Thoughts from Houston

After a late exit from Monroe, I began my trip to the Houston area. I spent an hour at the Leesville, Louisiana library. The director was not only interested in my book, but also wants to book me as a performer for their annual Music Odyssey and some other author/music events this next year. The library there has a wonderful facility.

I arrived at the home of the Frantom’s later than I expected, but at least shortly after dark and having experienced beautiful weather the whole trip. I had not been to Houston in over 14 years. To say the area has changed and that the bad traffic then is worse now would be an understatement, litotes.  Fortunately, they have wireless so I was able to make this short post.  I found short blurb about my book signings in the book section of Zest, the little magazine that comes with the Houston Chronicle. 

This is the weekend for the North Texas Irish Festival. I had such a good time last year. I love the Celtic festivals, and next year with the introduction of my Scottish ABC Book, I intend to make many of the festivals. More later.

Pre-Houston Travel Thoughts

Am up early, packing, printing, and preparing for my Houston trip.  It looks like I’ll have good traveling weather.  My planned route will take me into new, unexplored territory.

War Between the States Trivia:

On yesterday’s date in the War Between the States, Union prisoners first began arriving at Andersonville prison. Nearly a fourth of its inmates would die in captivity, and though Henry Wirz, commandant, was executed for war crimes, the irony of history is that the deaths were caused by the Northern leadership, who refused prisoner exchange and refused to sell medicine to the South. One little known fact is that many of the Union prisoners were victimized by other Union soldiers. To gain a true perspective, I would encourage you to read Andersonville, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by MacKinlay Kantor. There was a TV series based on the book, and Kantor presents a more Confederate-friendly than most modern, seeking-to-be-politically-correct writers. Good for him.

A Book I’d like to read:

I was recently given a Book Lover’s Daily Calendar. From time to time I’ll list some books I think I’d like to read or glance at. The ones I list in this post are books I do not have.

Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits. This book is illustrated by Paul Rogers, and full of information and references to the Jazz Greats. I’ve heard (and believe), and told my students, that listening to jazz will help one mentally, likely even raising test scores. I think it may be due to the complexity of the lines, the “gifted” creativity that I hear in the improvisation of its melodies, the subtle changes made so that each song is its own creation. All of this does something to our subconscious, unlocking a great beauty-creating power. Jazz shaped and changed much of America, and it certainly influenced so many of our great musicians. When I teach ENG 102 in college (assuming they use the Kennedy anthology) I always have “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin as one of the readings. There are some great lines in that story that give insight into jazz and insights into the mind and hearts of jazz musicians. A very touching story about a man who nearly lost his brother, but found him and restored the relationship and in that, found himself too. The story is a reminder that we are truly our brother’s keeper.

Preparing for Houston

Book Signing News: 

Usual scenario in my writing world: Too much to do, not enough time or money to get all the important things done. Tomorrow, I’m traveling to Houston. I’ll work schools and libraries on my journey there, then will spend the night with my good friends, the Frantoms.  Friday, I’m presenting a Civil War program at Keefer Crossing Middle School in New Caney.   Here is the school’s site. (They have me on their calendar!)
Friday night, beginning around 4:00 p.m. I’ll hagve a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in the Woodlands. Here are the details.
The Woodlands Mall
1201 Lake Woodlands Dr. #3008
The Woodlands, TX 77381

The Houston Chapter of the Pulpwood Queens has promised to try to support that event and I hope to have some folks from the Houston SCV and UDC attend also.

Saturday, I’ll be at another Barnes and Noble. Here are the details for that event:

March 1/Saturday, 10 AM to 3 PM
Barnes & Noble #2183
7026 Hwy 6 North
Houston, TX 77095

After that signing, I plan on working my way back to Louisiana by Sunday night, maybe seeing a a few friends and sites along the way. I’ve been in the car so much the past several days that I know my writing has suffered terribly.  However, the trip to West Texas after my aunt’s death was unavoidable, and to help my parents through things like that is a son’s duty.

Return from a Eulogy

Yesterday in Knox City, Texas, on behalf of the Pittman family, I delivered my aunt’s eulogy. This is a brief tribute to her. When the photos are developed, I’ll post a few, and perhaps the transcript of the eulogy I gave.

In Loving Memory of Mildred Pittman Stubbs

Born Feb. 5, 1925

Passed Away, Feb. 23 2008

Buried in Knox City Cemetery (Texas)

A Poem for My Aunt Mildred

I led the other family members in prayer,

Each of us remembering you in our memories,

None of them the same,

But all of them sacred.

