January 10, 2023
Starting off the New Year with a Booster
No, I am not talking about the New Year’s Eve fireworks outside our home, although they were certainly inspiring.
I am referring, rather, to an email I received from a reader who read A Potter’s Vessel over the holidays. I appreciate all of the feedback I receive and encourage you to write to me at the “Contact” tab above that is linked to my email address. I welcome any commentary, either positive or negative (although constructive, I hope). This reader was enthusiastically positive:
“I finished the book this morning! I’d say I enjoyed it as I couldn’t put it down and finished it in only five days.”
He went on to give me many helpful comments and finished with this:
“I love that you have an epic climax at the end but also that there are mini-climaxes throughout the story”.
I don’t need much encouragement to keep me going, but these comments were obviously a boost. Please let me know how you feel about my writing so that I can learn to express myself better. That is, after all, why I write. (See the “blog” tab above for a longer explanation.)
I intend to refocus on Volume 3 of the Secession Trilogy this month. 2022 was a challenging year for many reasons and I did not write as much as I had expected to. However, I have completed the first draft of Part 1 and have a strong conception of where the story is going and how it will end. This will include a new storyline that I had always had in the back of my mind, but which has recently crystalized and moved to the forefront. One of the minor characters to date is about to become a major figure in my re-imagined history of our Nation. I am excited to discover for myself where he might lead the story, and how his actions might inform even our Nation’s current events.
August 30, 2022
I reported back in April that I had turned my primary focus to the production of my stage play, Precepts of Men? That project is still in the works, but progress continues to be hard to direct (appropriate term). I have not given up on the work actually reaching the stage, but the continued delay has compelled me to return to other projects and even start a new one.
I now have 35 pages written in the final volume of the Secession Trilogy, tentatively entitled Killing Force. I am encouraged by the progress and re-energized on the topic. Although I have always had a general outline of the end of the story in mind, my vision is expanding as I reread several resource works. Two are particularly informative and come closest to addressing my threshold premise (although neither ever does directly). The Broken Constitution, by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, and Summoned to Glory, by Richard Striner, author, historian and retired professor at Washington College in Chesterfield, MD (a school I was not familiar with, but its students who took Striner’s courses were certainly well-taught). If my historical/political topic interests you at all, I strongly recommend that you read these two works (in conjunction with mine, of course).
Another of my favorite topics rarely needs re-energizing – Major League Baseball. I have been following it faithfully since I was about ten years old with very few interruptions and no frustrations (except the 1994 strike). I have been writing about the game for nearly ten years on my other website http://www.babesbaseball.com. As we move to the final month of the 2022 regular season and expanded post-season, I will be writing more about baseball and less about the Constitution. That may be a cause for all to celebrate, and I hope you will read some of my other work if you have not in the past.
In addition to this season commentary, I am also working on a book that will be part compilation of my ten years of blogging on the game as well as my now five-year quest to see a game in every MLB ballpark with my son. (We have been to 24 of the 32 parks – 2 of the 30 teams have built new parks since we began the quest.) This project truly promises to be a labor of love, as has the actual work on the B.A.B.E.S. blog and the coast-to-coast travel to ballparks with Jack.
All of these labors promise to make my Labor Day 2022 a productive time.
April 28, 2022
Blocked and Tackling
I am still reflecting on past work, and finding that the creative process is not a linear one. The first two volumes (all 975 pages) of the Secession Trilogy came to mind quite clearly and somewhat easily. After four months of effort, I have found the story in Volume Three to be much more challenging. I am not so much blocked, but simply indecisive about which plays to call next. So, after four months and fewer than twenty acceptable pages written, I have taken a break from historical fiction. Instead, I have renewed my effort to tackle the illusive production of a different project that was stymied in 2020 by COVID-19.
My stage play “Precepts of Men?” was in the pre-production phase in early 2020, but then went into hiatus along with all theatrical works around the world. Now, with the lifting of almost all pandemic restrictions (in Texas, at least), I am once again pursuing the production. Nothing is imminent, but I will continue to work on it while hoping that some clarity on how to complete the Secession Trilogy will come to my mind. I know how that story ends, but the journey has yet to fully present its path. With stage plays, I am learning, the story never really ends.
