Never Judge a Book By Its Movie

College News:

My ENG 101 class is going well at Delta. I have a conscientious group who are working hard. As we went over the class syllabus again, I focused on the comparison/contrast essay assignment. They are to compare a modern (relatively) modern book to its movie. For years I have told students to “Never judge a book by its movie.” Here are the choices I gave them, though I told them they could suggest others:

1. Man on Fire

2. Atonement

3. Love in the Time of Cholera

4. No Country for Old Men

5. All the Pretty Horses

6. The Crucible

7. Peter Pan (Allowing Hook, and Finding Neverland as movie choices)

8. In Cold Blood (allowing Infamous and Capote as movie choices)

9. The Scarlet Letter

10. Cold Mountain

11. The Kite Runner

My scholars seemed intrigued by the assignment, and I think it will do them good.

Book Tour News:

Tomorrow, I have a school program in Waskom, Texas. The rest of the weekend will be spent writing, reading, and catching up on chores (including tax preparation). Today I’m researching, memorizing songs, and preparing for my school program tomorrow. I’ll make some calls related to future signings also.

ART INSPIRING ART: Here is a poem I wrote after reading Olen Steinhauer’s novel, 36 Yalta Boulevard. A sign of a good novel is when one of its characters touches you or you identify with him. I thought about Brano Sev, and using lines of the novel I had underlined wrote this poem. This is an exercise I have students do to help them notice and remember important lines in a reading. So, most of the language of the poem that follows is Olen’s. Here is his website. I’d encourage you to take a look at his books:

Brano Sev . . .

We are the same age,

Both haunted by the past,

Both naive and idealistic.

Tutored by the school of necessity,

Tamed by silence,

Learning the techniques of coldness,

Tortured by interrogators

Until my mouth and heart spit blood,

But left with fewer scars than I deserve.

If you suffer enough,

The paranoia becomes real, constant,

The deja vu of moments repeated in memory,

Reliving shame, reviving fear, scarring your dreams,

Longing for the day when the past cannot touch me.

Brano, I am a man like you,

Staying in trouble, still waiting

For the Black Maria and

Heavy-booted men to break their

Way into my life.

I guess the fear never leaves.

They have done their work well.

Book News

Book News:

On Kathy Patrick’s blog, (The Pulpwood Queen’s Book Club) my book was selected as the May 2008 pick! Kathy’s blog said:

“Pinecones (our pre-teen version of The Pulpwood Queens Book Club) Selection
Jim Limber Davis: Black Orphan in the Confederate White House by Rickey Pittman, Pelican Publishing.

My Grapevine, Texas book signing at the Books-A-Million for this Saturday is being rescheduled. Likely, it will now be in April. There was a management change and in the confusion of transition, my books didn’t get ordered (Books-A-Million seems to have management changes frequently). If I can, I’ll replace it, but if I have a Saturday “off” I can use the time for writing, preparing my taxes, or the never ending chores that life thrust upon us. I’ll still be in Waskom, Texas though on Friday.

I’ve been booked to be the speaker for a reception for the regional winners of the Young Authors’ Contest. Entries are judged at the school level in grades K-8 (regular ed. & special ed.) and in three categories – poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. This year we are honoring 77 district winners at a reception the afternoon of April 30.


While getting my Toyota RAV serviced, I found this quote in Esquire by Michael J. Fox: “I can’t be smug because I know you can lose anything at any point.”

In the Jan/Feb issue of Poets & Writers, I underscored these quotes:

Alice Quinn said, “I’m still a believer in Robert Frost’s dictum that a good poem should be like a piece of ice on a hot stove; it should ride on its own melting” (19).

In this same issue, Aaron Hamburger writes of the popularity of the historical novel and discusses the difficulties writers face in trying to write good ones. The article is entitled, “The Pitfalls of Historical Fiction.” The article ends with this:

“And we should stop applauding novels that comfort us by confirming our sense of what the past must have been like. We should seek out the moments in historical fiction that confront us with our own frailty and ignorance–the qualities that make all ofus, no matter when or where were born, human” (25).

