Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, nonfiction, Pets on March 22, 2017

Synopsis

Bringing a new dog into the household should be one of life’s happiest events. The process always starts with excitement and high expectations. Too often, though, it ends in disappointment. The new puppy wakes everyone three times a night, gnaws on furniture, piddles everywhere, knocks the children down. The new adolescent dog is too wild. The new adult dog growls at your neighbors. And where did all this dog hair come from?

Most people spend hours researching a new mattress, days researching a new car, and weeks researching a new home or job. Yet for a new dog, a companion for the next 10-15 years, the most they do is visit the nearest shelter or pet shop and buy whatever looks cute and appealing. It’s no wonder they end up disappointed.

Whether you are looking for a purebred puppy or a charming mixed-breed, the type of dog you bring into your home matters. A quiet owner will struggle to keep up with a high-energy labrador mix, for instance, while an active outdoor family will be impatient with a snoozy bulldog. And finding the right kind of dog means becoming the right kind of owner—a task that takes some forethought and planning.

How To Find Your Dream Dog is here to fix the disconnect of dog ownership. It walks you step-by-step through the process of choosing the right type of dog for you—not only exploring the canine qualities that can determine your perfect puppy, adolescent, or adult dog, but also assessing your lifestyle to make sure you’re a good match for the dog, too. The book also looks at good (and bad) sources for finding healthy and sound pet dogs, gives guidelines for evaluating individual puppies, and warns of some red flags to watch out for during your dog search. With this guidebook in hand, you can be confident that the next puppy or dog you bring home will be the right companion and friend for you for the rest of its days.

​Dixie Tenny is a Certified Training Partner with the Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training and Behavior. During her 30+ years spent working with people and their pets, she has seen again and again how mismatches between dog and owner can create “behavior problems” that never would have happened if the right dog had been matched to the right owner in the first place. She wrote this book to help puppy buyers and dog adopters start out on the best possible foot with their new pet dogs, and stay on that path for years to come.

Guest Post

Two Great Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors
​by Dixie Tenny

When the weather outside is frightful, how do you keep your dog happy and entertained indoors?

Here are two ideas that will bring indoor fun to any dog, any type, any size, any age.

Find-it games
Every dog can learn to use its nose to find treats or toys, and the search can be as fun as the goodie at the end. Teach your pooch to play “find-it” like this:

First, while holding your pup in place, toss a treat so that it lands in plain sight. Say “find it!” and release your pup to run and eat the treat.

After a few repetitions, try tossing the treat so that it lands barely out of sight, behind furniture. Say “find it,” and release your pup. Most will seek out the goodie; if yours needs help, walk toward the treat yourself and be patient. She will get it after a few more repetitions.

Put your dog away and place a treat in plain sight. Bring your dog into the room, holding its collar, say “find it!” and release. Now the dog doesn’t have your throwing arm to watch, but by this time the cue “find it!” should let her know that there is a goodie in the room.

When she has mastered this, put a paper towel over the treat before bringing her out to “find it!” The paper towel is a new object in the room so she is very likely to go investigate it, smell the treat under it, and dig it out. This introduces the idea that the treat might actually be out of sight, so that she will start hunting for them with her nose. Next, put out two paper towels, one with a treat under it and one without.

Place a treat next to a piece of furniture for her to find. Then place it slightly under or behind the furniture…

Continue until she will hunt for a treat whenever you say “find it.” Eventually my Welsh terrier reached the point where he would hunt all over the house while I sat and read a book! The key is to progress in very slow, gradual steps, and always be willing to patiently repeat any step a few times until it’s clear that your dog is ready to move on.

Puzzle toys

Puzzle toys are one of the greatest inventions for dogs and their people ever. This is a wide range of toys that incorporate treats. With a simple puzzle toy, you just put treats, biscuit pieces, or other dog-friendly goodies into the toy and let your dog enjoy the process of working to get them out. The Kong is probably the most well-known simple puzzle toy. A Kong looks like an inverted triple-scoop ice cream with a hole in the bottom. Break up pieces of biscuits, use your dog’s own food, add a couple high-value treats like freeze-dried liver pieces; take a spoonful of cream cheese and mix it all together, then push the mixture into the hole in the Kong. You can give this to your dog as is, or freeze it for future use. Most dog trainers have several frozen Kongs in their freezers at all times!

You can also fill a Kong with canned dog food or any number of other fillings. Just be careful to avoid human foods that are dangerous to dogs such as chocolate, onion, raisins, and more.

If your dog doesn’t know what to do with this great-smelling but puzzling thing, start by filling it loosely enough that the goodies fall out when your dog rolls the toy around. Gradually make it harder for him to get the treats out as he becomes more experienced.

If your dog empties a Kong in record time, consider moving him up to the more challenging puzzle toys. There are dozens of these: my favorite include:
Toys that feed entire meals, such as the Kong Wobbler, the Tug-a-Jug, and the Tricky Treat Ball;
Toys that hold the treats inside so the dog must figure out how to remove them, such as the Busy Buddy Barnacle or Squirrel Dude, or the Bob-a-Lot Treat Dispenser.
For the maestro, try toys that require the dog to manipulate the puzzle by lifting latches, pushing little doors open, and more. These include the Dog Activity Flip Board, the Dog Twister, and the Mad Scientist Puzzle.

Consider trying some Find-it and picking up a few puzzle toys. Your dog will thank you for making her days indoors more interesting!

About the Author

Dixie Tenny has been helping people and their dogs find each other and form successful partnerships since the early 1980s. She founded two rescue organizations: Purebred Dog Rescue of Saint Louis in 1984, and Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, Inc. in 1987. Dixie was the Director of Training for the Greater St. Louis Training Club, Inc., for five years, creating classes and overseeing the work of 40 head and assistant trainers. In 2003 she and another experienced trainer created Dogs Unleashed, LLC. They traveled to clients’ homes and worked with behavior and training issues.

