This Week’s Blog Post

For those of you who follow this site on a weekly basis, you would normally expect to find a new entry today commenting on the latest book or tour at Lone Star Literary Life or one of my own publications. However, my focus has been on preparations for our son’s wedding tomorrow which my wife and I are hosting here at the house. Needless to say, with friends and family coming in there has been a lot to do, and concentrating on writing a review or other post (much less finding the time to so) just hasn’t been possible.

Look for me to get back on schedule next week. In the interim, catch up on previous posts or go to LSLL’s website for all the latest literary happenings in the state of Texas, and congratulate the happy couple!

Brian & Karolina

Photo on 4-28-16 at 7.00 PM

On Wings of Silence: Afterword

Mexico ’68
Genre:  Historical / Novel in Verse / Literary Fiction
Publisher: Lamar University Literary Press
Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Number of Pages: 196Scroll down for the giveaway!

On Wings of Silence is the story of seventeen-year-old Diana Green, who travels from Texas to Mexico City searching for adventure, freedom, and romance. She finds all three. 
Then Diana’s first love Guillermo vanishes during the revolutionary chaos prior to the ’68 Olympics. Heartbroken, she searches for the truth about his disappearance. As police track, threaten, and abuse those who ask questions, she refuses to be silenced and risks becoming one of the missing.
Based on real events, On Wings of Silence uses historical details to bring to life the horror of the Tlatelolco Massacre, presented through the eyes of a young woman readers will care about and admire.
“This incredible story…is told in a masterful way that engages the reader with its protagonist and the other characters from the start. They are authentic. We know people like them and we care what happens to them. In Fox’s clear voice, mystery, romance and suspense build steadily to the end. Pitched toward young adult readers, this is a good read for any age.” — Dianne Logan





From On Wings of Silence: Mexico ‘68

By Dede Fox

Some stories take fifty years to surface. On Wings of Silence is one of them.

The first readers to recognize the significance of this topic were Anne McCrady and 2008 Texas Poet Laureate Larry D. Thomas, who selected my poem “Chapultepec Park” for the 2008 Christina Sergeyevna Award at the Austin International Poetry Festival. When critique partner Joy Preble said she believed there was a novel hidden within that poem, I began to search for answers to lingering questions about the chaos prior to the 1968 Olympics. Dr. Cliff Hudder, my earliest Beta reader, directed me to Elena Poniatowska’s Massacre in Mexico, and Alicia Salazar, whose uncle survived the bloodbath, contributed as a sensitivity reader.

Other beta readers of the full manuscript included Dr. Molly McBride, Dianne Logan, Juan Paloma, and Kim O’Brien. Their insights, as well as critiques by Bob Lamb and Suzanne Bazemore, along with inspirations from Charles Trevino’s SCBWI “Critique Critters” at Lone Star College, improved my storytelling. Fellow author Kathryn Lane helped with the wording of the Spanish version of the Corrido. I am especially grateful to my mentor and friend Dave Parsons, 2011 Texas Poet Laureate, who helped me develop my poetic voice.

For a quarter century, the Tlatelolco tragedy remained buried. With increasing access to Internet data, I eventually confirmed my worst fears; Communist instigators encouraged the student protests and the United States sent weapons and ammunition to Mexico to quell any conflict.

When former Mexican President Luis Echeverria spoke up about the young victims of the massacre, he said, “These kids were not provocateurs. The majority were the sons and daughter of workers, farmers and unemployed people.” According to him, then President Diaz Ordaz ordered snipers to shoot the students. How tragic and ironic that Mexican leaders used U.S. weapons to kill students protesting for a more democratic government while agents from the Soviet Union encouraged the demonstrations.

Triggered by this knowledge and my memories of running across advancing troop lines on the Avenida de la Reforma in Mexico City, I created the fictional On Wings of Silence: Mexico, 1968 with details supported by primary historical sources–testimonies from Massacre in Mexico, photos, letters, and newspapers, some with my byline.

Diana’s friends and acquaintances are fictional, with one exception. The student leader with the white van was real and a total mystery. I suspect he was a U.S. government agent whose purpose was to destabilize student leadership in the American university during turbulent times.

And Guillermo? Like my protagonist, I grieve for him, for all of the Guillermos and Guillerminas, and their families. Their truncated lives and unrealized dreams will forever haunt me. Diana and I hope our voices will rise on the wings of their silence.

Half a century ago, Olympic posters read, Todo es possible en la paz. I share that belief, but now have the maturity to know that peace is only possible when we put away our weapons and listen to one another.