Reginal Shepherd wrote a wonderful article in this issue entitled, “Poetry as a Way Out.” The article is full of amazing insights into the mind of the poet and the craft of writing poetry.

You can find Poets & Writers online here: 

It has to be one of the finest resources available to creative writers.

An Interview with Lisa Wingate

While in Jefferson, Texas at Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend, I met another wonderful author–Lisa Wingate, who agreed to a short interview that I would post on this blog. I enjoyed hearing her speak,  and her wit and work caused me to think of her as a Texan version of  Carson McCuller.

Lisa Wingate lives in central Texas where she is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books. Her novel, Tending Roses, sold out ten printings for New York publisher, Penguin Putnam, and went on to become a national bestselling book. Tending Roses was a selection of the Readers Club of America, and is currently in its eleventh printing.

The Tending Roses series continued with Good Hope Road, The Language of Sycamores, Drenched In Light, and A Thousand Voices. In 2003, Lisa’s Texas Hill Country series began with Texas Cooking, and continued with Lone Star Café, which was hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “A charmingly nostalgic treat.” The series concluded with Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner.

Lisa is now working on a new set of small-town Texas novels for Bethany House Publishers. The series debuts with Talk of The Town, in February, 2008. A new series is also underway for Penguin Group NAL, beginning with A Month of Summer (July 2008).


Talk of the Town is a zany little tale about big dreams, small town life, fried food, and the making Hollywood superstars—not necessarily in that order. While the book has a serious side that looks at grief, recovery, the temptations of fame, and the value of community, it also has a lot of laughs thanks to the quirky, crazy folks of Daily, Texas. Daily is a place not unlike many small towns, and if you’ve ever lived in one or spent time in one, you’ll probably recognize some people you know in Daily, Texas. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop in at the café for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Say hi to Imagene, Donetta, and girls for me. Don’t be surprised if they’re cooking up more than just red beans and rice. There’s never any telling, on any given day, what will happen in Daily, and that goes double now that local Daily Darling, Amber Anderson has made it to the top on the American Superstar show. Ever since the big news about Amber hit town, it’s been dig-in-your-spurs-and-hang-on-Sally, we’re going for a ride.


1. Your favorite author(s) and book(s)

In terms of classics, I love anything by Twain, because the writing is real and timeless. Reading Twain makes you realize that, when you take away the modern trappings, people really haven’t changed all that much. There’s a little Huckleberry Finn in all of us. I enjoy the writings of Will Rogers for the same reason. Rogers’ humor is dead-on today, just as it was when he penned it. I’ve loved sharing C.S. Lewis with my sons as they’ve grown up, as well. Gift From the Sea is another tiny, but favorite classic.

In terms of modern writers, I enjoy reading anything by Debbie Macomber. Luanne Rice, Adriana Trigiani, and others. I loved Nicholas Sparks and his novel, The Notebook, because it encompassed so many of the feelings I had while dealing with Alzheimer’s disease in my own family. I enjoy any story that explores life in a positive way and ends with the belief that all things are possible.

I’m currently reading Paulina Porizkova’s A Model Summer, after having met her at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend. The story is keeping me up late, reading, and sometimes re-reading passages so I can soak in the descriptions, which, for me, is always the marker of a great book.

2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?

For me, writing Talk of the Town has been a chance to explore the fabric of small community, the way in which the members mesh like threads in a weave that creates both a canvas and a safety net.

The original idea for this story struck me several years ago while I was out to dinner with friends. The subject of nearby Crawford, Texas (at that time, the brand new location of the Bush ranch) came up, and funny “Crawford” stories began flying back and forth across the table. Strange events take place when the world stage falls on a quiet little town that isn’t at all prepared for the spotlight. It occurred to me that, not only were some interesting culture collisions involved, but the stories were just plain funny.

The inspiration rattled around the back of my mind for several years. When I finally started writing it, I thought a reality TV show would be the perfect vehicle for bringing the press, paparazzi, and the bright lights to a sleepy little town that’s about to wake up in a big way.

