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Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Advice

Word challenge:  WILLIWAW--does this have to do with temperature, wind, or snow? (see end of post for answer)

Joseph Pulitzer offered this advice on writing--it seems especially good for nonfiction writers like me:
"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."

Fact from Martin De Leon research: The town of Goliad, Texas, was named for Hidalgo, the priest who issued the "grito" for Mexico's freedom from Spain. Since the "h" is silent in Spanish, Goliad is an anagram of the other letters in Hidalgo.

"Williwaw" is a sudden gust of wind or a squall.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Word challenge:  CACHINNATION (what you can do for only a few minutes before following Asimov's advice below)--see end of post for definition

American science-fiction novelist Isaac Asimov wrote: "You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. Yu send that work out again and again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success--but only if you persist."

So for all the writers out there who are discouraged by a rejection (or perhaps even rejections), keep on trying!

Martin De Leon research fact for the day: De Leon used a three-pound cannon to scare some Karankawas.

The word "cachinnation" means loud or hysterical laughter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing Compulsion

Word challenge: ADOXOGRAPHY--what kind of writing is this? (see end of post for explanation)

American novelist John Irving (The World According to Garp) said: "The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything."

So I have been writing--working on next book, query letters, etc.--so much writing that I didn't post yesterday.

As the Martin De Leon research progresses, I share this:  Martin believed that his prayers to the twelve disciples before he went to sleep saved him from being robbed and killed one night as he slept by a campfire.

"Adoxography" refers to skilled writing on an unimportant subject. Sounds like a requirement for Twitter!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

Did you know???--On this date in 1973 a bank robbery started in Stockholm, Sweden. Pretty soon, it turned into a hostage situation and over a period of time the four hostages bonded with their captors. That psychological condition became known as the "Stockholm Syndrome."

Word challenge: CRUCIVERBALIST (I must confess that I am one of these--see end of post for definition)

Moving along in the Martin De Leon research: Martin died of cholera at age 68, leaving a fortune to his wife and children.

A "cruciverbalist" is a person who loves doing crossword puzzles.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Author Fool

Word challenge:  OLEAGINOUS (not the way I like my french fries!) see the end of the post for a couple of definitions

I love this description of an author by Charles de Montesquieu, French philosopher:  "An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations."  To all of my author friends, here's to our boring MANY future generations--keep on writing!

Martin De Leon research fact for the day: He was a six-foot blond, well-proportioned man with a military bearing.

Definitions of "oleaginous":  unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech; greasy: containing an unusual amount of grease or oil

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Day of School

Word Challenge:  NIVEOUS--with all these hot days, we could surely use one described as this (see end of post for definition)

In our area, Monday is the first day of school. For those of us in education or who have had careers in education, that day brings back memories. Whether a student or a teacher, I could never sleep the night before school started. That first day with all its possibilities--the day everyone was a star. No one had a failing grade yet; no one had brought about the wrath of the administration. Friends perhaps not seen during the summer were there as well as the potential for making new ones. Everything had to be perfect on that day--the clothes, the school supplies, the food in your lunch box if you were young enough to still carry one. And then the scariest part of all--meeting the teachers if you were a student and meeting the students if you were a teacher. So for all the students and teachers starting a new school year, best wishes. Education is so important and so are all of you.

"Niveous" means snowy--that would feel pretty good right now!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Word Challenge:  HAGIOGRAPHY (I hope I don't write this kind of book!) see end of post for explanation

These 100+ degree days of summer, known as the dog days of summer, remind me of a friend's new picture book called The Twelve Dog Days of New York by Maritha Burmeister. Beautifully illustrated, the book introduces its young readers to twelve breeds of dogs all at noted New York landmarks. If you have a child in your life, this is a great book to buy. See for purchase.

Research on Martin De Leon seems rather tedious at the moment--trying to correlate his life events to history, such as the changing of the fortress La Bahia's name to Goliad, an anagram of Hidalgo, the priest whose "grito" started Mexico's long struggle for independence from Spain.

"Hagiography" means a worshipful or idealizing biography.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

OK Not to Earn Money

Word Challenge:  GALLIMAUFRY--I hope my blogs don't seem like this! (see end of post for definition)

Jules Renard said: "Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money."

This is a comforting thought as I try to wait patiently to hear from queries about proposed new books. The wait time seems to grow longer each year, and while we authors wait, we make no money. So, thank you, Jules Renard, for the assurance that continuing to write is not ridiculous.

Martin De Leon research fact for today: When the Karankawa Indians painted their bodies red, they were ready to go on the warpath!

"Gallimaufry" means a jumble, a hodgepodge

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Name Struggle

Word Challenge:  TOPONYM--a place name or a word coined in association with the name of a place (See end of post for examples)

Benjamin Disraeli said: "The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it."

I am certainly finding that true as I research my book on Martin De Leon and family. Names of places and people changed over the period of time covered by the subject. This can lead to confusion for the author as well as for her readers. For example, the place is referred to as New Spain, Mexico, Coahuila/Tejas, and Texas. The people themselves were Spaniards, Mexicans, Tejanos, andTexans. The challenge is to be accurate in telling De Leon's story while not losing the reader.

