On June 25, 1876, George Custer was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Or was he?

Tombstone of George Custer's brother
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** Image above is tombstone of Custer’s brother, Tom.

One hundred forty years ago, on June 25th, 1876 , Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and 210 troopers under his command were wiped out fighting the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne at the Little Bighorn valley in southeastern Montana. To this day, the Battle of the Little Bighorn remains one of the most studied, publicized and controversial battles in American history.

Two years ago, on the anniversary of the battle, I stood on that hallowed ground. Continue reading

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On Being An Expert – Part 2

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My last post was about what it meant to be an “expert”, i.e., did our readers expect us to be “experts” in the things we write about? I’m guessing if you are writing a cookbook; well then, yeah … it probably would be good if you knew your way around the kitchen. Or the “Five Easiest Ways To Perform Open-Heart Surgery” probably should be written by a doctor, preferably a heart surgeon. But a reader can hardly expect a writer of vampire novels to be a vampire (i.e., a “real” expert). Or everyone who writes a thriller about the CIA to be an undercover agent in Iran. Continue reading

On Being An Expert

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“The expert is the son-of-a-bitch from out of town.”
~ Gordon Koller

Those were words my dad used to say whenever a “consultant” showed up at his place of employment. I think you’ll relate to some of the random thoughts that follow; but if you get to a place where you start saying “where the hell is he going with all this?”, I ask you to be patient. There is method to my madness. Consider the following paragraphs like a “prologue” to a bigger (and better?) story.

I always thought my dad had clever ways to convey an idea with a minimum of words and a maximum of punch. As you can tell, he always bristled whenever his company would bring in someone who was thought by management so wise as to tell you how to do your job. Back in the day, the guy brought in was inevitably someone from “out of town.” Usually one of those “big city experts”, as my dad would say. Continue reading

Never use the word “Suddenly”

Elmore Leonard
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That was one of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.  Number 6, I think.

Elmore Leonard died about six months ago. His career spanned over six decades. He was a prolific writer, and, in my mind, one of the best of his generation in what I would call the “pulp fiction” category. You know, the kind of mystery or thriller or suspense (whatever they were called back in the day) paperback you would pick up at your corner book store when you were looking for a good, fun, quick read. Continue reading