2009 Evening with the Authors

tulips for Evening with the Authors 09

“You reap exactly what you sow—that is, you
cannot grow tulips from zucchini seeds.”
– Anne Lamott, Rule #2 of Life

The evening was a huge success in spite of an early rain, which had us scrambling to put up tents! Thank you to all the authors and everyone who braved the weather to be a part of the event, and of course to our generous sponsors. We were honored to have the following guest authors:

H.W. BrandsH.W. Brands

A Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the latest book. Visit the author at http://www.hwbrands.com.

Henry William Brands was born in Oregon, went to college in California, was a traveling salesman with territory that spanned the American West, earned graduate degrees in mathematics and history in Oregon and Texas, and has lived in Texas since the 1980s.

He taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History.

He writes on American history and politics, with books including Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, Lone Star Nation and TR. Several of his books have been bestsellers; two, Traitor to His Class and The First American, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

He speaks regularly on historical and current events, and is a frequent guest on national and international radio and television programs. His writings have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

james crossBrig. General James Cross

Around the World with LBJ is the latest book.

General Cross was born in Andalusia, Ala., in 1925. He attended local schools in the Andalusia area and graduated from Pleasant Home High School. He began his military career by enlisting in the U.S. Army for pilot training and was commissioned a second lieutenant, Army Air Corps, in November 1944. During World War II in November 1944, he went to the China-Burma-India Theater where he was a transport pilot flying “the Hump.” He was relieved from active military duty in April 1946 and became a member of the Air Force Reserve.

He attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), Ala., for two years until he was recalled to active duty in October 1948 to serve at Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines. Subsequently he has served in Tactical Air Command, the Northeast Air Command, Military Air Transport Service, and Military Airlift Command.

His next assignment was to Headquarters Eighteenth Air Force, Donaldson Air Force Base, S.C., where he served successively as flying safety officer, inspector, and then pilot with the 63rd Troop Carrier Wing. In February 1956 he went to Goose Bay Air Base, Newfoundland, as operations officer with the 6606th Air Base Group. General Cross was a pilot with the 40th Air Transport Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Del., from February 1957 to September 1958. He next went to Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., where he served as a pilot for VIP aircraft.

In July 1961 he was selected to serve as pilot and military aide to the vice president of the United States and in February 1962 as pilot of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. He was appointed as Armed Forces Aide and personal pilot to the president of the United States on July 15, 1965.

In July 1968 he was assigned to Twelfth Air Force at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, where he completed RF-4C aircraft training prior to a short tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam. In February 1969 he returned to Bergstrom Air Force Base as commander of the 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.

His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon with oak leaf cluster, and Presidential Service Badge. He has more than 10,000 flying hours in various military aircraft.

Diane Fanning

A Poisoned Passion, a true crime novel set in Texas is her latest. Visit the author at: http://www.dianefanning.com/

From Diane:
The path my life has followed is a bit convoluted but I am pleased with the current result. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. When I was 6 years old, we moved into a home my father built in Baltimore County. It was while I lived here that one of the most pivotal events in my life occurred. I was 9 years old when a man, asking for directions, stopped his car on a hill in an empty stretch of road. He opened his car door and asked me to look at his map. I approached and he grabbed my upper arm and tried to pull me into his car. At that moment, another vehicle came up over the hill and the driver laid on the horn. The man let go of my arm and drove off with his car door open. As a big fan of Dragnet on television, I knew to memorize his license plate number. I told it to my mother who passed it along to the police. He was picked up and convicted for the sexual assault and murder of an 8-year-old girl the month before. That incident created in me a lifelong interest in the psychology of the criminal mind. When I heard about Krystal Surles, the 10-year-old who exhibited incredible courage, fortitude and determination to bring an end to the two-decade killing spree of Tommy Lynn Sells, her experience resonated with me. She had done so much more–endured so much more–than I. I simply had to write her story. The result of that was my first true crime book, Through the Window.

After graduating from Perry Hall High School, I went to Lynchburg College in Virginia and majored in Chemistry. I stayed in that area of Virginia for quite a few years writing for radio and television stations and an advertising agency. While doing that, I earned more then 70 Addy Awards for my work including one for Best in Show. At the same time, I free-lanced magazine articles and personal essays on the side.

