Wednesday, June 27, 2018


(A humorous look at the results of yesterday's arrowhead excursion, with apologies to Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash)

I hurt myself yesterday,
To see if I could feel
In ancient piles of flint
An arrowhead to steal.

The flintshards tore a hole
In my finger tips.
My arms are burned bright red
And achy are my hips.

What on earth have I done,
My dearest friend?
Every joint I have
Screams at me when I bend.

And you can't have them, no!
These treasures from the dirt,
I worked too hard for them

And they made me hurt.

I cut my hands on thorns
And got a spider in my hair
To find a broke-off stem
Its maker did not repair.

Beneath the mud and slime
The arrowheads lie hid
Some of them I found
The rest someone else did.

What on earth have I done
My dearest friend?
Every joint I have
Screams at me when I bend! 
And you can't have them, no!
These treasures from the dirt,
I worked too hard for them

And they made me hurt.

If I could go again
To find points in the dirt;
You know I'd grub some more
Even though it made me hurt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

TR: THE MUSICAL - "The Election of 1904"

  It started as a joke, early this year - one of my friends sent me a few couplets of an imaginary, HAMILTON-style musical about Theodore Roosevelt.  That's when it hit me:
  Why SHOULDN'T the most fascinating, audacious, brave, and innovative President in American history have his own musical?  Of course, I can't write music - but I can rhyme with the best of them!  So I started stringing together one song after another, and eventually I came up with a full, two act musical.  This is a song from early in the second act, when the "accidental President" Theodore Roosevelt decides to run for a full term in his own right - and makes an unfortunate pledge in the process!  I hope you enjoy it, and don't forget to check out my new author page:

                    THE ELECTION OF 1904


Alice Roosevelt:  My Daddy’s accidental Presidency sparked a strong reaction;

By the end of his first term the Republicans divided into factions –

You still had all the Old Guard, the pawns of banks and railroads,

What a bunch of fat cats! Dad called them “obsequious toads!”

Then you had the Progressives, the men my father inspired greatly –

Ready to change things for the better, reforming everything immediately!

The Democrats, especially the ones down South, thought my Dad an awful sinner –

They blew their tops when he dared invite a black man to a White House dinner!

But their party was divided too, between Bryan and his populist progressives

And the Wall Street, gold standard crew of bosses, crooks, and social regressives!

The only competition my Daddy had was old Senator Mark Hanna –

Who had spent four years promoting McKinley and playing second banana.

But wouldn’t you know it, in February Senator Hanna started feeling badly,

Then he died and left the GOP with no choice but to renominate my Daddy!

On the other side, the Democrats over Bryan and Cleveland had to climb –

For twenty years those two men had been nominated every single time!

But the bosses won this round, while the Progressives were divided –

Judge Alton Parker got the nod, and the Old Guard was delighted!

So now let’s join my Presidential father as he hits the campaign trail –

Life is always fun when the Democrats are guaranteed to fail!


TR:  Well, gentlemen, I’ve spoken my piece at length and fully –

In one word, our country’s condition may be summed up as “Bully!”

Reforms are underway, corruption is punished; our economy is thriving, 

It’s always a smooth ride when the Republicans do the driving!

America is now respected and looked up to, our flag flies high around the world –

Why should we change course and flee the field with our banners tightly furled?

If you like what you have seen me do, since the year that I stepped up,

Then vote me a term I can call my own, and I’ll be even harder to stop!

There’s still a lot that I can do, to make this country a better place to live in –

Step up and vote!  Persuade your friends, and we’ll see the Democrats give in!

I am your President Theodore!  I’m still young and tough, so hear me roar!

I’ve got all kinds of progressive plans, now that my foot’s through the door.

Slam it all you want and I will grin and ask for more –

Now the whole world surely knows the name of Theodore!


Reporter:  Mister Roosevelt – you were the youngest President ever at forty-two

And even if you are re-elected, you’ll be just fifty when you bid us all adieu!

Have you given any thought to breaking with George Washington’s tradition –

And run for President again in ’08, and keep yourself in your current position?

It’s not against the law, you know, to run for a third term in office,

So why not see if the voters then, prefer you to some political novice?


TR: (looking thoughtful)

   That’s a most excellent question, sire, and I am glad that you inquired.

For you see, my political opponents have often said that I’m inspired

By a lust for power that’s no different from some brutal medieval despot!