Dixie’s professional credentials include trainer certifications from the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and the Association for Pet Dog Trainers. Dixie formed her own business, Human-Animal Learning Opportunities, LLC (HALO) in 2013. HALO hosts continuing education seminars for dog trainers.

Dixie has lived with a wide range of dogs over the years including mixed breeds, Australian Shepherds, Welsh and Cairn terriers, and more. While in Seattle, Dixie raised a labrador puppy for Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. (CCI). Currently Dixie lives with a Beauceron and an elderly Papillon, as well as four cats. When not doing things related to animals, she reads widely, enjoys the company of her three grown children, follows baseball and English Premier League football, and travels the world.

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Posted in Giveaway, Historical, nonfiction, Spotlight on February 21, 2017

BULLETINS FROM DALLAS

Reporting the JFK Assassination

by

BILL SANDERSON

  Genre: Biography / Journalism

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Date of Publication: November 1, 2016

Number of Pages: 280

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Thanks to one reporter’s skill, we can fix the exact moment on November 22, 1963 when the world stopped and held its breath: At 12:34 p.m. Central Time, UPI White House reporter Merriman Smith broke the news that shots had been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. Most people think Walter Cronkite was the first to tell America about the assassination. But when Cronkite broke the news on TV, he read from one of Smith’s dispatches. At Parkland Hospital, Smith saw President Kennedy’s blood-soaked body in the back of his limousine before the emergency room attendants arrived. Two hours later, he was one of three journalists to witness President Johnson’s swearing-in aboard Air Force One. Smith rightly won a Pulitzer Prize for the vivid story he wrote for the next day’s morning newspapers.

Smith’s scoop is journalism legend. But the full story of how he pulled off the most amazing reportorial coup has never been told. As the top White House reporter of his time, Smith was a bona fide celebrity and even a regular on late-night TV. But he has never been the subject of a biography.

With access to a trove of Smith’s personal letters and papers and through interviews with Smith’s family and colleagues, veteran news reporter Bill Sanderson will crack open the legend. Bulletins from Dallas tells for the first time how Smith beat his competition on the story, and shows how the biggest scoop of his career foreshadowed his personal downfall.

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Praise for BULLETINS FROM DALLAS

“So much of what we know about any story depends on how reporters do their work. Bill Sanderson takes us through every heartbreaking minute of one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, with sharp detail and powerful observations. As you read the book, you’ll feel all the pressure and adrenaline rush of a reporter on deadline.” —Neal Shapiro, former president of NBC News, current president of WNET

“The life and work of a noted White House reporter…. Focusing on [Merriman] Smith’s reporting of the Kennedy assassination, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, Sanderson conveys the tension and confusion after the event, as Smith and other newsmen scrambled to ascertain facts.” —Kirkus Reviews

“To read Bulletins from Dallas is to touch the fabric of history, through Sanderson’s artful weave of many voices, from presidents across the decades to the last words uttered by J.F.K. Swept back through the corridors of time, we hear the urgent bells and clatter of the teletype machine: Merriman Smith’s first report to the world, ‘Three shots fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade today in Downtown Dallas.’ This compelling narrative takes us to that moment when our whole nation cried, and, even now, to tears of primal sympathy that never seem to end.” —Allen Childs, author of We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963

 

photo by Annie Wermiel

Bill Sanderson spent almost two decades as a reporter and editor at the New York Post. His work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, and the Washington Post. Sanderson lives in New York City.

 

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Posted in Giveaway, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on January 2, 2017

OF BULLETINS AND BOOZE

  A NEWSMAN’S STORY OF RECOVERY

by

Bob Horton

Genre: Journalism / Memoir

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

Date of Publication: March, 2017

Number of Pages: 284

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Bob Horton began his journalism career as a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Innate skill and good fortune took him from a modest Texas farm upbringing to Washington, DC, where he was thrown into the high-pressure world of the wire service, first as a correspondent for the Associated Press, and later for Reuters news agency. The stress was intense, but he found the rush to be intoxicating.

From his early days covering the Dallas murder trial of Jack Ruby, through three colorful decades as a newsman, Horton often found himself witnessing history in the making. He covered the Pentagon during the early days of the Vietnam War, was on board a Navy ship in the Mediterranean awaiting Israel’s expected attack on Egypt, was witness to the Watergate burglary trial, and attended a Beverly Hills church service with then-President-elect Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

The success Horton enjoyed as a journalist mostly hid the dark side of his career: a gradual descent into alcoholism. Of Bulletins and Booze candidly recounts the unforgettable moments of Horton’s career, as well as more than a few moments he would just as soon forget.

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Bob Horton has been in the news business for more than fifty years. In 1966 he received the Top Reporting Performance Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors organization, and in 1968 he and an AP cohort were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for general coverage of the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Today he is a radio news anchor with shows in Lubbock and Victoria, Texas. He lives in Lubbock.

 

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Posted in excerpt, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 27, 2016

The Conversations We Never Had, by Jeffrey H. Konis, is a historical fiction novel / memoir that highlights the importance of family history.

Synopsis

When Jeffrey’s grandma died, he was left with a sense of guilt and profound regret for not having gotten to know her better.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “I lived with Olga for over two years and she would have been able and willing to tell me about my real grandparents, my dad as a little boy and so much more had I simply asked the questions.  I never did.  Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I wish I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.


Excerpt

From Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and . . . .” “Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.

Praise

“Jeffrey H. Konis won my heart from the very first page and had my eyes glued to the pages throughout the entire narrative…The Conversations We Never Had is a book that will warm your heart and lead you toward the pursuit of love and gratitude for those who are part of your journey to yourself. Beautiful and inspiring, this book is highly recommended!” – 5 Stars, Romuald Dzemo for Readers Favorite

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning.

His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016.

Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

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Posted in excerpt, nonfiction, self help, Spotlight on December 20, 2016

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Synopsis

Are you suffering from a personal energy crisis?Are you constantly running through your day, feeling chronically exhausted? Are you desperately overcommitted? Do you find yourself sacrificing your health, family time and quality of life just to meet the never-ending demands on your time? Are you exhausted when you go to bed at night and still tired when you awake? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then you may be suffering from a personal energy crisis.
Unfortunately, this way of living — and working — not only robs us of our health and puts a strain on time and energy resources, it blocks our access to our most essential sources of energy, leaving us feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.

In his new book, Energize Your Life, Dr. Del shows you simple things you can do everyday to fuel your life and work with positive energy. Drawing from his years of experience consulting with executives, entrepreneurs, small business owners, career changers and self re-inventors, as well as the wealth of new research over the past two decades on positive psychology, employee engagement and play, Dr. Del demonstrates how you can program the brain — and the subconscious — for productive, beneficial action.

Energize Your Life is different from other positive energy books and personal energy management programs. Its unique advantage is that it shows you how to fuel your life and work with positive energy from seven distinct sources.

And why is it important to increase your daily dose of positive energy? Well, several studies have clearly demonstrated that chronic stress and negative energy shuts down the creative problem solving brain, slows your productivity and puts you in fight or flight mode where very little gets done.

Energize Your Life will challenge and inspire you to develop a personal action plan to fuel your life and work with positive energy everyday. Thereby, improving your personal well being, enhancing your work engagement, and helping you feel more alive.

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Excerpt

The 7 Pillars of Positive Energy

  1. Ignite Your Passions…Fuel Your Purpose

Passion energizes.  Purpose motivates.

  1. Accelerate Your Personal Evolution

Self-awareness leads to emotional maturity, which frees us to respond differently.

  1. Cultivate Physical Vitality

Physical vitality expands our energy capacity.

  1. Become a Conduit for Positive Energy

Positive energy attracts.  Negative energy repels.

  1. Practice Positive Psychology

Positive thoughts and emotions program the brain (and our subconscious) for positive action.

  1. Increase Your “Prosocial Behavior”

Simple acts of kindness, good for the doer too.

  1. Give Yourself Permission to Play

Play increases our capacity to respond appropriately to the unexpected.

Chapter 5: Become a Conduit for Positive Energy

“Positive energy attracts. 

Negative energy repels.”

– Del Millers

Pillar #4: Positive Energy

It was December 2013, and I was flying home to Los Angeles from Charlotte, NC via Chicago O’Hare airport.  Unfortunately, flying through Chicago in the winter during bad weather automatically spells delays and canceled flights.  And that was exactly the case.  The flight that was supposed to leave before mine from Chicago to Los Angeles was canceled.  And so was mine.

Imagine being one of those American Airline attendants that night trying his or her best to accommodate 300 angry, stranded passengers.

But, as I stood in line that night waiting my turn to talk to the attendant, I made a radical decision to adopt a positive outlook about my situation.  I had every right to be as pissed off as everybody else in that terminal, but I chose instead to focus on one thought to the exclusion of all others:  “I am on the next flight to Los Angeles.”

I kept repeating that one single thought in my head over and over again with a single mindedness of purpose.  I would also look at the attendant every so often and send her a silent message — “you’ve got a seat for me on that next plane, I know it.”

By the time I reached the counter, I was told that the next flight was fully booked.  I looked at the attendant with a smile and said, “rough night isn’t it, Nancy?”

“You have no idea,” she replied with a sigh.

Then with a smile I said “Nancy, I know you’re probably all booked up, but I’ve got an event in Los Angeles tomorrow and I’m the keynote speaker, so I would be forever grateful if you could somehow get me on the next flight out tonight.”

She said, “Mr. Millers we’re all booked up, but please have a seat and I will see what I can do.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was standing in line with a boarding pass in hand, waiting to board my flight to Los Angeles.

Yes, I know the pessimists would say that I just got lucky.  But did I?

Or did I create the right conditions that led the universe to conspire in my favor?

The truth is, I don’t know.  All I know is that I was sitting on the next flight home while most of the angry people were on their way to a hotel for the night.

Here’s what I do know for sure.

My positive optimistic attitude allowed me to stop thinking about myself long enough to empathize with Nancy’s situation.  When I said to Nancy, “rough night, isn’t it?”  I genuinely meant it, and she felt that.

Here’s something else I do know for sure.

When you go out of your way to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective, it often creates a win-win situation.  You’ll find that most people will go out of THEIR way to accommodate your needs.

Now, I don’t know what exactly Nancy did that night to get me a seat on that last flight out of Chicago to Los Angeles, but I’m certain she went out of her way to accommodate me.

Why would she do that?

Positive energy attracts positive results and people to youNegative energy repels.

There’s a lot of negativity in the world.  We are surrounded by it.  It’s inescapable.  You hear about it every time you turn on the television.  It’s thrown in your face when you walk out the door and have to listen to your neighbor complaining about how much he hates his dead end job. Again!

The world is filled with negative energy because it boosts television ratings and helps to sell newspapers and magazines.  Negative energy is controversial, provocative, and confrontational.  Just watch an episode of most Reality TV and you’ll see what I mean.

Positive energy, on the other hand, is subtle, purposeful, and uplifting.  It’s the kind of energy that gives you the momentum you need to move in the direction of a larger vision for your life.

Positive energy is like a magnet.  It attracts positive people and positive results into your life.

But how can you become a conduit for positive energy in a world obsessed with sensationalism, controversy, and fear?

You cultivate positive energy by taking positive actions every day.  Or as Jon Gordon puts it in his book, The Energy Bus, you must “feed positive dog:”

A man goes to the village to visit the wise man and he says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind, and gentle dog and then I have this angry, mean-spirited and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don’t know which is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and he says, “I know which is going to win. The one you feed the most, so feed positive dog.”

