Tuesday, April 7, 2020

My uncle, William Lauritzen, was an incredible artist. He did this portrait of Mark Twain in 1953. I remember seeing Bill's art on American Bandstand when I was growing up. And I also saw his fashion illustration in The New York Times. In this portrait you can see Twain's ironic, humorous and mischievous spirit. It's fitting, and for me, a great honor to place Bill's lifelike Twain here in connection with my book, NOT SINCE MARK TWAIN which is now free on Amazon.com.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


Authors who have been writing for a long time sometimes say, “Things were different back then.”

I always ask,"What was different?"

And the answer usually comes back: "The book business. The publishing industry. The way things were done."

Yesterday I received a book in the mail that was very special to me. It was edited by me nearly thirty years ago. But before that, it was discovered, so to say, in an abandoned building after Hurricane Andrew struck SW Florida in 1991. The book was a waterlogged copy of the original English edition of The Kebra Nagast.

One glance at the ruined volume told me that it was a find. A glorious and fantastic find. It was, first and foremost, a photocopy of Wallis Budge’s classic translation of the sacred book of Ethiopia, The Kebra Nagast, which means“The Glory of the Kings.”

What I held in my hands was an Ethiopic, early version of the Christian Bible, prior to the redacted passages, rewritten and bowdlerized, by the mindless minions of King James.

As I turned the hurricane furled pages, I saw something else. Almost as if a holy light was shining down on the poor battered book, there were calligraphed, marginal notes on each page. These, it became clear, were written by a mysterious Rastafarian named Sheldon. Obviously, he was also a scholar and his insights on each page were illuminating.

The book that came out of this sacred work was mostly edited by myself, and finally, years later, published by St Martin’s Press/Macmillan.

There were a number of Rastafarian elders and younger initiates who helped with the work including some members of the Marley family, especially Ziggy Marley who kindly wrote the introduction.

Yesterday, a new edition of this book showed up. The first paperback printing. Along with the proud feeling I had looking at the fresh, pristine volume, I also had a persistent question.

I asked myself, What makes a book survive for such a long time? 

Was it the sacred nature of The Kebra Nagast that gave it such longevity? Yet there are myriads of scholarly works that have not fared so well; books that are locked away in archival vaults and have not seen the light of day for centuries. What got this one into the light of day? One day of terrible catastrophic darkness -- a hurricane?

I thought of The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. That book took a long time to catch on and then, almost mystically, it took off and has now sold more than 250 million copies. By and large, it too is a sacred volume, offering a helping hand to humanity. A visionary book for sure.

Another wisdom work of great value is T.E. Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Thanks to publisher, Warren Lapine of Wilder Publications, it's back in print. A whole new generation may read it and get the same thrill I discovered when I was a college student. Among other things, Lawrence told the story of the Middle East, the wars and weathers of the vast desert he inhabited as a British soldier during World War I. He, of course, became the man he didn't wish to be: Lawrence of Arabia.

In 1975 I wrote a kind of oral narrative of the Navajo with the help of my long time friend, Jay Joogii DeGroat. Forty-five years later, the original book that I called Sitting on the Blue-Eyed Bear is still with us even though it has morphed into a number of other books. It gave birth to at least five other books, all of them celebrating Navajo mythology. From one I got five. How did this happen? 

My conclusion is that, aside from pure luck, books survive because someone, somewhere, wants them. There is a need. And somehow that need is fulfilled at a particular time when it sheds light on a particular event or period of time.

An author friend of mine, David Kherdian, said to me,“Books only go out to come back in.” 

We are living in a time when books go out and come in in such rapid order that we almost can't see them appearing or disappearing. A writer I know said, "You never know. You might write a whole book and what survives, years later, is a single memorable line."

In that case I am profoundly fortunate. The second incarnation of The Blue-Eyed Bear contained this quotable line:“We humans fear the beast within the wolf because we do not understand the beast within ourselves.”

I wouldn't mind seeing that on my gravestone.

And may that line go far and wide to educate the likes of presidents, poets, pirates, parrots, paupers, and pretenders so that we can each embrace all that is holy within and without for-I-ver and I-ver, as Sheldon once said in the margins of The Kebra Nagast.

We may never figure out exactly what makes a book stick around. But we can surely surmise why a single line outlasts another. It refuses to go away. What is sacred is not scared or scarred. It is something that shines. That stays as Sheldon said it should.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yesterday I was asked  "How did you write this book?"

In point of fact, I wrote it by hand, then I typed it on a typewriter, then I used my computer. But even then I wasn't done with the book. This one had the longest gestation of any novel I've ever written. I started writing it in 1978. I finished writing it in 2016.

I think the reason it took so long to complete is that I wanted answers to some of the questions I had asked in the first draft. It took a good many years for those answers to come to fruition. I had a lot of help from my Navajo, life-long friend, Jay (Joogii) Degroat. He, more than anyone, kept me on my toes and kept the story going, little by little, while I took copious notes and added them to the novel.

