Books

A Potter’s Vessel, a novel

Volume Two of the Secession Trilogy

The national crisis that erupted in Born Blind intensifies as Tennessee’s petition to withdraw from the Union goes to trial before the 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? 

The Scott brothers and their blind slave Gamaliel now operate at the highest levels of government in Washington City and Nashville.  Jerald counsels the president and congress to take up their constitutional tools to oppose secession.  Lee joins Tennessee and the gulf coastal states as they plot to secede without judicial approval or legislative consent.  Gamaliel urges the supreme court justices to acknowledge the Constitution’s flaws even as he challenges the Republican presidential nominee to emancipate his race.

Every check and balance crafted into the Constitution is employed by the competing forces.  Did the wisdom of the founding fathers enable the states to resolve their differences peaceably under the rule of law?  Or did their compromises ensure that this constitutional case will be tried on the battlefield?

Born Blind, a novel

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? 

Could Jerald’s plan be the key to avoiding civil war, reforming the Constitution, and obtaining true freedom for Gamaliel and his enslaved race?

“Madam, and gentlemen, what I am trying so fervently to express is that we have always had differences among us, and always will.  It is our nature.  But what has distinguished our country in its first eighty years has been the general subordination of those differences to the rule of law, however it may manifest itself – in the federal Constitution and laws, in our state’s constitution and laws, through the local constable or the federal marshal, in the chancery court or the supreme court of our state, and finally, of course, as President Buchanan expressed last month and Misses Polk has reminded us today, in the federal courts and by the Supreme Court of our country.  This brings me to the heart of the matter.”  Jerald stood in the middle of the room and gestured with each of his hands.

“Because of the conflict over the slavery issue and how to resolve it,  we hear from one side that the right to secede is inherent in the federal Constitution and expressly preserved in state constitutions.  From the other side we hear as emphatically that the Union is perpetual and overrides any interest of the member states.  What are we to do with this stand-off?  Simply declare war and let the matter be decided on the battlefield?  Is that how a nation of laws resolves the differences among its members and citizens?  No!   Clearly that would be the opposite of the rule of law.  To this point in our history, or at least since Marbury v. Madison, we have accepted that the federal supreme court is the arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution, and this includes the interaction of that document with the constitution of each member state.  If we reject this principle now we are no longer and perhaps never have been a nation of laws, not since the Marbury decision, not since our forefathers petitioned for recognition as the state of Tennessee – recognition by the federal Congress, you understand; not when the Constitution was ratified by every other state that has been so recognized, and not even when the Constitution was written in Philadelphia in 1787.  We will have made it all a lie.”  As if this word went beyond decorum, Jerald partially retreated, “Or, if not a lie, then a blindness, an inability to see these events as they truly were, inherently flawed, and that they were flawed perhaps from the moment of the first shot at the Lexington bridge in 1774, or at least from the subsequent declaration of independence in Philadelphia in ‘76.”

___________________________________________________________

Riddle in the Sand, a novel

Jackson and Maggie Riddle, a young married couple from Dallas, vacation on an island off the Texas coast in the summer of 1989.  They are guests of Jackson’s client, George Waters, the zany offspring of a wealthy South Texas oil family, who has invited them to go deep-sea fishing on his fast boat. When fishing trip is delayed by a strong hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Jackson and Maggie pass the time exploring the island and reflecting on the early progress of their marriage and careers, and the effect of Jackson’s idol worship on both. Nothing good can come of that, they both believe, until it does.

___________________________________________________________

Precepts of Men, a play in five questions

By posing and answering five questions that every woman should ask, Maggie brings the Riddle relationship into the 21st century, and perhaps takes some of her fellow women back into the 19th – all for everyone’s good.

What’s in a name?

I am here to get you to think, remember? Anyway, I started to call the married-name issue an injustice, and I guess I have argued that it is, but some questions are not a matter of justice.  Some are just common sense, if you look at them the right way. (She looks at Jackson, smiling.)

    There are other intriguing (and exasperating) issues in life that I want you to consider, including the very important question asked in my original title.  I believe women need to be heard on all issues, but if the truth be told by all – men and women – there are certain issues on which a woman’s view is the best – even when it is shared by a man. (Again, she looks at Jackson.)     But let me say at the close of this introduction that I am concerned a little about the tone I have set.  I’m really not a radical or a feminist or even a very out-spoken woman.  I’m just not very tolerant of stupid things in life. I think you will see that if you read Jackson’s book, and I think that is what my friends are complimenting when they praise how he depicted me.  I don’t accept things just because my husband says so or because “they have always been done that way” or to just “go with the flow.”  That’s no way to live, and it’s really no world to live in.

How did I get here?

Anyway, what in the world has all this got to do with me, you are wondering? Well, I’ll tell you, and it is more than just the fact that I briefly attended the university located in Huntsville named for Sam Houston.  It has to do with individuality.  It is about making up one’s own mind about something and sticking with it even when the majority decides otherwise. 

___________________________________________________________

When we are older, Part 1, a family memoir

Told through the eyes of each family member, When We Are Older provides a rare 360-degree analysis of family dynamics, all in the same narrative and all centered on the principal antagonist.  Real characters with real life dilemmas provide the reader with much to consider and compare to their own lives, but which character is truly reliable and trustworthy in evaluating the conflict?

Each member has a different view of these challenges, and all see the path forward as one likely to leave their relationships torn apart.  Could this be God’s plan?

Sam:

Consider that his ability to forgive me and move forward with our relationship is as extreme as his inability to stop worrying about me.  It is odd that he is so committed to one Biblical mandate – forgive 70 x 7 times [1]– and yet so unable to live according to another – be anxious for nothing.”[2]  I can’t imagine how different my life would be if he had reversed those beliefs and was resolved not to be anxious about anything (including me) and not to forgive my many transgressions (or any of them).


[1] Matthew 18:21-22.

[2] Philippians 4:6; see also Matthew  6:34.

Jackson:

What is the difference between a clinical and a behavioral issue in children?  That is a question that I first asked myself at least ten years ago.  In the years since I have also asked it of many doctors, both medical and psychiatric. The mere fact that I have to differentiate between the two types of doctors underscores my dilemma.

___________

          I showed her these and about a half-dozen other letters when she turned 18 in the hope that she would see how long I had been striving to cope with her and searching for the right response.  The ideas had no more impact in print than they had when we talked with her, perhaps even less so because she struggled mightily to read my handwriting.[1]


[1]  The only “C” I ever got in nineteen years of schooling was in the third-grade in Penmanship.  Of course, today they don’t even teach cursive writing in school and thus neither of my two younger children can read my letters to them even where my writing is clear. That is amazing and frustrating to me – as if parents did not have enough trouble communicating with their kids, we are now divided by our written language.