You can learn more about Precepts of Men? from its page under the Works tab. Stay tuned for updates on my progress with that production as well as any developments in my struggle with the Constitution and Mr. Lincoln.
January 19, 2022
A new year: time to reflect on past work…
and look to the future.
The story continues…
November 23, 2021
Volume 2 of The Secession Trilogy – Now available on Amazon or your favorite online bookseller:
November 9, 2021
Coming in two weeks!
A Potter’s Vessel, the sequel to Born Blind, will be published in November.
The national crisis that erupted in Born Blind intensifies as Tennessee’s petition to withdraw from the Union goes to trial before the United States Supreme Court. The president and the congress strive to pre-empt the court’s verdict ahead of the elections of 1860.
Does the Constitution dictate that the votes of only five justices can validate Tennessee’s withdrawal? Or does the vote of the people and the congress trump the power of the judiciary?
Is the Nation still under construction, or is it destructing?
Many thanks to The Boerne Bookshop, 153 South Main Street, Boerne, TX, for hosting a signing, and thanks to all of you who came out to buy a book, or two.
A Question Becomes a Trilogy…
As a practicing lawyer for over thirty-five years and an instinctive adherent to the rule and process of law, I have become captivated by an anomaly from American history: why was the question of the constitutionality of secession never brought before the Supreme Court?
My consideration of this tragic departure from our country’s established legal procedures gained intensity a couple of years ago. I analyzed the matter through the lens of a litigation attorney, and was able to develop the legal structure for how such a question could have been presented to the Supreme Court. From that point, I quickly envisioned a storyline for dramatizing that effort.
After writing Part I of Born Blind, setting the stage for the Supreme Court case, I realized that a considerable amount of backstory needed to be told. I embarked on that process and discovered after writing another 400 pages that I was not going to be able to complete the story in a single volume. I have now about half-way finished writing the sequel, and there is even more story to tell.
If you have not already, I hope that you will read Born Blind this year, and then be ready for the advancement of the story with the publication of Vol. 2 before year’s end. I will continue to explore deeply these questions that I believe our Nation’s antebellum leaders should have answered before going to war.
Would a state’s petition to secede from the Union in 1860 have changed the course of American history?
Could the sacrifice of over 600,000 American lives have been averted if our self-proclaimed “government of laws, not men” had looked to the Constitution to resolve its greatest conflict?
Volume I of my secession trilogy is available from WestBow Press and several online outlets, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (Links below).
Born Blind is a novel about what should have happened in the United States in 1860, or any time prior to July 21, 1861, the date the Civil War truly began with the first Battle of Bull Run.
In this book, I have staged an alternative battle for the soul of the Nation – one fought in the Supreme Court chamber in Washington rather than in the cotton and wheat fields of the country’s heartland. The inherent limitations of the Constitution, and the flaws of the men who interpret it, are dramatically exposed in this legal struggle over the future of the Union.
The story traces three generations of the Scott family who engage not only their own slaves, but historical leaders such as First Lady Sarah Polk and Supreme Court Justice John Catron, in the struggle to bring the Nation’s antebellum conflict to a constitutional – and peaceful – resolution. By convincing Tennessee to sue for the right to secede, Jerald Scott and his blind slave Gamaliel lead the fight to uphold the rule of law. In the process, they challenge the legacy of some of our Nation’s most revered leaders.
Was secession constitutional?
Was the president empowered to call-out troops from member states to fight troops from other states that no longer considered themselves members of the Union? Even if the departing states had acted illegally, could the Union forces legally attack them on the soil of one of those states?
Each of these questions could only be answered under the Constitution, and there was only one proper forum in which to render a verdict – the United States Supreme Court. No one ever asked the justices what the law is – until now.
“You are not actually going to send that to Whitthorne?” This time Lee spoke with an accusation that also conveyed incredulity. “It’s a ludicrous idea.” Jerald rose, still holding the letter aloft, and finally looked at his brother.
