An Evening with the Anahuac Book Club

Book clubs are a writer’s best friend. The book club that meets at the Chambers County Library (in Anahuac, Texas) honored me by selecting my first novel, Morgan’s Point, as their novel for the month of March. Last night, the club met to discuss my book. What made the evening even more special for me was their surprise invitation for me to join them via Skype. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enthusiastically accepted. What a grand evening it was for me and (I hope) for the members of the club. I would love for other book clubs to read my books and extend me that same invitation.

If authors have to explain too much about their book, they probably missed the mark. The Anahuac folks were full of questions, but they were the kinds of questions that I would have asked of authors whose books I enjoyed. I don’t want to provide any spoilers for those who might want to read Morgan’s Point or Anahuac, but women who meet the world on their own terms, predestination, mangled justice and the origins of the name Faircloth were hot topics. During our discussions I discovered  that Faircloth, the last name of major characters Taylor and Cooper Faircloth, is also the last name of the State Representative for the area. I had to explain that there were specific reasons I used the name Faircloth, but not because of the Honorable Mr. Faircloth.

Another fact that I learned during the meeting was that the old Mexican Fort that once stood on a high bluff along Trinity Bay in Anahuac had tunnels that were used to bring cargo up from ships. I wish I’d known that when I wrote Anahuac. There would have been some underground fun. Maybe it’s not too late. I am busy writing two books now. One is a prequel about Sarita Jo Franklin, the toughest woman on Smith’s Point, Texas, who was an important (albeit briefly appearing) character in Anahuac.

The first time I ever heard of a book club came back to me as I waited for the Skype call last night. I was only eight or nine years old when I first saw the movie The Third Man at the Woodlawn Theater in San Antonio. Joseph Cotton played the role of Holly Martins, who wrote schlocky Westerns. Martins is in post- war Vienna because of the death of a good friend, Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles. As a young boy, I was lost for most of this film noire masterpiece because of the film’s complexity. One uncomfortable scene I did understand was at a Vienna book club meeting to which Martins is invited to speak. It seemed that Martins has a following of intellectuals in Vienna who were dying to pick his brain about his cowboy works. Martins is out of his depth and their deep questions about his shallow works leads to an embarrassing evening. That memory was probably not the most settling of remembrances to have immediately before an appearance before a book club. Fortunately, I think I escaped Holly Martins’ fate last night.

Last night was enjoyable and instructive for me, and I’d like to thank the members of the Anahuac book club for such a wonderful evening. If you are a member of a book club and want to read one of my books, I will myself available for your meeting to discuss the book. Skype is an easy, fun way to make this happen.

Do You Have What You Need?

In my most recent novel, Anahuac, Reverend Randall Clay, radio evangelist extraordinaire, fervently asks, “Do you have what you need?”

Reverend Clay believes the answer to his prayers involves his listeners writing a check to keep the Reverend Randall Clay Prayer Hour on the air. Did God tell him that Sarita Jo Franklin was listening to his voice over nine hundred miles away, or was it just a wild dart that hit its mark? Sarita Jo thought that making a donation to the “Prayer Hour” was just what she needed. Her reasons for her gift may be different than what you might imagine. If you chose to read Anahuac, you can draw your own conclusion. I’m writing novels these days that I hope make you ask questions about the characters’ motivations and about your own.

Anahuac A Texas Story

The answer to the question “What do I need?” is as varied as the number of people on the face of the earth.  It is surprising how many times our troubles start when the needs of our loved ones or co-workers don’t jive with ours. We learn quickly in this world to negotiate with others for what we think we need. My mother claimed that as a two year old, I would quickly eat my ice cream and look at her with doleful eyes and say, “You don’t want all of your ice cream?” Was young William genuinely interested in his mother’s needs or simply practicing his skills to become a radio evangelist? The preceding example needs no deep analysis, but in my case I didn’t go into radio religion, although some might say that becoming a lawyer was pretty close.

In 1986, Robert Fulgrum wrote a book called, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulgrum’s hypothesis was that things like sharing, being kind to one another and cleaning up after ourselves would be an excellent way for adults to act, not just kindergarteners. I suspect that one of the biggest blunders we make is to hide our needs from each other. No one around you can divine your needs, unless perhaps they are Reverend Clay. The bottom line of this is best summed up in something I heard years ago and has stuck with me. On first hearing I thought the statement was ludicrous. In my more mature years I have come to embrace it, but still struggle to practice it.

