We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Johnson City, Texas, where they established the tradition of firing up for the Christmas holidays by covering the Blanco County courthouse with god-knows-how-many hundreds-of-thousands of lights, hanging in strands from the roof edge to the ground and noting the start of the holiday season in the Hill Country with a bang … a round of fireworks at about 7 PM Friday, as soon as it was well-dark. The firework show was lavish – and the three rows of vendor pavilions and the spectators in courthouse square were so close to it that little bits of spent ash from the fireworks sifted down on us. I hadn’t seen anything so splendid, or been so close – practically underneath it all – since a Fourth of July celebration at the Rio Cibolo Ranch in 2009.

The Blanco Courhouse - all lit up.

The Blanco Courhouse – all lit up.

The trunks of the pecan and oak trees star-scattered on the lawn around the courthouse were strung with lights, and the facades of many establishments around the courthouse square were also lavishly lit up. This whole ‘lighting for Christmas’ kicked off similar displays in other small communities and towns, but Johnson City is still the lead event. The crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings were substantial and in the proper mood for buying. My daughter and I made our expenses Friday evening, so sales on Saturday and Sunday were gravy. Our expenses were more than just the quite reasonable table/booth fee, since Johnson City is slightly more than an hour drive from home. We considered the drive to and from for three days running; two such trips at ten o’clock at night on a relatively unlighted country highway, with drunk drivers, speeding trucks, suicidal deer … and said, ‘oh, hell no.’

The nearest available affordable lodgings turned out to be at the Miller Creek RV Resort, which has three little cabins with a bathroom and functional kitchenette for rent. We booked one for two nights; the cabin porch presented a lovely view of the creek, which we were never to relish, as we were there only to sleep – long and deeply, following ten or twelve hours of active selling. The Miller’s Creek RV Park is a lovely little place, by the way; immaculately groomed and landscaped. It’s not one of those luxury destination RV resorts by any means, but a modest comfortable place, beautifully arranged – they even have a minuscule dog park, in addition to the usual facilities.

I think that the most reassuring part of our experience this last weekend wasn’t entirely due to the satisfactory sales – it was the experience itself. The people in this smallish Hill Country town came together to put on their yearly extravaganza. Volunteers from various local organizations giving it their all; families with children and polite teenagers, lined up in front of the cotton-candy vendor, right next to us. That vendor had the brilliant inspiration to sell his cotton-candy spun around a lighted plastic wand, which made the wad of candy look like clouds with a varicolored lightening-storm going on behind it. (Purchase the wand – get unlimited refills of cotton-candy!)

A look down the Market area.

A look down the Market area.

Any number of those polite teenagers came and bought origami earrings from my daughter, or inveigled their parents to buy them – indeed, there was one particularly engaging teenager who admired the earrings so much that my daughter sighed and gave her the particular pair that she favored, asking only that when Engaging Teenager had the money, to come back and pay for them. The very next night, Engaging Teenager returned with four crumpled dollar bills and four quarters. She confessed to wanting to be a writer and talked at length about what she liked in the way of books, how she kept being distracted by new ideas when writing, and how she was bound and determined to finish a story of hers for her grandmother’s Christmas present – because Gran had asked for just that thing. Engaging Teenager has the very same problem that I did, way back in the early days of my scribbling career; to whit – never being able to finish anything. We talked for a bit about that; reassuring and encouraging Engaging Teenager as an aspiring writer, though I suppose that we will never know if we did her any good. I did give her a copy of Lone Star Sons (autographed with a personal message, of course!), assuring Engaging Teenager that my one YA book venture might be a help in demonstrating the art of short adventure-writing. Such a nice kid – we hope that later teenagery won’t spoil her charm and spirit.

