My Father’s New Suit

My father was industrious, hard working and the most optimistic man I ever knew. He made money in many ways. He had a difficulty however. As a child of the Great Depression he had experienced many privations on the Kansas farm where he grew to manhood. Oatmeal three time a day for weeks at a time may be great for someone on a high fiber diet, but it wasn’t very fun.

Dad really struggled with letting go of money. He was generous with gifts, jewelry and other notions for my mother. Beyond that he was frugal. One day he came home with a fine wool custom suit. My family was amazed at the quality of the suit. We were further amazed at the cost of the suit, which he confessed to my mother with great difficulty.

As the weeks went on we waited for him to wear his suit. He didn’t. It languished in the closet in a suit bag. Finally one night at supper my mother asked him, “when are you going to wear your new suit?”

He hesitated for a moment and then said  softly, “I bought this suit to be buried in.”

We looked at him in horror. Was disease about to strike our father dead?”

“I don’t know when that will come, but I want to look nice at my funeral.”

It was more than 20 years later before that sad day came. A few days after dad’s  funeral my mother busied herself cleaning out the closet. As she reached the back of the closet she laughed and then she cried. There it was, still in its original suit bag. The frugal modest man was buried in a nice suit, just not the one he pictured. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Maybe there isn’t one. What do you think?

Texas sunset

Publishing a Novel is a Brand New Game–Please write a review

The book publishing business is very different today than it was before Amazon joined the fray. In years gone by, publishing houses ruled the lives of authors. There is no way to know, but I suspect that there are hundreds of books you would have loved stuffed in land fills and ancient trunks in dusty attics that were “too” something to get past the guard gate in traditional publishing. It’s even harder today because unless your name is Grisham you are even less likely to get a big publishing house to take the financial risk to publish your first book.

Anahuac A Texas Story


Self publishing with Amazon as your platform has revolutionized the industry and it is now flooded us with those once thought lost volumes of “forgotten lore.” You have to take the good with the bad. How can authors get their work noticed in the daily avalanche of new published books. By doing just what I’m doing in this blog. So far I’ve buried the lead in this article. The way you help people whose books you like is the review them honestly on Amazon and other sites devoted to books. It only takes a minute and you don’t have to do a New York Times Review. My new book Anahuac is a fun read and will also challenge you to think about justice, greed and religion. If you have done me the honor of reading Anahuac, please give your opinion. I like good reviews, but there is a lot to learn from “less good” ones. You help us all by reviewing. One more request, stop by my new Author Page on Amazon. It is under William Duane Darling. The Author page and my website will tell you my schedule of book signings and speeches. I have two scheduled now in Austin and San Antonio. Times and dates will be posted tomorrow. Exciting times for me. I would love to see you if you are in the vicinity. No purchase required.

Anahuac–A Texas Story

 

The completion of a novel brings a mix of emotions. Certainly euphoria and a sense of accomplishment are primary, but  there are also  moments of melancholy. I’ve had Sarita Jo, Jim Ward, Cooper, Chinky, Aurora, Wells, Reverend Clay and the mysterious Maurice Marrow all to myself for the last year and a half. Now I want to share their story with you. Anahuac will be available this week in paper back at Amazon.com and an electronic edition at Kindle.comAnahuac is a standalone second novel in the series that began with Morgan’s Point (available on Kindle.com and in Paperback at Amazon.com). I would suggest that you read Anahuac first if you have not already read Morgan’s Point. The beauty is that you can read them in any order you choose. Oh, by the way, if you are mystified as to how to pronounce Anahuac you are not alone. While it is not technically correct, “Anna whack” is how most locals say the name of their town.

This mystery legal thriller is set in 1972. Anahuac explores religious fervor that may be cloaked in good or perhaps evil. In Anahuac, this isolated outpost on the shore of Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast, a high stakes criminal trial plays out with more than just a man’s life on the line.

Anahuac Courtroom

Anahuac Courtroom

Anahuac is an historic town whose importance in the beginnings of the Texas Revolutionary war with Mexico is often overlooked. In 1832, William Travis, a lawyer practicing in Anahuac, is at the center of the first armed conflict between the revolution minded Texicans (U.S. Citizens who immigrated to what was then Mexico by invitation) and the Mexican Army. Travis would go on to command the more famous Alamo garrison that was wiped out by Mexican President Santa Anna’s army. Whether Travis really whispers something in Jim Ward’s ear as he stands alone in Fort Anahuac State Park is up to you, but courage is where you find it.