About the Author

del-millersDr. Del Millers is the founder of TheBestYouAcademy.com, EnergizedLifeAcademy.com, and author of eight books on nutrition, fitness, and personal growth.

A PhD Nutritionist with a Masters degree in psychology, Dr. Del teaches simple mind-body principles to busy entrepreneurs and professionals to help them energize their lifestyle, improve their personal wellbeing, and enhance their work engagement.

Dr. Del has appeared on FOX Television (Good Day LA), E-Entertainment TV (DR 90210), numerous nationally syndicated radio shows, and in magazines, and newspapers throughout the United States and Australia (LA Sports & Fitness, Australian Ironman, Health & Fitness, Stuff, Fighting Fat and others).

Dr. Del’s greatest passion is sharing what inspires him with others. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three daughters.

Buy any of Dr. Del’s books and forward your receipt to gifts@delmillers.com for Dr. Del’s special bonuses worth hundreds of dollars. Subscribe to Dr. Del’s weekly podcast

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Posted in Giveaway, Interview, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 18, 2016

WALKING THE LLANO

  A TEXAS MEMOIR OF PLACE

by

Shelley Armitage

 

Genre: Eco-Memoir / Nature

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Date of Publication: February 15, 2016

Number of Pages: 216

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When American explorers arrived in the Texas Panhandle, they dubbed the region the “Great American Desert.” Its rough terrain appeared flat, dry, uninhabitable. Later, cell phone towers, oil rigs, and wind turbines added to this stereotype. Yet in this lyrical ecomemoir, Shelley Armitage charts a unique rediscovery of an unknown land, a journey at once deeply personal and far-reaching in its exploration of the connections between memory, spirit, and place.

Armitage begins her walk by following the Middle Alamosa Creek thirty meandering miles from her family farm to the Canadian River. Growing up in the small llano town of Vega, Texas, she finds the act of walking inseparable from the act of listening and writing. “What does the land say to us?” she asks as she witnesses human alterations to the landscape—perhaps most catastrophic the drainage of the land’s most precious water source, the Ogallala Aquifer.

But the llano’s wonders persist: colorful mesas and canyons, vast flora and fauna, diverse wildlife. While meditating on the region’s history, Armitage recovers the voices of ancient, Native, and Hispano peoples as interwoven with her own: her father’s legacy, her mother’s decline, a brother’s love.  The llano holds not only the beauty of ecological surprises but a renewed kinship in a world ever-changing.

Reminiscent of the work of memoirists Terry Tempest Williams and John McPhee, Walking the Llano is a soaring testimony to the power of landscape to draw us into greater understanding of ourselves and deeper connection with the places we inhabit.

Amazon * University of Oklahoma Press

 

 PRAISE FOR WALKING THE LLANO

Both an intensely lyrical and intimate scrapbook of familial history and a uniquely sublime travelogue of the American Southwestern landscape” A Starred review from Kirkus

“. . .an enticing mix of memoir, nature study and the hunting of ghosts. [ Walking The Llano] is a testament to the value of slowing down and watching where you are going.” Ollie Reed, The Albuquerque Journal

. . .[Armitage] is an explorer, and from her book we learn much about people who settled [the llano] and those who must now make gutwrenching decisions about modern methods of energy extraction. . .a perfectly balanced memoir.” Kimberly Burk, The Oklahoman

“With a cleareyed appreciation for landscape and our place in it combined with uncluttered flowing writing, Armitage establishes her place in the tradition of the best American nature writing.” Mark Pendleton, INK

“Once you’ve ambled into the lyrical, evocative pages of Shelley Armitage’s ‘Walking the Llano’, the Plains will never seem plain again.” William deBuys , Author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

“Shelley Armitage’s prose is as poetic as it is intelligent. She masterfully weaves together her personal story with the narrative of the Llano, and she does so in a way that begs the question of what lies ahead for the people and the land she loves. If literature is a study of the human heart—and it is—then Walking the Llano is a quiet masterpiece.” BK Loren, Author of T heft:A Novel and Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays

“In Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage does for the Staked Plains what John McPhee did for the Northern Plains in Rising from the Plains. She carefully mines the history, character, and geology of the Llano Estacado and combines it with a compelling personal narrative to create an account that flows with lyricism, authenticity, and wisdom. A splendid and cleareyed book.” Nancy Curtis – Coeditor of Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West

What kind of research did you have to do for your book?

As the book grew, I found I could bring together oral history, memory and a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I interviewed local folks about history, events and their memories of the area and also consulted university historians and archaeologists. I took a course on memoir at the UNM Writers’ Summer Conference in Taos, NM and continued research on key scholarly works on geology, geography, archaeology, history, Native American culture and the pastores. My study and certification as a  Texas Master Naturalist also was a great help.

As an academic, I love the detective work and the opportunity to incorporate a number of other scholars and writers I had read during my time teaching environmental writing and literature courses. These helped me build the case for eco­wisdom as the book became a meditation on the meaning of place.

Anything surprising you found in conducting your research?

All of it surprised me because just along this modest drainage to the Canadian had been incredible history: the major 19th century American expeditions (Abert, Whipple), major Spanish entradas (Coronado, Onate), ancient trade routes and meeting/trading places, important spring sites in a high desert landscape (one spring still flowing after 400 years), sites of Clovis and Folsom people, connections to one of the primary and oldest industries in North America ­ the Alibates Flint Quarry, last used by the Comanche.

While the book is factual and well­researched, I use the evidence of this earlier life to discuss cultural adaptations and beliefs, keys to understanding our places and our relationship to them. One thing that sticks in my mind is discovering ancient petroglyphs and pictographs on private land, sites few people would ever see. These were sacred places. What are they now? Can they be sacred to us as well? Can we recognize that we are a part of our landscapes not separate from them?