MASSACRE IN MEXICO by Elena Poniatowska1968: THE YEAR THAT ROCKED THE WORLD by Mark Kurlansky


Dede Fox is the 2017-2022 Poet Laureate of Montgomery, Texas. Since 2016, she has been the NEA/DOJ Artist-in-Residence at the Bryan Federal Prison Camp for Women, where she teaches creative writing. Through Houston’s Writers in the Schools, Dede also writes with hematology and oncology patients at Texas Children’s Hospital.
The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin, Dede’s first novel, was listed in the 2010 Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens. Her poetry books include Confessions of a Jewish Texan and Postcards Home. Dede’s poem “Chapultepec Park: September 25, 1968,” the catalyst for this novel, won the Christina Sergeyevna Award at the Austin International Poetry Festival.
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A King’s Ransom: My Review

A King's Ransom Book CoverA King’s Ransom, the final entry into Sharon Kay Penman’s Plantagenet series, is another masterpiece from a gifted writer. Meticulously researched, with an unparalleled grasp of the political complexities of medieval kingship, it goes beyond the exploits of the fearless crusader Richard the Lionheart to capture insights into the man behind the legend.

The novel picks up where the companion book Lionheart leaves off. Richard, betrayed by his brother John, his kingdom threatened by the French king Philippe, must abandon the Third Crusade in the Holy Land and return home to defend the Angevin dynasty. However, his adversaries have conspired against him accusing him of murder and conspiring with the great Muslim ruler Saladin, and he must first circumvent those bent on his capture and imprisonment.

History tells us that Richard was captured outside of Vienna on his way back to England, and the first half of A King’s Ransom is a comprehensive account of his capture by Leopold of Austria, his imprisonment by the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich, the negotiations by his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to secure his release and keep him from falling into the hands of his arch enemy, Philippe, and his brilliant speech and defense before the Imperial Diet at Speyer.

It is during this prolonged captivity and negotiations that we see the human side of Richard. Fearless in battle, reckless with his own personal safety, he suffers physically from fevers, is haunted by his failure to recapture Jerusalem, has recurring nightmares resulting from the harsh treatment he experiences while held at Trifels, is tormented by Heinrich who threatens to turn him over to the French king, and ultimately is humiliated by having to pay homage to the Holy Roman Emperor as a condition of his release.

Finally obtaining his freedom, Richard will spend the next five years warring with Philippe, and Penman dedicates the second half of the book to these military campaigns. It is a compelling and comprehensive account of his efforts to regain the territory he lost while in captivity which ends with his death at Chalus.

Readers may be daunted by the sheer scope of Penman’s work (without the Afterword, Author’s Note, and Acknowledgements the book is 657 pages in length.) However, the novel never flags and there is no better account of this fascinating individual or period in history.

I highly recommend reading all five books in the series, though each one can be read by itself. However, to fully appreciate the many historical characters that populate the books and to really grasp the essence of Richard, both his magnanimity and ruthlessness, I would at least encourage readers to read Lionheart and A King’s Ransom. Your time will have been well spent!


Publication Update

In January I announced that my latest book Tarnished Brass would be published sometime in 2019. Though I still don’t have a firm release date from Page Publishing, we’re getting closer!

For anyone unfamiliar with the publishing process, the submitted manuscript goes through various stages including editing, page and cover design. My book is currently in the cover design phase. I hope to approve the artist’s concept in the next couple of weeks, after which the hard-copy, paperback, and e-book formats should be available in four-to-six weeks. So, we’re probably looking at the June time frame for the book launch.

The novella looks at America’s involvement in El Salvador during its civil war (1980-1992) and the consequences of that conflict some twenty-seven years later. Gang violence from MS-13 and Barrio-18 is widespread throughout the capitol city of San Salvador and extends to all regions of the Central American country (consistently ranking its homicide rate among the highest in the world), and MS-13’s influence has also spread here in the United States.

Tarnished Brass will be the third book that I’ve published. However, since many of you have only recently started to follow this blog, here is a brief synopsis of the two prior publications:

Completed Book CoverSilver Taps was written following the death of my father. The memoir looks at our relationship, the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and its effects on a family, and also discusses faith in the context of coping with loss. The title is derived from the time honored tradition at Texas A&M University remembering the deceased during the academic year. I am a proud graduate of that institution.

Palo Duro CoverPalo Duro is a novel of westward expansion focusing on the Plains Indian Wars in the Southwest United States towards the end of the nineteenth century. It is an ode to the rugged individualism that made this country and pays homage to the western genre with depictions of the great cattle drives, the cowboys and gunslingers that would become icons of the “Old West,” as well as the struggles of Native Americans and white settlers over contested land.

