“Have I Told You Lately” by Van Morrison

I just returned from my trip to visit my sick parents and to speak at Abilene Christian University, my Alma Mater. The trip is 476 miles one way. It’s 12:43 a.m. and I’m beat. So, I’ll relate my adventures in Abilene in tomorrow’s entry. Much to tell, so check back. In the meantime, this is the song lyrics I decided to post this week. It’s a song by that Irishman, Van Morrison, entitled, “Have I Told You Lately.” It’s a beautiful love song that I’ve always been fond of. I hope you like it too.  I found the lyrics here: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/v/van+morrison/have+i+told+you+lately_20142937.html
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Oh the morning sun in all its glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter
You can make it better
Ease my troubles thats what you do

Theres a love thats divine
And its yours and its mine
Like the sun at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the one

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Theres a love thats divine
And its yours and its mine
And it shines like the sun
At the end of the day we will give thanks
And pray to the one

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you theres no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, thats what you do

Take away my sadness
Fill my life with gladness
Ease my troubles thats what you do
Fill my life with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles thats what you do.

My Drive to Abilene

Yesterday, Sunday, I drove to Oklahoma to visit my parents. My father had taken a bad fall last week and was still kind of stoved up. We caught up on news and I did some yard work for them (their lot is 3 acres!) I left them this morning to drive to Abilene and am now in my hotel room (La Quinta). Tonight, I intend to finish up preparing for my presentations. I have a television/radio interview in the morning, then I’m to speak at the English Department’s lunch banquet and to speak in a creative writing class tomorrow afternoon. After that, I’ll likely take the long drive back to Monroe instead of spending the night here.

My drive to Oklahoma and to here was visually stimulating. I saw longhorn cattle and lots of flowers. As I drove, the red clover of Louisiana and East Texas shifted to bluebonnets and orange Indian Paintbrush, and to a few fields of yellow dandelions. I saw antelope in the hill country between Fort Worth and Abilene. On my trip, I’ve also seen at least a hundred motorcyclists, almost all on Harley Davidson’s of almost every color—except yellow (which I’ve seen in Monroe).
After I’m satisfied with my speeches for tomorrow, I’m going to finish reading Diary, Chuck Palahniuk’s newest book. I like writers like him—on the edge. I’ll post an entry late tomorrow about how the day went.

Mairtin DeCogain & Jimmy Crowley from Ireland

Tonight, Tom and I are going to Enoch’s to hear Mairtin DeCogain & Jimmy Crowley. I’m the designated driver tonight, so I’ll only be hitting the club soda and iced tea if they have it. I’m excited for the chance to hear this internationally known Irish performer. Mairtin is from County Cork, he plays with the Fuchsia band, and he is a two time national Irish story-telling chamption.

His CD Baby site says: Máirtín was found under a stone and brought up in a tree with many others! Of late he has been learning his trade from a little man named Larry the Leipreachán who is well learned in the ways of Éireann’s past. Mairtin is a singing, dancing, storytelling bodhrán player!!! If you’d like to hear music samples go to: http://cdbaby.com/cd/mairtindecogain

His personal MySpace site is  http://www.myspace.com/mairtindecogain 

Here is his band’s Web site: http://www.thefuchsiaband.com/framepage.htm

Tomorrow, I’m on the road to Oklahoma to visit my parents until mid-day Monday, then from there I’ll drive to Abilene for my speaking appointment. That means I have much trip preparation to do today.

Book Tour

It looks like my children’s book (Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House) and other aspects of my writing life are going to keep me quite busy. I’m excited. So far, here’s the events that are planned for 2007:

*April 17: I’m speaking at an English banquet and teaching a writing class at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

*April 21: I’m entering a 24 hour short story writing contest, so I’ll be in personal lockdown. I will try to hide and isolate myself so I can do a good job. I’m sure I’ll only answer my cell phone for a couple of people. I will have to give my brother, Jimmy, a call, as this is his birthday.
*April 27-28 Linden, Texas Wildflower Festival. I’ll be presenting my book Stories of the Confederate South at Kathy Patrick’s booth. This one is still a little tentative as I am awaiting final word from Kathy as to how I should prepare for this.
*May 5-6. I’ll be at the Louisiana State Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. If all goes well, this will be my first public sale of my new children’s book.