I thought of your prickly pear jelly,

The many books on your shelves,

In one I discovered Edgar Allan Poe,

I thought of the knick-knacks above the books,

Thought of your lake house at Possum Kingdom,

And the day I saved my mother from drowning there,

Thought of how you laughed constantly,

How you made me feel like a true nephew,

How you never criticized me,

Never sighed in frustration at my chatter and questions,

As if you recognized my sprouting imagination,

As I read my copy of Turok: Son of Stone,

Which I had purchased from the newstand

Across from Jones Pharmacy where you worked.

You were my aunt for all those years,

Today, I was our family’s priest,

Giving last rites, giving your eulogy,

We committed your body to the earth,

Your soul to a loving God,

Telling the world that you

Will be remembered and loved.

“The Smell of Cypress” A Blog that Returned from the Storm

 I first met Michele Aucoin a few years ago at a gifted symposium/conference.  I’ve mentioned her, her work, and her writing several times on this blog. As a friend, I’ve found her to have a warm heart. This beautiful and intelligent lady is generous and cares so much for her gifted students.  I’ve given programs at the schools she works with for the gifted students and they seem to adore her. With good reason, I’d say. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Michele shut down her blog for a while. I was delighted to find that she had revived it recently. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog once in a while. You’ll find her writing thoughtful and warm.  (She is an excellent poet) She’s involved in writing groups, is an active “friend of the library” in Assumption Parish, and the depth and breadth of her knowledge is astounding–knowing a lot about many things, including music, antiques, history, and education. 

On to Oklahoma . . .

Sad News:

Yesterday, I found out that my Aunt Mildred, a resident of Knox City, Texas, died Friday night. So, I’m going to my parents house Sunday morning, then early Monday we’re driving to Knox City from Kemp for her funeral. There, I’ve been elected by the Pittman family to give a eulogy for her in a graveside ceremony. I’ve had too much death near me this year. (See June 21-23 entries). My poor father . . . Only he and Alvin are alive now from the Pittman clan. He’s in the best shape of the two left alive, so I look at him as if he were the last of the Mohicans. Every year, I feel the ephemeral nature of life more and more. Please say a prayer for me and my family. Perhaps I’ll be able to see my cousins, the daughters of Alvin, at the funeral.

A Gift: My good friend and publicist (who also works with Region XI Media and Library Services in Fort Worth) Bonnie, knowing my love for Hemingway, recently gave me a very special gift: It was a first edition printing in Life Magazine of The Old Man and the Sea, Sept. 1, 1952. I was speechless. It means so much to me. I now have a story of Hemingway (the reason I’m an English major, the reason I’m a writer) in my hands, first published in the year I was born. Bonnie has excellent technical skills. She designed the current look of my website. She is beautiful and has to be one of the smartest  women I’ve known. Here is a photo of this priceless Hemingway gift she gave me:


Return from Baton Rouge . . .

Friday Night, I had a great time at the Perkins Rowe (a very new store) Barnes and Noble in Baton Rouge.  I read from my children’s book, sang, and played my guitar for their Story Time program the store has on Friday nights. Annie, the CRM (Community Relations Manager), was so sweet and encouraging. The parents who bought my book were very appreciative of my presentation, and Annie (Barnes & Noble CRM) made it clear that I would be welcomed back.

Today, Saturday, I signed at the Waldenbooks at the Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. I had a WONDERFUL time. Beryl, the manager, was quite happy with the day. We sold ALL copies of Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, and some of my books, Red River Fever and Stories of the Confederate South.

However, the really neat thing about my trip this weekend, was stopping in at Rosemont, home of Jefferson Davis on Friday on my way to Baton Rouge. Ironically, on that same day in 1862, (According to the Monroe News-Star) Jefferson was inaugurated for a six-year term as president following his election the previous November. I was given a tour of the plantation by Jinny Angeline, tour director, who I also discovered to be an expert on Davis. I actually was able to hold and touch items owned and used by Jefferson Davis. I felt chills the whole time I was at this sacred spot. There are so many stories that need to be written about the Davis family in relation to this plantation. I was invited to be a part of the Jefferson Davis Centennial Celebration at the end of May. They have my book about Jim Limber on display in the house and everyone that comes through hears the story. You can (and should) read more of Rosemont here:

Here is a photo of Rosemont:


Friday Thoughts

Book Signing News:

I arrived home to Monroe around 8:30 p.m. A long hardday yesterday, from 3:00 a.m. till 8:30 p.m. Yet, in spite of the long hours spent doing programs and driving, I do truly love what I’m doing with these programs and signings. The Quitman high school and junior high students and teachers were wonderful! Ann Broadway, the librarian, has an excellent library and is doing a wonderful job.  Once again I had a grand time.  My thanks to the staff there!

