MARKETING, WAR TRAIN, AND MCMURTRY
In November of last year, I bought a “marketing package” from a marketing professional in Santa Fe. He offered a package that would advertise Teddy’s War on social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, once a week over a four-week period. It started the week before Teddy’s War was released, which was December 1. I wrote in my blog about it at the time and promised that I would report back on what happened.
I’m reporting back that I wasted my money.
I wanted the marketing effort to lead to increased book sales. At the time I bought the package, I told the marketer that I wanted numbers—which site he advertised on, how often, an estimate of the number of people reached, how many instances of feedback he received, etc. I also told my publisher about the package and asked him to put together the sales numbers from the publishing house’s national distributor for the time period when the marketing effort was going to take place. It takes months of lag time for the sales numbers to tally up correctly across the venues through which the distributor sells its books (including Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers), so I wouldn’t know the result of the effort until this spring.
Through the software that supports my website (Weebly), I also watched the number of visits to my website on a week-by-week basis. It doesn’t have anything to do with sales, but since the advertisement put up by the marketer referenced my website, any increase in website visits should indicate increased interest in me or my books, and should correlate to increases in orders through Amazon. I also monitored Amazon directly, to see the number of books sold per individual paperback books, but their data does not appear very robust or trustworthy.
Without giving any of the details, the marketer did not do what I thought he was going to do; he did not report any numbers and would probably claim that he couldn’t, which might be true; there were no increases in website visits in the timeframe of the effort; and Amazon did not show any unusual increases in sales during the timeframe of the effort. I decided to not ask my publisher for the sales data (I’ll get them later), and am really annoyed that the sales data are not easily obtainable by authors.
My best estimate is that zero books were bought as a direct result of the marketing of Teddy’s War across the social media platforms. I’m not surprised.
My tenth Mogi Franklin Mystery book finished its last review and edit in January. The story is titled War Train and takes place in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It centers around the Castaneda Hotel while it’s being remodeled, and has a lot of flavor of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls. It deals with a bank robbery in Las Vegas during the early years of World War II, the subsequent disappearance of the robbers and the money, the restoration and preservation of the hotel, the discovery of a hidden footlocker that’s been locked for 75 years, and an ugly quilt.
The cover is currently being worked on, as is the conversion of the Word document into a printable paperback format. The release date is September 1. The book already appears on Amazon (with no cover) and the story description is good. You can see it by typing in War Train with my name.
I’m working through the manuscript of a new story that is a follow-on to Smoke Dreams. It involves Sam, the kidnapped boy who turned into a great Comanche warrior, after he leaves the Goodnight Ranch in 1884 to search for his sister. A different story begins in 1904 that involves Lucy, Sam’s sister, who was sent to St. Louis after he was kidnapped, and is now married, has kids, and just celebrated her 40th birthday. The story also involves Harry, Lucy’s son, who is twenty, as he travels through New Mexico and Texas, searching for what happened to Sam. I bring Sam and Harry together, reveal what happened to Sam during the years between, and then end the book with an emotional and heartbreaking incident that ties everything together, preserving the principle in the first novel that Lucy never discovered that Sam survived until she died.
If you liked Smoke Dreams, you’ll love this one. You’ll like what the house does, too.
I’m, once again, incessantly rewriting. I am more honest now and recognize that only through iteration do I produce any good writing at all. My strengths are imaginative plotting, interesting characters, describing the scenery, and creating authenticity in characters’ actions; my weaknesses are writing good words, sentences and paragraphs. I put the second draft away for three months, and now find myself with different eyes. I can read it differently and can see inconsistencies, incongruencies, bad word choices, and superfluous passages. It’s exciting and enjoying to change the scenes and words to have more clarity and read better, no matter how bad I feel about having written poorly in the previous draft. Maybe that’s the true reason I rewrite so much—I love the challenge of making it better.
I expect to finish my draft by the end of May, and may give the manuscript to an editor in June. I’m going to self-publish the book through Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing), matching Smoke Dreams, which I self-published in 2013. I don’t yet know what the title will be.
My publisher is improving their marketing strategies. Whether due to COVID or riding the wave of remote meetings, Terra Nova Books started a monthly ZOOM session that features their authors. I was scheduled in December, but because no one registered to attend, I was postponed.
I’m now presenting on April 28th, at 5:00pm, MST. Instead of having an invited audience using my personal email list, my publisher arranged for me to talk at a ZOOM session sponsored by the Santa Fe Public Library. They hold presentations twice a month and have a roster of some hundreds, so it’s probable that I’ll have a good number of attendees whom I do not know. I’m looking forward to it. I will include photographs, so it should be more interesting than just me talking. I wouldn’t even attend if it was just me talking.