*May 19: Windows: A Bookshop. I’ll have a signing from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

*May 26 Monroe Public Library. I’ll have a signing and perhaps a short presentation. at 2:00 p.m. My band is also playing at Jim Bowie Relay Station at Enterprise, Louisiana that evening. Jim Bowie Relay Station has some of the finest catfish in the state. Should be a fun evening. It’s really a great family place.

*In June, I have several possible signings in Louisiana and Mississippi. I am awaiting final word from Pelican regarding scheduling. I’ll post those as they are finalized.
*July 13-14: International Book Festival in Shreveport. This is the biggest event I’ve been a part of so far in my writing career. This too is sponsored by Kathy Patrick of Beauty and the Book.
*July 26-28: I’ll have a table (as will Pelican) at the National Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Mobile, Alabama. I’ll be staying at the Mariott RSA Battle House hotel downtown.

Brendan Nolan

One of my absolute favorite Irish singers is Tampa based Brendan Nolan. I have two of his five CD’s and our band Angus-Duhbghall performs several of his songs. Brendan is a personable individual, he is a fantastic songwriter, he is one of the best Irish guitarists I’ve ever heard, and he is blessed with a rich, beautiful voice. You can read more about this Dublin born artist and his music on his Web site here: http://www.brendannolan.com/

One of Nolan’s songs has haunted me ever since I first heard it. I’ve included the lyrics here in this blog. As I transcribed them from his CD, there is a chance I got a word or two wrong, so pardon that and send me a correction if you have the lyrics.

“The Trees Are Growing Bare” by Brendan Nolan

There’s nothing left to do
There’s nothing left to say
My mind’s all a mess
With my true love gone away
But I know that I was wrong
And to her I have no claim
I know it in me head
But me heart won’t say the same.

I have to get out, Oh,
I have to go away
For the trees are growing bare
And the evening’s turning gray

There used to be a time
There used to be a place
When the world and all its charms
Ringed a smile upon her face
They say that knowledge comes
And that wisdom lingers on,
But it’s little solace to me
Now that you are gone.


In this autumn of the year
When the nights are turning cold
And the colors of the summertime
All are growing old
The leaves swirl in the wind
Like my thoughts that plague the night
Brighter days when we were one
In a little space and time


I’d love to vagabond
I’d love to sail away
On a ship of lonely dreams
That’s gone and lost its way
You’d be there as always
Framed upon my mind,
A painting of a beauty
God, I know I’ll never find.

Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life by Erica Jong

I’ve always enjoyed books in which writers talk of the writing craft, their passion for writing, and in which they tell the story of their writing. Trying to spark some inspiration for my writing, I again picked up Erica Jong’s book, Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life. There are so many good lines that I underlined, that I don’t know where to start in my comments on this book. Erica Jong is a favorite author of mine now, thanks to my good friend E. B. I’ve read everything Jong’s written now, and those readings have changed, influenced, charged me. Here are just a few of the many quotes from this book that I especially liked.

“Writing and reading enable you to reclaim the inside of your skull” ( 29).

“Are these men from the cold and gloomy north so sexy because they taunt you with the promise of sex that can melt icebergs? Or is it the intensity of genius that attracts?” (41).

“A lover makes love with words, with stroking, with laughter. Anxiety ruins sex. Which may be why married people can have great sex—as can longtime lovers, or longtime friends” ( (80).

“For me, poetry always comes fast and furiously when I’m in love—or at least lust. It’s notoriously hard for poets to tell the difference” ( (94).

There are many, so many other good quotes. But for now, these will have to do. Time to go. If I’m fortunate, I’ll get some real writing done.

Marketing My Book

Yesterday, I intended to travel to south Louisiana, but was called early by Pelican (my newest publisher). Alas, duty called me away from my planned diversions.  I talked to folks in promotions and sales and we discussed the marketing and promotion strategies of my new children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House that will be out in May. We also discussed something else of great importance that could happen soon, but I won’t mention the possibility now for fear I might jynx it! After a couple of hours on the phone,  I answered emails and brainstormed some more on how to best promote my book.

The afternoon I spent preparing for next Tuesday. I’ve been invited to speak at Abilene Christian University (my alma mater). I’m to speak at the English Department’s luncheon, then in Albert Haley’s class, Christians and Creativity. Some media coverage and media interviews are already arranged (public radio at least), and it should be a great opportunity to promote my writing.