So now let me set their fears to rest, and give their minds a respite.

I succeeded President McKinley when his term was only six months old;

I tried to be true to his legacy, and still provide leadership strong and bold.

Now I ask for a term of my own, something no accidental President has ever had.

If the voters grant my wish, then I promise not to run again, for it would be bad

To break the precedent so wisely set, by George Washington himself.

So once four years have passed us by, I’ll return to the political shelf,

And leave the White House open to whoever the voters decide to elect –

I’ll return to civilian life, travel, write books, hunt, explore, and reflect

On this remarkable nation that will have given me its highest honor,

And hope my humble efforts will enrich and reflect glory on her.


Reporter:  (rushes to the telephone)

Hold the presses, boss, I’ve got a story that will dominate the front page –

Roosevelt just totally ruled out a third term, despite his youthful age!

Progressives will rue the day he made this pledge, make no mistake –

And the bosses now will realize that they have finally caught a decent break!

No president has ever served at such an early age as this one,

Now he’s gone and pledged that this second term will end his mission!


(Scene shifts to White House)


John Hay:  It’s official, Mister President!  You have my congratulations!

You’ve been re-elected by a landslide, by a majority of our nation.

It’s the biggest win since James Monroe, who ran without any opposition –

You won every state except the South, and crushed the Democrats’ ambitions.

It’s been an honor serving you, but now I think I shall retire,

Enjoy my grandchildren, and wish you well, whoever you may hire!


TR:  Thank you, Mister Secretary; it’s been an honor to be served by you –

Your expertise has helped me often, as I pondered what else I should do.

I am elated that I have won; the nation’s people have been most kind –

And yet I confess that I am troubled by one thought in the back of my mind.

I feel guilty to even mention it, on this blissful election day –

But confound it all, thanks to my pledge – I only have four more years to play!


Saturday, June 9, 2018

SUMMER IS HERE! Time to Sell Some Books . . .

   Ah, summer vacation in Texas!  Time to enjoy the 98 degree heat every day (except on the REALLY hot days), those lovely thundershowers that drop the temperature to tolerable levels for an hour or two, then transform the whole outdoors into a giant sauna for the next three days, and mosquitos roughly the size of an F-22 Osprey lurking in the sky to inflict giant, stinging welts and occasionally carry off small children!  And, of course, the fun things about summer: grilling outside, mowing the lawn (or paying someone else to do it while you sit inside and sip iced tea in air conditioned comfort), and experiencing the sweet joy of NOT having to get up at 5:30 every morning to go pound the ignorance out of young skulls full of mush on a day to day basis (this last applies only to schoolteachers, I guess).

  But, when you are a schoolteacher AND a writer, like me, summer means it is time to knuckle down and hustle your rear end off to sell as many books as you can as fast as you can! You're no longer limited to just Saturdays, you have more time to call bookstores, civic groups, church groups, or anyone else who might be willing to have you come and give a talk - and set up a book table! To give you an idea of what this entails, here is an account of how the first nine days of June have gone for me:

    June 1 - I loaded up my books, my wife, and two and a half tables' worth of Indian artifacts and fossils and headed down to Temple, TX for the annual Genuine Indian Relic Society's Artifact Show.  Now, obviously, when I go to an arrowhead show, I am going to show and look at artifacts. But since most relic collectors are fascinated by history and archeology, I have found that my books do really well at these shows.  (The presence of many bored spouses of these enthusiastic artifact hunters is another plus for selling books!)  It's a 3 hour drive down to Temple, and we arrived about noon and set up my three tables.  The first day is set up time,  and preliminary wheeling and dealing between the exhibitors: I sold four copies of my books, walked around and looked at artifacts until my eyes were glazed over, and then we covered up our wares and went to our hotel.  We checked in, ate supper on the cheap, and went for a swim before crashing for the night.

    The next day we got up early, had breakfast, and then drove to the Mayborn Civic Center for the big event.  Two hundred and fifty tables of Indian artifacts, fossils, jewelry - one enterprising collector even had arrowhead- shaped lollipops called "Artisnacks" for sale!  It was  a fascinating day, lots of killer relics on display and old friends stopping by to visit - and oh how I sold the books!  My two day total at the show was nineteen books sold, plus a brisk trade in my fossils and several arrowhead sales. (I don't sell personal finds, but I do keep a small stock of points on hand that I have bought and traded for over the years to sell at these shows.)  The unique bone artifact I described in my last blog post drew a lot of attention and curious commentary; many collectors seem to think it may be Paleo-Indian in age (that would mean it is over 10,000 years old - WOW!!).