3. What are your favorite lines in the book?

“A wiggle in the water don’t mean there’s a fish on the hook.”

“I’ve got a big mouth, and there’s no telling sometimes what’ll tumble out. I have to repent every five minutes or so. When I get to the pearly gates, I imagine the atonement line will be long with people who don’t. I’ll be in the short line at the express gate, because I’m on the repent-as-you-go plan. ”

“You know you’re best girlfriends when you check each other’s teeth without even thinking about it.”

“The plain kind of places, the ones like Daily, where the folks are friendly and folks are friendly and a good story will buy you a cup of coffee any day of the week, don’t ever really die. They only doze off like sage old hounds sleeping away the hot afternoon, awaiting the cool of evening to get up and throw back their heads, lope through the hills and bay at the moon.”

“Sometimes it’s convenient having an auto body shop and a beauty salon all in one building. You wouldn’t think so, but sometimes it is.”

“Don’t need no 60 Minutes here. We’ve got the café. Paul Harvey would be impressed at how quick the rest of the story gets told in Daily, Texas.”

Those are a few of my favorites, but really, Daily was just a fun place to spend time, all the way around.

4. News: Recent or future author events?

I do quite a bit of inspirational speaking, so there’s always a list of upcoming appearances and events on
Over the course of a year, I’ll usually speak to fifty or sixty groups of all different sizes. After spending so much of my time listening to the voices in my head and playing with my imaginary friends (who are all very real to me, so I probably need therapy), I enjoy the chance to visit with real people and talk about writing, life, and the stories behind the stories.

5. What else do you have in the works?

I have another book, A Month of Summer, coming out in July from New American Library, Penguin Group. Over the years, I’ve alternated between writing the lighter comedy of the small-town Texas books, and mainstream relationship-based stories like A Month of Summer. I love both types of writing. For me, humor and the serious emotions coexist on the page just as they do in real life. On any given day, in any random situation it’s possible to find a little of each.



An Interview with Melanie Wells

Another beautiful and absolutely fascinating writer I met at my recent Jefferson, Texas author’s event was Melanie Wells. She graciously consented to a short interview. Here is her response to the starter questions I like to use to get to know authors. A photo of Melanie and her book cover is below also. You saw her earlier in an earlier post–she was the fiddle player for Trish Murphy. You can learn more about Melanie at her website:

1. Your favorite author(s) and book(s)

I love Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who, ironically, were childhood friends. In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books ever. It’s just so beautifully written and such a heartbreaking, tense story. I read a book recently called West with the Night by Beryl Markham, who knew Isak Denisen in Africa. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. It made me want to go to Africa and fly planes. I also love Anne Lamott and David Sedaris. I love irreverent humor.

As to fiction – I don’t read that much fiction anymore. I do like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich – I get compared to both of them a lot.

2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?

This was a tough book to write. I had migraines the entire two years I was writing it. And there were issues at the publisher, because during the writing of this book, my publisher Multnomah was sold to Random House, and none of the authors really knew at the time whether that was good or bad news for us. It turned out to be great news for me. I was lucky. But I guess the writing of this book was mainly about perseverance and about letting the story be what it is. I’m always aware that if I think about sitting down to “write,” I can freeze up. It just sounds so daunting. But if I sit down and think, “Okay, let’s tell this pick up the story and see where it goes,” I enjoy the process much more and don’t seem to get stuck.

3. What are your favorite lines in the book? I love the following passage about Peter Terry:

The thing with Peter Terry is, his booty isn’t cash or Social Security numbers or flat-screen TVs. What he’s after is your mind. And your soul if he can get it. But honestly, your soul is just the bonus round. His eye is on your serenity. Your peace. Your sense of safety in the world. If he can lift those precious little items off you and toss them onto his pile, he’s pulled off a job unlike anything you’ve ever read about over a morning cup of coffee or seen at a ten-dollar movie.