“You know that I will,” Jerald said, standing and straightening the fine wool of his black waistcoat that distinguished him as a man of the world rather than of a school room, “and you know that I will carry the endeavor through as far as I am able.” He walked toward the fireplace and started to hand the paper to his brother. Looking down at the fire, he instead pulled that hand to his side, picked up an iron poker with the other, and began to work the coals. “You may think it a ludicrous idea,” he continued, “but I disagree strongly. We are a constitutional republic. We have judges appointed to interpret the Constitution, and I aim to have them do it. Whitthorne will be my ally in this.” He stood erect and handed the iron to Lee, who snatched it with one hand while pointing to the letter held at his brother’s side.
“Whitthorne,” Lee said, still incredulous, “just became Speaker, and you have only served one term in the house as a member of a dying party. How do you suppose that the two of you could lead the state assembly on such an astounding quest?”
“I will say again – we have a legal process, and I intend to see it through,” Jerald replied. “Whitthorne will support it because he loathes the idea of war. Governor Harris will support it because he is hot for secession and will consider any public discussion of it a benefit.” Lee scoffed and turned his back at the mention of Harris’ name, but Jerald continued. “The rest of my fellow legislators will support it for the same reasons, and because they know that the coastal states will act as they wish no matter what the United States Supreme Court says.”
“Well, then,” Lee said, “we should go to hear what Father has learned. ” He moved toward the door and put his hand on the black man’s arm. “Gam, please tell James to saddle Mister Jerald’s horse, and that we will accompany him back to Father’s.”
“I will tell him, Mister Lee,” the black man said, and he turned and moved deliberately out of the room. He ran his hand around the door frame and held it out lightly before him, as he walked with dignity down the hall toward the parlor. Lee watched him for a moment before turning back to glare at his brother, who was bent over his desk locking the top drawer.
“You still intend to free him?” Lee asked, again as an accusation, and then added to it. “And you still think a blind free African can survive in this country?”
“Your first question is a matter primarily between Father, Zechariah and Gamaliel,” Jerald answered, turning to his brother, “but to the extent I am involved, my answer is ‘yes.’” He drew closer, and Lee stiffened. “Your second question presents a problem involving God, Gamaliel and the Constitution. I think my plan is a solution that will honor each of them.” He put the key in his waistcoat pocket and walked decisively past his brother, out of the room and into the hall where Gamaliel stood holding his riding coat.
The Riddle Family Trilogy
RIDDLE IN THE SAND,
a novel –
Is idol worship ever a good thing? We all do it sometime in our lives, but few of us ever get the chance to make the act meaningful for the object of our idolatry. This story is one of those rare occasions. Follow Jackson Riddle’s worship, as he tries to balance it with his career and marriage to Maggie.
PRECEPTS OF MEN?,
a play in five questions
Maggie Riddle strikes back. Responding to Jackson’s first recounting of their relationship fifteen years earlier, Maggie finally expresses her view of herself, her husband, and their relationship. Several interconnected (and universal) topics are explored from inside the confines of the Riddle home, in this nearly one-woman play. This is a Texas woman who should be heard throughout the world.
WHEN WE ARE OLDER,
a family memoir (part 1)
Brought together initially by perceived Divine intervention, the Riddle family is shaped by extraordinary biological circumstances, emotional challenges and legal processes. The family members confront infertility, adoption, rebellion, lawlessness and forgiveness, with varying degrees of success.
What some people have said about my earlier works:
“Quirky, interesting and funny characters.”
The characters just grow on you, until you want them to come over for a beer – and that is before you learn about the surprise guest of honor. Their lives matter to the reader for a long time after finishing the book.
This woman knows what she is talking about. We need to listen to her, seriously.
K. C., Austin, TX
“Nails family life, period”
We recognize these people, even if we don’t want to admit it. Family members must be dealt with, and this book shows you how to survive while doing it..
Every picture tells a story – Heart of Darkness