Holly’s First Love

Good News!  Another First Draft Finished

I have just finished the first draft on a new novella. It is titled, “Holly’s First Love.” A novella is a story that is not long enough for a book-length novel. This story came in at a little over 32,000 words. I would not have written the story in the past. There would be no place to publish it. Since I have gone to my new marketing system, which is no marketing, I am free to write what I wish.

Finishing the first draft is just the start of the work. Now comes the part I do not enjoy. Now comes the tedious work of cleaning it up and putting on the polish. Once that is done, I will put it up on the web page with my other work.

This story is a radical change from what I usually write. When I was about half-way through the draft, I realized that there had been no gunfights, no sword fights, no mayhem or violence. My wife, keeper, and editor was also surprised. I kept telling her that I was writing a romantic comedy. She expressed doubts clear up to the end.

The story is set in rural Central Illinois. The time is 1920, a time when people are coping with great changes. The lead character is a 17-year-old girl who is graduating from Seneca Hill Township High School. Holly’s parents own and farm 240 acres about five miles east of the town. They are part of the East Thrashing Circle, a group of farms whose owners and hired hands work together during the oats thrashing time. There is also a West Thrashing Circle.  At the end of the thrashing season, both circles hold a joint picnic in the town park to celebrate. After the eating, there is a baseball game, the East versus the West. The rules of the contest allow for the use of hired hands in the game.

Hiram Benson is the leading farmer in the West circle. He farms over 400 acres. He owns a big Auburn, the finest car in the area. He also has a tractor. He has two sons, Grant and Sherman. Grant is two years older than Holly. He is a fine young man. He is being groomed to take over the Benson farm enterprise. He has been proposing to Holly since she was a sophomore.  All of Hiram’s hired hands have one common attribute. They were uncommonly good at playing baseball.

John Hawkins, Holly’s father, calls them “ringers.” He decides to have a hired hand. He hires a young man from Indianapolis, Tom Murphy, to work on the farm. Tom also happens to be talking to the Chicago Cubs. At the present, he is out of a job, and comes to work on the farm. He is a city boy who is scared of horses. He has a fierce look out of his eyes, but is well-mannered.  Holly’s mother is horrified at the idea of a strange man from the city coming to live on the farm, even if it is only for a couple of months. Grant doesn’t think much of the idea, either.

Holly is one of eighteen students who are graduating in the Seneca Hill Township High School Class of 1920. Sherman is also a member of the class. There is another girl named Mary Lou whose parents own a farm supply store. The family sometimes goes to Chicago for a weekend. Mary Lou has blonde curls and delicate hands. There was a problem concerning graduation. With a week to go before graduation, the principal caught Sherman and Mary Lou out behind the old buggy shed. They were smoking cigarettes. Mary Lou had lipstick on her lips, and some of the lipstick was on Sherman. The principal declared that they would not be allowed to graduate. Hiram, who just happened to be president of the school board, had a talk with the principal, and so the graduation would include the two miscreants.

Holly was always embarrassed about her hands. She thought they were overly large.  Mary Lou had such dainty hands, but then she did not milk cows, either. Hands were not Holly’s real problem. She was at a cross-road in her life. She was uncertain about everything. She knew that in some ways, her life was already mapped out for her. There would be a graduation in May and a wedding in June. She would be passed from her father to Grant. It was simple enough. She had no dream. She was smart, and she loved books. From the time she started in the first grade to her final classroom day in high school, she had never gotten any other grade than an A.

Then came the young stranger from Indianapolis.


Some Clods Have Dropped into the Writing Churn

I am working on the American Wars book now, and I have to report that it is not going very well. It is the most difficult project I have ever attempted. The commentaries are as purely military as I can make them. There is little, if any, political discussion. It would seem an almost impossible task. In writing about the Vietnam War, for example, I have to say that certain political constraints were put into place. The military aspect to be discussed is the move away from logical. Linear war concepts to a system wherein the enemy is granted freedom of both strategic and tactical freedom of maneuver.

About a year ago, I wrote a 6,000-word piece on the first Gulf war. The piece belongs in this book. When I pulled it up on the computer, I discovered that it was terrible. I tried to do too much in too short a space. I have to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. That will require a good week’s work.

