My Writing

11 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 13.3

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[Continuing chapter thirteen]

Wheat led them through the ranks of pegged wagons and past the mules, which snorted derisively as they passed. Patton snorted back at them, until he felt Wheat’s hand on his shoulder again. “You won’t win an argument with a mule,” he said, “so don’t even start.”

“Sorry,” Patton muttered. It wasn’t fair that Wheat should expect him to be at his best after having been plied with drink.

10 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 13.2

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[Continuing chapter thirteen]

“What did I say that offended him?” Patton asked, miserable. He stared into the fire. All he’d wanted was some reassurance that he’d been doing the right thing, would continue to perform adequately in whatever fight was to come.

“Nothing,” Wheat said. “You said nothing wrong. Old Fontaine’s just a bit touchy, that’s all. He’s probably seen more fighting than you and me put together—he’s certainly seen more of the world than we have. But he doesn’t like to talk about it.” Wheat took another pull from the jug, and passed it to Patton. “He told me once fighting was just his job, and he saw no need to discuss business when he wasn’t doing business.”

“Just a job?” Patton stared, wondering if the whiskey was affecting his hearing. “How could he think that? I’ve always thought that being a soldier was something—well, something noble. Something to be proud of, anyway.”

06 December, 2019

Mid-Novel Blues and Greens

I'm about fifty thousand words into the first draft of the current project. This has me between eleven and twelve chapters through a twenty-chapter outline. And, as so often seems to be the case at this point in a novel, things have slowed down (instead of two thousand words a day I'm writing more like two hundred) and my interest in the characters has begun to shrivel.

Am I concerned? I am not. This happens all the time, and I always manage to blast through and enjoy a headlong rush to the finish.

Well, nearly always.

Bonny Blue Flag 12.10

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[Concluding chapter 12]


“The militia?” McCulloch couldn’t restrain a laugh at the memory of the militia musters he’d seen when he first came to Texas—to say nothing of what had happened to the men led by Polk last week. In theory, every able-bodied man in the country was a member of the militia, liable for military service should the country be invaded—or in a state of rebellion. In fact, though, militia musters usually ended up in drunken brawls. And despite what other parts of the continent apparently thought of the Republic of Texas, not every man in this country had a rifle or musket, much less one in working order. As money had become ever tighter, the frequency and quality of the militia musters had declined to fewer than one haphazard event a year. “When was the last time, Mister Travis, that the government could afford a complete mustering of the militia in just this county, much less across the whole republic?”

05 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 12.9

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[Continuing chapter 12; this is another long one, and concludes this week]

“It’s not that there are so many of them,” Travis said, stretching his legs. “It’s that there are so few of us.”

“But how many?” Cleburne asked. “If you can just give us a number—”

“We’ll know how hard it’s going to be to re-take the city,” McCulloch finished.

“All I can say for certain is that there can’t be all that many of them,” Travis told them. McCulloch and his companions had joined Travis and Russell under the largest of the trees; as their horses grazed, the five men sat and talked about the alarming news each group had given the other. They look beaten, McCulloch thought about Travis and Russell. Their voices are dull, and they don’t seem to care about anything. Look at the way Travis just picks at the grass. Then the secretary of state looked at McCulloch, and there was still fire in his eyes. Maybe we’re not done yet, McCulloch thought. “They managed to keep what they were doing a secret,” Travis said, “and that’s almost impossible to do if you’ve got more than a handful of men involved.”

“But the soldiers,” McCulloch said.

“Most of them just following orders, I’ll wager,” said Russell, the newspaper man. “They’re most of them fresh off the boat, and they’ve been taught with the lash to do what they’re told.” Cleburne nodded, and McCulloch wondered if the Irishman had been on the delivering or receiving end of a whip in his soldiering days. He wasn’t quite sure how to take the Irishman. The man seemed brave enough. But the memory of Irishmen deserting from the army during the revolution to join their fellow-Catholic Mexicans, taking up the Mexican offer of land and gold in return for betraying the Texans, was still with McCulloch.

“My guess,” Russell continued, “is that you’ll be able to swing most of them to you if you can just find a way of dealing with the bad officers.”

“Any good officers in town, you reckon?” McCulloch asked Travis.

“There must be some,” Travis said. “I can’t believe that everyone in the garrison is that venal or traitorous.”

