Houma, Louisiana Book Signing

Tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 1, I’ll have a book signing at the Books-A-Million in Houma, Louisiana. My Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House sells well at the BAM stores. (They’ve all been sell-outs so far) I had thought Houma was thrashed severely by the hurricanes a couple of years ago, but word is that the economy has rebounded well and is actually booming.  I’m always amazed at the good economies once I get out of Monroe (though I know there are places where the economy is worse). After lunch today with my daughter and grandson, I plan on hitting the road to visit libraries and school districts along the way. Timing is difficult, as I must go through Baton Rouge, and traffic there can be very difficult in rush hour. Again, I’ll leave my beloved iBook at home. I’ll return late Saturday night, and if I’m not too tired, I’ll make a post then.

I just returned from the university, and things are as I feared. Though school begins in August, I won’t get my first university check until the end of September.  The administrators at both schools are already asking me about classes I can teach in the spring semester.  I have not fully made up my mind yet on that.  It depends on how the fall goes. Hopefully, I’ll be so busy promoting my book and will have enough funds that I won’t have to teach much, if any. My Website is up and has a new look. Check it out if you get a chance. http://rickeypittman.com/ I just had a counter put on it, and though I know for the past year or so that I’ve had 300-400 hits a month in the past couple of years, I’m hoping it will increase. The counter will make it easier for me to know that. There’s still no word on the exact release day of Stories of the Confederate South, though I know it is already being pre-sold on Amazon. I do know it will be in print sometime in October.

Scottish ABC Book

Today, I signed the contract with Pelican for my next children’s book: A Scottish ABC Book.  Teachers and librarians have told me that many people collect ABC books. I’m also at work with the one I hope will follow it: The Little Confederate’s ABC Book.

I’ve had great response to the fact that my Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House will be part of the Accelerated Reader Program. I feel this is a major coup.  I’m drowning in work, and feel somewhat overwhelmed, but somehow I’ll get it all done. A big part of yesterday was spent fooling with the rental car we needed to replace the Camry until we hear how my insurance company will settle on it.  A big hunk of today has already been eaten up with other chores.  My grandson, daughter and son-in-law will be with us this weekend, so some preparations MUST be made for that. I guess sometimes there’s no way out of doing some of those, but I know my writing suffers because they really eat into my time.

This Saturday, I have a signing at the Books-A-Million in Houma, Louisiana. I think Friday I’ll hit the road and work some libraries and school districts on my way there.  My excitement at finally being in the writing business is still high, and my determination still just as strong. Fall is the busy season for marketing books. Many people purchase books as presents too.  Well, just got a call from one of the universities I work with. Seems I have some paperwork I must turn in–like today! Time for Sisyphus to get back to work.

Mother Nature

William Wordsworth said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” If I could see him now, I’d punch him in the mouth.  Last night we had a brief storm in my part of Monroe and Mother Nature spanked me.  We have an empty lot next to our house. In the empty lot is a dead pecan tree, not far from my driveway. It used to be larger than it is today. Last night, a demon-wind broke part of the tree and it fell on our 2000 Toyota Camry. Flattened the roof. One limb rises from the shattered windshield like it was a stake driven in the Camry’s heart.  Only moments before this catastrophe, I was sitting in my back patio experiencing and watching the approaching storm. (Like King Lear, I tend to find myself in many storms) Then I heard the distinctive sound of wood thudding into something. I looked at the roof first, thinking a branch had fallen on it. Then I glanced at my car, spiked like some victim of Vlad the Impaler.

I am sure my Camry is totalled. I know it cannot be driven. I just watched as it was towed to Parker’s Auto shop for its postmortem.  Our beloved (and paid for) car has seen its last days.  Soon it will be stripped of all usable parts like a recently deceased organ donor, and someone will make more money than I’ll certainly get with the insurance payoff. So today, in addition to teaching two college classes (that I’m very behind in), I must attend to the details related to my car’s demise: stop by the body shop and sign papers, meet with the adjustor and sign more papers, call the insurance company back and get a claim number, and then get a rental car. I have signings I must prepare for. Must move rocks (paper work) for the university. I also must now think of how I am to replace the vehicle. Grrrr.