The book treats the complexities of change and consequent decision­making about our responsibilities to the natural world, questions about whether the “spirits of place” can survive development, whether concepts of beauty must be revised, how memory and story are acts of conservation.

Are there under-represented groups or ideas in your book?  If so, discuss.

Absolutely!  One of the main thrusts of Walking is to give voice to a landscape much ignored or maligned and similarly to forgotten peoples who lived there: ancient cultures, Natives such as the Antelope Creek Phase people, the Comanche and Kiowa, Hispanos who were among the first permanent settlers.  I also wanted to raise the issue of facile acceptance of the wind turbine industry which despite its green advantages can also threaten land and wildlife as well as transform places into commercial settings.  The “use” of land rather than our being in a place is an idea I address through witness and learning from the world view of other dwellers, like Native people, on the llano.  The book is an interweaving of ideas and experiences in the present, through time, and in memory.  I posit memory not as living in the past but as a way of sending meaningful stories forward.

How long did it take you to put together your memoir?

I began the hikes around 2005 and published the book in 2016. During that time, I wrote and rewrote the manuscript several times, almost giving up on it. During the hiking and discoveries, both my mother and brother passed away, like my father years before them. One of the underlying themes in the book is loss in the face of gain. Though we take this for granted now, I was unnerved, as a woman, by the prospect of being solely responsible for the farm and decisions about it as I eventually inherited it ­ alone. But the kinship I felt because of the experiences with the land comforted me and made me feel part of something larger again.

Why do you feel it’s so important to share the story of this part of the country?

My hope was to write a literary work that would not just present facts and reflections about the area, but one that would also speculate lyrically on how we can feel akin to a landscape and thus care about, protect and conserve it. We learn more about ourselves and others by rediscovering our relatedness within and to places. The book is about a specific place, long marginalized and ignored, but also a narrative and meditation that is universal in meaning. As the Navajo have observed, beauty is about being “emplaced.” My hope is that no matter where our places, we may focus our attention on them, their care. We’ve understood, perhaps most profoundly through the distant photographs by astronauts of the earth as a living, breathing cell. Up close and personal, we have a chance to realize ourselves as part of this livingness. As Eckhart Tolle has said, we can learn from nature’s stillness, its being. The degree to which we respect and care for our places is the degree to which we care for others and ourselves. The llano comforted me as well during its own changes and my personal losses.

What do you hope readers most get out of your book?

I hope readers find an appreciation and heightened awareness of what it means to truly be part of our environment rather than think of it as “other.” Thought the book is about a part of the southwest, my hope is that the ideas and experiences resonate across lives and places. As Wendell Berry has said: “There are no unsacred places, only desecrated places.” I’d like my readers to be transported and perhaps transformed by what I hope is lyric prose, so full of the cadence of poetry and how poetry means lastingly ­ how it teaches us, affects us. And that story and memory about our places and our interrelationships are acts of conservation that are not so much about a past as about the shape of the future. It’s also a book about accepting change, seeing the beauty in it and about how adventure and loss are complexly mixed. During my hikes I lost all of my family. The book chronicles those deep sadnesses and how we may grow from them, also the challenge of a woman alone inheriting a farm she must learn to manage and care for.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

To be named a Distinguished Fulbright Chair of American Literature at the University of Warsaw, representing the United States but also bonding with fellow world citizens, learning about their country. This is the highest Fulbright honor and I am still amazed that someone like me who was a graduate of state universities and a small town high school could have the privilege of such a position.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I love this question because years ago I saw a New Yorker cartoon which I clipped and put on my office door.  Two men are in a cemetery looking at a friend’s grave and one comments to the other:  “Well, he published but he perished.”

Dr. Shelley Armitage is Professor Emerita from University of Texas at El Paso where she taught courses in literature of the environment, women’s studies, and American Studies.  She is author of eight award winning books and 50 scholarly articles.  She resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico but still manages her family farm outside of Vega, Texas.

Armitage grew up in the northwest Texas Panhandle in Oldham County.  She owns and operates the family farm, 1200 acres of native grass—once part wheat and milo—bordering Interstate 40 on the south and near the Canadian River breaks on the north.  Armitage shared this landscape from her childhood on, riding with her father and grandfather to check crops and cattle and later jogging and more recently walking the farm roads.  Though most of her adult life has been spent away from the Panhandle as a university professor, Armitage has always returned to the “farm” which offered until recently a 360-degree view of earth and sky.  Wind energy farms, oil and gas, microwave towers, and strip mining have greatly altered her childhood landscape.

Throughout her distinguished university career, Armitage’s professional life offered her a connection with landscape. Because of senior Fulbright teaching grants in Portugal and Finland, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Literature in Warsaw, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Studies in Budapest as well as research, writing, and teaching in Ethiopia, the American Southwest, and Hawai’i, place has taken on special meanings.  As the Dorrance Roderick Professor at University of Texas at El Paso and a Distinguished Senior Professor in Cincinnati, she decided in her most recent book to write about the meaning of home place as connected to the land’s own ecological and human stories.

As the holder of three National Endowment for the Humanities grants, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and a Rockefeller grant, Armitage nevertheless prizes a recent recognition from the United States Department of Agriculture most highly.  Commended for her “commitment to the spirit, principles, and practices” of the Conservation Reserve Program, Armitage has restored the farm to grassland in an effort to heal fragmented landscapes by recreating wildlife corridors and habitat.  Like the fragmented narratives of stories lost, she says: “If we could read the land like a poem, we might more intimately learn from it, understand what it says of natural and human cycles—and that sometimes uneasy relationship between them.”

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Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on November 28, 2016

Title:                Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives

Author:           Janice Wood Wetzel

Pages:             255

ISBN:               978-0-9968-3010-2

 

In words as clear and sharp as cut crystal glass, the memoir Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives unflinchingly tells the story of a bright, beautiful, and promising young child who forged towards a fully realized life in spite of years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her parents and pervasive society-wide gender discrimination.