Naturally, intensive care is Peter Terry territory. You sit there, staring at your loved one, in the company of strangers who are also staring at their loved ones. And you’re surrounded by the architecture of suffering—monitors, pumps, bags, needles, tubes. You can feel the skin being ripped off your illusions. Flesh covers veins and veins web through organs and muscles and bones. And they’re all stuck together with the fragile, electric sinews of sensation, of movement. It’s the perfect disguise, this farce of wholeness.

And the parts, they all break so easily. When you’re sitting there, staring at your loved one, the one with the broken parts, you can’t believe any of it ever works at all.
And then, as you pace between beeps and alarms and rhythmic whooshes of air, you hear the whispering and the murmuring. You peek around the curtain, where rosaries are fingered with confident intention, where heads are bowed, where hearts are turned upward because it’s the only possible option. And the atmosphere of hope in the place is overpowering.

Then you realize hope is all there is. There’s nothing else to live on. The rest is just parts and a jump-start.

4. News: Recent or future author events?

My Soul to Keep comes out February 5, so the events are just now starting to ramp up. I’ve got a book signing in my hometown of Amarillo, TX on Feb. 16, and signings booked throughout the spring around Texas. I don’t know about out of state events yet. We haven’t started booking those. When you’re from a huge state like Texas, you could do your entire tour here and not hit the whole thing. Watch my website for news and updates.

5. What else do you have in the works?

I’m re-writing a manuscript I finished years ago, called The Permian Game. It’s a great story, but I’m a better writer now than I was when I wrote it, so I’m giving it the spit and polish before I let my agent put it out there. I’m hoping also the Dylan Foster series continues. That will depend largely on how this book My Soul to Keep does out there.

I also own and run a psychotherapy practice – LifeWorks counseling associates, in Dallas ( and try to play my fiddle as much as I can. I sit in occasionally with my friend Trish Murphy’s ( 70’s cover band in Austin called Skyrocket.  ( So I stay pretty busy.


Sunday Morning

Book Tour News:

Yesterday, I spoke at the Midwinter Librarian’s Conference and signed books and set up school and public library programs through the afternoon. The weather was horrible, I had car trouble (dead battery, which I’ll have to resolve Monday) and had to hitch a ride to the conference. Last night, I locked myself in my hotel room and wrote for about eight hours. I entered the Booklocker 24 hour short story contest they offer every quarter and I enter four times a year. The story I submitted was entitled, “Little Rose and the Confederate Cipher.” I had until noon today to email the story in, but I managed to get it done by about midnight. Here was the topic mailed  at noon yesterday that all competitors were expected to base their stories on:
“She always kept the object safe and close to her. Mama made
her repeat the promise over and over again during those last
days. “I will never show it to a living soul. I will never
show it to a living soul.”

She cried about Mama less now, not as much as she had
before. She was missing Mama now as she did each night when
she removed her scuffed shoes. She then carefully peeled the
gray sock off her foot, and waited for the familiar object
to fall out. Nothing happened. Panicked, she quickly turned
her sock inside-out. It was gone.”

This topic seemed a little longer than previous one, but I thought it had grand possibilities. (I do wonder who comes up with these convoluted topics though) I may post the story I wrote once winners are declared in 3-4 weeks.  Here is a rule a writer should have about writing competitions: Write it, submit it, and forget it.  Though one feels pressure in timed competitions like this, that may be a good thing. And even if don’t win, I’ve written another good story.  I’m going to try to discipline myself to enter at least one contest every month.

The Sinking of the C.S.S. Alabama

Though I usually don’t recommend videos, here is a short and well-made one I found that should interest any Civil War student.

This morning I’m packing up and heading back to Monroe. Hopefully the car will start.  The rest of the day will likely be spent with chores. February is right around the corner. If you check my calendar on my personal website you’ll see that I’ll be very busy.

An Interview with Rosemary Poole-Carter

At Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend, I met Rosemary Poole-Carter. I’d already mentioned her in a previous post. I found her extremely talented, bright, beautiful, and a depth that is captivating. Another writer described her in this way:

“You would know Rosemary anywhere. She is the girl at school who stared out the window while a story played in her head; the teenager who cast her unwitting boyfriends as characters in her dramas; the mother who rocked and read to her children and wrote while they slept; the novelist and playwright who still daydreams, holds her loved ones, writes into the night, and appreciates parallel structure.”