Inside Fort Anahuac Park

Inside Fort Anahuac Park

In order to do research on the prequel to Anahuac that will be the next book in the A Texas Story series and to make sure that the area was recovering well from Hurricane Harvey I visited Anahuac on Monday. I wanted to stop by and say hello to the wonderful people who run the Chambers County Library and was thrilled to see that the library weathered the storm quite well. There was considerable flooding of low lying areas, but Anahuac looked like it was in a full recovery mode.

We arrived in Anahuac a bit before the library opened and made a real find — Denna’s Donuts. Denna’s opens at 4:30 in the morning which tells you a bit about how hard people in Anahuac work. This place is worth the trip off of I-10 to Anahuac all by itself. I’m sure you can tell from these pictures that all of the pastries are low-cal.

After the feast at Denna’s it was over to the library to thank the staff there for their help. The Chambers County Library is great community resource for the county. I am truly indebted to them for their help.

Next we made the short trip over to the Chambers County Courthouse that is featured in the criminal trial in Anahuac.

Chambers County Courthouse

Chambers County Courthouse

There is a mural nearby of the old Fort Anahuac site which is also featured in Anahuac. The mural is one of the few depictions of the Mexican Fort from the early 1830s.

The invasion of the old fort site in 1972 by evangelical Christians plays a major part in our story.

Anahuac has been a labor of love. It is full of serious questions about justice, but it also has a humorous side as Jim Ward struggles to  come to terms with three strong women and the feminist movement of the early 1970s. To sum it all up, Anahuac is about serious subjects, but there is also humor. If you read Anahuac, please review it on Amazon or Kindle. It is a great help to me.

 

A Faded Photograph and a New Beginning

Julie and Jancy at the Sterling Mansion

I have been asked where I get an idea for a novel. Four years ago, while rummaging around in the basement, I found a faded photograph of two pretty young girls. It launched a new life for me. The young girls in the picture are my daughters, Julie and Jancy. The occasion was a 1974 photo shoot for a Foley Bros. Department Store print ad. The setting for the shoot was the Sterling Mansion on Morgan’s Point. Gazing at the picture of my daughters standing on the back portico of the mansion overlooking Galveston Bay engendered a father’s pride, but was also the inspiration for a story about a young lawyer living in this house. I’d like to say that in the next 60 days I completed Morgan’s Point, but in reality I was blessed to get it published in paperback on Amazon and ebook on Kindle in 2016.

I recently completed a novel entitled Anahuac that continues the journey with lawyer Jim Ward and his wife Cooper Faircloth. Anahuac is a sometimes funny story about serious topics as diverse as rural justice, radio religion, and the changing role of women in the 1970s. In 1968 Virginia Slims cigarettes created an ad campaign around the slogan, “You’ve come along way baby!” (Was that ad written by a man, baby?) If you’d like to see how far we’ve come from the 1970s, Anahuac is illuminating. The two young girls in the photograph certainly were blessed with more opportunities than the women in the workforce in those days.

The Sterling Mansion shoot was the first major modeling opportunity for my daughters. I had a Kodiak Brownie Hawkeye camera, but in the excitement of the day shot only the picture you see here during a break. I regret not taking more pictures because the mansion has been greatly refurbished in the last few years. Back then, there were no cell phones or digital cameras to snap fifty shots at will.

I had seen the mansion many times from the water while sailing on Galveston Bay. The bay side of the mansion is modeled after the back of the White House in D.C. It surprising to see such an architectural feature while gliding around the bay. There is a picture of the mansion in the Virtual Tour section of my webpage.

The builder of the mansion was Ross Sterling. Mr. Sterling was a founder of the Humble Oil Company and also served as governor of Texas. The mansion was not his family’s primary residence. The mansion was built as a summer home to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of Houston’s summers. Mr. Sterling’s “cottage” is over 20,000 square feet, similar to those located in Newport, R.I. Today the mansion is in private hands, but can be viewed from the road.

Muse comes in surprising packages. When I was blessed to find the long ago photograph of my daughters on their special day it rekindled my curiosity about life in the Sterling Mansion. That curiosity resulted in the inspiration for Morgan’s Point and now AnahuacAnahuac is the sequel to Morgan’s Point, but may be read without having read my first novel. Anahuac is scheduled for release this fall.