Examples of a "toponym":  Hot Springs (Arkansas) and Battle Creek (Michigan)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marcus Garvey Birthday

Word challenge:  BRABBLE

Happy Birthday!  On this day, 123 years ago, Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica. While growing up, he decided that he and other black people needed to take charge of their own destinies. He went on to devote his entire life to that cause. Although he tangled with J. Edgar Hoover in the course of his attempts, Marcus Garvey always advocated pride in black culture. He inspired hope and he influenced a renewed interest in African roots and history that would continue to grow long after his passing.  (for more information, see Marcus Garvey: Black Nationalist at my website

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." ~ James Michener

"Brabble" means a petty dispute or squabble.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Show--Don't Tell

Word challenge:  AGRYPNIA--Is this a disease, a science, an animal, or none of these? (see end of post for definition)

As writers, we are often cautioned to show rather than tell--not always the easiest thing to do. I think Anton Chekhov gave a perfect example of the difference:  "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

And more about research subject Martin De Leon and his family--Martin's wife Patricia created beautiful needlework for their home and for her daughters' clothing. She once embroidered a purse in which she put $500 in gold for her church.

"Agrypnia" refers to insomnia.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Grateful Country

Word challenge:  RUGOSE (I would NOT like to have this word applied to me!)  see end of post for explanation

Today, August 14, 2010, marks the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, when Japan surrendered to the United States. Only a small number of veterans of that war are still alive, but for those who are, we salute your bravery and heroism and thank you for the free country that you saved for us today. For more about World War II, see American Hero: The Audie Murphy Story at my website: Audie was the most decorated soldier of WWII.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." ~Mark Twain

Rugose means "having many wrinkles or creases."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Conflicting Facts

Word challenge:  CLOWDER--Does "clowder" refer to soup? cats? rainfall amounts? (see answer at end of blog)

One of the most frustrating parts of research is to discover that sources do not agree on basic information. A recent example on which I spent quite a bit of time was the correct spelling of the name of a merchant schooner. Most reliable sources from the past had the name as Anna Elizabeth; then in more recent materials, I began to find it spelled Hanna Elizabeth. Obviously, just looking in books was not going to tell me what is correct. Fortunately, I have a friend who is somewhat of an expert on naval history, and he was able to clarify that the more recent spelling is the correct one.

Today's Martin De Leon tidbit:  The wild Texas mustangs on which De Leon made a fortune were descendants of the horses brought to the New World by Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s and 1600s.

"Clowder" is a collective name for a group of cats.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Great Publishing Guide

Word challenge:  CASTELLAN (think about kings and castles and moats to figure out the meaning of this word)--see end of post for definition

As I search for possible publishers and perhaps an agent, I have found a great source:  Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents 2010. The almost 1100-page guide contains information about specific names to contact at particular agencies, sorts through the huge publishing companies with all their subsidiaries, and even presents interviews with editors, agents, etc., just to mention a few of the book's features.

Today's fact about my research subject, Martin De Leon: De Leon sometimes hired the pirate Jean Lafitte to carry purchased merchandise from New Orleans to the Texas coast.

Definition of CASTELLAN--the keeper of a castle.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Benefit

Jules Renard said: "Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted." In some ways, I guess blogging is the same. Nevertheless, I hope to hear comments from readers.

Word challenge:  SORTILEGE

Today's tidbit about Martin De Leon: He sometimes paid the people who worked for him in merchandise he bought in New Orleans when he went there to sell cattle and horses. For example,  both a silk dress and a Winchester rifle equated to $12 in salary.

Sortilege is the act or practice of foretelling the future by drawing lots. I wonder if this works on determining whether a publisher will purchase a manuscript????

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good Review!

Thanks to Booklist (August 2010) for a great review of Self Reliance: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson. They used such words as "succinct, broad-reaching and peppered with lively anecdotes . . . In Self-Reliance, for example, Caravantes quotes Emerson as a young student, whose dramatic self-loathing may strike a chord with young teens struggling with similar crises of confidence."  See my website for the complete review: 
Word challenge:  REGNANT   What do Queen Elizabeth and cell phone texting have in common?  (see end of post for explanation)

Finally, as I continue to share information about my current research topic:  Martin De Leon--He and his family were largely responsible for the building of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Victoria, Texas--the second oldest Catholic parish in Texas, preceded only by San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.

Word challenge explanation: They are both "regnant." Regnant has two different meanings--"ruling or reigning" (Queen Elizabeth) and "widespread, prevalent" (texting).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Promise of a New Week

Unlike many people, I enjoy Mondays--the beginning of a new week with all the promise that it holds.

My word challenge for today is CREPUSCULE. Take a guess at its meaning and then check your answer at the end of the post. What time of day is "crepuscule"--midnight, dawn, twilight?

Just learned from the publisher, Avisson Press, that American Hero: The Story of Audie Murphy is going into its second printing!

For today's tidbit about my research topic Martin De Leon--He had ten children, eight of them in the wilds of unsettled Tejas! I guess he and his wife Patricia did not lack for workers as they moved from site to site before settling in what is today Victoria, Texas.

Answer to word challenge:  twilight

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Strange Word!

I love unusual words and discovered one this week--NICTITATE. I had no idea what it meant but discovered that its meaning is "to wink." I plan to continue sharing "strange" words with my readers--I welcome suggestions for words to feature.

Just wanted everyone to know that my web site has been recently updated, and I invite you to visit it to learn more about my books. Please see

Back to my current research--can you imagine a rich young man turning down a chance to study in Monterrey in order to lead a pack of mules across rough, dangerous terrain? That's exactly what Martin De Leon did for a couple of years before he decided to join the army. He not only spent his days with mules, but he had to be constantly on the alert for Indian attacks. Seems like college might have been a better choice!

More to come about Martin in the days ahead.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


This is my first attempt to create a blog, so please be patient with me! I just received my copies of my latest book, a YA biography called Self-Reliance: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The graphics, supplied by the publisher, Morgan Reynolds, really add a lot to the book's appearance. I hope you readers will think so too.

Today I am continuing to do research for a future book on Martin de Leon, the first Texas empresario from Mexico. He not only settled the area now known as Victoria, Texas, but he had ten children who all contributed to the history of Texas. Keep watching for more info as I progress on this new venture.