I didn’t write a book until I moved to Texas—I just couldn’t focus on a major project like that while I had three kids in the house. When I moved to Texas, I started working in non-profit. In my third position in that field, I was the Executive Director of Another Way Texas Shares (now Community Shares of Texas) for ten years before resigning and writing full time. In the course of that work, the governor of Texas appointed me for three terms on the State Advisory Committee for the State Employee Charitable Campaign. I also served on the executive committee for the Board of Directors of the National Association for Choice in Giving (NACG) and on the Board for Community Shares-USA. NACG awarded their Freedom Fighter Award to me and Earth Share of Texas executive director Max Woodfin in 2001.

As a writer, I have served on the executive committees of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Heart of Texas chapter of Sisters in Crime. I am also a member of Mystery Writers of America.My book, Written in Blood, was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe award. But the most fulfilling thing for me as a true crime writer was the role I played in finding justice for wrongfully convicted Julie Rea Harper. The story was featured on 20/20. I’ve also been very gratified with the email I’ve received from staff at Domestic Violence Shelters around the country who’ve called Gone Forever an important book for women.

Deborah Ousley Kadair

I Spy in the Texas Sky is one of her wonderful illustrated childrens’ books.

From Deborah:
First and foremost, when I think of myself the word that comes to mind is not author or illustrator, it’s teacher. I love teaching and have always known I would be a teacher. As a child I would line up my stuffed animals on the floor and read to them and show them the pictures the ways teachers always do. When I am visiting students or reading to my own class, I often get a glimpse of that little girl and my heart soars. I am glad I am able to be true to her! It was out of my love for teaching that I received the gift of author and illustrator. I was teaching kindergarten and all of the books about Louisiana, my home state at the time, were too long to hold their attention. I knew what kinds of books the children enjoyed – I just needed the perfect story. Ask and you shall receive – I found my story. My sister encouraged me to do cut out style pictures before I send in the manuscript and the rest is history. Here I am 7 years and 7 books later – what a lucky gal!!
As a result of my personal experiences, my motto has been “Who knew?” I never knew I would be an author but if I hadn’t taken the chance, it would have never happened. The great thing about writing is anyone, and I mean that, can become a writer. You don’t have to be a certain size or have any specific physical abilities – you just need paper and something to write with. We all have stories to tell, you just have to take the time to tell them. Don’t let your life pass you by without taking the time to put some of your thought to paper. Your ideas may not become published but what a treasure they will become to your family in the future. And, who knows, another story may be in the making.

Jack Woodville London

Virginia’s War: Tierra, Texas 1944 is the first book in London’s World War II fiction trilogy, French Letters. Visit the author at http://www.virepress.com.

A native Texan, attorney, lecturer, and former U.S. Army quartermaster officer, Jack Woodville London graduated from West Texas State University in history and foreign relations before earning his Juris Doctor from The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He has traveled extensively pursuing his interests in literature and history. Jack’s scholarly articles on evidence and tort law have been published in numerous professional journals.

Sabina Murray

Forgery is her latest novel. See more about her and her work here.

Sabina Murray was born in 1968 and grew up in Australia and the Philippines. She is the author of the novels Forgery (Grove, 2007), A Carnivore’s Inquiry (Grove, 2004), and Slow Burn (Ballantine, 1990). Her short story collection The Caprices (Houghton Mifflin, 2002, Grove 2007) was the winner of the 2002 PEN/Faulkner award. Her stories are anthologized in The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and Charilie Chan is Dead II: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian Fiction. She is the writer of the screenplay for the film Beautiful Country, which was an Independent Spirit Award Best First Screenplay nominee. She completed her Master of Arts as a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and is a former Bunting Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and a recipient of a major grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Murray is a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow. She has served as the Roger Murray Writer in Residence at Phillips Academy Andover and is currently Associate Professor of English, Creative Writing, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Jeff Robenalt

Ranger, The Saga of a Texas Ranger, is his book. Read a summary of the book here.