But what if I don’t want to row my boat?

We all know the little ditty about rowing our boat gently down the stream. If you are old enough you can remember singing it in harmony while watching the “bouncing ball” in an old movie house like the Woodlawn Theater. Maturity has caused me to reconsider whether the song is a command or a suggestion. The purpose here is not to go all Eastern Religion on you, although I am not discounting their concept that life is just a dream.

What I really want to do is to remind myself first, but also to suggest to to you that drinking one or the other party’s political cool-aide without thinking for yourself  is a mistake.  Ask Jim Jones’ Jonestown congregation how blindly following his commands worked out for them. All I’m suggesting is think before you leap.

Spending substantial time in D.C. over the past twenty years has limited my willingness to simply “row my boat, gently…”. Before you think I am advocating one political persuasion over another let me explain.  Trying to make rational decisions in this world of biased reporting, fake news, fake news lite and alternative facts is hard at best.  During this last election we all got hopped up on supporting “our side”. Most of us were fervent about our candidates to the extreme.  After the election those whose candidate won rejoiced that “at last we could get back to sanity.” Those on the other end of the election were just as convinced that there was no sanity left in the country.

Call me crazy, but I think we are somewhere in between being well oriented in all spheres. The message I hope you take from my venture into navigating these turbulent waters is don’t believe everything you hear and with Photoshop available even less of what you see. I believe you can take what I say as truth, but then again I’m not sure I always know what I’m talking about!  In the meantime, row if you like, gently or otherwise.

He’s Back!

My apologies to the readers who enjoyed my blog articles last year. Life has a funny way of interrupting your plans when you least expect it. I am committed to getting back to regular posts. That all starts with making the first effort and here it is.

Take time to appreciate your surroundings and those you love. They have a way of changing and disappearing. Some close friends and family have disappeared out of my life in recent times. For the most part I had an opportunity to say good bye to them. But, and it is a big BUT, when folks are gone they are just gone. Grab someone you love today and say “Thanks for being in my life”.

By way of an update, my latest book “Anahuac” is with an editor who is doing a wonderful job. By June I hope to have the book out in paperback and on Kindle. “Anahuac” will be a fun read (forgive my pride!) I am asked frequently, “What’s your book about?” Well, here it is. A troubled young lawyer struggles to cope with three strong women as he defends a popular 1970’s radio evangelist accused of murdering a wealthy spinster in an isolated Texas county brimming with oil, evangelicals and greed.

One of the things that becoming an author teaches you is patience. There is no way that you finish a book when you want, get it edited as fast as you want, or get it into print when you want. It is a one step at-a-time process. I am not a patient man by nature. God has funny ways of showing you things. I hear you God, I’m trying!  O.K., I’m back again. I love your comments about the blog. Keep them coming, please.

Morgan’s Point is in paperback

Morgan’s Point, my first novel is now in a paperback edition. It can be ordered on Amazon. The book is also available on Kindle as an ebook.  I am particularly excited about the book in paperback. Being old school I love to hold a book in my hand. It is gratifying that the hard work is over on this project and I can turn all of my attention to completing my second book,  AnahuacAnahuac is the sequel to Morgan’s Point.

Morgan’s Point is a story of a young man named Jim and his birthday wish for manhood. The wish  is granted, but at a price a young boy could have never foreseen. Manhood comes to Jim through an unspeakable tragedy. Jim believes he has exorcised the demons of his youth when he becomes an assistant district attorney and marries Cooper Faircloth, the hard working heiress to a newspaper fortune. Jim’s redemption begins to fall apart when Cooper’s obsessive drive to be accepted in a man’s world of newspaper publishing in the 1960’s leaves him lonely and resentful. Sparks fly with the sudden reappearance of Chinky Mason, Jim’s troubled and alcoholic college sweetheart. When Jim’s ambition allows a clever criminal to outwit a flawed justice system, Jim discovers that his redemption may be illusory. What does a man do when he realizes that his not the man he wants to be and what can he do if he is preordained to fail?

Anahuac  is a story of a troubled young lawyer who defends a popular 1970’s radio evangelist accused of murdering a wealthy spinster in an isolated Texas county brimming with oil, evangelicals and greed. You don’t have to have read Morgan’s Point to enjoy Anahuac, but it would probably make the second book more fun. Anahuac will be on Kindle and Amazon in paperback soon. Thanks to all of you who have sent complements. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

There are other books called Morgan’s Point on the market. If you are interested to buying my book take care to order the one I wrote.