You can sign up to attend the ZOOM session at terranovabooks.com. They will be archiving the presentation on YouTube if you want to watch it later.
Larry McMurty died this week. He’s one of my favorite writers and Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite books. He wrote a number of books and screenplays, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was also well-known as a book collector and book seller. In addition to having accumulated a personal library of 30,000 books or so, he started and managed used bookstores around the country. His most impressive and longest-lasting bookstore is in Archer City, a small town in Texas where he lived. He filled five large buildings with a half-million used books.
I visited Archer City in 2005 and found exploring the total collection to be impossible. Each building was stuffed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (in rooms with tall ceilings), and each bookshelf was stuffed with books. It was quite a sight.
I was looking for books by Robert Ruark. At the time, nothing was computerized (it still may not be), but the ladies who worked in each building got me to the right building, the right floor, the right corner, and within a foot of where Ruark’s books were located. As it turned out, I only bought a classic set of Sherlock Holmes stories.
I hope to go back, if for nothing more than to pay homage to the man. I read that McMurtry was trying to slim the collection down (from five buildings to one), knowing that his family was going to be left with everything once he died, and not wanting them to be faced with an impossible legacy. I doubt that he started soon enough. If you ever get close (Archer City is about 30 miles southwest of Wichita Falls), it’s worth the visit.
MORE ABOUT CORONADO
Coronado’s army had a roll-call on February 22, 1540, at Coronado’s headquarters in Compostela, west of Mexico City and near the coast, exactly 192 years before the birth of George Washington. From eyeing a map, the distance from Compostela to the Mexico/Arizona border looks to be at least two or three times the length of the route from the border to the Zuni Pueblo. The army was probably already tired before they even began what I learned as Coronado’s Expedition.
About halfway along the Mexico portion, Coronado divided his following into two groups: a forward exploratory force of 75-80 horsemen, 25-30 footsoldiers, and some native allies, and the bulk of the “army”, still around 3,000 people and 13,000 animals. Coronado led the exploratory force, while the rest of the army followed behind at a slower pace. The whole company would not be together again until they met at the Zuni Pueblo on July 7, 1540.
As Coronado was making his way up Mexico into present day Arizona, the Viceroy sent three fully loaded ships up the Gulf of California, expecting the ships to rendezvous with Coronado at some point and resupply his forces. The ships not only sailed up the Gulf, but sailed up the Colorado River a considerable distance. Failing to find Coronado, they left a message along the banks and returned home.
Coronado’s forces had fought with the Zuni natives when he arrived. Knowing they were no match for the horses, the blunderbusses, and the cannons, the Zunis evacuated to the top of a nearby mesa. While waiting for the rest of the army to catch up, Coronado sent out explorers to the west, hoping to rendezvous with the ships. Those explorers discovered the Hopi homelands, the Colorado River, and the Grand Canyon. They would also find the spot on the Colorado where the Spanish ships had left their message. The two forces had missed each other by the width of Arizona.
Coronado did not discover the Seven Cities of Gold, but the area did have Six Towns of Wealth. The Zuni excelled at farming, trade, diplomacy and craft technology and had, by aboriginal standards, become extraordinarily wealthy. In 1540, they enjoyed one of the highest standards of living of any people in North America, and were widely known among the native tribes from the Pacific Coast to the central Great Plains. From a poor native’s viewpoint, the Zuni towns were probably an approximation of golden cities.
After Coronado reaches Zuni, the historical narrative is better known. It takes until the end of August for the rest of the army to catch up, after which Coronado moves the full army directly east, passing by Acoma Pueblo and through the lava beds of El Malpais, and establishes their entrada along the Rio Grande River at present-day Bernalillo (north of Albuquerque), where they spend the winter of 1540-1541. In the spring, he takes the full army to the Pecos Pueblo. It is the largest pueblo (about 4000 natives) and may have been the center of the Puebloan Empire.
Coronado finds a guide who witnesses to the great wealth in the city of Quivira, about a thousand miles away in modern day Kansas. In the spring of 1541, Coronado leads the full army to somewhere in the Panhandle of Texas. He finds the land rich with everything except water, discusses his options with his officers, and then sends the full army back to Bernalillo, while he follows the guide with a detachment of thirty men. They make it to around the middle of Kansas and is again disappointed to find that Quivira is a little village of straw huts, full of “bestial people”.
The guide, with a little persuasion, confesses that the story was invented to lure the Spanish out into the Great Plains where they were expected to die. Coronado executes the guide by having him choked to death, wanders around for 25 days, desperately searching for any wealth at all, but eventually heads back to the Rio Grande, a thousand miles away.
Wintering again in Bernalillo, 1541-1542, Coronado and his officers decide to take the whole army to Kansas and explore farther east. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1542, Coronado falls off his horse during a horse race, is kicked in the head, and he’s in a coma for several days. When he recovers, he’s a changed man and becomes obsessed with a prophecy that convinces him that he is dying. Suffering a severe attack of homesickness, he decides not to venture any farther and leads his army back to Mexico.
By the time Coronado gets back to the Viceroy, most of his great company has died, fallen away, or has abandoned him; he makes it into Mexico City with less than a hundred men. Coronado is disgraced, tried and acquitted on account of his treatment of the Zunis and other tribes, and dies in obscurity in 1554 at the age of 44.
For an update on my sheep drive question, a reader sent me a copy of a California Agricultural Extension Service report, written in 1930, the states that “To supply the demand for fresh meat, there was a great influx of sheep from neighboring states and from 1852 to 1857, it is estimated that 551,000 sheep were driven into California from New Mexico.”
That’s more than a half million sheep! How many sheepherders did it take? How many of them walked from New Mexico to California and back, more than once?
I’m finding that my perception of history has a distinct lack of scale to it.
All I wanted to know was how someone trails sheep to California.
According to the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association (www.navajo-churrosheep.com), when gold was discovered in California in 1849, Navajo-Churro sheep in New Mexico and Arizona were trailed west to feed the huge number of people. I know about cattle drives; I don’t know anything about sheep drives.
Sheep were introduced in the New World by Spanish explorers and settlers, as far back as 1494 when Spain established colonies in the Caribbean and then in Mexico. The Navajo-Churro is a very hardy breed with strong maternal instincts, abundant milk production, high lamb survival, a wealth of wool per animal, and are able to survive on marginal feed sources. Their introduction into the Southwest proved to be a significant boon for the indigenous people as well as the Hispanic settlers. They’re easy to recognize because the rams have four horns—two going up and two going down.
The website also noted that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition to search for the Seven Cities of Gold in 1540 included 5,000 Churro sheep. I didn’t know that they had any sheep at all, so I started reading about the Coronado Expedition, which sounded more interesting than sheep drives to California.
That led me to Douglas Preston’s book, Cities of Gold, A Journey Across the American Southwest. He chronicles a horsepacking trip in the spring and summer of 1992 when he and a friend tried to follow Coronado’s route from near Palominas, Arizona (it’s close to the Mexican border; Preston didn’t do the Mexico portion of the expedition) to Pecos, New Mexico. Pecos Pueblo is about the last confirmed location of Coronado before he crossed into the Great Plains, eventually going halfway across Kansas looking for Quivera).
I like Preston’s nonfiction books, as well as his fiction books (most famously, the ones written with Lee Child), so it took no urging to read Cities of Gold. He alternates chapters between describing his horse adventures retracing Coronado’s route, and giving historical information about Coronado, the expedition, and the sixteenth-century Southwest.
I learned about Coronado in school, maybe as early as elementary school. Most of the websites I’ve visited still use the same painting that shows a courageous Coronado leading a long line of soldiers, scouts, and priests across a flat landscape.
That painting didn’t quite give the right scale of the expedition.
Besides himself, the expedition included Fray Marcos, a Franciscan priest who had made an exploratory trip the year before and returned declaring that there were seven cities of great wealth (technically, he never said “gold”) in the far-off lands north of Mexico, and also included
- 250 horse soldiers
- 70 foot soldiers
- about 1900 indigenous people from Central and West Mexico (mostly Aztecs)
- about 400 servants and slaves, largely from North and West Africa
- maybe 200 women and children (the number is known for sure, but they were a “significant portion” of the expedition; they included wives of the soldiers)
- 500 pack animals
- 1000 horses
- 5000 sheep
- 7000 cattle, including oxen
I had no idea that Coronado was leading a small city into the Great Unknown; that’s a lot of drinking, eating, sleeping, and pooping so it was no small logistical problem. They would be gone for three years, so I can imagine that he thought he needed every person.
Coronado, by the way, had 23 horses of his own, 3 or 4 suits of horse armor, and a gilded suit of armor for himself, complete with a plumed helmet. Other soldiers brought coats of mail, front and back armor, buckskins, swords, crossbows, harquebuses, and several small cannon, not to mention all those shapely metal hats they wore. I can’t imagine being wrapped in metal in southern Arizona in the summer.