Her work includes the novels WOMEN OF MAGDALENE, JULIETTE ASCENDING, and WHAT REMAINS and the plays MOSSY CAPE, DEATH BEHIND THE TABLOIDS, INCONVENIENT WOMEN, and THE LITTLE DEATH. You can read more of her here at her website: Here is a recent photo of this fabulous author.

Rosemary Poole-Carter


The women of Magdalene are dying and no one seems to care, least of all the haughty Dr. Kingson, director of the genteel ladies’ lunatic asylum.

After years of serving as a wartime surgeon for the Confederacy, Robert Mallory is accustomed to soldiers missing limbs. At the Magdalene Ladies’ Lunatic Asylum, he learns that the women are missing pieces, not of their bodies, but of their lives. As Robert comes closer to understanding Kingston’s part in the cruel treatment and sudden deaths of certain patients, Kingston abruptly sends him away. Robert must escort a patient, Effie Rampling, to New Orleans, and the journey transforms them both.
Your favorite author(s) and book(s)
My favorite playwrights are Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, favorite poets are Tennyson and Yeats, and favorite 19th century novelists are Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, and Twain. Modern novelists I deeply admire include Barry Unsworth (MORALITY PLAY, SACRED HUNGER), Ian McEwan (ATONEMENT, SATURDAY), Paul Scott (THE RAJ QUARTET), and Muriel Spark (LOITERING WITH INTENT, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE).
What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?
I learned to trust in the power of my own imagination—to feel with someone else from another place and time. This book dosen’t easily fit a genre or a niche, and it met with some resistance from a few publishing professionals before it found a wonderful home with Kunati Inc. and gratifying responses from reviewers and readers.

Some lessons I re-learn with every writing project are the importance of mapping out a character’s journey and the value of patience.

3. What are your favorite lines in the book?

A number of lines are dear to my narrator’s heart or are revelations of his character and conflict. I don’t want to give too much away. My novelist friend Karen Harrington chose the lines below as her favorite, and I think the idea they express is one with which many of us can identify.

Reflecting on the deprivations of wartime, Robert Mallory thinks: “Some felt naked without their accustomed finery, furnished homes, rich food and wine, elegant entertainments. Some felt bereft of ordinary comforts–I was one of those. But I was also free, invisible, as if the only evidence of my existence were in the tasks I performed, the services I rendered to others. When I stopped work, I disappeared.”

News: Recent or future author events?
March 12 – 15, 2008, I plan to be in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for some bookstore signings and a couple of television interviews.

My drama, THE LITTLE DEATH, is scheduled for production by Eclectic Theater Company, October 10 – November 1, 2008, at the Odd Duck Studio in Seattle.

5. What else do you have in the works?

My novel-in-progress, like much of my other work, combines Southern history with Southern gothic. This one, set in late 19th century Louisiana, deals with sexual obsession and deceptions within a marriage and without.

Also, I have plans in the works for a new play—a ghost story, in collaboration with Rik Deskin, artistic director of Eclectic Theater Company.


An Interview with Geoffrey M. Gluckman

While in Jefferson, Texas, I met Geoffrey M. Gluckman, a sharp Canadian author, and I looked at his novel, Deadly Exchange. (Another now on my must-read list). Interesting aside: He knows aikido! Gluckman drew from personal experiences as a federal agent and international lecturer to write Deadly Exchange. He is a featured author in Teen Angst and writes features for print publications, including Iron Horse Magazine and Law Enforcement Technology. Though I gave him stiff competition, I must also confess that he defeated me to win the Pulpwood’s Queen Timber Man Contest.  He had a great 60’s costume too, with glasses, fake-buck teeth, and red sports coat!


