Diplomatic Training

Sixteen years ago I spent ten months at the Foreign Service Institute training for my first diplomatic assignment to Saudi Arabia. This week I returned to campus with my sons, eight and ten, so they could begin their own indoctrination to the diplomatic life. They were enrolled in a course called Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation. … Continue reading Diplomatic Training

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The Impact of Public Diplomacy

Reflecting on U.S. Diplomacy. An excerpt: The next-to-last time I saw Mohamed---11:15 a.m., December 6, 2004---a blast-resistant window separated us. The day’s final applicant, he was alone in the waiting room when the high-low alarm started wailing. An Afghan male taking refuge in Saudi Arabia from the time of the Soviet invasion of his country, … Continue reading The Impact of Public Diplomacy

Limits of Traction

No coffee this morning. This line instead kicked my day into gear at West Virginia's Bill Scott Raceway: We're gonna be at the limits of traction this morning... Limits of traction, and limits of digestion. Following the hard-braking exercises through the serpentine, I left the Crown Vic to hurl my breakfast at the woods. No … Continue reading Limits of Traction

Swamp Talk

Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

A dozen years ago when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the government had a habit of referring to domestic terrorists as 'deranged' and calling them 'mental deviants.' We mocked the Saudis mercilessly for it. The Royals were denying reality. They failed to acknowledge and confront the extremist forces at loose in the Kingdom, extremist views … Continue reading Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

Cake Talk

Of all the artists --- musicians, painters, actors & stand-up comedians, even poets --- I put my own kind at the very bottom. Novelists ask too much of their audience. These others thrive on immediacy, accessibility, and entertainment. Musicians bang it out live in short bursts or cast long, sweeping arcs; the audience has only to … Continue reading Cake Talk

Stand Up Comedy

In an effort to prove why writing is easy and speaking is hard, I decided to do live stand-up at the library in Oakton, VA. Drop by to find out why I write instead of preach, and what's behind that title---Two Pumps for the Body Man. Register here.

Diplomatic Casualties

The morning of December 6, 2004, five heavily armed terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I remember loud pops from the AK-47s and the muffled thud of improvised explosive devices; I remember hours hunkered under a desk and a scramble for protection when the Marine called “Gas!; I remember crouching through our … Continue reading Diplomatic Casualties

Diplomats and Terrorists

Last month American Diplomacy included my review of Ambassador James R.  Bullington's Foreign Service Memoir, The Road Less Traveled. The book recounts a career that began with the U.S. military build-up in Vietnam and took the author to Burma, Chad, Benin, and Burundi, where he served as Ambassador, and Niger, where he served from 2001-2006 as Country Director … Continue reading Diplomats and Terrorists

The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade

I want loyalty, I need loyalty No writing has influenced my work more than Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Not the Bible. Not the Constitution. Not even The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is a pretty great book and should be thrown full force at anyone who tries to ban it. I wrote my first novel, Two … Continue reading The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade