Friday: Return from Texas

I’m getting so much work in Texas that I’m thinking of making a sign to hang on my door saying, “Gone to Texas.” Evidently after the Civil War,  many tacked signs to their doors with the initials, G.T.T.  Texas, having successfully resisted Yankee invasion, had not suffered the economic hardships many states had. The Federal government’s scorched earth policy, its war against the civilian population of the South, and the oppression of Reconstruction had so ruined people’s lives that they looked to Texas as an opportunity to rebuild their lives. I know my Confederate ancestor was one of these. He left Alabama and moved into East Texas. I’ll have more on him in a later post.  At any rate, it looks like Texas is going to be a target state for me, at least as long as Monroe (ironically/sarcastically called Funroe by some) is my anchor city. I really must make arrangements to get to the East Coast.

This has been a marvelous trip. Things accomplished:
1) I set up a program and a book signing with the Texas Civil War Museum for Saturday Feb. 16. I spent about 3 hours touring the museum and studying its displays. This has to be one of the finest Civil War museums I’ve ever visited.

2) I met with my contacts at the Region XI Education Services Center, toured the facility, and discussed future opportunities.

3) Met with the director of the Azle, Texas Public Library and introduced my books and program.

4) Met with the manager of the Barnes & Noble in Downtown Fort Worth and talked about a signing there in January or February.

I was also able to eat at two famous Fort Worth eating establishments: Risky’s Steak House in the Stockyard section of town and Billy Miner’s in Sundance Square. Downtown Fort Worth was beautifully lit for the holiday season, and I heard a school choir doing Christmas carols and was able to see a movie: Love in the Time of Cholera.  Good movie overall, but I would have lost many of the subtle nuances and symbols if I hadn’t read the novel first.  After I view it again, I’ll post a little review of it.  I’m surprised at how much I love Fort Worth. The city is much easier to drive in than Dallas.

I’m headed back to Monroe this morning in just a little while. I have a few chores to do and must prepare for my signing in South Louisiana tomorrow. The rest of my month is booked solid. No free windows of time. I used to have free windows of time in the days when I was a slave to the school system.

My friend Michele, a wonderful gifted teacher and very talented writer who is in Egypt attending a conference,  sent me a text message yesterday.  She said, “Sitting on the Nile, listening to Faith Hill and the call to prayer.” She’s always been able to spot the ironies of life. I’ve always had a fascination with the desert. (Is that my just desert?) I hope she’ll write a entry for this blog concerning her trip.

Notes from Fort Worth

I’m in the Fort Worth area today, working with  media, school, and library contacts for my book signings and programs, making some book sales, and doing some exploring. I’m sure I’ll have some good stories to post. I also am supposed to meet with the Texas Civil War Museum folks to talk about a program there and to introduce them to my books.  You can learn more about the Texas Civil War Museum here:

North Texas . . . What a prosperous area! So different from North Louisiana. I know I say the same thing I travel anywhere else: That’s an indication of what?  The weather was perfect yesterday driving in, and looks like it will be the same today.  I’ll be back in Monroe on Friday, and then on the road again early Saturday morning for Cherry Books in Thibodaux.  Today I decided to post a short story, sort of auto-fiction, that was published a few years ago. The title is “Like a Good German Soldier.” It was published in Alternative, a literary journal of Eastfield Community College, Mesquite, TX, Spring 2001.


ONE MAY AFTERNOON I WAS PLAYING WITH MY WORLD WAR II TOY SOLDIERS ON MY FRONT PORCH.  I wove a jeep and a tank through elaborate battle-lines of German and American soldiers, and as usual, the Americans gave the Nazis a beating.
My father opened the screen door, stepped onto the porch and carefully maneuvered his way through the carnage of my battlefield. “Come on, son.” He walked toward our next door neighbor’s house.
“Yes, sir.” I scooped up my armies and threw them into their cardboard shoebox and trotted after him.  Barefoot, I hopped across the sticker-filled scorched grass, taking care not to step in the black-dirt cracks which often served as trenches and bomb craters in my war games.
I followed him up to the door.  After he rang the doorbell, a man appeared. He was younger than my father, with a blonde crew cut and ice-blue eyes.
“Yes,” he said, with a thick accent I had only heard on Hogan’s Heroes.
“I’m Amos,” he said, “and this is my son, Eugene.  We live next door and want to welcome you to our neighborhood.”
He smiled and opened the door. “Please, come in, and thank you.”
A very young and pretty woman sat at their dining table reading an issue of Life Magazine.  
“I am Rennicke,” he said, “and this is my wife, Erma.  We are from Germany—from Dresden.”
“I’m from West Texas, myself,” my father said. “Eugene here was born in Dallas.”
“Please sit at the table and have some refreshments,” Erma said.
“That’s mighty nice of you,” my father replied.
Erma stepped into the kitchen and returned with bottled Cokes and a plate of cookies. My father took a long swallow of the Coke.  “Ain’t nothing like a cold Coke on a hot day. It gets real hot here in Texas sometimes.”
“Dresden could be warm at times as well,” Rennicke said.
My father nodded. “Reckon so. I hope you like it here in America. My wife always wanted to see Germany since her grandparents came from there. I had a couple of uncles who saw Germany in World War II.  I was drafted the day after the war ended and sent to Alaska.”
On the wall hung a picture of a German soldier in military dress.  I rose from my chair and stepped closer for a better look.
“That is Rennicke,” Erma said.  “He was sixteen when that photograph was taken.”
“You were a real German soldier?” I asked.
“Yes. Like your father, I was drafted,” Rennicke said. “But I did not fight Americans.  Germany sent me to the Russian front.  Amos, what duty did you have in the army?”
“They made me a clerk,” my father replied.
“I was a photographer.” Rennicke stepped to a bookshelf and picked out a photo album.  He laid it on the table and opened it. “See?”
“Cool!” I said.  I could hardly believe my luck. A ten-year-old like me getting to meet a real Nazi. And he had war pictures!  This was even better than the last neighbor’s South American monkey.  I scanned the room searching for swastikas and scooted my chair closer to the table so I could have a better look.
Rennicke slowly turned the pages, talking about each picture.  Occasionally he would ask Erma how to say something in English.  Most of the photos were of soldiers marching through deep snow, bombed cities, and battlefields strewn with dead bodies.  On the last page, he pointed to two very dead Germans, lying side by side in their greatcoats, their arms stiff and reaching into the air.
“They were my best friends,” he said.  “We grew up together.  We were so young, but we were good soldiers. We knew the war was lost, but what could we do?”
I saw tears in Rennicke’s eyes, and Erma reached over and patted him on the shoulder.
My father nodded. “It’s always hard on a man to lose a friend.”
When our visit ended, my father invited the couple to come over that night to listen to country music and to enjoy a Mexican dinner my mother planned to prepare.  They thanked us and we excused ourselves.
As we walked home, my father said, “I know he was a Nazi, and you know my uncle was killed by one of their snipers, but I reckon we can’t hold that against Rennicke and Erma, so you be real nice when you talk to them.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.  As my father ruthlessly punished any mistreatment of people generally, the thought of abusing our Nazi neighbors had not entered my mind.  My father’s punishments were few, but memorable.  Probably brutal enough to cause any Gestapo agent to nod in approval.
Later that afternoon, Clifton Ray came over to see me.  As usual, he was loaded down with equipment for our war games.  He handed me one of his wooden toy rifles with a roll of caps, and we divvied up the dummy grenades he had purchased at the Army and Navy surplus store.
I snatched the German helmet. “I want to be the Germans today.”
“Why?  You always make me be the Germans,” Clifton Ray said.
“I just want to be the Germans today.”
“You’ll lose.”
“I know.  This time, let’s pretend we’re in Russia.”
“Where’s Russia?” Clifton Ray asked.  “Ain’t in Mexico is it?”
“I don’t know where it is, but it’s got lots of snow.”
We played until dark, tossing grenades and sniping at each other from prone and standing positions.  As mother called for me to come inside and clean up for supper, Clifton Ray jumped from behind the bushes and fired the final bullet of our conflict.  I died—dutifully and dramatically—like a good German soldier.  Clifton Ray saluted me, gathered up his arsenal, and walked home.  The German helmet still on my head, I rose from my imaginary death-bed of snow and saw Rennicke on his front porch with a camera.  He took my picture, nodded, then stepped back into his house.

A Short Story: A Gift to Charity

Here is a short story I wrote sometime ago. It’s about 900 words. Sort of on the silly side, but then sometimes we just need to laugh.


Charity whirled the chair around so that Mrs. Sutherland faced the mirror. “There Mrs. Sutherland! You look fabulous! As the Bible says, ‘If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.’ This hairdo is my specialty. Someday, I’m going to own my own salon, and do nothing but Christian hairdos! Just like Saint Martin!” She kissed the small rosary hanging from her neck and sent a silent prayer to the saint’s icon taped to the mirror.

Mrs. Sutherland’s face revealed no emotion—none at all. With her fingertips, Mrs. Sutherland gingerly touched the tip of the foot-high beehive. Then her jaw dropped, her teeth clinched and ground, and a primeval sound, a high-pitched whining scream, erupted. “I look horrible! Johnboy! I should sue you!”

Johnboy, owner of the Le Jolie Blonde Beauty Salon, replied, “Oh, Mrs. Sutherland! You are such a tease. I’ll be right there. Johnboy to the rescue!” He laid down his scissors and comb, then patted the shoulder of his customer. “You sit still, honey, and let that solution do its work.”

Charity admired Johnboy. Extremely talented and confident, last year he’d nearly won the Golden Scissors Award. He cut a striking figure with his platinum blonde hair in a fashionable coiffure, his black silk shirt, black Armani leather pants, and Driving Mocs. However, upon seeing Mrs. Sutherland’s hair spiraling up in a tall beehive, he placed his hand over his heart. “Oh, my God! Charity, where on earth do these bizarre ideas come from? She looks like Marge Simpson!”

“More like the Bride of Frankenstein!” Mrs. Sutherland said as she clawed at the plastic protective cape. “Johnboy! I’ll never return to your salon again! Needless to say, I’ll not pay for this!”

Johnboy followed as she fled the salon. Charity heard Mrs. Sutherland’s sobs mingling with Johnboy’s pleadings. “No accounting for taste, I guess,” she said.

When Johnboy returned, he collapsed in one of the chairs in the waiting area. The receptionist hurried over and fanned him with an old copy of Glamour Magazine. When Johnboy revived sufficiently, he yelled, “Charity, I want to speak to you. NOW!”

Charity cringed, but walked over. “Yes, sir,” she said.

“Charity, I’ve tried to overlook your past shenanigans, but I can’t afford to lose any more business because of your ineptness. You’re fired!”

“Fine! I’ll take my client list and just start my own beauty shop!”

“Charity, you signed a no-competition clause when I hired you. They’re not your customers—they’re mine! And thank God they are! Do you realize how psychologically damaging it is to ruin someone’s hair? Of course you don’t! You ruin somebody’s hair every week with these new, wild hairdos of yours! Now, leave my salon!”

Crushed, Charity sobbed all the way home. She knew she was an excellent hairdresser. More than that, she hated the idea of losing her clients. She had worked so hard to build up her list, and now Johnboy would get them all. Then, she had an idea of how she could get her client list back. At midnight, she drove back to the salon.

Charity sighed. Breaking into a building always looked so easy on television! But she had been teasing the door lock with a bobby pin for almost ten minutes and it didn’t show any signs of opening. The ocean surf pounding in the background drowned out any clicks that she thought she was supposed to be hearing. Suddenly, the door flew open, she fell forward with a grunt, and there she stood a man, standing behind her chair and cutting Johnboy’s hair. “Come in, Charity,” the man said. “Your client list is on the table.”
“Do I know you?”
“My name is Martin.”
“Saint Martin de Porres,” Johnboy added in a giddy voice. “The Patron saint of hairdressers!”
“You’ve been drinking again, Johnboy. A saint? He doesn’t even have a tonsure!”
“Monks have tonsures, Charity, not saints, silly girl!”
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Oh my God! So much has happened! First, Mrs. Sutherland called. It seems all her friends love what you did with her hair! Then Martin visited me tonight. He knew I actually fired you because of jealousy, and he pointed out that he had given you a special gift, just like he had given me, and that these new hair designs you’ve been using actually came from him. Please, forgive me. If you want your job back you can have it, but Martin thinks you are ready to go out on your own. If you do, I’ll front you the money to start your own salon.” Johnboy studied his reflection. “Excellent technique, Saint Martin. I can see why you’re our patron saint.”
“Thanks! As a barber in Dominican monasteries, I picked up a trick or two. So, Charity, it seems your prayers are indeed answered. You will soon have your own salon and much business will come your way. That is, if you want.”
“Yes, I do. Thank you.” Again, Charity kissed her rosary and sent a silent prayer of thanks to Saint Martin.
“You’re welcome,” Martin said. “Go home, Charity. Johnboy and I still have a few things to discuss so he can win the Golden Scissors next year. Besides, you’ve got a salon to plan.”

A Found Poem: “Betrayal”

As I was diligently paying bills for the month, I grabbed a writing pad randomly from a stack near my computer. I found this poem I wrote last April. As I read it, I remembered the poem, know the poem’s persona, but I don’t remember the actual writing of it, though I know I was hurting badly during that time.  I thought the poem was worth posting and that it reveals something significant regarding our human existence.

Friends are betrayed

Because of duty, politics, jealousy,

For 30 pieces of silver,

For a bit of life-drama perhaps,

Sometimes, they’re betrayed for no reason at all.

Betrayal slashes through to the heart,

To the core of your being,

Severing the arteries of the soul,

Causing you to bleed to death in sadness.

Betrayal is a lead-filled blackjack

Pummeling, hammering, pounding,

Until you hemorrhage  inside,

Until kidney, liver and heart have burst.

It’s like a rape . . .

An act of violence,

A breach of trust,

And the betrayed ones,

Are never, never the same again.

Oh, Christmas Tree . . .

Today has been a made scramble with banking, work on my Website, calls for my signings, and I put up our Christmas tree today. It’s one of the fake ones with like a million branches you plug into the trunk in alphabetical order. It actually looks real nice when decorated. I wasn’t in town the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional day of setting up Christmas trees in my family, and yesterday I was at ULM all day, so today was the first chance I had to get that chore done.

I’ve got appointments in Texas all day Thursday, so I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon and will return to Monroe sometime Friday. I’ve a signing at Cherry Books in Thibodaux, Louisiana,  Saturday morning. I’ll be signing both books of mine, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House and Stories of the Confederate South.  Here is their contact information: 985-446-0182  1050 Canal Blvd, Thibodaux, LA 70301

There’s a really good article and some photos about the new bookstore, its owner and Terry Fruchey, the manager. Here’s the link for that article:

Writing Civil War Fiction

At my book signings, I’ve met many people who are interested in writing about the Civil War—also known as the War Between the States, The Recent Unpleasantness, The War of Northern Aggression, and other titles. You may have your own reasons for your desire to center your writing on this conflict, but here is a list of reasons more writers should address the Civil War:

1. This war forever and permanently changed America. This conflict is a reference point, a turning point in our culture, in politics, and in our history.

2. Many of the issues of the war are still relevant and interesting to thinking people. Remember that most of this generation have been fed misinformation and stereotypes and don’t know that the generic, oversimplified and dumbed down historical facts in the textbooks doesn’t tell the real story of the Civil War. So, as a diligent writer of the Civil War, you will become an instructor.

3. You will have a specifically targeted and huge audience. Avid Civil War readers have several things in common. They tend to be literate, well-read, they enjoy learning new facts, they love hearing facts and stories they already know if they are told from an interesting and unique perspective, and most important of all for a writer—they buy tons of books.

4. You will grow from your writing.

5. Your reading audience will grow as a result of your research, insights, and prose.
Writers do shape society. Think of how Stephen King and other writers have influenced our ideas of horrors. Strong writers today are shaping the consciousness of the Civil War too.

6. This is an opportune time. Never, at least since the generation of actual combatants, have we had such rich and thorough resources.

Who is a racist?

I stopped grading papers long enough to check my emails. A friend sent me something that I couldn’t believe at first. I did some research, and it is truly all over the Web. Wow. I just had to post something on this, with the links for you to go to if you wanted to research it yourself. Evidently the University of Delaware stirred up a hornet’s nest with their recent residence life education program. I found the definition of the actual program here. You can download it yourself as a pdf file.

One problem with the program was their definition of who is a racist. Here is the definition of racist that was distributed.

“A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality”; “REVERSE RACISM: A term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege”; and “A NON-RACIST: A non term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism.”

The hornet’s nest of blog and news attacks that resulted thankfully caused the university to terminate the program.  This is just too much.  As a writer and student of the War Between the States, I’ve learned how far away from historical accuracy people will go in order to be “politically correct.”  From this incident, I’ve learned how far from logic and common sense they will go. Here are some links you can go to for further research. 

