Monday, December 31, 2012

Audio Books

We left Helotes on Dec 19th for a 10-day drive to San Francisco and back.....visiting our youngest daughter for Christmas. The long hours of driving through remote dessert and grasslands were complimented by a series of audio books we had selected for the journey -- authors Danielle Steel, James Lee Burke, Louis L'Amour, Nora Roberts, and William J. Cobb. While the story lines are important, the quality of the reader often makes the story very satisfying or not so satisfying. Not only were the tales interesting, but I always learn more about plot and character development, pacing, details, and other facets of writing from these authors. We checked our audio books out of our local community library which made everything convenient and inexpensive.

We had a wonderful trip and even visited the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers located in Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory received a large grant from the Goldman Foundation to help restore the buildings after storm damage. It was fitting we should visit as the Goldman Environmental Prize awarded to environmental activists is mentioned in my latest novel, Ransomed Earth: An Eco-Thriller.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Children's Story Hour

We discovered a library jewel in the small community of Fulshear, Texas over the last month or so....a fully staffed library with children's story and activity hour!  We took Rheagan to the half hour storytelling and activity session, and stayed for the arts and crafts activity. They have sessions for toddlers and one for older children...very nicely done. It is such a pleasure to find an "old fashioned branch library" (Fort Bend County Library System) with such an array of programs and collections when so many libraries across the nation are closing or reducing programs due to budget cuts.

We immediately became Friends of the Library and look forward to many more visits in the future.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Karenina Done!

I completed reading Anna Karenina about a week ago, then went to see the recently released movie of the same title. This is not a novel to leave alone for a few days and come back to--hard to pick up where you leave off as I discovered over Thanksgiving holidays, family visits, travel, etc. The movie was a bit of a disappointment. Anyone who had not read the book would not have understood what was happening to the characters, the relationship of the characters to each other and the plot. I would prefer a miniseries somewhat along the lines of Lonesome Dove as a more comprehensive film version. Now reading "The Jetty" by co-author's Jan Brandon and Joe Labatt, set in Port Aransas, Texas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eleanor Brackenridge Literary Club

For the past two weeks we've been shuffling between Helotes-Austin-Bertrum-Sealy-Katy-Edna-Gonzales helping one daughter move, attending a wedding, celebrating Thanksgiving a week early with the entire family, and visiting with the Eleanor Brackenridge Literary Club. I began my writing career as a high school senior covering football games for The Edna Herald (now the Jackson County Herald-Tribune) in 1965 and was asked to talk about my journey as a writer, and to sign copies of Ransomed Earth.

This Literary Club was formed in September 1901 and named after Mary Elanor Brackenridge in 1903. Eleanor moved to Jackson County, Texas, in 1855 from Indiana and remained there until 1866 when she moved with her mother to San Antonio after her father died. A graduate of Anderson Female Seminary (New Albany), Eleanor was very active in numerous women's clubs (including the founding of the Woman's Club of San Antonio), in the DAR, and in her church. She helped form Texas Women's University and served on the Board of Regents for over 20 years. She was active in establishing and defending women's rights, publishing a pamphlet entitled The Legal Status of Texas Women in 1911. In 1918 she became the first woman to register to vote in Bexar County (Texas) and was one of the first women in the nation to serve as a bank director. Eleanor gifted the new literary club in Edna with $100 that became the foundation of the E.B.Literary Club's Scholarship Fund, which the club maintains to this day in helping students further their education. The San Antonio Express called her "in many respects the foremost woman citizen of Texas" upon her death in 1924. (Information taken from the Eleanor Brackenridge Literary Club archives and the Texas Handbook on Line.)

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the dozen or so ladies who attended the November 14th meeting, including my aunt Jean Powers who came as a guest, and Jessie Mae Moody who graduated from Edna High School with my mother in 1939. I was particularly impressed that the meeting began by reading "The American's Creed" by William Tyler Page. I had not heard these words in many, many years even though they are among the most important documents in our nation's history. Page's creed was accepted by the United States House of Representatives on April 3, 1918 as the official creed of all Americans. The ending of the creed...."it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."...was especially meaningful to me after the recent national election, and upon reflection of the actions by some American citizens over the years to burn our flag as a means of free expression. Opening the meeting with such an important reading is reflective of the patriotism and gentility reflected in this 110 year old organization. It would behoove more organizations to begin their meetings with the reading of the American's Creed.

Many thanks to Diann Walleck (vice president and hostess) for her invitation to speak, to Becky Hanys for such a superb reading of the American's Creed, to Helen Long, club president, and to all the members of the Eleanor Brackenridge Literary Club for their hospitality, and for all they do to promote literature, scholarship, and civic duty.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tolstoy and "Anna Karenina"

I recently saw a movie trailer announcing the Nov 2012 release of Anna Karenina staring Keira Knightley and Jude Law. This prompted me to read Tolstoy's novel which was published in 1877; a 1,325 page tome written in long sentence structure reflecting the writing method of the time. I was daunted by the task before me that began about 10 days ago...not only the long, descriptive sentences, but the common names of the characters and the events of the day which Tolstoy was covering.