Then I reviewed the section on World War II. It’s okay, but I became interested in adding a chapter to it about the Versailles Treaty and how the lack of adherence to the treaty paved the way to the war. That led to a consideration of treaties in general and how we treat treaties today. In olden days, treaties were made by kings. Violation of a treaty could mean war. That is not the way it is now in our time. Treaties are statements of principles, but have no enforcement capability. Diplomacy produces treaties, such as they are, but the only real enforcement is more diplomacy, which produces yet more treaties that cannot be enforced. Suddenly, I find myself deep into a swamp. The subject deserves its own book.

That is the problem with trying to write non-fiction. It is easier to find the truth in fiction.

I feel that it is time to drop back in time and write about family history. When my mother passed away, one of the documents she kept in a box was something called a wedding book. I do not know much about wedding books. It has been quite a few years since I was in a wedding. This particular book was from the wedding of her parents, my grandparents. The wedding took place in 1909 in a small rural community in Illinois. The town was called Onarga. It is in Iroquois County. As far as I know, the town still exists. I have not been there for maybe fifty years.

The wedding was held at the Methodist Church, and I would guess the reception was also held at the church. There were logistical considerations at that time. There were people from the town who were invited, and they could easily walk to the church. Most of the people gathered together for the event came from farms five miles out from the town and maybe even more. They came riding in buggies drawn by horses. I am sure that it was a big wedding, and parking must have been a problem.

The bride was Iva Eisenhower. The groom was Ed Compton. They were young, not much more than in their twenties. Iva had four sisters. Ed had two brothers and one sister. I never knew my great-grandparents on the Compton side of the house. They were gone before I was born. I knew the Eisenhowers. Iva’s father, George Eisenhower was a very successful farmer.

My mother told me two interesting tales about George and his wife, Julia. George’s father was named James, and he was a Civil War veteran, though I do not believe he was in any of the great battles. He must have returned to his farm in Illinois before the end of the war because George was born in 1865. When George was nineteen, he got the itch to go west. That would have been in 1884. George got to Nebraska where he worked as a teamster hauling freight in a wagon pulled by a team of horses. There were no dangers at that time, though I would guess that the Custer matter was still a topic of conversation. After six months, he came to his senses and returned to Illinois and began his successful life as a farmer.

Some time passed, and George and Julia got married and had five daughters before they finally had a son. It was just after the birth of the son that they moved some sixty miles south to a new farm. George and the farm equipment, cattle, and horses, all come down on the train. Julia, with the new-born son and five little girls, came by horse and buggy.  I would give a lot to know more about that trip. My mother did not think it very remarkable. She said Julia was always very good with horses. I wonder sometimes how young people today and tomorrow are ever going to understand the earlier times.

So, Ed and Iva got married. Technically, Ed was unemployed. Somehow, he had been able to rent a farm. I am sure the two fathers played a part in that business. After the wedding day, the newly-weds would take a horse and buggy to their new home.

Here is where the wedding book comes into play. The gifts from the people at the wedding are listed. George and Julia, parents of the bride, gave the couple a team of horses and a wagon. Ed’s parents gave them two cows. There was a gift of a plow and a planter. The list also included a couple of dozen chickens. Another gift was a sow and a boar. Those are hogs. I would presume the livestock was to be delivered at the farm. The preacher at the church would not appreciate having the livestock present at the wedding.

There were a great many gifts. There were the usual kitchen utensils and bedding. Much of the bedding was probably home-made, and most of the gifts were used equipment. These were a people who wasted nothing.

A year after the wedding, my mother made her appearance in this world. As it turned out, she was to be an only child. She was very proud of the fact that by the time she was ten, she could turn a team at the end of the field and come back in a straight line. Being good with horses was very important to my mother.

She went to the field when she was three. She rode up on the seat at the front of the wagon. A team of horses pulled the wagon ahead very slowly. My grandfather, Ed, and my grandmother, Iva walked on opposite sides of the wagon. Ed could pull the ears from two rows, and Iva from one row. When an ear of corn was pulled from the stalk, it was shucked off the dried leaves and tossed up into the wagon. I am not sure, but I believe the way they planted corn in those days, there must have been about ten thousand stalks to an acre. They usually had about 100 acres in corn.

They were a dour people. It is easy to make fun of them, and there are those in television comedy shows who do that. I do not laugh. I think of my grandmother walking those long rows of corn. Pulling the ears and taking off the shucks does not do much for hands. I never knew this woman. She died of cancer when I was four. I think it curious that I can remember a person so well, but whom I never met.