What if the company you work for could control your mind?
Only weeks remain before Lectures And More, Inc., a company representing the world’s top motivational speakers, launches its latest technological advance: a mind-altering radio frequency device sold as a work-site enhancement product. The deceptively altruistic Ulrich Rogers spearheads the company and its reeducation programs, incorporating the presentational prowess and charm of Jennifer Chance, a world-renowned motivational speaker. But as the lies that make up her life begin to unravel like threads on a poorly sewn garment, it becomes evident that nothing is as it seems.

Jennifer alone holds the key to unveil Rogers’s plot to hold America hostage using Lectures And More’s newest device. Plunged into a twisting chase to escape the clutches of Rogers and his former espionage henchmen, Jennifer seeks help from Frank Revere, an enigmatic former government counterintelligence agent. But the question of who to trust continues to dangle in Jennifer’s mind. Thousands of lives hang in the balance, but a deeper deception lurks in the shadows …
Brimming with suspense, danger, and mystery, Deadly Exchange conjures up a blend of the ordinary, the arcane, the seen, and the unseen in the search for truth.

Gluckman’s websites are: &

1. Your favorite author(s) and book(s)
Tender is the Night & The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Castle, Franz Kafka
L’Etranger (The Stranger), Albert Camus
The Last Wild Wolves, Ian McAllister
Edgar Allen Poe
Irene Nemirovsky
Wolfram von Eschenbach

2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?
The value of being subtly succinct. And how hard writing really is.

3. What are your favorite lines in your novel?
p.255: Conversation between Jennifer (main character) and Ulrich Rogers (her former boss and ex-CIA agent):
(Ulrich): “Violate another person’s right…to…life? I’m not sure I understand.”
(Jennifer): “I’ll put it in your terms. It’s a code. One that I’ve been working on after all my experiences and rediscovering my true self. As equal creatures on this planet, we all have the privilege of life. It’s a gift, a divine right perhaps. And no one has the right to take that away. I have the freedom to live as I wish without causing harm to another. I’m also free from the dictation or orchestration by any external authority…”

4. News: Recent or future author events?

Upcoming: February 19, 2008
Reno, Nevada Booksigning event
1026 West 1st Street
Reno, NV 89503

February 25, 2008
Santa Clara Booksigning event (at end of Muscle Balance & Function Development(r) course.

You can read more of Geoffrey at his sites: and

Here too is his blog:

An Interview with Tim Raglin

While in Jefferson, Texas at Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend, I met Tim Raglan, one of the most talented children’s book authors and illustrators I’ve ever met. He was kind enough to agree to a short interview, which is the subject of this post. Tim is the incarnation of the true artist. Two interesting points about him: dHe models his animal characters on early movie stars and uses 19th century pens. I obtained one of his books, The Curse of Catunkhamen, to give to my grandson Mason. Here is a summary of that book:

The Curse of Catunkhamun (pronounced “CAT-un-common”) features intrepid
dog detectives Scott and West who battle for the safety of the canine
world against the mad schemes of the dastardly feline genius, Dr. Mew
Man-Chew and his tragic daughter, Princess Mee-Ow. The story begins
with the theft of a giant dog bone made of pure gold — and takes our
heroes halfway around the world to an ancient Egyptian temple — where
they try to stop Man-Chew’s diabolical plot to enslave the entirety of
Dog-dom as his –GASP!– personal pets! The Curse of Catunkhamun will
introduce to its picturebook audience the fun and thrills of the
detective adventure-mystery genre, and is a perfect gateway to the
chapterbooks of the advanced reader. This light-hearted, humorous
tribute to the “pulp” heroes of the dime novel and Saturday afternoon
serials will entertain (unsuspecting!) grown-ups as well as their
offspring. The beautifully illustrated, oversized edition (11 X 15) has
as an added highlight an original puzzle board (based on our tale)
featured on the endpapers of the book.


If you enjoy children’s books, do yourself a favor and check out the bio and website of this award winning author:

1. Tell me about your favorite author(s) and book(s).
I enjoy all of the books of Edith Wharton, Scott Fitzgerald, and Dr. Suess.

2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in
writing this book?
A writer should have economy and purpose.

