Drovers Update: Draft 2 finished


I just typed the final words of draft 2 of the first book of The Drovers. It now goes to my beta readers (I’m the alpha reader, the one who sees draft 1). And while they’re reading, I will begin draft 2 of the second book.

This is the shortest novel I’ve ever written, clocking in at 61,000 words. My target was 50,000 words, the average size of a Louis L’Amour western. But this will do. Depending on the beta reader feedback, I may add or cut a few thousand words. But not much.

I still don’t have a series name, dang it!

The Queen’s Drovers?

Drovers Update: second draft finished up to climax!

I  have been making progress on my next novel. Today, I revised the second draft up to the climax. Tomorrow, I get into it. It’s going to be an awesome battle with lots of heroics. Can’t wait. You’ll notice the progress meter. I thought the book would be 35k. A quickie. But it’s probably going to end up at 60k. Almost twice as long, but still the shortest novel I’ve ever written.

You can see some of the images I’ve been gathering for this on Pinterest.

The thing that’s eluding me at this point is the name of the series itself.


Good Stuff: The Free State of Jones

I recently watched a moving and surprising film called The Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey. It’s about Newton Knight and how he led three counties in Mississippi to break away from the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Think of that. On January 9, 1861, Mississippi declared it’s independence from the United States over the issue of slavery. They were the second state to do so. South Carolina was the first. On reflection, it makes sense these two states seceded first because they had the highest portion of the population as slaves. South Carolina’s population was 57% slave. Mississippi’s was 55%.

Mississippi’s declaration of independence from the Unites States starts with this paragraph.

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

The rest of the declaration simply elaborates on that theme. However, not everyone in Mississippi agreed. The folks in Jones County, way down in the southeastern part, were mostly non-slave holders and cattle herders and had little use for a war over a state’s right to maintain the institution of slavery.

Led by Knight, on October 13, 1863, with the war still raging, folks in Jones County and adjacent counties formed a separate government known as the “Free State of Jones”. They fought at least fourteen skirmishes with Confederate forces and went so far as to raise an American flag over the courthouse in Ellisville and send a letter to Union General William T. Sherman declaring Jones County’s independence from the Confederacy and asking for support.

This movie is based on those events and, importantly, some that occurred after the war ended.

The film is rated R for a scene with some Civil War battle injuries. And perhaps because of the use of the n-word. What it delivers is a powerful depiction of the issues of the time and the courage of one man who’d had enough. If you like history and action, I think you’ll enjoy this movie.

Good Stuff: Why We Get Fat

What if everything you know about fat, cholesterol, and diet is pretty much wrong?

What if you found out that the science behind the good old food pyramid is, well, not really there?

We’ve been told that a healthy diet consists of lots of grains, bagels, bread, pasta, cereals, rice, etc. and very little fat. What if it’s actually the reverse?

If it is, then it might explain why the rates of diabetes and obesity began to skyrocket as the nation started to implement a low fat high carb diet.

I remember having gained about fifteen pounds when I was first married. I decided I would go on a diet. I read up on the low fat high carb diet and followed it strictly. Two weeks later, I had gained ten more pounds. Did I, at the time, look at the diet and think that maybe there was something wrong with it?

No. That would have been too intelligent.

Instead, I figured something must be wrong with me and continued to try to “eat healthy.” What’s that definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Call me insane. Or slow. Or too trusting of authority.

It appears that the science of nutrition got hijacked. Government policy then ran away with it. It’s a fascinating and cautionary tale. Let me recommend three books that explain what really causes us to deposit fat and how we got off track.

The first is Why We Get Fat by science writer Gary Taubes. In it he reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century, why the good science was ignored, what really causes us to store fat, and what to do about it.

The next is The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. Fung is a kidney specialist. Obesity and diabetes are the root of many kidney problems. And so he decided to help his patients by strop treating symptoms and get at the root cause. Fung’s gift is clarity. He explains how obesity and diabetes became an epidemic, the errors in how we think about calories and diet, and then he explains in great clarity the new model of what really causes obesity and how to reverse it.

The last is The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz. She spent nine years investigating this, and the book reveals how the misinformation about saturated fats took hold in the scientific community, government, and the public and how recent findings overturn these beliefs. It’s a startling history, a cautionary tale showing how ego, bias, and premature institutional consensus allowed dangerous misrepresentations to become dietary dogma.

If you’re dealing with obesity, heart disease, or diabetes, I think you’ll find these books very interesting.

Good Stuff: For All Eternity

This year I was introduced to a little gem of a book that has had a significant and pleasant impact on Nellie’s and my marriage.

We heard about it from my newlywed daughter and her husband. Now you’d think that two people who, in just a few months, will have been married for twenty-nine years would know all the ropes of this marriage thing. You’d think they wouldn’t come across any real new ideas. But this little book proved that idea wrong.

This book is For All Eternity by Dr. John L. Lund. At the time of its writing Lund had over forty years of experience as a counselor, college professor, and marriage educator. His focus is in interpersonal communication, and part of his background was working with John Gottman, one of the best marriage researchers of the last few decades.

In this book, Lund shares what he’s learned with lots of humor and stories. Some of it will be familiar to you, but some of it will be refreshing and new. For example, one belief we frequently cherish is the idea that if someone really loves us, they will know our wants and needs. Their love will somehow endow them with superpowers so that we will never have to communicate our wants. Our loving spouses, if they have any love in them, will be able to discern our wants from the most subtle signs. A nod, a sigh, the wiggle of a nose. And if that doesn’t do it, then surely we will never need to drop more than the merest hint.

Yeah, wrong.

Lund explains why the whole notion of “If you have to ask, it doesn’t count” is not only unrealistic, it’s damaging. And that’s just one insight. There are many more. I will let you discover them. But I can tell you that I have found this book so useful and delightful that it will now be one of the two standard books I buy and give as gifts to those who are newly married. I wish I’d had these insights right from the beginning, but better late than never. I’m so happy to have them now.

A little note. For those who are not members of the Mormon church, Lund is directing his teaching at that crowd. So you will find a sprinkling of quotes in here from church leaders that support what he’s learned in his practice and research. Don’t let that stop you. Mormon or non-Mormon, if you want to improve your marriage, you don’t want to miss this book.