There was the procession of lighted automobiles, trucks, and tractors, some of them towing floats for the lighted parade on Saturday, the marching band and the senior citizen synchronized marching team with their lighted lawn-chairs … it was all very reassuring to me. Small-town America is still here, still confident, still ably conducting their own affairs, neighbor to neighbor – even when the neighbor is only a member of the peripatetic small-business gypsy-market. (I took pictures, using the ‘night’ function on the camera. Alas – none of those pictures came out very well at all.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

Speaking of gypsy marketing; I bought my Christmas present indulgence for myself; a pair of vintage earrings from one of the other vendors. His family business specialized in vintage and estate jewelry, mostly silver and a large part reclaimed from a smelter in San Antonio. You know – those businesses who buy old silver and gold jewelry; it goes to be melted down. This enterprise has an agreement with the local smelter to let them come in, look over the takings and purchase at cost those items with artistic merit. But my Christmas present for myself wasn’t one of those so rescued; they were from an estate sale. Described as silver – I thought they had a gold wash – and reddish-brown jasper stones; this was a pair of acorn-shaped earrings. I liked them very much, especially as they go with the brown tweed Edwardian walking suit outfit. So – my present for myself.
Oh, and I wore a different vintage outfit every one of the three days. They worked very well for merchandising purposes – and yes, I will do this again. Many times.

Today is Thanksgiving Day; my daughter and I will share a feast of delightfully orange-flavored brined turkey breast (a recipe lifted from the current issue of Cuisine at Home) plus some sides; as a small dish of baked stuffing using some heels of pumpernickel bread from the bounteously-stuffed garage deep-freeze, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, garlic mashed potatoes, all served with a dash of the lingonberry sauce from the jar I purchased last weekend from the Ikea grocery department – it tastes very much like cranberry sauce anyway — and finished off with a slice of pumpkin pie, baked this week. The enduring trouble that I have with Thanksgiving is that I don’t much like most of the traditional dishes. Of those that I do, I don’t want to eat leftovers of them from now until past mid-December. Seriously, in many years, I was so tired of sorting out the remainders of a whole turkey I would choose anything else vaguely birdlike for the main entrée, and for Christmas, practically anything else. On some years when it would be just me, I threw tradition to the winds and did a tiny half-pound frozen poulet from HEB Central Market, or a rock Cornish game hen, accompanied by the traditional autumnal dishes that I did like. (These solitary dinners were a treat for me; single servings of exotic and/or expensive dishes that I would never have sampled otherwise.)

Yes, I did some Thanksgiving days with just me, myself, and I, contra every existing holiday tradition. I experienced some uncomfortable Thanksgiving Day dinners at the houses of acquaintances, but the worst of them was an excruciating dinner wherein I with preschool daughter in tow had been invited by my military supervisor to share his familial table … except that he had somehow forgotten to tell his spouse until the very last minute that he had invited us. Her resentment was a palpable thing, hovering over the table like a fog and curdling every bite that I took. That was the year that I resolved to break no bread on Thanksgiving with any but blood family; if it meant only the two of us or myself alone, then so be it. I did manage to get home for that traditional dinner with blood relatives now and again – which varied the solitary meal program to some degree.
Besides, sometimes the Thanksgiving holiday was an opportunity to do serious work – the year that I replaced the back fence myself, and ate my supper mid-project from a tray (the tiny poulet year) sitting in the living room and regarding the fence in mid-project. This year is no different, with substantial projects in mid-accomplishment: we have the three-day market event in Johnson City to prepare for; the full-on display of the pavilion, with Christmas lights, special displays and three days’ worth of stock; my books, her earrings. This is a huge event – justifying some preparations above and beyond the usual. Christmas dinner will mark the real end and celebration for us – another year, well-done.

