August 7

Andy Upchurch and The Oleanders of San Leon

I’m not sure if Andy Upchurch is an author, a sailor, a musician, a carpenter or a pirate. I know he built a house, played music with at least one rock n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry, sailed in the open sea, performs with a band, Andy and the Dreamsicles and fantisized of finding buried treasure as he cleared the jungle that would one day be his home. I learned all this by reading his first book, The Oleanders of San Leon, a book purportedly written about building a house.

One thing that will become absolute truth to the reader is that he is a magnificent story-teller. When I heard that the book is about building a house, my eyes glazed over and I thought; how can I tell him I’m not interested in reading a “how to” book. Instead, I listened to his presentation at a local library and gambled on buying a copy.

It met my simple standard! I read a few pages and couldn’t put it down. The Oleanders of San Leon is a story about a man and his adventures, told as entertainingly as Mark Twain told us about Tom and Huck.

So why do I say I’m not sure if he’s an author? It’s not because he’s not talented! It’s because I’ve visited with him since reading his book, and to date, he’s evasive about whether another one is in his future. So, if you decide to read The Oleanders of San Leon and you like it, which I’m sure of, may I suggest that you encourage him to get busy! We need to hear more from a guy with such story-telling talent.

Check him out at  where you can see photos of his home, known as, you guessed it, The Oleanders of San Leon. 

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August 1

Rene’ Palmer Armstrong – Author of Wings and a Ring

Rene’ Palmer Armstrong’s husband asked her what she would like for her birthday. With the answer she gave him, began a new writing career for Rene’.

Her answer, “I want to quit work to write and create things.”

Two years later she had published her first book and was busy creating hand-crafted pendants from a special kind of glass created by the space program for use as a heat shield back in the 1960’.  Rene’ is currently working on a second book, this one for children.

Rene’s first book is titled Wings and a Ring. The story of how she came to write this book is nearly as interesting as the book itself.  Her husband played a big part in the idea to write the book. It seems that he enjoys looking through garage sales, junk and antique stores and any other place where potentially interesting items have been discarded. One day he brought a box home that, among other things, contained a stack of old letters. The box set abandoned in their garage for a couple of years.
Before Rene’ began her new life as a writer and artist, she decided to clean out the garage.  When she looked at the box of letters, she realized she had a story that she would have to tell. The letters were from a young Army Air Corps lieutenant, James R. Jones, to his fiancée, Elnora Bartlett. They were written while he was fighting in WWII, half way across the globe. Rene’ tells the story of their love affair (and eventual marriage) by using many of the letters he sent. It is an interesting piece of history.
When Rene’ attends author events, she often wears clothing from the time period. She is an engaging personality and attracts readers to her author’s table like mosquitos to a picnic. At one such event, I sat at the table next to hers for most of the day. When the event was over, she was hoarse from talking to so many interested people.
Her website at is a great place to see her work. Be sure to click on the “Trailer” for some great old music and a sense of what you’ll find in the book.  You can buy the book directly from her website or at It is available in hard cover or as an e-book. 

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July 25

Gloria Hander Lyons – A Texas Author

This week I want to introduce my readers to an author whose work includes a variety of genres. She is a very talented writer who will soon release her first novel that I predict it will be a great success.

Gloria Hander Lyons has written motivational and humorous short-stories, a book on self-publishing for authors, cook books, party books, wedding planning books, and home decoration books for starters. A half-dozen of her stories have been accepted and published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of short-stories. Gloria taught self-publishing classes at a local community college in the adult learning program. Check out her books on her website at  She also owns Blue Sage Press, the publishing company that she publishes books through.

Murder with a Touch of Spice is the title of her new novel, due to be released very soon. It’s a mystery story with a touch of humor. I had the privilege of reading the manuscript recently and it met my standard for a really good book. From the moment I read the first paragraph, I didn’t want to put it down. Keep an eye out for this one!

I intend to post another story about Gloria once her novel is released, but in the meantime, I must tell you one other thing about my friend. She is one of the two most inspiring persons I have ever met. (The other is my daughter, Kathy.) Gloria is very ill…well, I think I’ll let her tell you, with an excerpt from her blog.

