The Saboteur

I was looking through some old poetry and thinking about how the biographies of some writers I’ve read revealed that they had tendencies to self-destruct. I found this poem I wrote years ago and decided to post it today.

The Saboteur

I am a saboteur.
I know how to derail things,
Lose things, waste things,
And generally screw up.
I juggle knives with amazing ineptness.
I try to dance with nitroglycerin and
Play Russian Roulette with one empty chamber.
I fight with the sun in my eyes.
I can pull the grenade pin and
Then change my mind.
I have cut the wrong wire!
My training has been
Brutal but effective.
I am one you should fear.
I am a  saboteur.

Evanescence: Tourniquet

I’ve been listening to Evanescence again today. This song from the Evanescence CD Fallen has been replaying through my head all afternoon while I was doing yard work, so I thought I’d post the lyrics in today’s blog.  Amy Lee has such a fantastic lyric writing ability.  This is a song of despair, a cry for deliverance. I think a movie could be written based on it. I found the lyrics here:

i tried to kill the pain
but only brought more
i lay dying
and i’m pouring crimson regret and betrayal
i’m dying praying bleeding and screaming
am i too lost to be saved
am i too lost?

my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation

do you remember me
lost for so long
will you be on the other side
or will you forget me
i’m dying praying bleeding and screaming
am i too lost to be saved
am i too lost?

my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation

my wounds cry for the grave
my soul cries for deliverance
will i be denied Christ
my suicide

Cruel Poetry: A novel by Vicki Hendricks

I never miss reading a book by Vicki Hendricks. I discovered her on John Dufresne’s blog. (If you’re a writer, his blog is a great one to consult regularly) He praised her writing extensively. As I respect Dufresne, I decided to read her books. So far I’ve read, Miami Purity, Sky Blues, Voluntary Madness, and Iguana Love. I was delighted to find that her newest novel, Cruel Poetry, was out. I just received it in the mail and am eager to read it. I’ll let you know how the read went. If you want to know more about this fascinating author or more about her earlier novels, visit her Web site here:

Beth Patterson: “In the Name of Honor”

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be with Kathy Patrick and her crew all day Saturday for the Linden Wildflower Festival. Kathy Patrick gave me and my upcoming children’s book this plug on her blog:

Author, teacher, Rickey Pittman has been coming to Beauty and the Book and my author events for years. He was recently here for our annual Girlfriend Weekend and I previewed an advance galley at the literary festival. What a talent and what a story! If you love southern confederate civil war history, Rickey is the man to talk too. His latest book will be a children’s book Jim Limber Davis, a Black Orphan in the Confederate White House.

Check out this link to the recent news story in the Monroe, Louisiana Newspaper:
I also decided to post another song by one of my favorite Celtic singers, Beth Patterson.


There is a great imbalance at the grisly banquet table.

As some people slowly starve to death,

and others are force-fed.

You cannot hear my silent scream, for now I am unable

I am forced another morsel and wish that I was dead.


In the name of honor we must suffer

In the name of pride, we must pretend

In the name of fate, we must carry a burden

And make martyrs of our hearts to defend . . . our honor.

Now I am a common criminal, a thief of sacred thoughts

There is a plan laid out for me to counter all my sins

Do not mourn my execution

for my penance will be bought

Just be strong for me and rest assured one day we will win.


In the name of secrecy, we perish

In the name of discipline, deny ourselves a joy

In the name of morals, we must sacrifice a loved one

And hunt down another mystery to destroy . . . our honor.