In my own journey as an author I have learned that writer's embed points and story lines they are trying to communicate to the readers. The Tsar issued an order freeing the serfs and ending the feudal system in Russia in 1861. Tolstoy was writing about, among many subplots, the changing cultural standing of the rich and powerful with the new found freedom of peasants and the challenges this brought to landowners in managing and operating their farms, of divorce laws, of relationships, and most of all, love and forgiveness. 

I am on page 715. The novel is enlightening in contrasting the long, descriptive writing of Tolstoy and the many points of view held within his chapters, to the shorter writing style pioneered by Hemingway and favored by more modern writers. I am learning a great deal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Grandest, Most Bizarre Book Club

I was asked to join the Grandest, Most Bizarre Book Club for their Third Anniversary luncheon this past Wednesday. The club consists of avid readers from the Helotes-Grey Forest-neighboring San Antonio area who meet monthly to discuss books. Grey-Forest artist and club founder is Natalie Bowman, an energetic and engaging spirit. Local award winning author, English prof and historian Cynthia Massey (of The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas fame) hosted the luncheon.

This book club of up to 15 participating members review a wide variety of literature which makes them Grand, and often over a glass of wine with languid discussion in a manner some describe as Bizarre. It was great fun to join these ladies and to talk about my journey as an author and to share stories together. Without readers like this book club, authors would not exist. Thanks again, Natalie, for the invitation and Best Wishes for continued Grand and Bizarre meetings well into the future!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Demands on Your Time

I face the same dilemma as most authors -- finding time to actually write when faced with living and with book promotions. I've heard from authors who devote most of their waking lives to their craft -- honing writing skills, plot and character research, interacting with agents and publishers -- often at the expense of less time with family and friends, much less with social contacts and organizations. Authors can become "hermits", separated from the world and immersed in their stories. The price paid is in fewer contacts, but their rewards could be great in terms of self-satisfaction, literary and financial success.

The majority of authors I know do not make their living from writing. That includes me. We try to schedule  time to write (which includes research), time for physical activity, time for family matters and for friends, etc. I am not always successful. This is especially true for authors who are independent publishers like many of us who have released our books as electronic publications. Some bloggers recommend e-book authors spend 80 percent of their time on publicity and 20 percent on writing. Getting your work noticed among over an estimated 3 million ebook releases a year is no simple feat. In the last couple of weeks I've sent electronic press releases about Ransomed Earth to hundreds of organizations hoping that the addressee will read it and not delete the information, or that it doesn't end up in the junk mail box. Included were releases to international organizations and eco-tourism companies given the plot themes in Ransomed Earth. It is very satisfying to see that over two dozen page visits were recorded on my web page from the international community -- primarily China and Norway. At least someone read the press release. Whether that ends up in a sale or spreading the word to others remain to be seen. But it is a payback for the many hours of work.

Most of the time my schedule becomes skewed as I am pulled to work in the yard because the weather is fine, or visit family because it's a birthday, or just to read. I have not accepted a schedule that is firm which is my own fault. I usually do better as the story takes shape and I am called by the characters or the muses to the keyboard very early in the morning....thank goodness for naps!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Web Page Update and Blog

Welcome to my new web page format! I've migrated from my old server to thanks to some hard work by my webmaster guru Kelly Kozlowsky. This new approach allows me to respond to questions or comments about my books, so I am very excited about that opportunity. Feel free to post a comment, or contact me via email address listed under the Contact page on my toolbar.

I will be talking with members of two book clubs this month and next (see calendar), and am excited about discussions with some of the most important people in the world -- READERS! Hooray for READERS!!! It is always good to get feedback -- likes and dislikes about plot, characters, etc. Thank you, Readers!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

E-Book Corrections

As always when it comes to publishing, print errors occur....sometimes because spellcheck does not recognized repetitive sentence structure and sometimes just because they are overlooked. About 30 minor spelling and grammar errors were caught by several readers of Ransomed Earth which I have since corrected and emailed to for correction. They should be out in about 10 days. Once these are corrected I can continue my publicity campaign. Oh, the joys of imagining, writing, editing, and publishing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Novel Published!

My latest novel is a timely tale of environmental activists battling the power of entrenched lobbyists to hold hostage the fate of America's natural resources inheritance. You can find it as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ibookstore, Kobo, Baker and Taylor, Gardner's and other book outlets.

The genesis of this novel was a brief AP article in the Oct 12, 2006 issue of USA Today. It was titled "Reid received $1.1M for land he hadn't owned for three years". Seems Senator Reid got paid for a Vegas land sale of property he hadn't owned for three years. Reid bought the land in 1998 for $400,000 some in partnership with a friend. He sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation and continued to report that he owned the land. The LLC got local officials to rezone the land and sold it in 2004 and Reid took $1.1million of the proceeds, and reported it as a personal land sale. This deal was apparently not transparent and questionable when looking at Senate ethics rules. Reid was never formally invested or questioned about the transactions.