There are so many things to celebrate, and give thanks for on this particular day: We are thankful that Mom is safely settled with my sister and her family out in California; that Mom is as sharp and healthy as ever, aside from the wheelchair-necessitating disability. We are also thankful for a couple of repeat clients for the Teeny Publishing Bidness, and a couple of new ones. This allowed us the latitude to explore other yearly markets, and with the election being done and people feeling good about spending money again, those markets may yet be profitable for us. We are thankful for our neighbors, especially the ones who tolerate Larry-bird’s early morning serenades, who exchange venison and garden vegetables for eggs, in addition to exchanging contacts and recommendations in the most neighbor-supporting way. We are thankful indeed, for a refrigerator, pantry and freezer stuffed with good food, stashed away against emergencies, that both our automobiles are in good repair and running order, that among other necessary household repairs we could afford to top up the ceiling insulation and reduce the electric bill thereby. We have our own continued good health to be thankful for… I am thankful for being able to publish three books with my name on the cover this year – including the one that I was beginning to believe I could never finish. I have probably forgotten any number of other things to be thankful for, so I’ll just stash them under the topic of “other blessings.” May you all have blessings to be thankful for, and a bounteous supper to mark the day. Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been an education, watching the mass public meltdown on the part of the not-Trump faction over the last week and a half. OK – I get the shock and denial, said to be the first stages of grief. Hillary was supposed to become the first woman elected president of the USA! (Yay, vagina!) It was her turn, per the Ruling Uni-party and a whole lot of people who should have known better. And she was supposed to be qualified – the most qualified woman evah! – although specifics about those qualifications are somewhat thin on the ground and mostly to do with her grabbing in marriage an attractive, promising professional pol on his way up, and sticking with him no matter what personal humiliations that entailed for decades.

I’d interject a personal note here: I once had a security clearance, and handled classified material for a couple of years. If I had been so damned careless with those documents as the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua was as Secretary of State, I’d still be in a cell in Leavenworth, instead of blissfully retired from the Big Blue Machine for two decades. Too, she had the establishment national media in her pocket, slavering to be of obedient service to the Queen, and a whole lineup of celebrities, likewise dropping to their knees and elbowing each other out of the way in their haste to swear fealty. Her campaign spent a bomb on pollsters, advertising, and whatever else presidential campaigns are supposed to spend megabucks on – which until now was always supposed to signal victory. It was in the bag for her, without a doubt! And yet … the dominoes dropped, one after one, after one. And the coronation was off. No wonder the Dowager Queen is reported to have had a particularly horrific tantrum on Election Night, and vanished from the eyes of her adoring public for more than a week, reappearing looking like a side dish of Death indifferently warmed over.

Her supporters’ first reaction seemed to be shock and denial, followed swiftly by skipping over the pain and guilt and going straight to the anger and bargaining, as demonstrated by a diverse variety of “never MY president!” advocates. Some of them may simply be virtue-signaling to their fellows, going along with the herd, as it were – like the cast of Hamilton. Others, mostly has-been celebs like Cher and Yoko Ono appear to be screaming “Look at MEEEEEE!” The celeb virtue-signaling wing appears almost universal among the glitterati – to the point where cooler heads like Oprah Winfrey advising a “wait and see” approach are treated as if they are vile Trumpist fellow-travelers.

The whole liberal meltdown and mass-virtue-signaling exercise exerts a kind of horrified fascination, like contemplating a spectacular 20-car pileup on the interstate. Out of decency, you want to look away … but you just can’t, because the vehicles involved have wound up in such bizarre positions: on-end in the median, pretzeled around an overpass support, or balanced on the safety railing like a child’s teeter-totter.

The pathetic part of it all is that right up until the day before yesterday (or so it now seems) Donald Trump was just a rich, blowhard Noo Yawk vulgarian, a habitué of the tabloid pages with a no-more-than-usually centrist-to-socially-liberal political stance, a reality-show businessman. Against that parody image, his businesses seemed to be well and profitably run. His family (divorces aside) appear well-adjusted; assorted wives and offspring to be quite happy and functional. He had a reputation, as it now turns out, for picking good people – borne out this very week as he selects a political dream team for his cabinet.

But to judge by the screaming tantrums of the anti-Trumpists, he is the very incarnation of Hitler, Genghis Khan, Simon Legree and Oliver Cromwell, all rolled together in one horrid package. The screaming, or as one pundit puts it, the freakoutrage, will go on for the next four years, unabated by any success on the part of a Trump administration. Racist and anti-Semitic, against every evidence to the contrary – the accusations fly, and fly and fly again, no matter how much evidence there is on the ground to counter them. The protests, the virtue-signaling, the routine street violence and the academic spazz-outs will likely continue for the foreseeable future no matter what events may befall a Trump administration for good or ill. Good thing that the establishment press – having revealed themselves to be so nakedly in the tank for partisan interests – appear to have less and less credibility when it comes to matters political among red-state Americans.