And here is the link to the university’s Website where a letter is posted that terminates the program.  However, I wish they had stated the reason for the termination as due to its error and stupidity rather than withdrawing it only after attacks. I wonder who the crackpot is who created this definition of a racist?

Sunday: A Day of Recovery

Though I’d rather be on the road working, I find Sundays here in Monroe are vital for a catch-up day. Used not only for the University preparation (which thankfully is soon ending) but also for mapping out my business plan for the week for my writing business, as well as the needful chores of packing, cleaning, etc. for my next days of travels. The day is young yet, but as the weather is stormy, I’m sure I’m doomed to be trapped inside all day. At the end of the day, I may post another entry on this blog.

The last princess of Wales was Gwenllian. I’m working on a song about her for my Celtic program I want to do at schools. Here are the lyrics of the ballad I’ve started. (Please remember that this is a work in progress). You can learn more of Gwenllian here:

Gwenllian: The Last Princess of Wales

Taken from her cradle
By bloody English hands,
After Longshanks killed her father
When he took his final stand

Now a cradle in Snowdonia
Rocks empty in the night
And a little girl is crying
From hunger and from fright,

I hear a ghostly lullaby
In this castle’s lonely halls,
And whispers of a princess
Who few can now recall.

Her mother died in childbirth
Now her father dead in war,
In a monastery banished
And held behind locked doors,

In silent meditation,
And worn beads in her hand,
She passes lonely hours
Banished from her land.

In a monastery lonely
Where stone walls are so cold
A princess prays there weeping,
She’s 55 years old,

She never learned her language,
She never knew her name
Never knew a lover’s kiss
Never knew who was to blame.

I sold out at the Harvey, Louisiana Sam’s Club and had a respectable signing at the Kenner Sam’s Club earlier in the morning. I established new friendships with many of the Sam’s workers. I also sold a few copies (on my own) of my newest Pelican published book, Stories of the Confederate South and even a few copies of my novel, Red River Fever.

I am learning so much and making so many contacts in my first year of this business that I’m sure next year will be easier–not in terms of the hard work required, but in the number of mistakes made/avoided, the amount of time wasted, and in knowing which venues are worth the time and effort of signings. I have certainly learned that some parts of the country (and even Louisiana) have more money and people. As 2007 winds its way to its traumatic and desperate end, and I look at 2008’s calendar, I’m confident that next year will be a better year for me personally, perhaps the best year ever.

Two Books: Two Days

I can’t believe how fast the holiday has flown by.  As phone and email work on the day before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving is fruitless work, I did manage to finish reading two books that have been on my list a long time. I likely won’t make my goal of 50 books by the end of the year, but it looks like I’ll be in the thirties anyway. The first book was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The second was Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera. Both readings overwhelmed and refreshed me.  I think the reads did my head some good.

This morning, I drove to the Slidell Sam’s Club and had my signing there. I had a near sell-out. Lots of traffic, but I definitely have decided that I like bookstores better. Anyone in a bookstore is there (for one reason or another) because of books. Not so in Sam’s Clubs. I was scheduled for Gulfport Sam’s Club this afternoon, but they couldn’t find my (nor the author who was before me) books again. Good thing I called.  Good thing I packed up all my things and loaded them into my SUV, just on a hunch that something might go wrong with schedule.  This snaffu butchered my schedule. I HATE wasting time because of someone else’s ineptness. I’ll just spend the night near New Orleans rather than drive back to my daughter’s in Ocean Springs where I stayed the past two nights. Tomorrow, I’m at the Kenner Sam’s and at the Harvey Sam’s.  From there, I’ll drive on back to Monroe. Traffic is horrendous down here in New Orleans. Drive safe, wherever you are.

To Ocean Springs II

I drove to my daughter’s house in Ocean Springs today. My son-in-law grilled the family hamburgers and we had a grand evening together.  There were a few family members here besides us. I missed the rain and storms that were predicted by the weather people, and had an introspective drive down. However, I understand the storms are in North Mississippi now. I ate at the Waffle House in Vicksburg, and stopped at the Watermelon Patch, a giant shoe store on Highway 49, in between Jackson and Hattiesburg. I was playing a hunch that I’d find Christmas presents. I didn’t.  Tonight, I’ve been playing with my grandson, and watching him jump on the bed like a little monkey this very moment. Tomorrow will be spent in eating, drinking indulgence, but Friday I’ll have to get right to work early.