In the throes of desperation, we raise our voices high

Haunted by the deep blue sea and burning summer sky

I’ve never begged for anything,

but now my time draws nigh

If it truly is your will, might this cup pass me by



Herman Melville’s Billy Budd

Well, Saturday, (April 28) I’ll be riding with Kathy Patrick (owner of Beauty and the Book and founder of the Pulpwood Queens) to Linwood, Texas, to be at her table for the city’s annual Wildflower Festival. I’ll sell some books there (Stories of the Confederate South) and promote my upcoming children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. I’m not sure what to expect, but knowing Kathy, I know I’ll be busy and meeting lots of people. I’ve got to meet her at 8:00 a.m., so it looks like I’ll have to get a hotel Friday night.  Otherwise, I’d have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to drive there in time. I am so NOT a morning person these days. Kathy Patrick has done more to promote authors and literacy than anyone I’ve ever known. You can explore her site here:

If you haven’t already, take the time to read my short story I entered in the Booklocker twenty-four hour short story contest. It’s my April 22 entry. It’s a love story and it’s called, “Adrift in Charleston.” I think it’s one of my better stories.
The school year is finally winding down. The students get spring/summer fever this time of year, so they seem a little harder to control. In addition, I’ve had bus duty for the past two weeks, and since I don’t get to leave school until 4:00 or later, it makes for a long day. Only four more weeks of school, and then I launch into my book tour. I’ll have more entries on my new children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House soon.

My honors students have just finished a reading, study, and discussion of Melville’s Billy Budd. Most did well on the test. Some of the students even picked up on the dark, homo-erotic themes Melville subtly addressed. We all learned facts about the life of a sailor in the 18th century. This was my second reading of the novella, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I marked so many good lines, but this one reminded me of certain truths a writer must face.:

“Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges (84).” (He’s talking about the truth of fiction writing here). In addition to the text itself, the edition I used had wonderful notes. There are several good sites on the Web as well that relate to Billy Budd.

The MLA works cited entry for the edition I used to teach them was:

Melville, Herman. Billy Budd, Sailor. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.

Gloria Estefan: Cuts Both Ways

This morning I was listening to Gloria Estefan and I decided to post the lyrics of of “Cuts Both Ways,” a song I particularly like. You can find the lyrics and an interesting commentary and interpretation on Estefan and her music here:

Cuts both ways
Our love is like a knife
That cuts both ways
It’s driven deep into my heart each time
That I realise
How it cuts both ways
Can’t be together
Cannot live apart
We’re heading straight for a broken heart
But I can’t stop

`Cause I feel too much to let you go
I’m hurting you and it’s hard I know
To stay and fight for what we’ve got
Knowing it’ll never be good enough
`Cause you and I are dangerous
We want too much and life ain’t that way
Don’t ask me for more
Don’t be a fool
Haven’t we already broken every rule

It cuts both ways
We’re in too deep for sorry alibis
Can’t have regrets or even question why
We can’t say goodbye
Because it cuts both ways
No more illusions of the love we make
No sacrifice would ever be too great
If you would just stay

Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Today, I finished reading Diary a powerfully written novel by Chuch Palahniuk, author of Fight Club.  Like Palahniuk’s other novels, I found this work gripping and powerful, and touching on so many issues of life, reality, and art. My head is literally swimming from the read. I’ll need some time to absorb the read, and time to think about his writing technique before I can comment more fully. His style is unique, and in this novel he uses repeated lines quite effectively to move his narrative along. In addition, Palahniuk is an expert researcher of the arcane and the esoteric. Warning: Palahniuk is a writer with an edge. If you swoon easily or are easily offended, you probably should read someone else. You can visit the official Chuck Palahniuk site here:
Tonight, I watched another episode of Showtime’s The Tudors, and just like when I watched the other episodes, was completely mesmerized. Henry is really going after Anne Boleyne (played by the beautiful Natalie Dormer) in this episode. I can foresee all kinds of imminent disaster and love scenes. You can find great background information on the Tudor characters here:

Adrift in Charleston

Tonight, I DJ’d with my friend Tom for a wedding at the West Monroe Convention Center. It was a beautiful wedding, and I truly wish the couple the best. I made some extra money, some new friends, saw some beautiful scenery, and got some writing done while I was there. Earlier, I had done yard work half the day, worked on my short story for the Booklocker Short Story Contest, and practiced with Tom and Mary. (We have a bunch of gigs coming up! Most of them will require me to wear a kilt, which I love doing) I finished my short story for the contest, and I decided to post it now. Let me know what you think of it, okay? These 24 hour writing contests are grueling, but even if I don’t win, I always end up with a good story. The topic was emailed to me noon Saturday. The topic was:

She could hear the buoy bell ringing in the distance but it
was too dark to see anything beyond the receding foamy
water. She shivered as the wind picked up, knowing a
late-season Nor’easter would hit in the next few hours,
and knowing this was her last chance. She raised her
arm and threw the glass bottle into the darkness…

Now, you’re probably asking yourself how you would turn this into a story. Let me tell you how I did it. I researched buoys and Nor’easters, brainstormed possible issues and conflicts and settings. I also made a list of what I thought the other entries would do so I could avoid writing anything similar. As I thought the topic was a little dark and suggested despair, I decided to make it an unrequited love story. I gambled on no one choosing Charleston (a city I know and love well) as a setting, and as I thought most other entries would focus on the storm, I decided to focus on the buoy. The word limit was 1,000 words; mine ended up 952 words. Of course, I will likely edit it and add some lines that of course have come to me since the initial writing. Anyway, here is the story I sent in.

Adrift in Charleston

A man who finds the love of his life and then loses her is like a sailor adrift alone in the sea.

Standing at the seawall along the Charleston Battery, I toasted Elizabeth with my Heineken and chugged down the last swallow. I heaved the bottle, as empty as myself, into the ocean. Like her, like us, the bottle vanished in the darkness in an instant. I suddenly felt old, rejected. I was 54, and I felt Elizabeth–my lover for a year, my best friend, my muse–had been my last chance–my last chance at finding the love of my life.

A late season Nor’easter had pounded the East Coast with rain and gale force winds and would soon hit Charleston. My flight out had been cancelled, and I was stuck alone in the city we should have traveled to together. Though only four in the afternoon, the dark clouds that always accompany a Nor’easter had blotted out the sun, and I could see nothing but the white foamy beards of waves crashing into the seawall.

The gusts of wind intensified. Soaked to the skin from the mist, I shivered. I listened to the wind, but like Elijah, I heard no still small voice in the wind that would tell me what to do. She and I had talked of Charleston, of coming here together. But our relationship had ended recently, not an angry, messy end–it had just ended. Not face to face, nor with a phone call, just with an email. She said I had treated her like a queen the past year, and that I had been chivalrous, even in this “separation.” I know I handled the break well on the outside, but inside I didn’t do so well. A part of me wants her to be happy in the choice she made–but only a part. I know there’s an ocean of women I could pursue, but I also know there’s only one Elizabeth and that I could never love another like I love her.

A seagull lit on the seawall near me.

“Do you gulls really peck out a man’s eyes when he’s lost at sea?” I said. Great, I thought. You’re standing in the rain talking to seagulls. Shades of Poe. The gull did a little dance, balancing herself on one leg, then the other, and like Poe’s Raven, gave me no real answer to my question.

I heard a buoy ringing and saw its light in the darkness moving toward me, up the Ashley River. The heaving sobs of the ocean caused the four iron clappers inside its bronze bell to chant a dirge that matched my own mood. The storm must have severed the buoy’s mooring, and like me, the buoy was destined to be carried by some unseen current to some unknown destination. My gull flew off and lit on the buoy as if searching for a resting place before the coming storm. After a moment, she lifted her wings and the wind carried her into the dark sky and the buoy and I were left alone again.

A year ago, I had fallen in love with Elizabeth at first sight. Adrift in my own life and without map or lighthouse or compass to guide me, the past year I had held on to her like a drowning sailor clutching a spar. She was the only thing that had kept me afloat–she was my life buoy. Both of us were English teachers, and we taught our students literature’s themes of love, loss, and longing. The hurricane we brewed in our year’s romance taught us more about those timeless topics, and our breakup tutored me about the ephemeral nature of love. I imagined her in Mobile, Alabama with her ex this weekend. Good weather there. She was having happy sunshine days, she said. I wondered what they might be doing. They might walk to the bay, but they wouldn’t see or think or know of this buoy I was seeing. She wouldn’t imagine a lonely sailor (English teacher) standing in a storm, lost in the sea of love, fighting for his life and sanity, fighting the ocean’s currents and undertow that threatened to drag him to the bottom.