 

I Love You So Much!

My first book, Morgan’s Point, will soon be available in Paperback. I hope that those of you who mentioned to me that you prefer a book to an electronic version will now take this opportunity to read it. I continue to write the sequel entitled Anahuac and hope to have it out in paperback by September.

Austin, Texas has been my home most of my adult life. For the past year I have been away from Austin because of a delay in the completion of my new condo. The lack of any permanency in living arrangements has led to delays in a multitude of aspects of my life. One of them has been the inability to post anything on this blog. I am happy to report that I am moved in and back on task with the blog.

One of the most surprising aspects of a move to downtown Austin has been a rediscovery of the running trail around Lady Bird Johnson Lake and Barton Creek. These are some of the elements (against all odds) that have survived the onslaught of development in Austin. Some of the most beautiful natural spots in the world are in downtown Austin. Barton Springs Pool still flows at 68 degrees or so in the dead of a hot summer. I am going to be writing a series of post in the next few weeks highlighting this beautiful area. The iconic sign below located on South Congress Avenue sums up how I feel about Austin. I hope you will take a trip with me around Lady Bird Lake and Barton Creek so that you can see the beauty that is Austin.

 

 

CONTEST: Little Known Texas History

Last week I promised you a Texas history contest. There is even a prize to the person who provides the first right answer to my three part question below. So here goes:

Question Part 1: What town along the Texas Gulf Coast was the site of early conflicts between Anglo Texan settlers and the Mexican Authorities. (Hint: Its name starts with an A)

Question Part 2: What was the name and profession of a resident of this city who became the Commander of the Alamo?

Question Part 3: What County in Texas was named for a partner of the man who is the answer to Question Part 2?

I didn’t say it was an easy test. Think of it as a Texas history scavenger hunt.
The prize is an autographed copy of my novel, Morgan’s Point which will be issued in paper back next month. Have fun and get to work on the test. We are not grading on a curve!

“Can’t You Just Sit Still”

My beautiful Mother said, “Bill, can’t you just sit still.” I was probably no more than five years old. I had no recollection of ever voluntarily sitting still for long. Neither did I understand why it might be desirable. My Mother could have given me a lengthy list. She was weary from tending to my new born brother.

My Father sat at the breakfast table all tall, slender and dashing in his double breasted suit. He quickly finished his breakfast, retrieved his stylish Bogart hat and slicked the brim. “Gotta get to work!”, he said to no one in particular. Then he bent over and patted me on the head. With his head drawn near my face he whispered. “Bill, remember you can’t sit still if you want to get ahead in this world.” Then he was out the door. With no one to arbitrate this clear conflict in parental commands I probably just went back to shoving my eggs and bacon around my plate.

How did this come back to me all these years later? I was working at the ranch today trying to brush away the rust of the winter from the plants in the greenhouse. Shoving the heavy pots outside to meet the gentle spring sun taxed my muscles, but satisfied some deep-seated need to grow things. I had come to the ranch to vegetate. I have been juggling some real life stresses lately that have finally resolved themselves. With them behind me I only wanted to go to the hill country to rest, regenerate and revitalize. The simple life was my quest as I rocked on the front porch, but the siren song of “Gotta get to work” called out. In a few minutes I was knee deep in the greenhouse.

I worked for several hours hauling my plants to just the right place around the house. As I stood dripping with sweat (that gentle spring sun was not so gentle), the question “Bill, why can’t you just sit still?” came back as if it had just been asked. The question I was pondering was not the one that my Mother had asked. This was a hardball existential inquiry and one that stopped me in my tracks. The corollary question of “what’s wrong with taking it easy?” also came to visit. Clearly, nothing is wrong with taking it easy. But because of DNA, environment or some other reason I don’t understand, I’m wired this way. After having thought about it I realized that I neither have to apologize for it nor do I have to regret it. I love writing my novels, writing this blog, traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C. and shoving dirt around at the ranch. It’s not right for everyone, but it is what keeps me alive and healthy. I wish you would all share what keeps your motor running.

One more thing, next week there is going to be a pop quiz on Texas history. There was a famous Texas hero who started a dust up with the Mexican army well before he met his untimely demise at the Alamo. I can’t wait to see if you can answer my tough question. I came across it while I was researching my next book. That’s all the clues you get for the moment. The first right answer will win a prize.