So, today, I’m a Naturalist (like Stephen Crane, Dreiser, etc.) in my philosophy. They believed that men were victims of their environment, living in an indifferent universe, and victims of forces they could neither understand nor control. And that was when things were going well.

Good news about my children’s book

After a really enjoyable and fruitful weekend of book signings in the French Quarter in New Orleans, I received great news: My children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House will be part of the Accelerated Reader Program used by many schools.  This is a major coup.

I enjoyed my tour of duty this weekend, meeting some really cool (and some really strange) people. The weather cooperated this time, and though it was quite warm, there was no rain, so I was able to man a table outside the two locations: Tisket-A-Tasket on Friday and the 1850’s House on Saturday.  Best of all, I was able to sell a ton of books and set up some appointments to present my program in some schools in Mobile and other places.

This morning, I’m preparing classes and handling some other details related to my writing business. Today is my long day at the university: I won’t get home until late.

Weekend Signings in New Orleans

This weekend I’ll have two book signings in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be at Tisket-A-Tasket and then Saturday at the Friends of the Cabildo Bookstore. Both are repeat locations for me. I sold a ton of books at both locations last visit. Other than putting up with the traffic (which admittedly is not as bad as Dallas), I always enjoy my trips to New Orleans.  I’ve learned from experience that I won’t have time for any real computer work on these trips, so this will likely be my last post until Sunday. I do always take a notebook and manage to get a few scribblings in during slow moments.  Read well and often.

Sometimes, Good Things Happen

Well, my university classes begin today. I’ve been running around again, doing the paperwork required. I’ve got a 102 class at Delta, 2:15 pm Mondays and Wednesdays; a 206 class at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) at 1:00 pm same days; and a 102 class at ULM starting at 5:30. Some gaps in time, but still a decent schedule. As I was handling business, I made two personal sales, and the ULM bookstore agreed to carry my books as well.  I like college teaching, certainly better than secondary school teaching, but it is still HARD work. Yet, I know I’ll meet a lot of cool people, and opportunities will come my way to promote my writing. I have an office: Room # 380 in Admin. that I’m sharing with another instructor.

As I thought about the work of teaching adjunct English, I remembered a poem I wrote about the task in a Christmas past. Here it is:

Adjunct Poem:

I am an adjunct
Mr. Staff in the catalogue
An amoebae on academia’s phylogenetic tree,
No GA to help with grading,
The lowest in pay, given the most work.
It’s not easy teaching freshman composition.

It’s the holidays . . .  So
I required my students to memorize a Merle Haggard song,
“If We Make It through December,” and we write a new carol,
“I heard the bills on Christmas Day.”
After opening the university’s Christmas bonus envelope,
(Confession: I wrote it myself and stuffed it with monopoly money)
I am inspired and gather enough cans to buy a box of stovetop dressing.
Filled with holiday cheer, I told my 102 class,
“In the spirit of Christmas, I’m giving all of you D’s.”
They thought I was kidding.
One applauded.
It’s not easy teaching freshman composition.

It’s exam time,
Like Milton, I’m going blind reading final essays,
In the room, the students come and go,
Talking of Michaelangelo,
Though they think him a Ninja turtle and hold odd positions,
I must not linger, I must read their compositions.
Cave man turned his paper in today.
I wish you could have read it.  He’s
A Neanderthal straight from Golding’s Inheritors.
“Story good. Me Likum story.”
Others think and write like model citizens in a dystopian society.
If I read one more cliché-filled paper about a high school graduation,
The winning game, having a baby, or getting saved,
You’ll read of me in the Monroe Daily Disappointment, (our local newspaper)
The naked drunken man arrested while biting trees in his yard.
My New Year’s celebrations are clouded by worry of my tax return, so
In class I launch into bombast and diatribe about excessive taxation.
A student informs me he works for the IRS.
He smiles wickedly when he asks me about his grade.
Happy New Year.
It’s not easy teaching freshman composition.