Through her account, Janice Wood Wetzel shares a range of experiences in the context of her life and times – a Depression-era childhood, World War II, a teen pregnancy and miscarriage, a 20-year marriage that produced three much loved children but ultimately ended in divorce in her late 30s, the numbing social conformity that informed the ‘50s and early ‘60s, a mental health crisis in the form of depression, a stint in a psychiatric hospital, the suicide of her father, and soon thereafter, the tragic death of her mother, and a bout with alcoholism. Finally, the mid-1960s brought hope in the form of second-wave feminism, which enlightened the world and consequently changed the author’s life.

One by one, through quiet acts of bravery, Janice Wood Wetzel broke through sexist obstacles and emerged as a civil rights pioneer, a recognized feminist and human rights researcher, strategist, and advocate, as well as a United Nations nongovernmental representative, and a highly regarded professor and Dean of Social Work.

A successful life, yes. But at a price. From a painful crucible of dreams deferred and loves lost emerged both a life of many victories and a rewarding memoir.

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Available as an eBook $6.99 on Amazon / BN.com / Kobo / iTunes

Excerpt

Happy Birthday Baby

I recovered from the measles in time for my eighth birthday. In preparation, Mother suggested a birthday party breakfast for the ten little girls in the neighborhood. She and I planned the menu together. Cocoa with marshmallows, fresh squeezed orange juice, French toast, little sausage links, and of course birthday cake with pink icing—special treats in a year still scarred by the Depression. When I came downstairs on the morning of the party, I couldn’t have been more pleased. The dining room chandelier was scalloped with crepe paper, and a Happy Birthday! swag festooned the mirror over the buffet. Our best lace tablecloth for special occasions already covered the table. At each place there was a pastel nut cup filled with pastel mints and a pink snapper that promised a party hat and streamers when it popped. Near the top of the plates were small favors wrapped in paper printed with adorable kittens tumbling in ribbons. It was all I could do to wait until the guests would arrive at eleven.

They never came.

The house was empty. Dad and Barrie had gone on a father-and-son hike so that the house could be just for little girls for a few hours. Mother and I sat on the upholstered horsehair oak couch in the living room. I felt sick to my stomach; my throat had a painful lump that made it hard to swallow. Otherwise, I was numb, staring into the stillness. Finally, with resolve, Mother got up and stood directly in front of me. “It’s not about you,” she assured me, “It’s about me.” She went on, “I don’t fit in this one-horse town. All of their mothers are common. They’re all jealous of me.”

I knew what she said wasn’t true, but I wasn’t sure if she believed it. I breathed, “It’s not your fault.” I was grateful to her for trying to make me feel better, but it really didn’t help. “I wish I could hurt for you so that you wouldn’t have to,” she said, her face contorted with pain. It made me want to cry. My chest and my throat ached unbearably. We went into the dining room and picked at the French toast that she made for us and then quietly cleaned up. We made small talk, pretending everything was all right.

Two hours later, Barbara, a little girl who lived across the street, rang the front doorbell. “I can’t stay. Here. This is for Janice.” She handed my mother a present for me. Mother urged her to come in while she called her mother. I sat immobilized, the pain of humiliation and rejection seeping into my pores. “Please let Barbara stay for some birthday cake,” she pleaded on the telephone. “My daughter’s so disappointed.” The answer was no. I had no idea then that my parents’ drinking at the umbrella table in the back yard and Mother passing out in the yard were probably the reasons for the neighborhood boycott. Somehow, even today it doesn’t make me feel better to realize it, nor am I fully convinced that I wasn’t personally rejected by the little girls on my street. It’s a scar that is still tender to the touch.

*Excerpt from Sorrows & Songs: One Lifetime – Many Lives by Janice Wood Wetzel©

About the Author

Janice Wood Wetzel is a professor emerita and former dean of social work who has served as a United Nations nongovernmental representative in New York since 1988. She is a well-published international educator and researcher who specializes in the human rights, mental health, and advancement of women from a global perspective. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Janice has lived all over the United States. For the past 27 years, her home has been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

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Posted in excerpt, nonfiction, Spotlight on November 13, 2016

unexpected-prisoner

Synopsis

“A riveting first-person account of a six-year Prisoner of War in the Hanoi Hilton. “

When Lieutenant Robert Wideman’s plane crashed on a bombing run in the Vietnam War, he feared falling into enemy hands. Although he endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity, physical torture was not his biggest problem. During six years as a prisoner of war, he saw the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.” Unexpected Prisoner explores a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, his lost dreams and ultimately himself.

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What Readers are Saying about Unexpected Prisoner: Memoir of a Vietnam POW

An eye-opener…Unexpected Prisoner is a must read.” – Billy Thornton, PhD, Vietnam War Veteran

A truly remarkable account of experiences from within the walls of captivity.” – Rick Fischer, Vietnam War Veteran, Army Pathfinder shot down in 1969

A genuine page turner” – George Conger, formal Naval Aviator

As a naval aviator who endured a very real ten-day survival training exercise, I can barely imagine six years as a POW! This book is a must-read for those interested in understanding the risks our men and women in uniform with combat assignments and enemy exposure face every single day.” Sam Solt, Former Naval Aviator

Excerpt

A Different POW Experience

The POWs who landed in Hanoi’s prison camps can thank God their treatment was as good as it was. I know some never saw it that way. Only seven prisoners died in Hanoi: two stopped eating; one died from a
combination of ejection wounds, exposure, and the Vietnamese rope treatment; one died during an escape attempt; and one succumbed to typhoid. I’m not sure what happened to the other two.