Both of these books are available online at



The Rainwater Secret: Author Interview

Monica Shaw
Genre: Historical Fiction / Medical Missionaries
Publisher: Self-Published
Date of Publication: March 31, 2017
Number of Pages: 354

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The Rainwater Secret is a deeply moving, historical fiction novel about a woman who travels

to Africa to teach the leper children who were banished from their villages. Single and feeling there is nothing left for her in small-town England, Anna embarks on an adventure as a volunteer teacher with the Medical Missionaries of Mary. Life as Anna has known it is forever changed as she learns the culture that would banish its sick, disfigured, and crippled to the bush. Babies are left to die on roadsides, children are chased away to live by whatever means they can find. The aged are abandoned.

Anna’s daily life is an adventure as she travels from one village to another across a hostile land with few passable roads, rickety bridges threatening to fall apart and casting occupants on the jagged rocks far below, and weather that turns a calm river into a roiling death trap. In spite of the trials, Anna also manages to find love and family in this godforsaken land.

Follow this adventure through disease, weather, strife, death, and determination to turn a few acres of land into a loving home for the outcast lepers of Nigeria.



Interview with Monica Shaw 

What did your great aunt do that inspired this book?

Well, back in 1950, my great aunt, Lily Murphy, heard that the Medical Missionaries of Mary were looking for a teacher to come to Africa to teach the leper children who were banned from their villages because of their disease.  It wasn’t just my aunt, it was the wonderful sisters with the Medical Missionaries of Mary who were able to take a few acres of land and make it into a home for the leprosy patients.  They gave each patient a plot of land to grow food, helped them build a thatched roof home, and gave them medical care and an education.

Also, I want to mention that a portion of the proceeds from the book goes to the Medical Missionaries of Mary who are still very humbly and quietly doing great work all over the world.

This adventure seemed like it would take a lot of courage.

Absolutely! It took them a month by boat to get to Nigeria and then at least another week by kitcar (which is a car built from spare parts) up to Ogoja where the first settlement was built.  One of the nuns I interviewed told me that she was nineteen when she made the trip and thought she was going to be a nurse’s aide and then get trained to be a nurse in a hospital.  She said when they drove up, there were no buildings, no housing – there was just a table under a tree where they were giving the leprosy patients inoculations.

How did you come across Lily’s story?

I was actually reading another book that was based in England, and it reminded me of Lily. I COULD NOT get her out of my head. I think there was a lot of divine intervention involved. I truly believe she was up in Heaven giving me a big nudge to get this story told.  I just started researching, and the more I found, the more fascinated I was. I contacted the MMMs in Drogheda, Ireland, outside Dublin, and planned a trip to research more in their archives. Once I met the sisters there and spent time with them and in the archives, I knew I had to figure out how to get this done.

It took you seven years to write, what was it like juggling being a mom and a first time author? 

Well the easiest answer is that it took me seven years, which should tell you something! It was a trick, but I LOVE this story.  I was so determined to make sure that I got the story told, I worked on it every moment I could.

What was so inspiring about Lily’s journey in life that you wanted to share it?

Lily and all the MMMs basically gave up many, many years of theirs lives to go to a foreign land, not knowing what they were getting into, to help others. Many gave their lives there.  Lily was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News a long time ago, and when they asked her about going on this adventure so far away and why, she just replied, “What’s the use of just working for oneself?”  which pretty much says it all.

What does your book say about the strength and spirit of women?

I think mainly that where there is a will, there is a way.  They went there not knowing what they would find and just had faith that they would be led in the right direction.  If that doesn’t describe inspirational women full of spirit and strength, I’m not sure what does.

Monica Shaw is a native of Dallas, Texas where she has been a successful entrepreneur. She attended St. Thomas Aquinas, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, and earned her Geology / Petroleum Engineering degree from UT Austin. Her debut novel, The Rainwater Secret, started off as a personal research project looking into the life of her great aunt who became a missionary teacher. Monica is married with 3 children.

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Panic Point: Character Interview

Pepperman Mystery Series
Book Two
  Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction / Stand-Alone
Publisher: self-published
Date of Publication: March 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 248
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When Earl’s bride Morgan vanishes in the Smoky Mountains on their honeymoon, the former Navy SEAL is certain she’s been abducted. The park rangers disagree, and after a storm washes away any potential evidence, they call off the official search. Then another man loses his daughter in the same area. Can one last lead help Earl find Morgan before he loses her forever?WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER


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Character Interview

At a sporting event I had the opportunity to interview Jim Pepperman and Earl Helmsly from The Pepperman Mystery Series.