“Then they’re either hiding or in prison. Either way, you got to get them out of wherever they’re being held,” McCulloch said. “That’s how you get the soldiers to come around to you.”

“I detect a vicious cycle forming,” Russell said. “We need soldiers to defeat the coup. But in order to obtain their services we have to first defeat them in order to free the captive officers we need to lead them.”

“Which brings us back to the few of us against the uncertain—but surely superior—number of them,” Travis said. “I know in my heart that most Texans won’t support this Walker person if they’re given the choice. But I seem to be the only member of the cabinet not in custody. Do I dare risk appearing in Washington to make my case?” Don’t let him talk himself out of trying something, McCulloch thought. Trying anything, and failing, is still better than just giving up.

“Seems to me you don’t have a choice, sir,” Patton said. “You stay in hiding, this Reynolds fellow can say anything he wants about you. The more you repeat a lie, the more likely it is to be believed,” the Virginian added. “You have to go back.” McCulloch nodded agreement, glad that the others weren’t going to let Travis give up either.

Russell leapt to his feet, scattering dust as he did so. “Who’s to say,” he said excitedly, “that we have to go charging back in there by ourselves? Why can’t we build our own force as we go back?”

“I don’t understand you,” Travis said.

“The militia,” Russell said. “Why don’t you call up the militia? As the senior representative of the government, you’re not just allowed to muster the militia, you’re bloody well required to do it. Every farmer out here, every man hiding in his house in Washington, is a member of the militia.”

Next    Chapter One    Chapter Two    Chapter Three    Chapter Four    Chapter Five    Chapter Six
Chapter Seven    Chapter Eight    Chapter Nine    Chapter Ten    Chapter Eleven    Chapter Twelve

04 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 12.8

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[Continuing chapter 12; this is another long one, and concludes this week]

Wouldn’t it be funny, Ben McCulloch thought, if it turned out the one thing we inherited from the Mexicans was an inclination to revolution? He glanced at his companions, and his spirits sank that much lower as he remembered the news they’d brought. What possible difference could a wounded Irishman and a taciturn Virginian make when they were up against a mercenary army supported by nobody knew how many mutinous soldiers of Texas’s own army?

“So Secretary Travis is supposed to be watching for this Walker feller?” he asked John Patton.

“Assuming he got my message.” Patton’s soft Virginia drawl was already starting to slide into the broader Texan twang. Same thing that happened to me and Hank when we came down from Tennessee, McCulloch thought. “He may not have. I’d have expected the army to be waiting for Walker if he had.”

03 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 12.7

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[Continuing chapter 12; this is another long one, and concludes this week]

“Congratulations, Mister President,” Hopkins said. “It looks as though everyone on the list is in our custody, and the city is secure.” Hopkins took a long swallow from the bottle he held, then offered it to Reynolds.

Reynolds shook his head. “Please don’t call me president,” he said. “That remains to be decided.” It’s the one part of my plan I haven’t confided to Mister Walker, he thought, and felt a small tremor at his audacity. Or was it foolishness? Walker could be a very nasty man. “And not everyone’s in custody. Secretary Travis hasn’t been brought in yet.” I should stop calling him “Secretary,” he thought. The man’s a wanted criminal, and deserves no respect. “Any more word on that?”

02 December, 2019

Bonny Blue Flag 12.6

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[Continuing chapter 12; this is another long one, and concludes this week]

Russell smiled tightly. “So you were right.” He walked briskly to the stairs. “You should be proud of your Cassandra-like qualities.” Travis flushed; Cassandra at least had tried to warn people about her predictions. “Up here,” Russell said, and began to climb.

The closet-sized room at the top of the stairs was dark; Russell lit a lamp. “I should knock a window into this wall,” he muttered. “I suspect I’m going to have someone in this room more or less full-time before long. Everybody’s hooking up telegraphs these days.” The telegraph itself was surprisingly small for such an important device, nothing more than a piece of polished wood with a metal bar mounted on it and wires running to the wall and up into the ceiling.

Russell released a catch and began tapping the lever. He paused, tapped again, then clamped the lever back down again. “Nothing,” he said. “They’ve cut the wires. Nobody in the great wide world will know what’s going on here.” He smiled again, and said, “This is far more organized than I’d have thought Reynolds was capable of.” Then his smile straightened out. “They’ll be coming here, won’t they? They’ll be wanting my press.”