Monday, December 22, 2014

10th Anniversary: Christmases Past 

Long time readers know Christmas is important to me – and I can get downright insufferable about it.  In keeping with that, I thought this 10th Anniversary year of this blog would be a good time to look back at past Christmasy posts.

My first Christmas as an Anglican and the first one of this blog was bittersweet.  On Christmas Eve and the day itself, I missed out on having an Anglican churchy Christmas, and I was disappointed about that.

But then I walked into a favorite Anglican church the 1st Sunday after Christmas, and I discovered Christmas is a season.  I got my churchy Christmas after all.

My next Christmas Eve was my first one to participate in a Lessons and Carols service (as I will this Christmas Eve).

My 2007 studies in Oxford brought about a tutorial paper that is one of the best things I’ve written, if I may say so myself.  It ties together the Black Death with our celebration of Christmas today, if you can imagine that.

I’ve mentioned I have a weakness for Christmas lights.

I’ve excoriated Christmastime abominations, religious, political, and retail.

I’ve created and used a chant for Christmas Eve.

And, of course, I’ve fretted over when I should allow Advent to become Christmasy.

Yes, it’s been good to be an Anglican at Christmas.

But I cannot let this Christmas pass without mentioning a past Christmas far more memorable than any of mine.  This Christmas Eve will be the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce near the beginning of World War I.  I recommend this BBC documentary.  

That was a bittersweet Christmas indeed.

May you have a memorable and happy Christmas.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas is less than a week away. DON’T PANIC! 

Yes, some may be so behind on preparing for Christmas that they may find my admonition not to panic not helpful.  But I do indeed want to be helpful and will do so with two suggestions concerning a task that should be a joy but often becomes a burden - gift giving:

1. Remember that Christmas Day, glorious as it is, is the first day of Christmas.  Christmas is not only a day; it is a season of twelve days.  And, as in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, it is perfectly fine to give Christmas gifts that arrive after Christmas Day (although trying to give the particular gifts mentioned in said song will not make anyone’s Christmas easier).  So do not be in a mad rush.  Gifts that come in the midst of the Christmas season are often a greater surprise and even more (and certainly more leisurely) appreciated than gifts opened on the 25th.

Yes, there are a few who hold up their nose at gifts that arrive after Christmas Day.  They consider them “late”.  As one who used to have that attitude, such are in need of prayer for repentance.

2. There are numerous ways to make gift giving quicker and simpler.  I will suggest one here.

If you have friends or family who like e-books, it is very easy to give the gift of a Kindle book.  I’ve done it myself.  At the Amazon Kindle page for a book, click “Give as a Gift” on the right.  Then once you’ve signed in, you can select “E-mail the gift directly to my recipient” and fill in their e-mail address (the method I’ve used) or you can have the Kindle book e-mailed to yourself, and you can pass it on yourself.  (Note that you can write a personal message when having Amazon e-mail the gift to someone.)

Finish the order, take care of the payment, and it’s done! No messing with gift wrap.  No worries about snail mail delivery.  And Kindle books usually cost less than print books, sometimes a lot less as is the case with my novel.

Speaking of which, I of course do hope you use this tip to give my novel Pilot Point, which is only $2.99 in Kindle form.  But if you have other books in mind to give, as the owner of too many books, I understand and am glad to help.

May you have a blessed last week of Advent and a happy Christmas free from unnecessary stress and fretting.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

10th Anniversary: The Choir of King’s College Cambridge 

As I began looking forward to this year’s Nine Lessons and Carols service from King’s College Cambridge, I remember that I first saw the great choir ten years ago this month in Dallas.  I wrote of my experience here.

And, yes, I do plan to see them again in Dallas this March.

I later found out the name of the cheeky soloist.  Any guesses?

Like many of you I’m sure, I am behind on getting ready for Christmas and other matters.  So I may imitate a favorite blog, Instapundit, and have short posts with links instead of my usual erudite commentary.