I closed my eyes, imagining Elizabeth standing with me now. I could see her in my mind, with her long strawberry blonde hair, her emerald green eyes, her freckled face, and her hand upon my arm. And as always when around her, I suddenly found it hard to breathe. Waking from my reverie, and tired of the misting rain, I decided to return to the bar. I had left it earlier because of the songs coming from the juke box. Each song’s story and each attached memory breaking my heart and making me think of her. Elizabeth was the woman in all those songs, just like she was the muse for the 300 poems I had written her the past year. It’s not easy to let her go.

As I turned to leave the seawall, a flock of seagulls passed above my head and lit on a group of new buoys that had drifted into the bay. I heard gull cries mingle with the bells of the buoys, indifferent to the fact that currents and wind would soon separate them. Maybe the gulls will return to the same buoys someday. Maybe Elizabeth will return to me. “Who knows what the future holds?” she had said in her last email. I studied the bobbing buoys, the gulls on top of them and thought that neither gulls nor buoys would be together there long. The storm was coming, and the buoys would soon be adrift, alone–just like me.


School news: There’s more to teaching than teaching. For example, I have bus duty in the afternoon for the next two weeks, so I’m hoping for good weather. Also, Bastrop High School has its prom this weekend. It’s always a big event for the upper class students. Many are quite excited, and I’m sure for many of them it will be a life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime event.  I’ve only been to one dance in my life that I could say that about. It wasn’t a prom, and the January weather was terrible, but it was still wonderful. That evening of dancing seems so long ago, but it is one that will forever be in my memory.

Tonight, Tom and I have to set up our equipment in the West Monroe Civic Center for a wedding that we are going to DJ tomorrow night. (I may make a post on that wedding if it’s interesting enough). He has to take his twins (William and Robert) to a ball game, so we need to be done with that chore by six. Friday night, I’ll probably hang out with some friends at a bar, or I may do a photographic shoot to illustrate some of my writing. I haven’t decided yet on that.  Tomorrow at noon, I enter Booklocker’s 24 Hour Short Story Contest again. Wish me luck. The company advertises the contest as the ultimate stress maker. That’s true, but the contest is also fun and I always end up with another good story. Sunday, my Scots-Irish band plays at Covenant Presbyterian Church here for the Kirkan of the Tartans. I think the best way to define this Kirkan is as  a Scottish celebratory Eucharistic service remembering the dead and honoring the clans. I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll meet some interesting folks there.

Speaking in Abilene

After I had taken care of the needs of my parents Monday in Oklahoma, I drove to Abilene and spent the night in a La Quinta room. Tuesday morning, I was interviewed by Gary McCaleb, former mayor of Abilene who now works for ACU, for his morning television show. It was a thirty minute interview, so it should be quite helpful in the promotion of my writing. I then spoke at a lunch banquet for Abilene Christian University’s English students who were graduating that year. After the banquet, I spoke in a creative writing class called, Christians and Creativity. The instructor, Al Hayley, is the university’s writer in residence. I found him sharp, intuitive, and generous. He has put together a great syllabus for this course. If you’d like to see it, email me at and I’ll send you a copy. They had wanted me to read from my work, so for the banquet I read, “The Taking of Jim Limber” from Stories of the Confederate South, and for the creative writing class, I read a short story, “The Lost Bazaar.” About five in the afternoon, I began the 476 mile drive back to Monroe. It rained the whole trip, but I made it back without mishap, though I must have seen at least a dozen or so wrecks while driving through Dallas and Fort Worth.
Here is Abilene Christian University’s Web site if you’d like to know more about my Alma Mater. Be sure and check out the sculpture (which was breathtaking) called Jacob’s Ladder.