In America’s Civil War, thirteen thousand Union prisoners died at the Confederacy’s infamous Camp Sumter near Andersonville, Georgia. In World War Two, the Japanese chopped off two American heads for every mile of the sixty-five-mile Bataan Death March. Of the more than twenty-seven thousand American POWs in Japan, between 27 and 40 percent died in captivity. In that same war, Germany admitted that three million Russians died in German prison camps. In turn, the Russians captured ninety-five thousand Germans at Stalingrad and only four thousand returned home.

With the exception of some of America’s prisoners in World War Two, it may be that never in the history of warfare have POWs been treated so well as we were in North Vietnam. Prisoners held by the Viet Cong in
South Vietnam were another story; I won’t speak to that because I wasn’t there.

Although I suffered painful physical punishment, which some call torture, I’ve always had a hard time calling what the North Vietnamese did to me torture. It was a bad experience, but it could have been much worse.

Although we successfully established communication at each prison camp, it was not perfect or consistent. Many POWs later talked about how we were always able to communicate despite the North Vietnamese
Army’s efforts to stop us, presumably because of the “great leadership” we had. On the contrary. The NVA leadership proved they could shut down our communications whenever they wanted, which they did after the escape attempt. Some key personnel did not communicate for two months.

It was clear to me that many Naval Academy graduates and senior officers did whatever it took to please their bosses. Such sycophants taught me one of the most important lessons I learned from my Vietnam
experience: there will always be people who pursue power by ingratiating themselves to those in power without pausing to assess the goals of those leaders. I came to understand this as a POW, but I have
witnessed it in all institutions since: corporations, bureaucracies, schools, churches, you name it.

My sense is that most pilots had huge egos—me included— which probably drove us to become fighter pilots in the first place. The most hardline of the POWs had the most problems in prison. The North
Vietnamese forced them to make the most confessions and visit the most delegations to feed the Vietnamese propaganda machine.

It’s well documented that many American political and military leaders knew we were fighting an unwinnable war but said nothing because they feared jeopardizing their careers. Those same leaders demeaned and
discredited the courageous Americans who publicly opposed the Vietnam War, especially big names like Jane Fonda. When Fonda came to visit us in 1972, we were being treated well, just like she said we were.

We went outside several hours a day, ate three meals a day, and received regular letters and packages from home. The barrage of war protests put pressure on the government to end the war. But for them, we
would still be over there.

When we came home, POWs who supported the war were encouraged to speak out while those who did not were not encouraged to speak out. That policy continues today, and is one reason we have an inflated view of the importance of funding America’s military might. We primarily receive the viewpoint of those invested in maintaining power.

After the war, I talked to an Army colonel in Tampa, Florida who helped plan the Son Tay Raid. He told me that the American military knew the camp was empty thirty days before the raid, but our leadership weighed the costs and benefits of going through with it anyway, and the benefits won. They knew they would recover no prisoners. Such was the American need to keep its own propaganda machine running.

About the Authors

robert-widemanRobert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in upstate New York, and has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. He earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. He holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating.

He belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado and lives in Fort Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.

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cara-lopez-lee

 

Cara Lopez Lee

Cara is an author, editor, and writing coach. She has edited and/or collaborated on more than twenty books. Her stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Pangyrus, Connotation Press, and Rivet Journal. She was a writer for shows on HGTV, Food Network, and Discovery Health. She teaches for the Young Writers Program at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her writing has earned 16 awards from The Denver Woman’s Press Club and Alaska Press Club. Lopez lives with her husband in Ventura, California.

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Posted in Giveaway, nonfiction, Sports, Spotlight on November 10, 2016

CHAMPION OF

THE BARRIO

The Legacy of Coach Buryl Baty

by

R. Gaines Baty

  Genre: Biography / Sports / Civil Rights

Publisher: Texas A&M University Press

Date of Publication: February 9, 2015

Number of Pages: 288

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synopsis

champion-coverIn 1947, after serving in WWII and quarterbacking the Texas Aggies during the glory days of the old Southwest Conference, Texas football legend Buryl Baty was drafted by the Detroit Lions. But, the NFL wouldn’t be where he’d create his legacy. He instead became the head football coach at Bowie High School in El Paso, where he’d inspire a team of Mexican Americans from the Segundo Barrio with his winning ways and stand against the era’s extreme, deep-seated bigotry.

Tragically, however, just as the team was in a position to win a third championship in 1954, they were jolted by news that would turn their worlds upside down.

Later, as mature adults, these players reflected on Coach Baty’s lasting inspiration and influence, and 44 years after his death, dedicated their high school stadium in his name. The El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame followed up that honor in 2013 by inducting Baty posthumously.

In this poignant memoir, Baty’s son, R. Gaines Baty, describes his own journey to know his father, portraying the man’s life and accomplishments through the perspectives of nearly 100 individuals who knew him, including many of the young men he coached and whose lives he changed. In addition to many documented facts and news reports. NFL Hall of Famer Raymond Berry provides a heartfelt and relevant foreword.

A university professor labeled this an important and historic piece of work. It is also a moving story of leadership and triumph over hardship, over discrimination, over tragedy, over one’s self.

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PRAISE FOR CHAMPION OF THE BARRIO

“The best love story I have ever read.” –William “Bill” Reed, author and retired news reporter/assistant editor at the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News.