The French Drum, Book 2, New York

I had a major problem here, and I do not know if I succeeded in overcoming it. At the end of the first book, Boston is liberated, and Tad has returned home. As far as the people in Boston are concerned, the war is over.

Tad joined the army because he needed to escape from the British. He was still a boy, although he was by now either 13 or close to it. The Stelles, the people who took him in when he was an orphaned infant, believed the boy had done his share of duty and then some. Yet, when the army makes its long march down to New York, Tad goes with the army.

It is clear that he is under no real clear, legal obligation to stay in the army. Tad has changed from when he first joined the army. He had considered Boston to be the center of the universe. During his service in the army, he met men from other parts of Massachusetts and other colonies. His world had grown much larger. He had heard talk about far of places like New York and the place called Ohio which lay to the west of Pennsylvania. He had developed a strong desire to see these places. Also, during his time in the army, he had developed strong friendships. There was Jed, the boy from Marblehead. There was Ben, a member of General Washington’s staff. There was the old wagon driver. These people were like family to him.

There is a touch of autobiography here. I was 12 when the Germans surrendered at the end of the war in Europe. I am sure that I was happy. I am sure that I believed that the war against Japan would end soon and my father and uncle would come home from the Pacific. But at the same time, I felt bad because the end meant that I would miss the great show. When I was 13, I received my first rifle. It was a 22 caliber, lever action rifle. Four years later, I was given a different rifle. It was called a Garand, or more commonly known as an M1.

I can understand why Tad wanted to march with the army. The question remains, does my work, at this point, seem plausible?

At the end of Book One, and while in the process of transitioning to the next book, I was able to cover two points that I thought important, even though they were marginal to the main story line. I was able to bring Packie back into the story, and I added more detail about the apprentice matter.

Packie was the British drummer who helped Tad escape from Boson. During the long siege of Boston, a cannon ball hit Packie in the ankle and took off his foot. After the wound healed, Packie was fitted with a peg-leg. Tad asked Packie why he did not leave Boston with the British, and he replied that if he had done so, he would have been shipped back to England and separated from the army. Then it would be a matter of which street corner he should use to beg for money.

The Stelles, being kindly people, and aware that they owed a great debt to Packie for helping Tad, took him in and were teaching him how to operate a printing press. I hope when someone reads that part, they will give some thought to the situation today regarding returning veterans who lack some body parts.


The French Drum, Book 1, Boston

The French Drum, a three-book story about a boy coming of age

The French Drum is a trilogy. I decided to split it up into three books because of its length, and because there were three logical places to make the splits.

The first book starts with the night the British leave Boston and march out to Lexington and Concord. The book ends when Tad Wheeler, the drummer boy, and the Continental army march into the newly liberated city of Boston. The second book covers the march down to New York and the Battle for New York. This book ends with the retreat from New York. The third book is about the awful period that followed and comes to an end with the Battle of Trenton.

The three books are essentially a boy’s story. So was Huck Finn. The French Drum is about a boy coming of age. In 1776, Tad turns thirteen. In that same year, the thirteen colonies become states. Tad is smart, though very naïve. He believes Boston is the center of the universe. He learns from his experiences.

When Tad was an infant, his parents died of smallpox. He was taken in by an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Stelle. They had no children. Mr. Stelle owned a print shop in Boston. Back in 1763, he served with the militia in the war against the French. He found a French drum on the battlefield. It was an old drum, though not quite an antique. He brought the drum home when he returned. The drum became a toy for the young Tad. He played with the drum and over a period of time, he could make some sense of it. Sometimes when he was out of the shop delivering a printing order, Tad stopped at the commons where British solders drilled. He listened closely to the work of the British drummer.

Then one day in the spring of 1775, he met a British soldier who was a drummer. He took the soldier back to the print shop and the Stelles were kind to the soldier, whose name was Packie.

Bringing the soldier back to the print shop was a dangerous thing to do. Mr. Stelle printed pamphlets for the Sons of Liberty. There was no problem, though. Packie showed Tad how to play the most commonly used drum signals.

Tad had a friend named David, who was almost seventeen. He was an apprentice leather worker. David was known to be unhappy about his position, as were many apprentices at the time. Mr. Stelle thought David was too quick to act sometimes.