Ask for what you want (need), listen to the answer and celebrate the noes.

I encourage you to take some time to digest this statement that might seem crazy to many of you. I can hear myself long ago saying, “But I don’t want to be told no.” Many times when my life becomes complicated, I can trace it back to my failure to communicate my perceived needs. Breezing through life with illusions that others share your needs is a prescription for conflict and disappointment. Being told “no” frees you to see the world as it exists, not as you wish it were. Staying in the moment is indeed hard when the “moment” is painful. The alternative is even more painful. Now my needs are that you to go reread the statement again. I promise you it might help you.

Bad Boy Books in San Marcos hosts Book Signing Event

Bad Boy Books in San Marcos is hosting a book signing event on Thursday, February 22 at 7:00 pm. This is a great place and will be a fun evening. Click on Thursday above and check out the book store and gallery. I hope you will join us.

Murder by The Book Event Houston, Texas

Murder by The Book, an iconic independent book store in River Oaks in Houston, hosted a reading and book signing event on Saturday afternoon. The staff at the store was  extremely professional and courteous. We tried something different for the reading portion of the event. Anahuac is recorded for an audio book and we are waiting for the final editing to be completed. We had some chapters available so we played a short excerpt from the audio. As I have said before, the audio book is something new to me. Alan Adelberg, our narrator, brings the characters to life. I am way behind those of you who are old hands at listening to audio books. I liked the way it worked.  I will be doing a book event in San Marcos at Bad Boy Books on Thursday February 22 at 7 in the evening. I am looking forward to playing another excerpt from the audio book then.

Old friends Ivan and Margaret Ann Wood joined us for the signing in Houston and it is always fun to see friends at these events. We had dinner with another old friend, Ray Wright. We had breakfast this morning with Harry Wilbanks and his wife Ann. Book signings are a way to get out and meet people and promote your books. It is also a great way to catch up with old friends. Be watching your local book store. You never know where you might find me.

Author William Darling signs Anahuac at Murder by The Book

“Anahuac” will soon be an audio book

 

Picture of an Anahuac sign.

SOME DAYS in our lives represent the end and the beginning of something. Today is one of those days for me. Over the past three weeks we have been in Joel Block’s studio (The Block House) in Austin, Texas recording my latest novel Anahuac as an audio book. Today we will wrap up the recording.

The process of recording an audio book began for me with the selection of a recording studio and a producer. Joel Block was recommended to me by a knowledgeable author and was the perfect choice. Kind, patient, talented and professional are all words that come easily when I think of Joel. I would have been lost without his help.

Joel called for auditions from his list of vocal talents. Choosing a talent to read a novel is not as easy as you might think. We listened to at least ten audition tapes and pared the list to three. Those folks were kind enough to record an additional audition and from them we selected Alan Adelberg. Alan is a true professional who has brought life to the characters of Anahuac.

Courtesy of The Block House Audio Studio.

“Hearing” a book is a new thing for me. “Old school” describes me best. I want to hold the book in my hand. After listening to Alan, I have a new perspective. Audio books are not exactly like the old-time radio drama. First of all, there is only a narrator. The narrator must use nuanced voices to distinguish between speakers. The dialogue in Anahuac is sometimes fast and furious. Using subtle, but clear voices to let the listener know who is speaking is a talent and I mean a real talent. Alan has exceeded my wildest expectations. After the first session I felt like several people must be coming out of the recording booth when he finished.

Courtesy of The Block House Austin Texas

Here is a secret I didn’t know. I assumed that an audio book was read straight through without any breaks. In fact it is not possible to do that. There are pauses, unwelcome breath sounds and other interruptions that are deleted by Joel. The finished product is seamless. Joel has shared a few chapters with me to let me hear what the audio book will be. It is amazing.

There was another side benefit to recording the novel. I have been sitting with Joel with my face buried in a book I swore I couldn’t read again as we recorded it line by line. The process is slower than I could imagine and it has given me a deeper understanding of what I wrote. Sometimes I hear things that I didn’t fully understand myself while I was writing. I believe writing is more about learning to listen to something or someone unseen  than being personally brilliant.

