Archive for February, 2014


The subjects of this piece are a recently read book and a book I read in the past by the same author.

The Last Stand deals with an historical event etched in the American psyche, Custer’s Last Stand.  This is an extremely informative and well-written book tracing, with remarkable detail, the events leading up to the battle and the confrontation between the cavalry under Custer’s command and the Indians led by Sitting Bull.

The root causes of this disaster are many.  Custer’s overconfidence in his abilities as a military tactician along with the incompetence of some of the officers in his command played a major part in the outcome, along with the underestimation of the number of Indians he faced on that fateful day, June 25, 1875.  This was a tragedy that did not have to happen.

As the soldiers approached, Sitting Bull was expecting to discuss peace when his village was attacked by some of Custer’s forces who had no idea of the size of the Indian village.

Custer had 650 men under his command.  The population of the village was 8000.

It is my lack of historical knowledge that makes this book so interesting to me.  I thought Custer’s entire command was destroyed.  Custer divided his command into three parts, one commanded by Major Marcus Reno, one commanded by Captain Fredrick Benteen and one commanded by him.  Reno’s group made the initial attack on the village before Custer engaged in battle.  When Custer was attacked, he sent a message to the rest of his command to come to his aid, but the made no effort to help and only learned of Custer’s demise when told by and Indian scout.

Philbrick handles this remarkable piece of history with skill and thoroughness that brings the characters and events to life.

I want to mention the other book by this author that I read some time ago dealing with an event in maritime history that gave birth to a classic novel.

In the Heart of the Sea, The Voyage of the Whaleship Essex is a fascinating read.  The Essex set sail from Nantucket in 1819 in search of whales.  I thought all whaling was done in the Atlantic, and initially it was, but by 1819 the whale population was greatly depleted and whaling was done in the Pacific.  This made for a long and hazardous voyage around the tip of South America.

Fifteen months after the Essex set sail it was rammed by a sperm whale and eventually sunk.  Twenty men sought survival in three boats.  Of the 20, only six survived resorting to cannibalism by the end of their ordeal.

Guess which famous author worked this tale into a classic of fiction.  

February 28, 2014 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment


I’m getting older.  Okay, we’re all getting older.  But I’m already old getting older, and I’m a writer.

In the future I plan to write a piece looking at science fiction writers and the gadgets they envisioned long before they came into existence.  That led me to consider my present situation, an older science fiction writer trying to keep up with the current bounty of new devices.

Recently I attended a talk given by an author describing her work and during the presentation she mentioned how she made sure her characters used a cell phone.  For that is what we all do now, except for me.  I considered all my stories.  None of my characters ever use a cell phone.  Perhaps it’s because I do not own a cell phone, never have.

I’m kind of a private person, substitute introverted for private, so if I had a cell phone and it rang, I probably wouldn’t answer it.  That’s normal, right?

I look at the world around me and am amazed at the devices in daily use that we take for granted, especially the younger ‘we’.  Look at the increasing power of the personal computer, to say nothing of the various tablets and such.  To give a feel for the changes I’ve witnessed, when I was in college I used a slide rule to calculate.  I’ll give the younger of my readers a chance to reach for their dictionary.

Technology is changing at a tremendous rate, knowledge gained faster than ever before.  For example, and this is ancient history, man stepped on the moon just 66 years after he first flew.  You had people alive who knew a sky containing only birds.  Those same people got to see and hear rockets setting off into space.  That is truly remarkable.

The point is, it is difficult for an ‘older’ writer to keep up with the current technology and weave that technology into their stories.  At least it is for this ‘older’ writer.

As a side note, Jim Butcher creator of the Dresden Files, a writer I admire and whose work I devour, uses an interesting device to overcome this problem in his urban fantasy series.  His character, Harry Dresden, is a wizard, and any time he comes near a modern electrical device that device self-destructs.  What a great backdoor!

As for my work, I guess I’ll just have to invent my own technology.  After all, that’s what we science fiction writers do.

February 18, 2014 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

Yes!!! Elmo’s Sojourn is now for sale as an ebook. You can buy it for your Kindle.  If you don’t have an eReader you can get a PDF copy for your computer. Give Elmo a shot and tell me what you think. Here’s a link where you can make your purchase.

February 14, 2014 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment


Having just completed reading the above book, I’m consumed by memories which I’ll discuss later in this piece.

This work deals with the birth of the nuclear weapon and its subsequent proliferation in both this country and others.  I found the early proliferation of these weapons in the U.S. to be extremely interesting.  One of the aspects at the beginning of deployment was which agency should control them, the military or the government.  The safety of these weapons is also discussed in detail along with the measures necessary in handling these weapons is covered in depth.  After reading this book, one wonders how some of the newly emerging nuclear powers, North Korea and Pakistan for instance, safeguards and controls their arsenal.  Having these weapons, they may be prone to blowing themselves up rather than their enemies.

Past accidents with nuclear weapons are also discussed.  To say we have been lucky thus far is to put it mildly.

The memories stirred by this work were the result of one accident the book follows in great detail.  That accident was the explosive destruction of a Titan II missile complex located near Little Rock, Arkansas in 1980.  My interest was due to the fact I served, from 1970 to 1973, as first a deputy commander and then commander of a Titan II missile complex outside of Wichita, Kansas.

For three years, every three or four days I would pull 24 hour alerts.  I knew the layout of the complex and the hazards involved and that’s why reading this book induced a flood of memories.

I highly recommend this book.  It is an outstanding history of the safety and development of nuclear weapons.

February 13, 2014 at 8:11 pm Leave a comment


For all my local readers.

Erin McCole Cupp will discuss and sign her book, Don’t You Forget About Me, at the next meeting of my writers group, The Wordwights.

We will meet at the Barnes & Noble on Main Street in Exton, PA on February 20th at 7:00PM.

All local writers and readers are invited.  I hope to see you then.

Here is a link that offers more information about the author.


February 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm 2 comments


Just a little promo for my story being released this month by Melange Books.

February 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm 2 comments


Some of you may know that I live in West Chester, PA located in ChesterCounty.  And like almost half of the county’s residents, life has been provided a speed-bump due to the weather.

It was Wednesday morning, the 5th of February, when our dog, Millie, jumped on the bed, disturbed.  I looked at the bedside clock to see the time and then I knew.  The clock’s black face told me we had lost power.

I got up, fed Millie, and while reading the paper the power returned.  But that event would prove to be short-lived.  The power departed again and would not return for nearly two days.

We have a sunroom with a wood burning stove.  About a week ago my daughter, Lynn, and her friend, Tyler, visited and spent some time splitting wood and storing it in the garage.  That act of kindness turned out to be a lifesaver.

I started a fire and soon Millie and our two cats migrated to the room and share the warmth.  We all kept relatively warm.  But we would have been warmer if I had closed the door to the rest of the house.  I kept the door open for access for the cats to the litter box and food, plus to provide some heat to my ball python living in my study.  He survived.

The only difficult period was nighttime, needing to wake up every three hours or so to feed the fire.  Sleep was also disturbed by constant crashing of ice, and the occasional branch, on the roof.  But no trees struck the house or my care.  I know I fared much better than some other residents of the area.

The power returned Thursday night about 8:30.

My internet is still a victim of the ice storm so I shall post this later.

Saturday, and there are still about 50,000 county residents without power.

Think warm thoughts for them.

Stay safe and warm.

February 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm 4 comments


February 2014

Posts by Month

Posts by Category