The First Black Member of a Presidential Family

As you’ve noticed, on the sidebar is an cover icon of my new children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. It gives my page a new look. The icon for my Stories of the Confederate South is gone temporarily as printing makes transition from Booklocker to Pelican.

We Were Soldiers

Last night, I watched We Were Soldiers, a 2002 film produced by Randall Wallace and starring Mel Gibson, Sam Eliot, and Madeleine Stowe, three of my favorite actors. I’ve long been a student of the Viet Nam War, I and own the movie and the book it was based on, We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young.

There’s so many good lines in the movie, so many moving scenes. I especially like the song, “Sgt. MacKenzie,” written by Joseph Kilna MacKenzie. The song was written in memory of Joseph’s great-grandfather, Charles Stuart MacKenzie, a sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders, and who fought in World War I. Wickipedia says “Sergeant MacKenzie was bayoneted to death at the age of 35, while defending one of his badly injured fellow soldiers in the hand-to-hand fighting of the trenches.”

You can find a good review of the movie written by a Viet Nam veteran here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0277434/ On this site, you can find tons of information about this first major battle of the Viet Nam War in the Ia Drang Valley in November of 1965: http://www.lzxray.com/

This morning, I did grandfather duty with my grandson, Mason Alexander Shelby. He’s two and a half, and so bright and so much fun. He calls me popi. The rest of the afternoon, I intend to work with my writing business (no shortage of work for sure) and then tonight, I’ll have a band practice. This Saturday night, Tom and I have a DJ gig, but other than that no appointments. I need to make plans to see my parents in Oklahoma soon. They live in a little town called Kemp, the setting of my novel, Red River Fever.

Today’s Writing Quote (from John Dufresne’s The Lie that Tells a Truth:

Jesus said, If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you—The Gospel According to Thomas

A Liberty Based Society

I’ve thought for a long time that our nation is on its way to becoming a dystopia due to our loss of freedoms and rights, and due to the mindsets and policies of our government officials. I strongly believe that all government officials should be required to read the great dystopian novels: 1984, Fahrenheit 451, A Brave New World, A Handmaid’s Tale, A Divided Kingdom, and Anthem–before they are allowed to run for office. I don’t know what books are on politicians’ reading lists these days, but I doubt that the classics of literature, and certainly the dystopian novels, are not on them.
I found a new presidential candidate who I really like: Donnie Kennedy. He will enter the GOP Primary with a pro-South, pro-liberty, and pro-Constitution platform.

Memorial Day Work

Today, Tom and I played our Scots-Irish music at the Military Families Memorial Day Picnic at Kiroli Park in West Monroe, Louisiana. Kay Katz and Mike Walsworth, local politicians, were also there to speak and lend their support. This was a touching event. Families of soldiers from this area who had fallen in combat in Iraq were recognized and honored. As I looked at the soldiers’ photographs and the wreaths that were given to the families, I contemplated the sacrifice they had made–not only the soldiers, but their families.
I had a table and moved some books, but the real joy today was performing for the families of our soldiers. One mother gave me a Marine cap that has the names of three local soldiers who died in duty: Sgt. Arechaga, LCPL Bowman, and PFC Feniello. I will wear it with pride.
May God bless our soldiers and bring them home safely to us soon.

Mark Twain Quotations

My interview on KTVE (Channel 10 NBC in Monroe) this morning went well, though it was shorter than I had hoped. Still, I am grateful for the publicity. Angela Cruz, the station’s news anchor and producer, interviewed me, and I found her to be gracious and skilled in the art of the interview. I also know her to be a voracious reader. I admire these early morning broadcasters who have the discipline to rise so early every morning and face the public. This afternoon I’ll be at the Civic Center selling my books from a table for a Southern convention there.
I enjoy quotations. Here are a few quotations of Mark Twain, certainly one of the sharpest wits of his day.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.– Mark Twain

Last week, I stated this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement.– Mark Twain

I am opposed to millionaires… but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
— Mark Twain

Red River Fever: Readers’ Comments

This morning, I’ll be on K-104 for an interview. Tomorrow, on KTVE, Channel 10. I must get word of this book out.
I’ve been selling some copies of Red River Fever lately. Here are some endorsements of and reactions to my first novel, Red River Fever. I think they reveal why the themes of my novel will always be current and relevant to people living in the South.

One of Rickey Pittman’s mottoes is a quote from Akira Kurosawa: “The role of the artist is to not look away.” *Red River Fever* never looks away. It is a vision of hell where evil is perfectly interpenetrated with ordinary life, while the good is superficial and eccentric. It is Dashiell Hammett’s *Red Harvest* reborn in the American South of the 1970s, a place where the lives of dogs and fish, and finally of men and women, have lost their intrinsic value. Where vitality has become a fever, a disease, and where love itself withers in the heat. Don’t be fooled by its localities of time and place. What Rickey is talking about is the condition of the American soul right now, not some faraway Gothic but what’s right in the mirror, if we dare to open our eyes and not look away–David Lenson, Professor, Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Some haunting, graphic scenes. The characters really come to life. . . people just like that live in Hebert and Start. A powerful, frightening statement on living in the South.

Learning to talk writing

Rhetorical eloquence is a learned skill. Though many may have as we say, “the gift of gab,” a writer must acquire an appropriate vocabulary and learn to express his or herself in an effective manner that will assist communication with publishers, editors, fellow writers, and readers. This means that there are terms and concepts a writer must learn and absorb. I’m convinced that through reading good articles and books on writing, and memorizing and imitating the language and phrases of others, a writer can acquire needed communication skills that will enable the writer to talk about his or her writing with eloquence. In today’s market, writers must be able to talk and write about their books. Good speeches and an understanding of the business of writing will help sell books.

One magazine I personally rely on to help myself is The Writer’s Chronicle, a publication of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. I’m in-between books right now, so I’ve been reading some articles to help develop my own eloquence. This week, I’ve carefully read three articles, one each night before I go to sleep, carefully underlining the phrases that are worded eloquently or that teach me something I didn’t know or haven’t noticed about writing. Here are the articles I’ve read this week that are helping me learn to talk writing:

“Lever of Transcendence: Contradiction and the Physics of Creativity,” by David Jauss. This article opened my eyes to the power of Janusian contradiction and made me think of my own novel-writing strategies.
“Structural Strategies for the Multiple Plot Novel,” by Debbie Lee Wesselmann. This article analyzes several novels that use multiple plots (The English Patient is one) and discusses the limitations and benefits of the techniques authors use.
“The Art of Creative Research,” by Philip Gerard. This article reminded me of the importance of research and how it can breathe “into your writer’s brain some glimmer of language, sensation, or idea that can then shape itself into something more” (52).

Tonight, I’ll be speaking in Ruston, Louisiana. I’ve got radio interviews scheduled, and my calendar is filling up quickly. My personal sales have been brisk as I promote Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. I want to thank my beautiful friend Tina for the promotion ideas she shared with me a while back. It looks like her ideas are going to produce some results.

News: It’s official now. Yesterday I signed the contract with Pelican Publishers to publish my Stories of the Confederate South.