Champion of the Barrio is an important contribution to our understanding of the power of sports to reach, teach, and transform and a vivid portrait of an inspirational figure who was cut down too soon.” –Alexander Wolff, award-winning sports journalist, Sports Illustrated

“You could not grow up in Paris, Texas without knowing about Buryl Baty. He took on the world, and he won. This is an inspiring account and a great read.” –Gene Stallings, former head coach at Texas A&M, of the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide; Member, College Football Hall of Fame

“I knew Buryl Baty well. He created a glorious era and legacy for his team and school, and it was unbelievable how he captured El Paso’s heart. This is a gripping story — that brought tears to my eyes. Buryl Baty’s name lives on.” –Ray Sanchez, former writer and editor of the El Paso Herald-Post, author of seven books, member of five Halls of Fame and consultant for the movie Glory Road

“Perhaps one of Buryl Baty’s most important legacies is the hard lessons he taught a generation of Mexican Americans, who overcame so many strikes against them. El Paso owes Gaines Baty a ton of gratitude for reconnecting us with a man whose story continues to inspire.”El Paso Times

The following image shares some of  Buryl Baty’s history – from his personal life to coaching.

bario-scrapbook

about the author
gaines-baty

 

R. GAINES BATY, Coach Buryl Baty’s son, was a “Featured Author” and panelist at the 2015 Texas Book Festival in recognition of Champion of the Barrio, He has been published or quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Healthcare IT News, etc. Professionally, he founded and leads a nationally-recognized executive search firm, and is a career counselor, trainer and author. Previously, he was an accomplished college athlete, receiving All-Southwest Conference and All-Era honors. In 2011, he was inducted into the Garland (TX) Sports Hall of Fame.

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11/10 Scrapbook StoreyBook Reviews
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11/14 Review It’s a Jenn World
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Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, nonfiction, Sports, Spotlight on October 29, 2016

bnr-pigskin

PIGSKIN RAPTURE

Four Days in the Life of Texas Football

by

Mac Engel

Photos by Ron Jenkins

Genre: Texas Sports / Football / Photography

Publisher: Lone Star Books

Date of Publication: August 26, 2016

Number of Pages: 240

Scroll down for Giveaway!

synopsis

You know what they say: Sunday in Texas belongs to God and football; not necessarily in that order. But game time now stretches well beyond Sunday, and Texas football is a phenomenon even bigger than the Lone Star State.

Over a magical four-day period in 2015, both of Texas’s NFL teams played at home on different days, a major high school rivalry played out on Friday night in West Texas, and a fierce regional rivalry came to the Cotton Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

In this first-of-its-kind project, veteran sports journalist and photographer Mac Engel and Ron Jenkins captured it all, and then some: from an illicit tour of the sealed Astrodome, to the locker room at Houston’s Yates school, to the tailgate at the Texans game, to sidelines at Odessa Permian (of Friday Night Lights fame), to the vaunted heights of the guest suite at Cowboys Stadium, bringing to life an amazing cast of characters and scenes. What they find isn’t all glitz and glory – but it’s all riveting, and it’s all essential info for any football fan.

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LSLL:  Mac, LSLL showcases Texas books and authors, and we have found that Fort Worth seems to be an incubator for authors — like Jeff Guinn, Julia Heaberlin, Sandra Brown, Gary Cartwright, Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake, Larry L. King, and we could go on and on. As someone who has spent the greater quarter of a century in and around Fort Worth–and the Fort Worth publishing scene, what do think it is that makes the city such fertile ground for writers?

MAC:  I think it’s ambition combined with access to a lot of activity, and a lot of good people. Bud, Dan, and Sandra — all of the people you mentioned — are special people who are talented and were found. It should be noted that I don’t belong in any sentence with those people other than [that] I speak English and live in Fort Worth.

LSLL:  How has publishing changed since you both started in the business? What role does social media now play for you as authors and journalists?

MAC: Oh, God — this could be a thesis. Night and day. It’s made it quick, fast, rapid, and just reduced our attention spans. We have the time, but when there are eighteen million other things readily available and coming at you, to grab your attention for an extended period is just not easy.

RON: The world has changed so very much from I began shooting sports for the University Daily, the student newspaper at Texas Tech in the ’80s. The ability to promote a project like this on social media is pretty wild. The response has been overwhelming and the reviews have been really flattering.

LSLL:  Another question for you, Mac. Why do you think football dominates Texas culture?

MAC: History and tradition, and I don’t think you can dismiss success, either. Back when football was beginning — go to the ’30s — the college teams were nationally renowned names. Texas, A&M, TCU, SMU, Rice, etc. Then the Cowboys were invented and as TV was formed and games were televised, the Cowboys were good. It just bred more and more recognition, interest and youth involvement. Then it became an identity for the state, and the players.

LSLL: So, for readers whose appetites you’ve whetted, how would you describe Pigskin Rapture in your own words?

MAC: For me, it succeeds in encapsulating the cultural importance of the game to Texans. Often we are flooded with hype and hyperbole about something and it seldom meets the verbiage, but you really can’t over state the importance of football to Texans and its place in the subconscious of Texans.

RON: Pigskin Rapture: The ultimate Texas football long weekend road trip. With glorious words and dynamic images that fans of Texas football really should not miss.  It’s a one-of-a-kind look at the Lone Star state, its people and its favorite sport, football.

LSLL:  Mac and Ron: What’s next for you?

RON: Up next for me will be covering the MLB post-season, including hopefully the Texas Rangers in the World Series along with more football, including college and the NFL. I’ll be shooting primarily for Getty Images and the Associated Press.

MAC: Sleep, I hope. I wrote two books last year and that’s a lot. I am sure I will try another one soon, but not writing a book right now is welcome.

 

This interview first appeared on Lone Star Literary Life and Mac & Ron were interviewed by Kay Ellington.  You can see the full interview here.

 

about the author

mac-engelMac Engel is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Since 1998, he has covered the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Dallas Cowboys as well as colleges, high schools, and the Olympics. His Big Mac Blog was named the best blog in Texas by the Associated Press in 2012.

 

pic-photographer-pigskinFort Worth/Dallas–based contract photographer Ron Jenkins specializes in sports,  covering the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Mavericks as well as NCAA, high school, and everything in between. His photos have been published all over the world, including in French sports magazine L’Equipe, premier German magazine Stern, and the USA’s Sports Illustrated.

 

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