Anne Hillerman wrote that the story kept her up with the lights on at night. She said, "If you're hungry for a book to keep you up past bedtime -- with all the lights on -- this tale is for you ... this is New Mexico's own X File anchored in Hausman's elegant prose and finely tuned descriptions of the Southwestern landscape."

Peter Eichstaedt wrote, "... then he draws deep from his well of knowledge of Navajo story and culture. (Think Tony Hillerman on steroids.) This is more than a novel. It's an experience you won't forget and it will leave you hungry for more."

I feel that I have done what my karma commanded as a witness to some of the mysterious events of our hemisphere -- ghosts, werewolves, bizarre animal mutilations "extraterrestrials and crafty coyotes" as Peter has written. Maybe the weirdest moment in the book, for me, anyway, was when I was trapped in a fissure in the Grand Canyon. I found myself swimming in stone, not knowing if I was conscious or dreaming. The Supai man who saved me was amused. As if such a thing happened all the time.

Maybe so, maybe so. The next two novels are in the works, and if I get trapped in stone, I hope it will be between the front and back cover ... buried in words.

Sunday, August 6, 2017



Tennis Coach Explains the Process of Pursuing Greatness

NEW YORK (AUG. 7, 2017) – After his own career as a tennis professional, Paul Annacone, author of the new book Coaching for Life, became coach for such greats as Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Tim Henman and others. His eye-opening, autobiographical book explains how each one of us can attain a level of excellence. He uses tennis as a metaphor, as well as a guide, to teach how we can strive toward a goal and overcome the obstacles.

          Annacone comments, “I am often asked, What makes the great so great? What can we learn from their level of excellence?  I answer these and many more in Coaching for Life. The anecdotes are taken directly from the tennis court, and they are presented in a step-by-step way that can help anyone in any walk of life, regardless of the challenges. You can achieve success, the book points out, but you have to follow certain procedures. As I say in the book, the will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.”
          The secrets to success Annacone weaves through Coaching for Life are not about tennis, but rather about the process-oriented journey he has experienced firsthand with some of the most successful players in the game’s storied history. Annacone explains the ability of masters like Federer and Sampras to keep perspective and clarity of purpose in spite of the worst kinds of adversity on the court.

Coaching for Life reveals Annacone’s gentle, yet forceful, paradigm for focus, intelligent planning, and following one’s own skill-set to success that rings true in this uncertain age of frenetic activity.

          Annacone played professionally for 11 years, reaching a career high ranking of No. 12 while winning three singles and 14 doubles titles. He then turned to coaching, spending over seven years with Sampras, three seasons with Federer, five years with Tim Henman and a season with Sloane Stephens. Both Federer and Sampras won Grand Slam titles and were ranked No. 1 in the world while working with Annacone. His coaching tenure also included time in the USTA High Performance Program and as Head Coach of Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association. Annacone has been a commentator and analyst with Tennis Channel since 2014.

          Coaching for Life is being published by IRIE Books and is on sale now online at www.iriebooks.com, www.paulannacone.com, www.amazon.com, www.bn.com and www.booksamillion.com. In addition, the book will be available during appearances and book signing events with Annacone during the upcoming Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and the US Open in New York. Information about these appearances can be found at www.paulannacone.com.

To request cover art or an interview, please contact: Pete Holtermann (Pete@HolterMediaInc.com)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shadows That Stay Forever

This anthology, long in coming, was deeply desired by the many fans of Sci-fi-fantasy master, Roger Zelazny. Everything in its right time. But it seems a long time, to me, since Roger was here on this earth. And yet it also seems he was just here, just passing through, just a moment ago.

Time bends and sometimes we bend with it. Roger knew that all too well. He died June 14, 1995. Some months before he passed he phoned me to say he'd had a dream in which a bunch of characters came to him asking to be worked into a novel.

Anyone who has read the Amber novels knows that time bends in Roger's books. And, for a while on the phone, he bent my ear to a proposal. He wanted me to write a novel about the dream he'd just had.
It was a kind of detective story, in which the main character was a world weary martial artist whose specialty was ... he left that up to me.

I suggested a stick fighter because I had just returned from Jamaica and had seen one. If you've watched any of the old Errol Flynn films (the actor actually lived on the North Coast of Jamaica), you can imagine what a stick fighter does to protect himself. Basically, Robin and Little John. Parry and thrust, pound and pummel, all done with the grace and style of a dancer.

Roger went on to describe the main character as a kind of salvage expert, a guy like Travis McGee in John D. MacDonald's The Deep Blue Goodbye. It all sounded very exciting, this proposed novel, except that, unlike Wilderness which we had written together, Roger wanted me to write this one alone.

He also asked for a character who looked and acted like Sean Connery in Doctor No. He wanted this fellow to pop into the tale at odd, inventive moments. "Could he be a stick fighter, too?" I asked. He said, "Sure." I described how the Connery character might appear and disappear and he suggested that he just walk out of a cane field in formal attire, as if he were going to a high stakes game of baccarat.

