Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bowers Writers House at Elizabethtown College, PA

A reading and signing a couple of nights ago at Bowers Writers House at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA. Lovely campus, friendly students. Thanks to Jesse Waters, writer pal from UNCW.



Songs with Astronomical Themes No. 11: “The Coming of Kohoutek,” by Pink Floyd

Today in our Songs with Astronomical Themes series, No. 11: “The Coming of Kohoutek,” by Pink Floyd.


Fans of the band may be surprised to learn about an early Pink Floyd bootleg album known as “In Celebration of the Comet: The Coming of Kohoutek.” It’s a 1972 live recording of a new batch of songs and instrumentals the band was rehearsing. A couple of months later, Pink Floyd went into Abbey Road Studios and recorded what would become one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Fortunately for everyone, they didn’t use the name of the bootleg album, “The Coming of Kohoutek.” Instead, they called their album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Here’s the whole album. If you have 45 minutes to spare, you could turn out all the lights, spark up some incense, and have a listen.

Fall for the Book Fest at George Mason University

Cozy with novelists Bonnie Jo Campbell (“Once Upon a River”) and Mary Kay Zuravleff (“Man Alive!”) at George Mason University a couple of nights ago. I don’t know what Bonnie Jo is doing with that fork.


From Lancaster, PA

From Lancaster Online (an Edition of Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era/Sunday News)

Sept. 22, 2013

Focus on Fiction at E-town

New Orleans novelist George Bishop will talk about strategies for creating and nurturing fiction writing Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 4 p.m. and read from his new novel at 8 p.m. at Bowers Writers House, Elizabethtown College.

“The Night of the Comet” is a coming-of-age story set in Louisiana in 1973. Alan receives a telescope from his science teacher/father so they can witness the approach of Comet Kohoutek. But the 14-year-old is more interested in studying the “heavenly body” of his neighbor and classmate.

The book earned praise from reviewers from Publishers Weekly to People magazine, which said it “does a heavenly job telescoping the heady promise of youth tinged with the sorrow of lost dreams.”

For more information, contact Jesse Waters at or 689-3945.

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in New Orleans

I was at the SIBA conference this weekend in New Orleans, but the only evidence I have is this one blurry photo of me and Gail Karwoski, an author of disaster books for children. We were on a panel together, with the irrepressible Susan Larson.

Gail Karwoski

Pat Conroy got a standing ovation after his talk at the Saturday night dinner. You should’ve been there.

Comet at SIBA

Look at the snazzy new flyer my publicist made for the Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference, going on this weekend at the New Orleans Sheraton.

I’ll be signing books this afternoon from 2:00-3:00, and then speaking on a panel with the indefatigable Susan Larson from 3:00-4:00.



Songs with Astronomical Themes No. 10: “Harvest Moon”

Today in honor of the harvest moon, No. 10 in our Songs with Astronomical Themes series is, of course, “Harvest Moon.”


What’s a harvest moon, you ask?

A harvest moon is a full moon occurring closest to the autumnal equinox, when night and day are equal length, usually in late September. Because it rises soon after sunset, the moon gives farmers extra light for harvesting.

This first song is a rendition of “Shine On, Harvest Moon” (1908), recorded by Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies in 1935:

And here’s one you might be more familiar with, Neil Young’s terrific “Harvest Moon,” from 1992. In fact, you should probably skip that first one and just listen to this:

Comet is Bestseller in Mississippi!

“The Night of the Comet” is No. 8 on the bestseller list in Mississippi, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Thanks again to all the wonderful independent bookstores I’ve visited there.


Top Mississippi Reads
Sep. 14, 2013 |

1. “The Education of a Lifetime,” Robert Khayat, Nautilus, $24.95

2. “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild,” Peter Brown, Little Brown, $18

3. “Are You Ready?” Charlotte Oakley, ed. Univ of Mississippi, $35

4. “Smoke and Pickles,” Edward Lee, Artisan, $29.95

5. “The Storied South,” William Ferris, University of North Carolina Press, $35

6. “The Resurrectionist,” Matthew Guinn, W.W. Norton, $25.95

7. “Fancy Nancy,” Jane O’Connor, HarperCollins, $17.99

8. “The Night of the Comet,”George Bishop, Ballantine, $25

9. “The Delta: Landscapes, Legends and Legacies of Mississippi’s Most Storied Region,” Melissa

Townsend, editor,

Coopwood Publishing, $45

10. “The Illustrated Man,” Ray Bradbury, Simon &Schuster, $7.99

Compiled by University Press of Mississippi. Reported by Bay Books (Bay St. Louis); Lemuria Books (Jackson); Square Books (Oxford); Turnrow Book Co. (Greenwood).

Favorite Astronomy Poems No. 1: “Halley’s Comet,” by Stanley Kunitz

A view of Halley’s Comet from the Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California, June 6, 1910

I kept this poem taped to the wall above my desk while I was writing “The Night of the Comet.”

by Stanley Kunitz

Miss Murphy in first grade

wrote its name in chalk

across the board and told us

it was roaring down the stormtracks

of the Milky Way at frightful speed

and if it wandered off its course

and smashed into the earth

there’d be no school tomorrow.

A red-bearded preacher from the hills

with a wild look in his eyes

stood in the public square

at the playground’s edge

proclaiming he was sent by God

to save every one of us,

even the little children.

“Repent, ye sinners!” he shouted,

waving his hand-lettered sign.

At supper I felt sad to think

that it was probably

the last meal I’d share

with my mother and my sisters;

but I felt excited too

and scarcely touched my plate.

So mother scolded me

and sent me early to my room.

The whole family’s asleep

except for me. They never heard me steal

into the stairwell hall and climb

the ladder to the fresh night air.

Look for me, Father, on the roof

of the red brick building

at the foot of Green Street–
that’s where we live, you know, on the top floor.

I’m the boy in the white flannel gown

sprawled on this coarse gravel bed

searching the starry sky,

waiting for the world to end.

Songs with Astronomical Themes No. 9: Stardust, by Hoagy Carmichael

It’s been called one of the greatest songs ever written: No. 9 in our Songs with Astronomical Themes series, “Stardust,” by Hoagy Carmichael.


The song, written by Carmichael in 1927 with lyrics added a couple of years later by Mitchell Parish, is one of the most-recorded pop numbers in history, covered by a who’s who of bands and singers: Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Django Reinhardt, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Connick Jr., Barry Manilow, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart . . .

Here’s Nat King Cole’s version, originally recorded in 1956:

The structure and melody are unusually complex for a pop standard; the tune wanders all over the place, with the phrasing alternating between slow and fast. Carmichael says the inspiration for the song came to him one night on the grounds of his alma mater, Indiana University in Bloomington; he dashed off to find a piano and jot down the tune, and thus was born “Stardust.” If you go to IU today, you can see a plaque commemorating the very spot where Carmichael is said to have dreamed up the tune.

Carmichael, by the way, also wrote the tune to “Heart and Soul,” that annoying little ditty that’s often played as a duet by kids sitting at a piano. This one: