Category Archives: myth

Grandfather, Bob, My Daughter, & France


Hmmm, okay what do those things have in common? And, what do they have in common with the United States Marine Corp? None of them have ever been in the marines.

When you look at the history of the United States Marine Corp, there are three battles that “made the marines” what they are today. Iwo Jima, fought against the Japanese in Japan during World War Two, Chosen Reservoir fought against the Chinese and North Koreans during the Korean War, and Belleau Wood fought against the Germans in France during World War One.

My knowledge of the battle of Belleau Wood was what most people’s knowledge was (those who have actually heard of the battle that is). It was fought by two regiments of marines. Our allies (the French and British forces) on both sides of the US forces retreated leaving the Americans alone. Six times they attacked across an open wheat field. Beaten back five times. On the sixth try they took the woods and tenaciously held on, defeating the Germans, saving Paris, and were decorated by France for their achievement. They were so tenacious in the battle that the Germans nicknamed the Marine Corp “Devil Dogs”, and if you talk with any marine (particularly those serving in the 5th or 6th regiments) that is what you will learn.

Then I found out my grandfather’s older brother, Bob (Robert E. Goodykoontz), fought, died, and is buried at the battle site. And, he was not a marine. All those things and the fact that my grandfather was 13 years old when his brother was killed, just as my daughter is 13 years old at the 100th anniversary of the battle — well, I had to learn more.

Thanks to the knowledge of an official Marine Corp Historian I learned more than I could have imagined, including the myths, legends, and facts of the battle.

The Battle of Belleau Wood lasted from 1 June 1918 to 23 June 1918. Three weeks of intense fighting that stopped the last German offensive of World War One. For the next couple of weeks I will share what I have learned about the battle; the myth, the legend, and the men.

Just to give you a sneak peak of some of what is to come.

Those two marine regiments were not alone. They were attached to two Army divisions that also fought in that battle. The Army lost more men in the Battle of Belleau Wood (one of them my great-uncle) than the marines lost in the entire war.

I am not taking anything from the marines. Their courage, bravery, audacity, and tenacity does truly make this battle one of the finest hours of the United States Marine Corp.

So, join me for the next couple of weeks as we honor all the men who fought in that battle.

Part two “The Great War, The War to End All War ~ World War One”

Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under history, legend, myth, New

An Interview With Joe Combs


Smashwords Interview, February 2, 2015 .

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My daughter and the sunrise. I had neither when I was on submarines.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly biography and autobiography, non-fiction, and I still enjoy the classics.
Hemingway, Twain, Dumas, Tolstoy I could go on, but those are my four favorite.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Old Man and the Sea, because I feel it is the best book I have ever read. Hemingway does more with less than any author.
Tom Sawyer, I enjoy almost anything by Mark Twain. However, I grew up on a large river and imagined Tom living in my neighborhood. That feeling made the story more personal to me.
White Fang, I felt like I was in the great outdoors, a part of the story.
Moby Dick. My parents said that before I started kindergarten I was telling anyone who would listen that when I got big I was going to sea, and I did. I have always been fascinated with the sea and it was the first nautical novel I read.
The Count of Monte Cristo, like the other books it was pure adventure. Plus it had a wronged man who was avenged.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I always try to read the works of the writers on my friends list, even the ones who write in genres I do not normally read. After that I would say word of mouth is how I find most of the books I read. Once in a while I will go to my favorite ebook retailer and do a search on my favorite genre and just see what comes up.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like both the kindle and the nook.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
With my daughter, reading, painting, sometimes carving wood, talking with my readers on Facebook, and doing things with my friends. Lately I have been doing a lot of travel as well.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Winnie the Pooh was the first story I read on my own. It made me want to read more and more because I enjoyed the story so much.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do. It was an essay on how kids could help fight water pollution by pulling water hyacinths from the boat and boat trailer while their parents were putting the boat on the trailer.
By doing that they would be helping to prevent the spread of water hyacinths to bodies of water that did not already have them. I won the essay contest.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the South. North Florida a little town called Palatka to be exact, not far from St. Augustine and Jacksonville. I have always had an insatiable curiosity and enjoy history. The area I grew up in was awash with history. I was always listening to grown-ups talk about the past. So, today I approach my research in much the same way. I go to the source, people, documents, official records. And just like that small boy I show up with a thousand questions and want them all answered. Those answers always lead to even more questions. Some times I just have to stop the research and write the article or book, if I don’t I will never get anything written.
When did you first start writing?
I won my first essay contest when I was about nine years old. When I was a submarine sailor I used to write short stories at sea to entertain myself. But, I never thought of myself as a writer. When a college English professor told me I should write I laughed at her. But, about ten years later I published my first book, “Titanic, A Search For Answers,” I have been writing ever since; and I began writing full time in 2014.
Describe your desk
I write on a small 1940s maple table that has been my desk since high school. My table holds: a photo of my daughter, 3X5 cards, notepads, an assortment of pencils & pens, my dictionary, a small table lamp, my computer, the 4 or 5 books I am currently reading, and a lead crystal water pitcher.
The pitcher was my great-grandmother’s. When I was about 5 their house did not have running water, and every morning she would fill the pitcher with water from a hand pump and place it on the kitchen table so you did not have to pump water every time you wanted a glass of water. I keep that pitcher fill with water on my desk. It keeps me grounded and connected to my family.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are part of the writing team. One fan, Sheri, asked me if I would write an article (for my blog) about her great-great-grandfather. As it turned out, I had studied her great-great-grandfather quite a bit in my youth. He was a Marshal for Napoleon and one of my early heroes. It was a pleasure to write about him. But, the real joy came when she told me she learned things about him from my articles that she did not know.
Anyone can send me a friend request on my facebook page, and I have fans who have. Like I said, my fans are part of the team, sometimes I will ask a fan to read a draft I am working on and give me their opinion. Sometimes I’ll ask my fans what would they like to see me write about next. I enjoy research and thanks to my fans, I have learned many interesting things I might never have learned if it had not been for a request from a fan. I know all writers say this, but I really do have a great bunch of fans and have become friends with many of them.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The research is fun, but I really enjoy doing rewrites. Sounds crazy I know, but when I find a way to say the same thing with fewer words I get a feeling of accomplishment. If I can improve the meaning of a sentence while shortening it, that is joy.
Like I said, I know it sounds crazy, but it is what keeps me writing, my little brother says it is the perfectionist in me.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
A mythology I remembered from my childhood of a Roman soldier who bullied Jesus he on his way to the cross. Because of that he was cursed to walk the face of the earth until Jesus came back.
One afternoon I began thinking about all of the world events he could have witnessed, and my imagination was off.
What are you working on next?
I have two things I am working on next. A collection of short stories called, “Growing Up Southern,” and the next Cartaphilus book.
The first Cartaphilus book will be released on March 27, 2015. That book will be followed by my book about the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which I sent to my editor in last month.
What is your writing process?
I get an idea and I play with it in my head for a while. Then when I get something that I like I’ll quickly jot down those thoughts. Then I begin to write the story in my head.
While I am writing in my head I begin to list references that I will need. Then I do an outline and write the book. The outline keeps me on track and prevents me from wandering around. Then I go back and use my references to check facts. Then I set the work aside for a while. When I come back to it, the first time I use text to voice software to listen to the book. Then I start my rewrites.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Having to learn all aspects of the business. I mean let’s face it, as an indie writer you have either no or very few people on staff. So, you need to learn to do everything. Even if you hire out aspects of the work, you need enough knowledge to be able to pick good people to hire. So, far my picks have been 100%. I have very talented people I can turn to when I need help.
How do you approach cover design?
It depends whether I am going to do the cover myself, or hire someone.
If I hire someone, I tell them what the story is and then turn them loose to come up with some ideas. It really is great working with talented people.
If I am doing the cover myself, I shoot for an idea that will be recognizable as a thumbnail and that tells the book’s story in a simple picture.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth has been the most effective for me. There is nothing like a reader who enjoys your work to help get the word out.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Of all the retailers around the world that my books are with, only one of those is not through Smashwords. That alone would be enough, but the tools available to authors and publishers make the entire process of publishing/distributing easier and quicker than any distributor I have worked with. There are many user friendly tools that can help with each stage of the process which other distributors do not have.
What piece of advice do you have for people who want to be a writer?
Write. Writers write, if you are not writing you are not a writer. Race car drivers race cars, teachers teach, and writers write.
Even if it is only one sentence a day, write something. Just once sentence a day will give you several paragraphs by the end of the month. Do not worry what you are writing about, just write.

