a book of poems written about me by the aforementioned aunt, which everyone thought amusing but which had the end result of firmly pigeon-holing me as a third-class member of my own family. The rest to be left will simply be left, carefully labeled, even parceled out in some cases.

I will be, as others before me, the keeper of my own secrets. They are the stuff of stories--which I may or may not tell.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Do You Choose a Writing Conference?

This year I'm branching out a bit--and hope I get my money's worth! I'd been thinking about the DFW Writers' Conference (May 4-5 at the Hurst Convention Center between Dallas and Fort Worth) for a while, and it looks really good. I'm not going to pitch (I don't think), but out of 50 classes offered, I should find some from which I can bring back workable ideas/information.

The other conference just popped up in my email through LinkedIn: Lexicon in Denton, TX in July. I liked the "no egos" carrot dangled. I don't do egos very well. (Read: I snicker up my sleeve!) Apparently there's a "bookstore" and author-signing area which has possibilities also. I've made a definite decision to attend that one.

So what's my personal criteria for a conference?
  1. Affordability
  2. Opportunities to learn
  3. Opporunity to meet other authors (not egos)
  4. Driving distance
Both of these events are on my calendar, one definite, one TBD (to be decided). But if you're at either one, look me up--I'll be the one people-watching and not saying much, but don't think I'm not taking it all in!

What do you look for in a writing conference?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Links, Book Recommendations, and A Workable Stragegy

I'm sharing some links I've found useful lately and hope you do, too.

From The Savvy Bookmarketer, Dana Lynn Smith:  6 Reasons Why You Need to Publish Ebooks

From Emma Wright's Blog, Nine Truths About Ebook Publishing

From The Book Designer, Joel Friedlander, Top Ten Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes

Here's a book recommendation:  How Do I Decide: Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing by Rachelle Gardner (29 reviews, 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon)

And a I-tried-it-it-works experience:  From Laura Pepper Wu's 77 Ways to Find Readers for Your Self-Published Book 
(31 reviews, 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon)

#54 Learn the strategy that teaches you how to use Twitter effectively in just 10 minutes a day.

I will confess that Twitter eluded me until I read this! And it's fun!