Jeff Robenalt was born in Tiffin, Ohio in 1947 and graduated from Tiffin Columbian High School in 1965. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor as a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps while serving in Vietnam and later served in the United States Army as a Platoon Leader and Company Commander in the 101st Airborne Division. He received a BS in Sociology from Troy University, a BA and MA in History from New York University, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Tech University. Mr. Robenalt was employed as an Attorney for the State of Texas in Austin for ten years and currently teaches Texas History at Lockhart Junior High School in Lockhart, Texas.

I did more than two years of historical research on the early years of the Texas Rangers in preparation of writing “The Saga of a Texas Ranger”, and even though I enjoyed every aspect of the work, the personal letters, journals, and diaries that I explored were a true delight. As I read, the people of the era came alive for me in their own words and remembrances, and I hope that through telling the story of Caleb McAdams I can somehow manage to capture their story.

I recently completed the second volume of the saga, “Star over Texas” which tells the story of Caleb and the Texas Rangers from the dawn of the Mexican American War through the first distant rumblings of the Civil War, and I am already deep into the middle of volume three, “The Bloody Frontier” which will span the years leading up to the Civil War and the furor over the decision to secede from the Union. Volume four will eventually encompass the Civil War years in Texas and the beginning of the cattle drive era. The journey has been long and wonderful, and it is my sincerest wish that everyone enjoys reading the Saga as much as I enjoy writing it.

Dr. Harold Weiss

Yours to Command: The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger, Captain Bill McDonald is his book.

Born in the coal fields of Pennsylvania, Harold Weiss never abandoned his childhood dreams. As a youth, he grew up listening to radio programs about the West, reading Wild West comic books, and watching Old West movies. That happened back in the days of Red Ryder, Wild Bill Elliott, and the Lone Ranger. As an adult, Weiss separated fantasy from fact by obtaining degrees in history from various colleges. Here he found out that Texas was not just a place, but also a state of mind in the American psyche.

He is the Emeritus Professor of History, Government and Criminal Justice at Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, New York. After receiving his doctorate in history from Indiana University at Bloomington, he taught courses on the American West and on the history of violence and police in the United States. He has presented papers on western law and order at meeting of the Western History Association, Texas State Historical Association, East Texas Historical Association, and other historical bodies.

His recent articles on the Texas Rangers and Captain Bill McDonald have appeared in the “Southwest Historical Quarterly”, “Journal of the West”, and “South Texas Studies”. Weiss has published a biography of the life and times of Ranger Captain McDonald—the first one to appear in a hundred years. McDonald was one of the ‘Four Great Captains’ along with J.A. Brooks, John Hughes, and John Rogers.

In the future, Weiss states that he plans to continue to work on the Rangers from 1874 to 1935. Especially interesting would be to explore the role of the Rangers as detectives. Another aspect would be to show the transition from the “Four Great Captains”–Brooks, Hughes, McDonald, and Rogers–to the “Big Four”–Gonzaullas, Hamer, Hickman, and Wright–of the early l900s.

Jennifer Ziegler

How Not to be Popular is her first novel for teen readers. Visit the author at http://www.jenniferziegler.net/

Jennifer Ziegler comes from a family of born storytellers, and she learned narrative style even as she learned to talk. Later (probably when there was no one around to listen) she began writing down her tales. This is one of her earliest surviving “masterpieces”:

The Sun
The sun is hot
The sun is hot, a lot
If an astronaut
Should go to the sun
He would get caught
In the hot

Her teenage years were mainly spent trying, unsuccessfully, to copy hairstyles of famous female pop figures. But she also wrote – a lot. Underneath her bed you would find, among the detritus of discarded clothes and cookie wrappers, several spiral notebooks full of short stories, unfinished novels, elaborate plans for future travels, and a comprehensive thesis on who was the cutest member of Duran Duran. She didn’t realize she was preparing for a career, but all that practice made writing feel comfortable – almost like a reflex (which, coincidentally, is a song by Duran Duran).
Later, she received degrees in English and Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and taught middle school language arts, all of which helped to inspire her. Now she writes YA fiction full time from her home in Austin and visits schools, libraries, and festivals to share her experiences with readers. Her novel Alpha Dog was a finalist for the Teddy Award, and her latest book How Not to Be Popular, has been named to the 2009-2010 Lone Star Book List.

Published on June 24, 2010 at 2:51 pm  Comments Off on 2009 Evening with the Authors  
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