A video by the National Park Service said the full expedition could have required 80 to 100 thousand gallons of water a day. I’m not sure I believe that, but finding water certainly had to be major priority of every day. I did my military training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and it’s close to where the expedition came out of Mexico, headed north. There’s not a lot of water anywhere that I remember.
While reading Preston’s book, I’ve also been looking at websites. There’s a surprising amount of interest still going on with regard to establishing Coronado’s exact routes—where he camped, where he found water, how he got to Kansas, when he had the full expedition together versus when he was scouting ahead with a much smaller force (100 soldiers or so), etc.
I read an article where cowboys, residents, and researchers have amassed substantial evidence of an expedition encampment outside of Floydada, Texas. That’s east of Lubbock for those of you without a map, and is way south of where most maps have the route. I found another article claiming that Douglas Preston should have turned after reaching Benson, Arizona, instead of going straight; research has changed a lot in 30 years.
I’m still reading and researching, and it’s pretty entertaining. I’ll get back to you when I have more to say.
THE WITCH TRIALS
An eighteen-year-old girl shook uncontrollably, followed by frightening and furious cries, then flailed her arms and legs, then howled. A twelve-year-old girl reported severe pains on her right side and suffered violent convulsions. In a worship service, an older woman fell to the floor, giving out howls and war chants, singing like owls, foxes, and pigs, contorting her arms and back, and made horrible expressions with her face.
Villagers were found with small effigies made from clay and sticks, into which thorns and needles were stuck. A few witnessed to hearing demons that spoke out loud and told them things that no one else could have known. Still others were suspected of being fully possessed by demons, and when the priest attempted to exorcise the spirits, it only increased their “great cackling and vulgarities”, and showed strengths that “would overcome four to six men.”
The Devil himself had come to dwell among the villagers.
But this wasn’t Salem in 1692, and it wasn’t the Puritans confronting the Devil. It was the Genizaro pueblo of Abiquiu, between 1756 and 1766, in the upper part of New Spain, later to be called New Mexico.
Father Juan Jose Toledo, the priest assigned to the Abiquiu pueblo in 1755, began writing reports to the Governor in Santa Fe stating that he had been bewitched. He had pains, would often choke and cough, felt a moveable ball growing in his belly, and had been beset with unimaginable pain that nearly killed him. He was sure that a man and his wife in the pueblo were trying to kill him using witchcraft.
Launching a pursuit of his tormentors did not slow his pain, but revealed many practices, rites, and ceremonies being performed by the residents of the pueblo, in addition to the common practices of the local curanderas [native folk healers who used local herbs to address illnesses] that often included the use of hallucinogens, prayers, and relics. In Father Toledo’s mind, everything was drenched in heresy and violations of God’s word. It was clearly the work of Satan.
Father Toledo’s situation soon deepened to include shapeshifting (someone taking on the form of an animal); the “shooting” of objects into other bodies (pebbles, pieces of cloth, rocks), which required someone sucking out the object to be cured; and several accusations that witches had caused others to die.
The lonely priest now saw himself as single-handedly leading a battle against the Devil, and continued to say so in long reports to the Governor, nearby priests, and other church representatives. The Governor, Tomas Velez Cachupin, imprisoned several prominent sorcerers, hoping that it would quiet the situation.
The next witchcraft episode involved not classic witchcraft, but demonic possession, causing Father Toledo to become a raging Soldier of the Cross, wielding the sword of exorcism without mercy. Unfortunately, the exorcisms seemed to inflame the outbreak instead of quenching it.
Governor Velez Cachupin had found the priest’s reports verbose, confusing, and self-indulgent. However, threatened with the seriousness of demon possession, he ordered a junta, a commission of priests and ecclesiastical scholars to examine the reports of Father Toledo and other witnesses, and to recommend how to deal with the situation. They met together in 1764, in Santa Fe and had long and heated discussions for two days. Afterwards, they had some minor recommendations, like continued destruction of profane sites and images, but the ultimate conclusion was that the matter should be submitted to the Office of the Inquisitor in Mexico City.
Fortunately for everyone concerned, Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin was an extraordinary manager and leader, and quite possibly one of the most competent men in 18th century New Mexico. A seasoned frontier Army commander and a man who desired peace, he had developed a mutual respect between himself and the Indian tribes of the Plains, as well as the local pueblo Indians, and had a great understanding of, and appreciation for, the conflicts that existed between the indigenous people, the Spanish government, and the Catholic Church in New Mexico.