After being diagnosed in January, 2013, with breast cancer that had metastasized to my bones, and given a prognosis of two years, I made a bucket list of fun activities, and travel destinations so I could squeeze the most joy I could out of every single day. I created this blog to share the laughter, love and wonder of those adventures with my beloved friends and family.” – Gloria Hander Lyons

I encourage everyone who has ever experienced a single episode of questioning if you can make it through the day, to visit Gloria’s blog, A Joyful Life: My Cancer Journey, and sign up for her blog postings at She’s a very positive, giving person, and you’ll see it in her blog stories.  

 If you enjoy these short stories and featured authors, please sign up to receive e-mail notices when a new one is posted. Just enter your e-mail address in the column to the right, just below my books. Then follow the instructions.

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July 18

A Little Change of Tempo

When I started this blog, my intention was to post stories about crimes, criminals, and the cops who chase them. I’ve decided to change the format just a little.  I’ll still be posting my stories (usually on Mondays) about those interesting or unusual crimes, criminals, and cops. In fact, be sure to take a look on Monday, when my Criminal of the Week will be Candy Barr, an exotic dancer whose name is linked to the likes of Jack Ruby, Mickey Cohen, and Lady Bird Johnson. She’s one of the more fascinating characters to come out of Texas. Beginning today, however, I will also introduce you to some of my favorite independent authors.

Today that author is Tom Rizzo. Tom is a former news reporter, having plied his trade in both radio and television, before moving to the Associated Press (AP) where he worked as a correspondent. He lived in Great Britain for several years, after growing up in central Ohio. He now calls Texas home. He’s acquired the cowboy boots and a Stetson, but more importantly, he’s practicing saying “ya’ll” when speaking to a group about his writing. I think he’s a keeper!

Tom’s first novel, Last Stand at Bitter Creek is a historical novel set in the time period just as the American Civil War is ending. My simple standard for judging a novel’s value is, “do I have trouble putting it down once I begin reading?” I read Last Stand at Bitter Creek in two sittings!  He keeps the reader’s interest. All of his Amazon reviews have been five stars and some of the words used to describe his writing have been “authentic dialogue”, “solid, historical novel”, “fascinating plot”, and “great characters”.

I have it on good authority that Tom is currently working on a crime novel.  If it is as good as his first effort, we’ll have plenty of good reads from him in the future.

Check him out at you can purchase Last Stand at Bitter Creek.  Oh yeah, be sure to watch his video trailer about the book too.


July 4

Joseph Wambaugh

He’s a cop who became a writer. But that’s not what he planned. After serving a hitch in the U.S. Marine Corp, he returned home, married to his high school sweetheart. Finishing his education was the priority. Majoring in English, he obtained a B.A. by the time he was twenty-three. Wambaugh intended to become an English teacher. Instead, he became an ‘accidental cop’.

That’s my description for the many big city cops whose professional lives deter into police work by circumstances rather than by design. Most of these officers didn’t “grow up wanting to be a cop”. They stumbled into the career out of necessity, the need for security or because the job paid more than the job they thought they wanted. That’s what Joseph Wambaugh did. Police work in Los Angeles paid more than teaching, had better benefits, and, as he soon learned, seemed to be more exciting work. 
He began writing about life on the streets shortly after becoming a cop, but the only person who knew he was a “closet scribbler” was his wife Dee. Now the author of twenty one books, both fiction and non-fiction, according to his website, he’s also billed as the Grand Master of police stories. Wambaugh has also created television series, movies and mini-series based on his work. Two of his books, The New Centurions and The Choirboys, were adapted into feature films by Columbia and Universal Studios, respectively. Wambaugh’s book, The Glitter Dome, was presented as an HBO movie in 1984. 
In interviews about his writing, Wambaugh says that he “goes out and gets the story” by interviewing people much like a reporter might. He notes that he interviewed 54 cops before even beginning to write one of his most recent novels, Hollywood Station. He expresses frustration with authors “who sit in their studies and try to nurse an idea into a four hundred page book that should have ended two hundred pages earlier”. Amazon, in writing about Wambaugh’s work, published the following. “Joseph Wambaugh is one of those Los Angeles authors whose popular success always has overshadowed his importance as a writer.” 
He is said to be funny and warm in interviews. Wambaugh is also no longer a cop. He gave that up after his success and popularity grew. He says he had been interviewed on virtually every television talk show, people he arrested wanted his autograph or a part in his next movie, and his police partner started opening the car door for him. Wambaugh knew then it was time to leave the police department, but he never stopped scribbling. 

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