I do have some treats in mind for you nonetheless, particularly with Christmas upon us and with the 10th Anniversary of this blog coming to an end.

By the way, if you need some assistance with gifts, don’t forget my novel Pilot Point.  Thanks.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pilot Point Gun Show Tour Update 

I’ve mentioned here the possibility that I will take my novel Pilot Point to the Fredericksburg Gun Show this weekend.  Well, the show is so full that it is unlikely I can get a vendor’s table.  And, with the grace of my presence desired closer to home, I have decided to cancel.

But I do have a big book signing lined up for Christmas Eve Eve, on this Tuesday the 23rd at Half Price Books, Corpus Christi, from 4 to 7pm.

Yes, it is not a gun show.  Sorry.

For those unable to make the trip, remember it is now only one week until Christmas Eve.  And remember that I do not have a tip jar.  To assist with both situations, Pilot Point is available in both Kindle and paperback.  You’re welcome. :)

May this last week of Advent be a great blessing to you.  (This Advent has been a blessing to me, and I hope to find the time and energy to share some of that.)


Hannah Overton Will Be Home for Christmas 

Readers may remember that I’ve followed the Hannah Overton case for some time.  Her capital murder conviction was rightly overturned in September.  But her release did not come until yesterday’s bond hearing.

The three month delay in her release is hard to excuse.  But part of the delay was her defense team’s wise and successful effort to get Judge Jose Longoria recused.  He presided over the 2007 trial and has demonstrated he cannot be trusted to be a fair judge of this case.

One result of said recusal is the success of yesterday’s bond hearing.  Bond was set at a reasonable $50,000 with no onerous conditions.  So, finally, Hannah Overton is home with her family after seven long years.

Nueces County DA Mark Skurka has said he intends to retry Overton for capital murder.  But a development during the bond hearing would make much a foolish task even more difficult:

Arguably the most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Hannah’s attorneys revealed that one of the state’s star witnesses at trial, Dr. Alexandre Rotta—who had treated Andrew on the night he was brought to the hospital in 2006 in a coma—had recently contacted Hannah’s defense team. Dr. Rotta told Hannah’s attorneys in an email that seven years after Hannah’s trial, her conviction still kept him up at night. This complicates matters for Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka, who has vowed to retry Hannah on capital murder charges. The fact that key prosecution witnesses such as Dr. Rotta— along with Dr. Edgar Cortes , another physician who examined Andrew on the night he was admitted to the hospital—now question Hannah’s conviction casts doubt on whether Skurka can win his case . . . .

Skurka would be wiser to clean up his office.  Yet another indication of the corruption of the Nueces County DA’s office has come out.  Eric Hillman is suing said office.  The former prosecutor claims he was fired for following the law:

Eric Hillman prosecuted drunk driving cases, but, when he uncovered a witness who had the potential to help someone he was prosecuting, he claims his bosses told him not to share that information with the other side.

 He did and the lawsuit he filed Monday claims it cost him his job.

"It is unlawful to fire or terminate an employee because they refuse to commit a criminal act and that's exactly what happened here," said Hillman's attorney, Amie Pratt with the Gale Law Group.

Prosecutors are required by law to share any evidence that may help the defense.  This legal requirement was also alleged to have been violated in the 2007 Hannah Overton trial. 

Was that violation inadvertent and isolated?  I think not.  And I am not alone.

[Hillman’s] attorneys say this case could point to bigger problems in the pursuit of justice in Nueces County.

"Nueces County seems to be in favor of withholding evidence from defense counsel which is a huge problem," Pratt said.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas and Aloneness – an excerpt from Pilot Point 

I’ve mentioned that Christmas and other holidays can be difficult times for those dealing with aloneness, difficult family situations, and past traumas.  Mother’s Day used to be my bad holiday. (And do read my post last week if you are among those not looking forward to Christmas for similar reasons.)

One of the plots of my novel Pilot Point is how Clayton Hays and his friend Bowie Smith deal with their aloneness – and they do not deal with it very well.  One Christmas opens a window to this.

