I was a recluse today. Just me, Sophie, and that pesky squirrel on the patio. If I had to choose a day to be a recluse, this was a good one. Dark, rainy, stormy this morning. We had those proverbial sheets of blowing rain. Not much thunder, but enough to keep Sophie close to me. This afternoon, the rain stopped, and I even saw sunshine briefly. But there’s more rain tomorrow and then a severe drop in temperature.
I made good use of my day at home alone, worked hard most of the day except for a mid-day break. Spent the day at the Alamo, and I guess it’s time to explain that. In June, a friend was diagnosed with metastatic cancer—someone I knew basically through a close-knit online group of writers but had had one really good in-person visit with. She had a contract with a New York publisher and was working on a book on the second battle of the Alamo. But Debra, the Energizer Bunny, had several other projects going on all the time, and I became part of the squad cheering her on to work on the Alamo book. I knew the story of the second battle, and it’s the kind of history that fascinates me.
When she was hospitalized, she called me one day. “Deb, what can I do for you?” I asked, and she replied, “Write the Alamo book.” I would never ever have wanted that assignment under these circumstances, but it was a project I took on willingly, partly to honor her and partly because it intrigues me. It was the end of summer before the editor, Deb’s partner and literary executor, and I could all reach an agreement. We had danced around the subject as long as Debra was with us. But when she died, we tackled it.
And I have been working on it for about a month now. I’ve sent a draft of the first bit to the editor and gotten back an incredibly helpful critique. Since I’ve written fiction for so long, it’s almost a new experience for me to work with an editor this closely in a back and forth manner, and I’m loving it. I spent most of today putting together a chapter she wants that hadn’t even occurred to me. But it’s all the history I love, and I’m having fun. Problem is, unlike my own fiction, I have a deadline—it was February, but it’s been pushed to May. I think I can do it, but I feel the pressure. So today was a long day at the keyboard.
Tonight, I’m going to continue re-reading a novel about this second battle. TCU Press published it some twenty years ago, and I edited it. But that’s a long time. So far, just barely into it, I’m finding it enormously helpful for atmosphere and period details.
So you might like to know about the second battle of the Alamo. I assume everyone knows about the first. The second was in the early 1900s when a part of the mission compound was in danger of being torn down and replaced by a glitzy hotel. Two women, members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, saved the iconic mission. But what began as a collegial relationship soon deteriorated into a definite difference of opinion about which parts of the mission were essential.
The story of the massacre at the Alamo is a man’s story, full of blood lust and courage—and all those qualities we associate with bold men. But the story of the Alamo does not end with that 1836 battle and defeat. Nor is it always a men’s story. The second battle of the Alamo was a women’s battle, fought with the same determination as shown by the original defenders but with different weapons—with words and money and sometimes with outrageous behavior.