Tonight, I’ll be doing Children’s Story Time and signing books at  Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Perkins Rowe 7707 Bluebonnet Blvd #100 Baton Rouge LA 70810 225-766-1337  Then Saturday, at Waldenbooks, 9663 Cortana Pl Baton Rouge, LA 70815 (225) 924-7665. (The Mall at Cortana Place). I’ll return to Monroe Saturday night. I’ll post Saturday’s blog then. I’ll also try to have a picture of each signing posted.


According to my Civil War calendar, on this day in 1896, the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia, opened to the public. This of course is the house that Jim Limber lived in. I show a photo of the house when I present my Jim Limber Story program to schools.  The house was saved by a group of Richmond women who formed the Confederate Memorial Literary Society. I haven’t seen the house in many years, but I intend to do book signings in Richmond this summer, so I’ll get another chance to see it.

Baffling Thought of the Day: This is from T-Bubba’s CD I listened to yesterday.

“Are fat people harder to kidnap?”

On This Date . . .

As I’m leaving for Quitman, Texas ISD in just a minute, today’s entry will be short. According to my Civil War Calendar, Joseph Shelby (interesting name as that is my daughter’s married name now) traveled to Mexico rather than surrender to the Union at the end of the War. He was appointed United State Marshal for the Western District of Missouri, Feb. 21, 1894.  Maximilian had given the Rebels land for an American colony in Mexico.  I know that other Confederates went to Brazil, and others to England. I may be pointing out the obvious, but war makes us reevaluate many things. I wonder how the war in Iraq will change American perspectives in the future?


I’ve decided to look into the role and work of saints occasionally. I’m especially interested in patron saints.

According to my book of saints, “Michael is, with George, a patron saint of soldiers, and also amusingly, of grocers on account of the scales that he holds to weigh the souls of the dead” (in paintings).

Language of the Fan & Other Thoughts

Book Signing News:

Another busy week awaits me. I’ll be leaving very early tomorrow morning for Quitman, Texas ISD and returning tomorrow night. Friday I’ll have a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge (Perkins store) and at Waldenbooks in Baton Rouge on Saturday, then I’ll likely return home Saturday night. I also found out that my children’s book was nominated for SIBA Book Award by Cherry Books. (Look in list towards bottom),com_fabrik/Itemid,271/ and also for the Cybils Award. See these blogs:

Civil War Program Additions:

After my signing at the Texas Civil War Museum last Saturday, I’ve added some things to my show and tell table for the students who see my program. I now have two packages of Confederate money, a mounted chart of Texas flags during the Civil War, and a friendship fan. According to the museum staff, young girls in the Antebellum South would write the names of their friends on the blades of the fan. I also saw a photo of one on the Internet that looked like it had photos/paintings of friends as/on the blades. However, I couldn’t locate any specific sites that talked about friendship fans. If you know of one, please send it my way. ( I do know that hand fans were common and part of a lady’s attire, and evidently a means of communication. On the site listed below, you can see some Civil War period fans. Below that is the language of the fan:

The fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love”
A closed fan touching the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?”
The number of sticks shown answered the question: “At what hour?”
Threatening movements with a fan closed: “Do not be so imprudent”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me”
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: “Forgive me”
Covering the left ear with an open fan: “Do not betray our secret”
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: “I love you”
Shutting a fully opened fan slowly: “I promise to marry you”
Drawing the fan across the eyes: “I am sorry”
Touching the finger to the tip of the fan: “I wish to speak with you”
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes”
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: “No”
Opening and closing the fan several times: “You are cruel”
Dropping the fan: “We will be friends”
Fanning slowly: “I am married”
Fanning quickly: “I am engaged”
Putting the fan handle to the lips: “Kiss me”
Opening a fan wide: “Wait for me”
Placing the fan behind the head: “Do not forget me”
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended: “Goodbye”
Fan in right hand in front of face: “Follow me”
Fan in left hand in front of face: “I am desirous of your acquaintance”
Fan held over left ear: “I wish to get rid of you”
Drawing the fan across the forehead: “You have changed”
Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched”
Twirling the fan I the right hand: “I love another”
Carrying the open fan in the right hand: “You are too willing”
Carrying the open fan in the left hand: “Come and talk to me”
Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you!”
Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you!”
Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

According to the link below, there were at least two books published in the 19th century that tutored ladies on the secret language of the fan. Be sure and check it out for yourself and see which of these codes you favor. I suppose men knew about this secret language and made some kind of effort to learn it too.