Alexandria, Louisiana: Books-A-Million Signing

This morning, I attended the adjunct instructor orientation at Delta Community College. Great people. I left that meeting at 11:00 am to drive (two hours) to go to my signing at the Books-A-Million in Alexandria, Louisiana. I had another sell-out. I think we’re going to get the attention of the national accounts at BAM if I can keep this up. The BAM managers were VERY pleased and said that I could definitely return to their store for future signings. No negative responses to the book today, and I did sell some to school teachers who said they were interested in my coming to their school so I could present my Jim Limber/Civil War Program. All of today’s activities translates into future money. I also met Jimmy, a member of the local SCV, and he wants to schedule me for a camp meeting as well. A friend of mine met me at the store and we got reacquainted (our families had been close friends for that two years I lived in the Alexandria/Pineville area). After I had sold all my books (I was scheduled from 1-5 pm), at 5:20 we went to eat a supper at Sammie’s. I’m tired, but very happy with how the day went. People who stopped to listen to me tell the synopsis of the Jim Limber story were surprised at the rich ironies of the story: 1) The fact that the President of the Confederacy legally adopted a free orphan of color and 2) That it was Yankee troops who kidnapped little Jim. I do believe this is a story that must be told.

Deo Vindici.

Review of Jed Marum’s Cross Over the River

Jed Marum’s Cross Over the River: A Review

In this month’s Confederate Veteran, I had a review printed of Jed Marum’s Cross Over the River CD. As I am not a staff writer, I was surprised to have my review accepted. I had previously had one poem, Deo Vindici, printed by this magazine that has a circulation of 30,000 or so. But to have a CD review printed in it is a big deal. I decided to post that review.

Cross Over the River
In January of 2000, Jed Marum began his year by leaving a lucrative career so he could devote himself to his music. His first year as a fulltime musician earned exactly one tenth of what he had earned the year before. To his credit, he hasn’t looked back, and has built a solid career and reputation as one of America’s premier Celtic musicians and is often a headliner at festivals. His schedule is a busy one—with over 150 shows a year—and the number of shows seems to be steadily growing.
In addition to his intense love for and commitment to Celtic music, Marum has another passion—The Civil War. In our interview, I asked Marum how his interest in the War Between the States began. He said, “Once, I was being interviewed by Sunny Meriwether and she introduced me to her audience as an Irish singer who specializes in writing Civil War songs. I started to object saying that the Civil War was just a passing interest, when I realized that it had been passing for 10 years! That’s when I realized I really wasn’t just dabbling at the Civil War stuff, anymore. It had moved to a higher level.”

The fruit of Marum’s passion for this period of American history is his newest CD, Cross Over the River, a twelve-song collection of Irish and Confederate songs released August 4 of this year. This CD presents some of Marum’s finest guitar picking and original lyrics. His songs have a depth of historical detail and emotion that lovers of Confederate music will love.

I believe Jed Marum is on his way to becoming our foremost Confederate balladeer. There’s something in this CD that stirs the spirit, and just as I was about to suggest the collection would be great music for movies of this period, I found out that Marum has agreed to license two new songs to Lone Chimney Productions for use in their upcoming film, Bloody Dawn. The film is being made for the PBS and History Channel markets and is planned for a 2006 release. The movie focuses on the border wars between Kansas and Missouri surrounding the days of the US Civil War.
The music is acoustic, with Marum on guitar, banjo, and banjola. Musicians performing with him are Jaime Marum on mandolin, Kathleen Jackson on upright bass, Mimi Rogers on fiddle and Ken Fleming on button accordion. Travis Ener and Kathleen Jackson are also featured in background vocals.