One night, David came to the Stelles’ print shop and wanted Tad to come with him. Everyone knew the British were going out that night on a raid. Everyone was needed to keep track of the British movements. Mr. Stelle did not like the idea. David assured him that nothing would happen. They would be careful. Of course, the venture goes badly. Tad is caught, and David escapes.

Tad is interrogated. The British officer uses a belt on him. In desperation, Tad throws a lantern at the officer and then escapes. The officer is badly burned, and Tad is now a fugitive. He must get out of Boston.

Tad and David escape in a small boat. They would not have been able to escape without the help of Packie, the British drummer, who risks his life to help.

Tad takes the French drum and an old, but expensive leather bag, and a small gold coin given to him by Mr. Stelle. They safely cross the water and join the American forces besieging Boston.

There were patriots in this American militia army, but there were also some thieves. Someone steals the gold coin and the leather bag. Tad never recovers the stolen property.

Tad and David are separated once they are in camp. Tad is assigned to the headquarters, mainly as a messenger. David is assigned to a regiment which one fine evening is sent out to Bunker Hill. The regiment goes forward to Breed’s Hill where the men dig a redoubt.

In the battle that follows, Tad is used as a drummer boy for Stark’s New Hampshire regiment. Stark’s regiment is tasked with holding a beach flank against thrusts by the British light infantry seeking to turn the flank.

After the battle, Tad cannot find David. Many of the men who survived being in the redoubt think David was killed. Tad learns much later that David was captured and was being held a prisoner in Boston. Much of the rest of the book concerns the effort to rescue David.


Questions Asked and Answered

One of the early visitors to my web page asked if I was going to have advertising on the page or pages. He also asked if I had a business model for my new enterprise. It was a good question. I thought about advertising, but not for very long. I do not want pop-ups or bars on the page. I have a great fear that some night I shall look up at the stars and see a slogan glittering in the sky. I fear it is only a matter of time before rolls of toilet paper have an endless stream of printed messages. We will have cars that are driverless, but capable of sending endless messages to a captive audience. I decided to pass on the advertising idea.

As far as business models are concerned, the answer to that question is no, I do not have a model. At my age, I am tap dancing on banana peels. The model I do have is getting up tomorrow morning. I am always happy to start a new day.

Maybe there really is a model in this effort, but it is not a business model. I started out working as a newspaper man before I had any intention of becoming one as a career. In fact, I never thought of it as a career. It was a job. It paid a wage, though usually a very meager wage. The work was interesting.

Not long after I started working on a weekly newspaper, I developed the idea that it would be a good idea to own my own paper.  In time, I considered owning my own magazine. After that, it was a publishing house. I failed dismally at numerous attempts to make it happen.

Now, in my dotage, I find that it is all coming together. This little web adventure becomes my publishing empire. I have finally closed the circle. There is still no money. On the other hand, I am not losing money.

The only plan I have is to do the best work I can and put it up for the public to see and maybe read. I shall work hard to publicize the web page. That way, I am promoting all my books with the same effort as promoting one. If I am successful at building the number of people visiting the site, then perhaps something good will happen. I would, for example, consider all offers for film rights to any part of my work. If a film sale happened, then we could say that I have a great business model. I also have a ticket for tonight’s lottery.


The Sword of Loran

A new world I created

 The Sword of Loran is a simple story wrapped up in the creation of a new world that now exists in a different dimension.  It is a story that is as old as the oldest mountains in my real world. There is intrigue and greed. There are brave men and beautiful women. Problems are created by schemers and masters of intrigue. Problems are solved, sometimes, with the applied use of three feet of cold steel.

In this world, there is a religion that is still not at a mature stage. The religion makes heavy use of mysticism, but at the same, is very much invested in science. As the story developed, I could see that someday, the circle would be completed. We would have mysticism moving to science and then science to mysticism. What are the differences between scientists of today and the priests of old?

Then there is Xanfolo, the hero of the story. He is a brave man, a proud man, and a man destined to reach great heights. That is obviously true because he is the captain of the only Montian battle-carrier.

The battle-carrier is a gigantic balloon. It is many stories high, and the top is flat and capable of holding weapons and men ready for battle. Mostly, the battles are to be fought high in the sky. There is a problem, though. The major threat is posed by the Barbos who hide on the ground far below the carrier.