I am thrilled to say that within a short time Joel will have the audio recording produced and you can travel to Anahuac in a different manner than reading the book. Consider traveling to Anahuac with an audio rendition. It will be fun.

Chambers County Library Book Event

 

I was recently back in Anahuac for a book event at the Chambers County Library. There were three other local authors there and we had a great time with a knowledgeable audience. I am honored that the library book club is reading Morgan’s Point this month

Chambers County Book Club

I feel strongly about an author’s responsibility to support library organizations. The Chambers County Library System is doing a great job in supporting their citizens with a modern library and a knowledgeable staff. Sue Hawthorne worked tirelessly to organize the book event.

It was great to get back to Fort Anahuac State Park and fantasize about days of yore when the Mexican Army Fort ruled Trinity Bay and William B. Travis practiced law in Anahuac. Texas revolutionary history had its beginnings at this site on 1832. The trip to Anahuac is not easy, but I recommend it. The annual Gator festival is a spring event that brings in large crowds. I hope to be there this spring.

Book Signing Anahuac

Anahuac #LoneStarLit tour concludes with spectacular reviews

I did a book signing at the delightful Deep Vellum Bookstore in  Dallas this week. That was an actual trip. While I was doing that, I was also traveling all over the state on the virtual #LoneStarLit tour. Ten professional bloggers covered my book in all: Some interviewed me, some printed excerpts from Anahuac and four provided professional reviews of my book. You can see those reviews in their entirety at Missus Gonzo‘s and the Forgotten Winds blogs, as well as Kristine Hall‘s and Ruthie Jones’ websites.

Reading by Moonlight

I am appreciative of the in-depth, honest and very positive reviews these critics gave the book. It is an amazing feeling to read a review of your work in such depth. I can truthfully say these reviewers got what I was trying to say. I didn’t start out to write a book that was heavily influenced by the plight of women in the work force in the early 1970s. The more I wrote, the more they edged their way into  the book. I suppose that its about time someone highlighted the barriers that women faced in the work force in the 1970s. Those of you who have read the book know this is not a book about sexual harassment. While that harassment was present in spades in those times, this book examines the difficulties women faced in just getting a chance to compete. Those difficulties are told in the individual stories of Sarita Jo, Cooper, Aurora and Chinky. The first step in gaining a semblance of equality was overcoming the idea that women didn’t have a real place in management and the professions. While the four strong women in Anahuac are a major part of the story, I don’t want the men in the book to get short changed. Jim, Reverend Clay, Maurice Marrow, Wells Wilson, Little Harry  and Sheriff Staunton all have their part in telling the story that has no easy answers. The blog tour was a blast. Next weekend the Chambers County Library System will hold an Author’s Event in Anahuac at the library on Saturday January 20th from 10-12. After the forecast of early week cold and snow, a weekend trip to see the world of Anahuac might be fun. Hope to see you there.

Chambers County Courthouse

Chambers County Courthouse where the fictional murder trial is conducted.

P.S. Sheriff Staunton says, “Drive slow now, you hear?”

Good Day for Anahuac

Reading by Moonlight

Finishing books, catching a typo, and being blessed with a new idea for a book are all good days. The best however is having a knowledgeable reviewer praise your work. Today is not a good day—it is a great day! As you may know I am on a virtual book tour through a group of professional bloggers who love books. Ruthie Jones’ Blog is Reading by Moonlight and she provided a review today that made it a great day. I hope you will look at her website

Review of Anahuac by Ruthie Jones  

“When you make your living with words it is hard to find moments to be silent.”

Thriller is definitely an apt description for Anahuac. The entire story is a fast train ride through the Texas legal system in the 1970s. What could be more thrilling than that?

Jim Ward is not a new character. You will find him among the pages of Book One in the A Texas Story series: Morgan’s Point. In Anahuac (pronounced Anna-whack), Jim finds himself on the defense team for a charismatic spiritual leader from Arkansas charged with the murder of someone who apparently willed an entire estate to his radio ministry. All the characters are incredibly dynamic and memorable, with nary an underdeveloped one in the bunch. Even the minor characters jump off the page!