He was particularly understanding of the Genizaros, the inhabitants of the Abiquiu pueblo, who were originally Plains Indians captured by other tribes and then sold to Spanish and Puebloan families. The lineage of subsequent families included Ute, Paiute, Kiowa, Pawnee, Apache, Comanche, and others, and, important to this moment, included the passing down of the various customs of each tribe. Unfortunately, the Genizaros were not considered fully Indian, nor fully Spanish, making them severely disadvantaged in a country with strong presences of both.
The Governor sent a report to the Viceroy in Mexico City that would then be given to the Inquisitor. It was read and summarized by an aide to the Viceroy, who agreed with the Governor’s assessment almost to the letter. In particular, the aide endorsed what Governor Velez Cachupin had identified as the primary source of all the witchcraft and sorcery at Abiquiu and the other pueblos: the failure of the missionaries to learn the language of the Indians.
The priests in New Mexico gave their sermons and religious instruction in Spanish and Latin, and relied on interpreters to explain their words. The interpreters could not give a word-for-word translation, as the indigenous languages rarely had the correct words needed. Instead, the interpreters couched the priests’ teachings in images, concepts, and beliefs that the indigenous audience would understand. Consequently, what was told might not be even close to what was said, especially with the Genizaros, who had an unusually complex mix of images, concepts, customs, rituals, and beliefs handed down from their ancestors.
When the priests emphasized sin and the need for conversion, for example, what was understood by the Genizaros was the requirement to give up their identities, which was, more or less, what Father Toledo was saying, but lacked the context of the overall picture of salvation. Surrendering their identity was, in the indigenous context, an argument for extinction, which didn’t sit well at all.
It was a conflict of worldviews.
Father Toledo’s worldview was built around separate, distinct, individual entities: God, Jesus, Man, Angels, Satan, Demons, as well as point-action realities, the big one being Sin, which separates Man from God, and was addressed by point-action responses, like confession and repentance. Augmented with a stress on the terribleness of Hell and Damnation, it was a system that revolved as much around threat as it did grace.
The Indians of the Plains, as well as the Navajo and Hopi, had a worldview with few words for sin and evil, and no word to describe being separated from God. God dwelt in everything, and his children, who lived among everything, defined life in terms of balance and imbalance, not connection and disconnection. Separation from God meant desertion on His part and would never happen. Those of you who have read Tony Hillerman’s books recognize the concept behind the Navajo word, hozro, and its meaning of order versus disorder.
If life balance is the problem, then Father Toledo expounding on point-action sins didn’t translate into anything recognizable to the Genizaros, and having a God who required point-action punishments didn’t address balance in any respect. Confession and repentance weren’t too bad, but the idea of conversion didn’t make any sense. Combined with other concepts, the expected relationships between teacher and students degenerated into deeply-felt resentment, rebellion, and defiance against the priests and their teachings. Insecurity, anger, and distrust fed directly into circumventing the teachings of the Church and using, instead, tribal lore, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions, suspicion, drama, betrayal, and spiritual intrigues that morphed into practices that, to the priests, looked like witchcraft.
Even the retrospectives involving the Salem witch trials describe the events as being the result of “mass hysteria” based on jealousy, fear, and the need to be recognized.
Governor Velez Cachupin understood the conflicts and could see how societal and spiritual misunderstandings would ramp up into social hysteria. However, he was a practical man and was not drawn into trying to straighten out everybody’s worldviews. He wanted action.
By the time the Office of the Inquisitor had responded to his report, the witchcraft outbreak at Abiquiu was nearly over. The marriage in Spain of the Prince of Asturias with his cousin, the Princess of Parma [whose celebrations included the general granting of amnesty for prisoners] accorded the Governor the opportunity to declare amnesty for the villagers he had imprisoned (some had died, so only a few were left). He did have a few conditions, requiring the freed prisoners to regularly attend church services, confess and receive communion, and to pray the rosary every night. There were a few stiffer penalties, but all were comparatively mild.
Three female witches did receive harsher sentences. Two were given strict don’t-do-that-ever-again type warnings and conditions, while the last, the one called La Come Gallinas, being recognized as having the worst behavior, was publicly stripped to the waist, covered with honey and feathers, and suffered four hours of shaming. Afterwards, she was assigned to serve in the house of a Spaniard for the rest of her life.
That was it. Cachupin had walked a fine line between the opposing cultures and their violent reactions to each other, but the witchcraft decade ended in peace. I doubt that any theological precepts or worldview conflicts were settled, but people learned to get along with radically divergent beliefs, while the Catholic missionaries were put to work learning the language.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.