0420 MAX Character Interview 2 of 2

Bill:  Jim, I believe you’re the lead character of Pepperman’s Promise and Perplexity and Earl, you have the lead in Panic Point. Tell me how your role came about, Jim.

Jim: In the spring of 1966, I was a junior in high school at Odessa Permian. We’d won our first Texas state football championship in the fall of that school year. Getting ready for my senior season was the most important thing to me. I hoped we could have back-to-back championships. Then something happened and I started my senior year in Belleville, New Jersey.

Bill:  That must have been a shock to your system.

Jim:  You bet it was. After my family moved to Belleville, I got a job at a diner managed by Glynna Helmsly, Earl’s mother.  That’s how our families met. The connection clicked right away.  It was hard being the new guy from Texas, but the Helmsly’s helped me make the adjustment.

Bill:  Earl, how old were you when the two families met?

Earl: I was about three. When Jim came to our house, my twin brother Burl and I would latch onto his legs and he’d have to Frankenstein walk us up to our porch. I’m sure I was a pest.

Bill: Jim, I understand Pepperman’s Promise is not a mystery. Can you tell me a little more?

Jim: I tell my story beginning at age seventeen through my twentieth high school reunion. The main character in each mystery will be someone you meet in Pepperman’s Promise. Many of my fans told me they loved Glynna Helmsly and her family. I thought it was time to let someone else take the lead.

Bill: Okay Earl, this is your chance.

Earl:  What makes this easy for me is I get to tell you about a smart, beautiful woman I met in a common situation, but an awkward circumstance.

Bill:  Who is this woman?

Earl:  Morgan. I’m going to tell you how a guy from New Jersey meets a Tennessee woman. She ran track in high school and college, setting an SEC record in the 200 meter. She’s an avid camper and that’s where my story begins.

Bill:  I’m sorry to say our time is up. I guess everyone will have to read Panic Point to find out how your story unfolds.  Thanks, guys.

Bill grew up in the oil and gas refinery town of Phillips in the Texas Panhandle. After graduating from college with a master’s degree, he spent most of his career working for a major insurance company as an agency manager and consultant.
As his retirement was on the horizon, he had an idea about a book. That story, Pepperman’s Promise, became the prequel to The Pepperman Mystery Series, and Perplexity and Panic Point, the next two books in the series, are now available.
Bill and his wife of fifty years live in West Texas. 
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The Frozen Hours: My Review

The Frozen Hours Book CoverThe Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara is not an exploration of the entire Korean War. It begins in September 1950 and follows the events taking place through mid-December of that year;  North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, the strategically brilliant amphibious landing at Inchon, and the 1st Marine Division’s heroic fight for survival at the Chosin Reservoir.

Like his other novels these historical events have been meticulously researched and faithfully documented. Where Shaara separates himself from other historical fiction writers is his ability to give voice to the people who actually lived them. The dialogue he creates articulates their hopes and fears, egos and ambitions, strengths and weaknesses. From the generals in charge to the “grunts” carrying out their orders emerges a very personal perspective on war that immerses the reader inside the hearts and minds of those who planned and fought in the campaigns and battles that set the stage for a brutal protracted war with no real victor.

The story that unfolds in The Frozen Hours reveals not only the horrors of combat and the terrible human costs involved, but the capacity of men to suffer and somehow survive not only a determined enemy but sub-zero weather with temperatures that often dipped to forty degrees below zero.

In fact, it was this aspect of the story, the conditions on the ground, that best reflects the human will to survive. My father served in Korea and, though he never talked about his combat experiences, did say on numerous occasions that it was the coldest he had ever been in his life. However, it was not until I read Shaara’s novel that I appreciated this simple reflection. Men’s hands froze to their weapons, heavy equipment malfunctioned because oil and gasoline couldn’t flow, boots and layers of clothing meant to keep men warm actually increased perspiration resulting in frostbite and the amputation of fingers and toes, widespread malnutrition and dehydration occurred not because of any lack of food or water, but because they both froze solid with no way to consume either. The dead were even used as defensive barriers because bullets couldn’t penetrate the frozen bodies.

While American and NATO forces had the tactical advantage of artillery and air support, and the Chinese possessed overwhelming manpower and the willingness to absorb huge losses, their common liability was the weather. It pushed human endurance well beyond its limits.

Shaara tells this harrowing tale of courage through the eyes of a select group of men – General Oliver P. Smith, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, Chinese General Sung Shi-Lun, and PFC Pete Riley, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. It is a memorable account of real people crafted by a gifted writer and testament to the memory of those who fought in what has often been called “The Forgotten War.”