What got my attention was the backroom deals. How does an ordinary citizen with no political power or connection to elected officials by kin or other common interest preclude these kinds of deals that fatten their wallets? I mulled over this question for a few years and collected data, plot and subplots growing in my mind, while I continued to work on Color of Blood, which was released in the summer, 2008. I then started on Ransomed Earth which was completed (first draft) in March 2011, edited, sent to several readers for review and feedback, second draft done, and I began querying agents for representation.

In the meantime I received an offer from a family living in Corpus Christi to write a biography of their father. I was contacted in Dec 2010, interviewed in person with the family in Jan '11, and began interviews, research, and writing about the life history of Dusty Durrill. It took a year to accomplish while still working on my novel. The end result is a 400-page (double space) biography titled, "Hi, I'm Billy Durrill, The Third Child of Clinton Glenn and Myrtle Ruhlen Durrill: a biographical sketch of William Ruhlen (Dusty) Durrill as shared with Les Coalson, 2011." This is a private manuscript for the family and is not available to the public.

I continued to market Ransomed Earth and wrap up the biography into the spring of 2012. After a year of rejections I decided to self-publish Ransomed Earth as an ebook with the help of  I hope you enjoy the read which incorporates environmental concerns in China and Ecuador as well as the U.S.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, & Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels

I recently read "Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation" by Elaine Pagels. It was excellent! The author described major events of the time Revelations was written in Rome, Israel, and the birth experiences of a new religion called Christianity. Her writing was backed by solid facts -- almost a third of the book consisted of the bibliography. I wish I had read this book earlier in life -- I would have better understoood its meaning.

Monday, April 30, 2012

International Thriller Writer's Association

I joined the International Thriller Writers Association earlier this year -- just another attempt to help hone my mystery/thriller writing skills. For those into thrillers, check out their web page at There is a monthly e-newsletter with the most recent print and electronic releases as well as interviews with prominent writers. Good stuff!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Oak Alley Plantation

My wife and I went on a wonderful road trip through Louisiana with our two good friends.  We spent one afternoon enjoying the history of pre-Civil War plantation country - Oak Alley Plantation on the banks of the Mississippi River.  We stayed overnight in an 1890-era cottage rumored to be the most haunted on the 1200 acre plantation. We visited another plantation as well; both contained furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Imagine living in the heat of Louisiana without air conditioning! We are spoiled!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Color of Blood now available in eBook form!

I am pleased to announce that Color of Blood is now available as an ebook on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, eBookPie, the Sony eReader, Kobo, Gardner's (UK), and, Baker and Taylor. This novel was originally published in 2008 by Eaking Press, and is now out of print.

Journalist Clay Aker teams with up with Texas Ranger Julio Ramirez in search of Clay's brother, Jack, an environmental activist who disappeared from the Texas Gulf Coast with his girlfriend, Vicky, while sampling for mercury poisoning. Was their disappearance an accident? Clay is determined to discover what happened to his brother as murder, theft, kidnapping and environmental pollution complicate the search. This novel received a Reader Views Award for Fiction in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre in 2009.

Third Novel Complete!

I have completed my third novel, Ransomed Earth: an Eco-Thriller, set in China, South America, the Colorado Rockies, and in Washington, D.C.  This book is a story about environmental activists battling the power of lobbyists to hold hostage the fate of America's natural resources inheritance.

Vice-President Phillip Westervelt must determine how to respond to hostage demands of guerrilla activists who kidnapped his only child without violating United States policy. The government does not negotiate with terrorists. The environmentalists not only threaten his daughter, but potentially his campaign for the Presidency.

In the three days that Phillip has to resolve the ransom demands he discovers a gruesome secret that threatens his marriage, is drawn to the arms of a former lover, and must tip-toe through the maze of bureaucratic regulations that hinders his ability to rescue his daughter, Kayleigh. He fears she will suffer the same fate as another victim who was killed in a failed kidnapping attempt in China. He learns that Jozina Morales' son, Marcos, has also been taken hostage by these rogue activists while touring Ecuador. Jozina is the senior staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both parents receive ransom demands requiring governmental action to save their children. Meeting the demands to fund environmental programs and reduce pollution are almost impossible given the grip that lobbyists have on Washington, D.C.

As their parents plot to save their children, Kayleigh Westervelt struggles to survive abusive treatment by her kidnapper in the Colorado wilderness. Marcos Morales is a prisoner of the Shuar in the untraceable expanse of the Amazon basin where he is exposed to the tribal ways of these legendary headhunters in an attempt to save their ancestral homeland.
The Shuar                        

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Book Cover

I discovered something about e-publishing. First, print books and e-books must have their own individual ISBN. The International Standard Book Number is unique to each title and used for ordering purposes. It is also desirable that covers for print books and for e-books differ, although that is confusing to many readers and not aways followed. Soooo, Sever the Darkness (ebook) has a new cover! San Antonio artist and friend E. Gordon West drew a charcoal rendering of his interpretation of a key scene in the novel. Be sure to post reviews using this cover if you are reading the ebook. 

(p.s. since Sever the Darkness is out of print, it is only available as an ebook.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Biography Complete

I have completed my first biography. It's a 390 page biographical sketch for a family from South Texas that will have limited publication for family members and friends. Not only did I have the privilege of sharing this family's history, but I learned that writing non-fiction is vastly different than writing fiction.