The collection’s songs are rich lyrically and musically, and several especially deserve comment. “Monaghan’s Lament,” is a song of an Irish born New Orleans resident, Col. William Monaghan of the 6th Louisiana. The song expresses a soldier’s emotions as he regards a fallen admired leader of one of the South’s most famous fighting units, “The Fighting Tigers.” “One Bloody Friday” is a haunting song, so effectively constructed that it makes the listener feel as if he were riding with Quantrell. “Cross Over the River,” is based on the last words of Stonewall Jackson. With this song, Marum takes us into the soul of a dying hero of the South. In other songs, Marum takes traditional melodies and masterfully creates moving interpretations. For example, I believe Marum’s rendition of the well-known “Shenandoah” to be unique and the best version I’ve heard. “Stonewall of the West” is a wonderful tribute to Patrick Cleburne.

I predict this CD will have strong appeal with Civil War aficionados, reenactors, performers, and anyone who loves good ballads. Just reading the CD’s insert and the background of the songs is an education and it reveals the extent of Marum’s research. Cross Over the River has a large targeted audience and has all the potential for becoming a cult classic. For the musician, Marum has also generously published a songbook containing lyrics and chords for both Cross Over the River and his earlier Civil War CD, Fighting Tigers of Ireland.

Cross Over the River is a collection of original and period music with lyrics that capture the heart of the many Irish and Scots who fought for the South. The CD is a reminder that there are many stories buried in history we have not yet heard, and there are emotions connected to that war that we haven’t yet considered. As a writer, Marum is not only skilled—he is honest. He knows that one’s culture and heritage can be lost, and he is determined to give life to long-silent voices. When those of the past fade from our memory and art, then they are truly dead to us. As long as there are writers like Marum who aren’t afraid to tell the stories, the dead will live on and our heritage will not be lost. The Scots-Irish majority who comprised the Confederate Army deserve the tribute of this CD.
You can purchase Cross Over the River here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/jedmarum6. Read Marum’s bio, hear samples of his music, and keep up with news about him by checking out his website http://www.jedmarum.com/ or from his blog http://www.myspace.com/jedmarumband.

Marching On

In spite of my resolution to not do so, I have agreed to teach a class or two (maybe even three) at the local universities on Mondays and Wednesdays. I hope I don’t regret it, but as I received the schedule I wanted, I still have Tuesdays, plus Thurs-Sunday to hit the roads and market my books and work with libraries and schools.
Here is a photo of me at the Barnes and Noble in Arlington last Saturday. The manager asked me to read Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House to a group of kids who had come to the store that day.
Pittman at Barnes and Noble

Carla Bruni: No Promises

At the Fort Worth Barnes and Noble, I purchased a CD, No Promises by Carla Bruni.  I liked the samples I listened to, and I thought new music would make my drive back to Louisiana more enjoyable. Bruni, Italian born, is of course one of the great super models who also has a talent for writing music and singing. I was surprised to find that on this CD she had put the poetry of Dickinson, Auden, Dorothy Parker, and Yeats to music.  The CD came with the lyrics and a few very nice photos of this beauty.  The CD had a depth that pleasantly surprised me. As I’m currently working on putting some Southern poems to music, her effort encouraged me. Since Bruni has (and always has had) boatloads of money, this CD must have been produced as art for art’s sake.

Today, I’m going to Minden to meet with the Webster Parish Arts Council. I’ll be in that parish’s schools every Friday in September. My assignment is to teach the children literature (with a Chinese focus).  I plan on sharing some translations of Chinese poetry, teaching them the basic elements of Confucianism and other things related to Chinese culture, and helping them create a nice little portfolio.  It should be a great experience. I’ll close this day’s entry with this Chinese poem that reminds me of an Irish song I like to do, “The Water is Wide.”  I found the poem here: http://www.chinapage.com/poem102.html

To Wang Lun

Li Po takes a boat and is about to depart
When suddenly he hears the sound of footsteps
and singing on the shore.
The water in the Peach Blossom pool is
a thousand feet deep
But not as deep as Wang Lun’s parting love for me

By  Li Bai