   All in all, it was a fun and satisfying day.  When it was over, we packed up my tables and went back to our hotel - the road trip wasn't done yet!  We celebrated the day's sales with a big dinner at Texas Roadhouse, home of some downright legendary rib eyes, all the free peanuts you can eat, and wonderful, friendly servers.  Full of steak and the sweet taste of success, my wife and I retired back to our hotel room.  Too tired to swim, she crashed early, while I stayed up till midnight to watch the Rangers beat the Angels in a 3-2 pitching duel.   The next morning, we packed up and headed down to Austin, TX!

   Bookpeople is the name of one of Texas' oldest and largest independent bookstores. I have been trying to schedule an event there for three years, and now it finally came to pass!  The store had already purchased multiple copies of my newest novel, THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, plus a few copies of the first two books in the series, THE TESTIMONIUM and MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH.  This place does over 300 author events a year, so my being there was not a novelty to the store's patrons.  But still, I got to give a talk and read a sample chapter to my small audience, after which I sold a few copies, and left about 20 signed copies of my newest book for them to sell.  Having books on the shelf in a store - especially THAT store - was a huge moral victory for me!  Plus seeing my name on the marquis where writers like John Grisham, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dan Rather have been billed made me feel like I had really arrived as a writer!

   Austin is a fun town.  While we were there, I took my wife to lunch at Chuy's - the original location on Barton Springs Road is some of the best Tex-Mex food you will ever eat, plus a wonderfully fun atmosphere!  We also went for a stroll along the Colorado River and watched all the young, skinny, beautiful people kayaking and swimming in the river.  Other than being a sad reminder that we are no longer young or that skinny (although my wife is still very beautiful), it was a great way to kill a little time while waiting for my signing event to start.

   But, we couldn't stay away from home too long.  That evening we made the four hour drive back to Greenville, and I had a few days to rest and recuperate and do laundry before my next event, on Thursday, June 7.  Tyler, TX is about an hour and a half away from my home, and the Half Price Books store there is a wonderful, author-friendly place.  I got there a little after noon, set my table up, put my poster in the window, and started selling!  It was a bit slow at first, then more and more people began coming in and I began to move a few books. One very nice older gentleman bought a copy of THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, and took one of my new brochures with him.  Each brochure has a synopsis of all five of my novels, plus a nice bio written for me by a close friend.  Well, an hour later, the gentleman returned with his wife, and they bought the other four books based on what they had read in the brochure!  That made for a very nice day, with twelve sales totaled.  After a quick supper at Golden Corral on the way home, I drove back in one of those previously mentioned summer thundershowers.

   After one day to rest and recuperate from that trip, today (June 9) I drove over to Denton, TX - about the same distance as Tyler in the opposite direction.  Highway 380 is a straight shot from Greenville to Denton, but this once rural stretch has built up so much the last few years that I drove through 50 traffic lights in 70 miles (yes, I counted them, I was bored!).  But I did get there safely, and then got to set up in my favorite bookstore in Texas: Recycled Books!  Three stories of books, old and new, rare and common, plus movies, music, memorabilia, friendly staff, and the store is housed inside a hundred year old opera house, across the street from one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas!  It was a lovely warm day, and people were coming and going through the square and in and out of the store in a steady flow of human traffic.  I sold a total of fourteen copies in a little over five hours; not a bad day at all, especially considering I hit an incredible lull with no sales at all from about 3 pm till 4:30.  But that is how you do it, folks, if you want to be a writer - one copy at a time, one sale at a time, one reader at a time, one store at a time - until the world is your burrito!

   Next week I have a conference call with a publicist who has been helping me out with my new website, and a dinner meeting with a screenwriter who wants to adapt THE TESTIMONIUM into a feature film.  It's a very preliminary step in a very long process, but I have high hopes!  After that - more signings, more speaking gigs, more bookstores and churches and civic clubs - until August 23 rolls around, and the young skulls full of mush will once more absorb a majority of my attention!

   In the meantime, feel free to check out my new website, and if you have never read any of my books - or if you have read one and want to get the others! - click on the links and buy, buy, buy!  Thanks again for reading my little corner of the internet, and have a great summer!!