The following excerpt from that Christmastime is short and simple.  We see their reluctance to accept an invitation to a family Christmas; it reminds both of the families they do not have.  Bowie instead has arranged to work cattle on Christmas Day.

We also see Bowie adding logs to a dying fire.  That does not seem a significant moment at first.  But his words as he does so end up echoing through the novel – and through Clayton’s struggle.


         Kim, Bowie, and Clayton were playing poker over at Bowie’s. He had a fire going, but it was dying from neglect—the three were so intent on their cards.

         The armadillo on the rafter had a red elf cap on, and there was a picture up of Santa wearing a cowboy hat with his sleigh being pulled by longhorns. Those were the only Christmas decorations Bowie had up.

         After a hand, Kim asked Bowie, “What are you going to be doing Christmas?”

         “Nothin’ much.” He shuffled the cards.

         “The wife says you’re welcome to stop by for Christmas dinner. So come on over.”

         “I appreciate that, but I don’t know if I’m going to have time. I’m going to give the Hunt land workers Christmas by taking over for them. Most of them have families to go to, and I don’t. So I figured I’d stand in for them so they can have the day off. Seven-card stud.”

         “That’s awful nice of you. I didn’t know you were doing that for us. I appreciate it. The offer still stands though.”

         “I thank you.”

         “How about you, Clayton?”

         He shrugged his shoulders and kept looking at his cards. “I don’t have any plans.”

         “Well, come over for dinner at my place then.”

         “Thanks, but I’d feel out of place. Christmas is a time for family and…” his voice faded.

         “Keep it in mind anyway. Janet’s cooking and hospitality can make anyone feel like family.”


         When they finished the hand, Bowie looked over at the fire. “Hell, there’s only one log left burning and barely at that. We’re so busy with cards, we weren’t paying attention.” He got up and walked over to the logs he had piled to the side of the fireplace. He leaned over. But before he picked one up, he looked back at Clayton with an expression both wry and yet as serious as a long winter.

         “One log can’t keep a fire going. A lone fire dies. You’d think we’d know that.”

         Clayton watched him as he turned back to the fireplace and put three logs on. They watched as the fire began to grow strong again.

         Bowie came back to the table. And they went back to their cards.

         When the cards came around to Clayton, he asked Bowie, “What kind of work are you going to be doing Christmas.”

         “Oh, mainly just feedin’ and docterin’.”

         Clayton shuffled the cards and began dealing them. “Five-card draw.”

         After losing some more money, he asked, “Could you use a hand on Christmas?”

         “Sure, are you offering?”


         “We haven’t won that much money off you, have we?” The three chuckled.

         “I appreciate that,” Bowie then said without any bluster, looking at Clayton.


Pilot Point is available at Amazon.

Check out (and like) the Facebook page for Pilot Point for more information and updates.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Pilot Point Gun Show Tour Resumes! 

First, apologies for not writing a more normal post this morning.  Trust me that I had a post or two in mind with all the craziness going on in the world.  But today I am a bit swamped.  I am happy to report that, unlike the world, my craziness is a good craziness.  Nonetheless, busy is busy (as work is constantly interrupting me as I try to type this!).

One reason I am busy is later today I go set up my table for the Aransas Pass Gun Show tomorrow.  Yep, the Pilot Point Gun Show Tour resumes tomorrow Saturday at the Aransas Pass (Texas) Civic Center from 9 to 5.

But I know most of you are not within driving distance to meet me and buy my novel tomorrow.  And, with less than two weeks until Christmas, some may be a bit busy taking care of their naughty and nice lists.  If so, may I make a suggestion? ;)

Yes, my novel Pilot Point is an appropriate gift for both the naughty and nice.  Or at least I think so.  Click the "Pilot Point" link below to find out more.  Better yet, go to and "like" my Pilot Point Facebook page.

May God bless the remainder of your Advent season and preparation for Christmas.

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