3. What are your favorite lines in the book?
“West dragged Scott away as he cried, ‘Mee-Ow!! Mee-Ow!!!'”

4. News: Recent or future author events?
I’ll be part of “Wonder-Con,” a small press expo in San Francisco February 22-24.

5. What else do you have in the works?
I have a picture book proposal entitled “Miss Anne and Big Dog” and a sequel to
“Uncle Mugsy” entitled “Yankee Doodle Mugsy”

Book Signing News:

My calendar (see my website <>) continues to fill. If this keeps up, I’ll have the busiest year of my life. I added a signing at a Houston Barnes & Noble. and a couple of others I’ll talk about in future posts. Today will be spent preparing for my trip to Alexandria, Louisiana. Tomorrow I’ll have a signing at the Waldenbooks in the mall there, and then Saturday, I’ll be presenting a program at the Midwinter Librarian’s Conference.

The Creed of the Taliban

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini 

While at Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend, I met Deborah Rodriguez, author of Kabul Beauty School. She is a wonderful lady and author and I’ve added her book to my must-read list. Those in attendance were deeply moved as she told her story and the story of the novel. You can read more about Rodrigues and her writing here:

Related to this topic, I recently completed a reading of Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was a wonderful read and such a moving story. Previously, I had only read of Afghanistan in Mitchner’s novel, Caravans, and in a few issues of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. (Actually many of the articles in that magazine were top notch and FULL of information useful to a writer.) It is obvious that the author writes from experience, research, and from interviews. His writing is solid and if one wanted, he or she could conduct a cultural study of Afghanistan by researching the people, places, special words, historical allusions, and historical events. In fact, if I were teaching the novel, I would focus on the cultural enrichment that could be gained from such a study.

There were many lines worthy of quoting, but the most interesting (and haunting) to me were the decrees of the Taliban once they had taken over. If you ever had any doubts about what your life would be like under the Taliban (take America’s strictest fundamentalist preacher and multiply by 10), this should convince you that the society they want to build is not exactly a model of love and tolerance. This message that was proclaimed from loudspeakers, on radios and written in distributed flyers is from p. 247:

These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:

All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.

All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.

All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.

Singing is forbidden.

Dancing is forbidden.

Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.

Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.

If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.

If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.

If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

Attention women:

You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.

You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.

Cosmetics are forbidden.

Jewelry is forbidden.

You will not wear charming clothes.

You will not speak unless spoken to.

You will not make eye contact with men.

You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.

You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.

Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.

Women are forbidden from working.

If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.

Listen. Listen well. Obey.

Tuesday’s Sundry Thoughts

Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas:

Photos of the “Ball of Hair” held at the Bull Durham Playhouse in Jefferson, Texas are being posted now. There will be six galleries total at this site:

Yours truly is in some of them. The costumes and hairdos were wild! Here is one of me with the Houston Chapter of the Pulpwood Queens. Yes, I wore my kilt that night. As I said earlier, I’ll have several postings about this event and the wonderful people/authors I met.


Book Signing News & Schedule:

Friday, I have a signing beginning Friday morning at Waldenbooks in the Alexandria mall. That night I’ll be meeting with some friends and contacts to discuss my work and writing. Saturday, I and the beautiful and talented Bonnie Barnes will be presenting a program to Louisiana Librarians at their Midwinter Conference. Our presentation is entitled, “Wickis, Webcasts, and Writing.”

On that note, I have my own Wiki for my children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. If you have children who have read the book, there is a great writing exercise they can do. The Wiki site is at If you would like the password so that your children can complete the exercise, email me at

Robert E. Lee’s Birthday

I feel a little bit of irony in pointing out that yesterday (January 21) was the birthday of Robert E. Lee. He is a man who should be honored. He loved and served his country, his family, and his state of Virginia. Unlike some other politicians and military leaders, he maintained his integrity and morality all his life. He did not own slaves, nor did he believe in slavery. You should investigate his life. There’s plenty of good biographies about him. Many schools and geographical locations bear his name, and they should be proud to do so.