Professor Haley was kind enough to send me his syllabus for his class. Here is a quote on creativity I found in his notes: Frank Barron said, “The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.”  You can read about Frank Barron and his influence and writing on the creative mind here: http://www.esalen.org/air/essays/Frank_Barron.htm

Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone

Today, I finished my reading of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. I’ve studied Sierra Leone and the issues of child soldiers, conflict diamonds, the RUF, and West Africa in general for some time. I heard of this book on NPR’s Fresh Air program one day not long ago. The author was articulate and expressive in his interview and he writes in the same manner. How he lived through these things and came out with a soul is amazing. He was a boy soldier with the government troops, bad enough, but I wonder how it would have turned out if he had been with the RUF?
My son said that he had seen this author on Jon Stuart’s Daily Show. I’m disappointed that I missed that interview. You can see that interview by going to this blog: http://fifthestate.co.uk/2007/02/the-book-that-made-jon-stewarts-heart-hurt/

I found the memoir to be well-written, and though intense and one that indeed (as the link above points out) makes the heart hurt, it is a book that you should not miss. There is an excellent chronology of the history of Sierra Leone at the end, and the reader is sure to learn much about the culture of Sierra Leone. Another site you must go to is Peter Anderson’s rich site, http://sierra-leone.org

Because of his work with the Peace Corp in Sierra Leone, and because of his love and knowledge of the culture, I believe Peter Anderson’s site to be the most helpful and knowledgeable resource on Sierra Leone available. I have corresponded with Peter and several of his friends and contacts he directed me to for help in researching my own novel on the conflict diamond industry. I’ve been working on it for six years off and on, ever since I heard a radio interview of a senator concerning the war and suffering there. My working title originally was, Blood Diamonds of the Lost Bazaar. I’ll have to see the new movie, Blood Diamond, to see if I need to change that title. I truly enjoyed A Long Way Gone and feel I grew as a result of this book.

Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday. The whole clan of local in-law relatives is coming over. I spent the last two days on housework and yardwork. My yard does look great though. Lots of flowers and plants. The problem is, I haven’t written a thing other than 20 more poems on my Eve series I’m working on. Now that I’ve hit 300 poems in that theme, I have to cull through them, pick out the best ones (perhaps combine some) and make a chapbook. I must get back to my fiction. Again, I realize that I must hit the coffee houses for 2-3 hour blocks if I want to get any serious writing done. There’s just too much to do around this house I bought, and those tasks are such a distraction that I can’t focus.

I’ve got a week off from school, and don’t know exactly what to do with it. I need to go to Lafayette one day, visit a friend, and have my friend navigate me through Lafayette to the major bookstores where I’ll be doing signings. I have classes scheduled with the Bastrop Police Department two days this week, to help tutor the officers with their writing. Like teachers, policemen must attend self-development workshops too I guess. My best male friend in Atlanta wants me to visit him and his girlfriend this week too. I will likely head that way on Thursday for a couple of wild days. We always have a grand time when we’re together. Though we talk on the phone every week, it’s been two years since I’ve seen him, so I owe him a visit. Then my vacation will be over. Tomorrow, I’ll post my schedule for my upcoming readings and events. Looks like I’m going to have a very full year ahead of me. Just what I need.

“The False Gems” by Guy de Maupassant

In the literature book (Glencoe Literature) my high school uses for sophomores is a short story I really enjoy teaching: “The False Gems” by Guy de Maupassant. I have my students read it–in the more unruly classes I have to read it to them—and then have them write a paragraph explaining the meaning of the ending expressed in the last two paragraphs. Bless their hearts—while they do make some good points, they can’t figure out how the deceased wife had made the money to help the clerk live their fine life on his meager salary. Yet, the man didn’t know either. I guess he never took the time to do the simple math of their budget.  Even when the students find out the gems are not fake as the husband supposed, they still don’t get it. There is a great deal of irony in the story, and in the classes that read, listen, and think, discussion is always lively and interesting. When I teach this story, I try to get the students to learn a little bit of French culture, geography, and language, but am not usually successful.

Maupassant is said to be one of the fathers of the modcern short story. I’ve decided to add his biography to my list of must-read-books, as well as deciding to read much more of his fiction. I believe there is much I can learn from him. Here is a fine site devoted to Maupassant, with a brief but fasdcinating biography and a collection of his stories (in English) that you can read online: http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/