Word of caution: the story does take place almost 50 years ago, so be prepared for a hefty dose of misogyny and some racism. Strong, successful women are treated as oddities, and a professional woman in a pantsuit is considered a disgrace; however, Anahuac has three such strong women who set the story on fire with their audacity to succeed in a “man’s world.” Welcome to Texas in the 1970s. I will say that Anahuac is unfortunately timely and timeless in its portrayal of the treatment of women in the workforce.

The story is told through Jim Ward who struggles to find his voice and purpose apart from his wife’s family’s wealth and prestige. Becoming a trial lawyer on such a high-profile case could be just what Jim needs to put his name on the map, instead of simply being referred to as Taylor Faircloth’s son-in-law.

The actual crime takes a backseat to the the events leading up to the trial and the trial itself of the Reverend Randall Clay for alleged murder. Clay is a piece of work and a thoroughly interesting character; I found myself vacillating between liking him and finding him completely frustrating. I can’t seem to make up my mind about this guy, which is a testament to William Darling’s ability to write a character that makes you laugh one minute and grit your teeth the next. And then there is Maurice Marrow, Clay’s manager. I did say the characters are dynamic!

As an added bonus, Anahuac is filled with greed, inflated egos, religious fervor, entitled attitudes, legalese, and a fair amount of humorous yet thought-provoking prose. The ending chapters, with the trial and the aftermath, are explosive, entertaining, and open for another Texas Story, I hope.   (Emphasis added)

Don’t worry readers, I won’t leave you hanging. The next book in the series is in the works!

 

 

Deep Vellum Book Store Friday January 12th Book Signing

Anahuac A Texas Story

I will be in Dallas next Friday evening January 12th from 7-9 for a reading and book signing at Deep Vellum Book Store. Deep Vellum is an iconic book store in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas at 3000 Commerce Street.

Here is an interesting history of the building I found on the Deep Vellum website.

OUR LOCATION
We’re located in the historic heart of Deep Ellum, our roots grounded in growth, tenacity, and expression. Gen X may remember our home as Club Clearview, the sign still perched in our store windows, or as the site of the inaugural Dallas Film Festival. Boomers may remember this building as a reputable storefront, or as home legendary blues and jazz artist Leadbelly, his music drifting through the alleyway at sunset. As for the Millennials – this was the site of an unregistered winery, our floors now pocked with meritage blends.

To us, it’s the site where it all begins. Where ideas are considered and discussed. Where the best & brightest mingle with the up & coming. Where Dallas unites in the vision to create a stronger, more vibrant culture.

I hope to see you at Deep Vellum.

 

Anahuac is becoming an Audio Book

I am reticent to tell you how little I know about audio books since many of you routinely “read” books in that manner. Everything I know I have learned in the past two weeks. Those of you who know me understand that holding a book in my hand is such a joy that I hadn’t explored the alternative. After listening to a few snippets from audio books I see the attraction.

Courtesy of The Block House Audio Studio.

As I told you in my last post we are working with Joel Block at his studio in Austin. I encourage you to click on the link to the studio if you have interest in seeing how audio books are produced. Joel and his wife are extremely knowledgeable and have been a delight.

I will be giving you regular updates of how Anahuac is becoming an audio book. The latest is that Joel has received several audition tapes from the talented people who do narrations. By Monday we will have tapes from everyone who is interested in being considered. The willingness of these talented narrators to vie for the job of bringing Anahuac to life is humbling.  Let me know if you have any questions about audio books.

Courtesy of The Block House Austin Texas

Anahuac now available in Book People in Austin

Book People  is a major independent book store in the heart of downtown Austin. As of today both Morgan’s Point and Anahuac can be found on the main floor both in the Texas Stories and Mysteries sections. I am honored to have the books of my series A Texas Story available in this prestigious Austin institution. Book People is a store that is noted for supporting local Austin writers and Texas based novels. This represents a big moment for me and it is much appreciated. Morgan’s Point and Anahuac are still available on Amazon in print and e-book.

Another exciting happening is the coming availabity of Anahuac in audio book. We met with Joel Block Studios here in Austin last week to begin the process. Anahuac will be recorded by a professional talent and be of the highest quality. The creation of an audio book is not as easy as it sounds. I will keep you up to date as recording progresses. If all goes as planned we should have a finished product in the spring of 2018.

Fort Anahuac Park

Fort Anahuac Park