Xanfolo is captain of the Montian army, and by law, he must marry the princess who will become queen of Montia when her mother dies. The captain of the army then becomes the Consort. The captain is always a product of the people. Xanfolo is the son of a “flower-girl” and his father is unknown. At the age of twelve, he was taken from an orphanage and made a soldier. Over the years that followed, he rose in rank. There is no doubt that he is a commoner. The queen that rules at the time of this story is married to a man who is supposed to be the captain of the army and Consort, but for some reason, he has been permanently assigned to a distant outpost.  Xanfolo is the captain, though not yet Consort.

We add to this mix the fact that the six city-states have formed a League of Cities. This came about after several small wars that evolved into what was called The War of Assassins. The ranks of the royals were depleted. The League was given limited powers. Each city contributed two delegates. The chair rotated periodically. The city that had the chair had an extra vote which served as a tie-breaker. There were frequent complaints that the delegates took too much power away from the city rulers.

The assassins had done their work. The royal houses were weak. Harg had a king, but he seldom ruled. Harg was really under the control of Kinsa. There were organizations of craft workers, and there was an organization of “gray” people who believed that there had once been seven cities, and the seventh city was named Loran. The Priesthood thought that was blasphemy. The seventh city idea was an old myth. Some people believed that Loran had been the only city, and the six cities now did not come into being until Loran somehow disappeared.

Throughout this story, there is much talk about honor. Maybe it is true that in most dimensions, when honor is most talked about, it is indeed a rare commodity. Honor is like gold. It is hard to find, and once found, equally as hard to keep.

The Life and Times of Ace Mathews

A Book That Is a Prison of Novels

 This story has quite a large number of women who had an impact on the life of Ace Mathews, the main character in the story. Most of the story is centered around the relationship between Ace and Maggie. Because of Ace, Maggie leans how to fly and she becomes a leading American female pilot. She inherits her father’s business and uses it to go into the aircraft business. Instead of building airplanes, she develops a market for buying and leasing planes.

Most of the women in the story really do deserve their own novel. There is Miss Castor, the woman who runs the orphanage where Ace spent his first sixteen years of life. Miss Castor never married. She spent years taking care of her sick mother. There was a brief period when it looked like she might marry. There was a history teacher at the local high school. He was also a poet who was working on a series of poems about the Civil War. His name was Mr. Mathews. Mr. Mathews was fond of calling on Miss Castor on Sunday afternoons. They would sit on the front porch and drink lemonade while he read his latest Civil War poem to her. When the Spanish-American War came along, he volunteered and went to Cuba where he died of food poisoning.

Then, there is Daisy, the wife of the man named Farmer. One day, a righteous horse kicked Farmer in the head and killed him. Daisy sold the farm and moved to Chicago. There’s a story, for certain.

Maria is a mature Cuban woman who is in business. She brought in rum from Cuba during the years of prohibition. People did not go blind from drinking her rum. She had stiff competition from an organization if Miami. She did know how to keep the alligators fat and happy.

Rochelle was a young, French woman who was a close friend of Ace. She was a photographer who was working hard to become an artist with the camera. She made a portrait of Ace. She sold it to a magazine. This was the first time the French police could see the face of a man they knew was moving diamonds to Amsterdam by flying over their heads. Rochelle left Ace for a man named Armand. He promised to make the photo into an expensive art print. He did so, and Maggie bought one of the prints.

Then, there was June. She was the wife of a man named Virgil. He had been a mechanic who serviced Ace’s squad in World War I. June and Virgil lived on a farm in Georgia which Ace had purchased for them. June was fond of the farm, but Virgil had an itch to take his mechanical skills to Daytona down in Florida. Ace used the farm as a refueling point on his travels at that time between the northeast and Miami. He had used the same system in France where he had farmers willing to let him use their pastures as landing strips for refueling.

We must make note of the Countess. She called herself a countess and so did other powerful people in Paris. She was a Vietnamese woman who was married to a man who would have been a count in other times past. He had business interests in Hanoi, and he stayed in Hanoi. The countess lived in Paris. She had interests in Paris. What a woman named Lady did not teach Ace about women, the countess did. Lady was a stripper in a circus tent show. She was a close friend of Ace when he was being billed as “The Dare Devil Boy Aviator.”

Without these women Ace would not be Ace. Each of these women surely deserves her own novel.