Published 2015-02-02.

1 Comment

Filed under books, Cup-O-Joe, family, folklore, historical fiction, history, interview, legend, myth, New, Southern, thoughts, writing

Mermaids??? Yes, Mermaids! part two


I think I know who mermaids are, yes who, not what. But, to understand my theory about who mermaids are, it is helpful to understand how my mind works while doing research. When I research anything, I am not looking for something specific. I am looking for data, the evidence – all of it. Any theories I might have had are gone. I just want the data. Though it may be tempting to discount some of the evidence to make a theory stick, I know I am not going to find the truth that way. To be honest, I do research for me, just me. I still have the same curiosity I had as a kid and I need to know the five w’s and how.

Now back to our mermaids. Each piece of the evidence must be explained for a theory to be accurate. Looking at the range of dugongs and manatees, they do not live worldwide, yet mermaids have been sighted all over the world, so the scientists are wrong about that. Rereading some of the earlier accounts of mermaid sightings, I realized that not all mermaid sightings are of mermaids with a fish tail, some have legs like humans. As a matter of fact, part of the legend of mermaids is that they can go back and forth between legs and fish tail.

The Siren, oil on canvas, Leeds Art Gallery. source: http://www.wikipedia.org

Now I was not just looking for mermaids, I was looking for women. Women swimming, though not swimming for fun, some of the waters where mermaids had been sighted are very cold. No, these would be working women. I found that just such a thing has existed for thousands of years.

In centuries past women dove in deep waters holding their breath in search, primarily, of food to support their families. These women have also dove for sponges, pearls, and even to recover items from ship wrecks. Women were better at these dives because they have a higher body fat content than men, they can dive for longer periods of time. They would dive deep, rest on their return, and dive again, getting several dives in one day following this method. They dove wearing only loincloths. The cold wet clothing would make them even colder while they were resting, so they dove without clothing. Some of these divers would rub oil on their bodies to help keep warm. The water glistening on the oil on their bodies could possibly look like water glistening on a fish’s body.

Ama (pearl diver) in Japan. source: http://www.wikipedia.org

Did I find my mermaids? I now know where sightings of mermaids came from. In Korea and Japan, women still practice free diving just as women for centuries before them did. However, in our modern day, they wear thin suits for modesty. In Japan, they are called Ama and they dive for pearls. Did I find my mermaids in the waters of Japan, do mermaids exist? I borrow a paragraph from an esteemed colleague from the Sun.

Virginia Elizabeth, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia Elizabeth, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. …”

Yes Elizabeth! Mermaids do exist!

1 Comment

Filed under history, myth, New, Titanic