Roger asked that the main guy, the salvage expert detective, be what he termed a flawed character. Someone between jobs, between affairs, between worlds. He might be a man of affairs with no affair, but with a flair for stick fighting. Then he caught me with his next comment: "How about an older man, or even an old man?" I laughed and said I knew one such in Kingston. A very urbane old guy who was actually the Queen's Magistrate. Roger chuckled. "Perfect," he said.

I never wrote it. I wanted to. But after he was gone in 1995, I turned to children's books about Jamaica and the editing of a number of books written by Bob Marley that came out under the Marley family imprint of Tuff Gong Books.

Long story short -- or rather long story long -- I was compelled to write Roger's tale when Warren Lapine and Trent Zelazny asked for a contribution to Shadows and Reflections. It came quickly, the story that was more than 15 years old and unwritten. Time bends. And I like to think Roger lent more than a helping hand. I like to think he's still here, don't you?


Sunday, April 23, 2017


There are two towns named Friendship in the hills of Jamaica.

One Friendship is where the fried chicken is, a little stop-and-go where you smell the chicken frying from a mile off on the Junction Road that takes you to Kingston. On the road back at night you might see a rock-stone, as they say, burst into flame. I saw it happen once.

The other friendship is even more mysterious. If you go there and meet Mrs. Pet, you will have your palm read like a newspaper and she will call the saints and re-balance your brain and you will go home hungry and sane, and you will see duppies and mermaids.

Some years ago I left my heart in Jamaica. I left it in the hills of St. Mary, the same Parish where Zora Neale Hurston left her heart so long ago. She said St. Mary was "... the very best place to be in all the world."

Sometimes I smell the fried chicken of Friendship and see the candles of Mrs. Pet burning in the darkness, and I wonder how many friendships there are in the world, too many to count, like the numberless stars, like the saints of the night, like the peenywallies of a summer eve winking on the night breeze, like the salt crystals of the sea at Blue Harbour, like Mike Gleeson's endless stories, Sweet-Sweet's songs, Mr. Denzil's coffees and sugars, Roy's hugs, Mackie's deep voice, Raggy's ragged laughter high on the top of Firefly hill where Noel Coward once blew his blue smoke within sight of the coastline and the John Crow Mountains.

Ah, but once you have lived in Jamaica, Friendship is always coming into port, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Friendship, a town in the heartland of the heart.

Shadow box by Mariah Fox

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Moments of Truth

Back in the sixties when I was a college student at Highlands U. in Las Vegas, NM, I had a professor who was bright, funny, offbeat, and sometimes brilliant in the way he dealt with problem students. I learned as much from him about teaching as I did about poetry.

Once, I remember, he asked us, my soon-to-be-wife, Lorry, and me, to a Simon and Garfunkel concert. It was by no means a class trip. The prof whose name was Bob drove us in his old Ford station-wagon from Manuelitas to Albuquerque.

Before the concert, he asked us to help him load an enormous oak door he was bringing back to his home in the hills. Then we went to the concert. I still remember someone in the front row throwing a cowboy hat to Paul Simon, which he gratefully accepted and wore for the rest of the night. It was unusual seeing the classic New York folksinger, under that too-big hat.

Right before the drive back home, Bob said his feet were hurting. He took off his shoes, and socks and then blew a breath of air into each sock before putting it on again. He said that refreshed the socks and the feet, and he claimed he learned the trick from WC Fields.

Bob seemed his funny, quippy renewed self, and spoke passionately about ee cummings' poetry, an adobe wall he was building, and how he was planning a "Happening" at the university. A happening was usually a spontaneous outburst of talent and protest against the ever-present "system".

We bore on into the moonlight heading toward Santa Rosa and then cutting up in the direction of Las Vegas. Why that drive is forever etched in my memory is not surprising to me. We had to shift a lot in our seats because the enormous door slid with every pothole. I sat on one side of it and Lorry sat on the other side, and the hatchback was wide open because of the length of the door. It started to snow and the road got tricky.

The years have turned that snow-blown drive into Toad's wild ride from The Wind in the Willows. Bob drove fast, then slow. He turned the wheel a lot and the huge, hand-carved Spanish door bashed into one or the other of us. Bob told stories, Zen tales with no beginning and no end. Finally we made it to our doorstep. Yet even today, after almost 50 years, my bones remember every bump and grind on highway 84.

Not too long ago I was doing a presentation at a bookstore in Corrales. For some reason I chose to tell some coyote tales.

But whenever I mentioned the word coyote, someone let loose with a loud howl. And the audience cracked up. So did I. Later when I was signing books, a man stepped up and bought a few and when he set them before me, he howled.

And so there he was, large as life, full of fun and pranks, and not looking any older. It wasn't until he gave me his business card that I realized that professor Bob had switched careers. He was now a horticulturalist. His business card said in embossed print: "Don't Let Your Plants Go Down."