Trump’s run for the presidency seemed like a joke at the start, but to everyone’s surprise the car-chasing dog not only caught the car, but is sitting alertly in the driver’s seat, deftly spinning the wheel and touching the brakes as the vehicle roars through traffic.

Discuss, if you can bear it.

So passes another weekend in our grueling schedule of holiday events. Somehow, I didn’t quite grasp until this afternoon that this is the last weekend before Thanksgiving, and that was why there were so many shoppers in the local HEB buying frozen turkeys, trays of bake’n’serve rolls, sweet potatoes, et cetera. Well, of course – since next weekend is our three-day extravaganza in Johnson City, where they ceremonially light the courthouse and Courthouse Square with millions and millions of lights, and have a parade and Santa, and a market and a fair … it’s the kickoff holiday event for the Hill Country, apparently, and we have high hopes for it as far as sales go.
This Saturday was my brief turn at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt: the cost of an author table has been raised by the management, so I could only justify half a day on Saturday, which experience has taught me is the single busiest session. Since we were halfway to Austin, and a paper supply place my daughter wanted to see first-hand, we toddled on up there, after a moderately successful morning. And then – well, it was just a short jump to the Ikea store in Round Rock. Why not? See what they were putting out for Christmas, pick up some nice-quality items in the kitchenware department, and stock up on frozen Swedish meatballs and lingonberry preserves in the grocery department. We thought perhaps we might have a late lunch in the cafeteria, but it was so late in the day by then, we decided to drive home and make our own supper of them. The meatballs were as scrumptious as ever – and they had a sale on them. Our strategic Ikea meatball reserves are replenished as of this weekend. Although this schedule did push back dinnertime very late last night.

Early on, when sorting out the schedule, my daughter was considering a Sunday market in Giddings to follow on Saturday at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt, but we decided not to, because of the long drive for a single-day event. Just as well; the bulk brush pickup for our neighborhood has been set for the week after Thanksgiving. Sunday and the first part of the week were the only days that we could see to taking down the dying mulberry tree in the back yard. The original owners of my place planted it, apparently – for it was a lush, mature tree which shaded the whole back of the house, especially in late afternoon. But the local utility company went through about five years ago, clearing away branches from the wires at the wrong time of year. Then the tree was stressed by a couple of drought years, and last year fell to some sort of ghastly tree plague-fungus that was killing the exposed roots, bark and branches of about a quarter of it. Local tree expert consulted, trimmed away some of the dead bark and branches, but didn’t give much hope for long-term survival.

A View of the garden and the bare mulberry three years ago

A View of the garden and the bare mulberry three years ago


We made the decision that we’d hire the neighborhood handy-guy to bring his chain-saw, ladder and rope, and we would help. So, he knocked the price down on that account, and Sunday was the day that he could work. The tree is now down and the stump trimmed off level, half the yard is deep in bright mustard-colored sawdust, and a couple of trunk segments cut into drums to use as plant stands, and there we are. My daughter and I are totally exhausted. This is the one tree that I have had cut that I will genuinely miss, mostly for the shade it offered the back of the house in the late afternoon. All the others I have paid to be taken down were ones that I hated – especially the overgrown red-tipped photina by the front door that made the den into a dark cave. Now the entire back yard must be re-thought, with accommodation for the chickens, of course. There are certain green plants that they adore and will eat down to the stem – fortunately citrus trees in planters are not one of them, and the citrus plants adore the strong sunshine. I will fiddle with a new garden layout over the next couple of weeks, one which must accommodate voracious chickens and strong late afternoon sunshine. And that was my week – yours?

The Front Cover - if there was ever a dust-jacket, I don't remember it

The Front Cover – if there was ever a dust-jacket, I don’t remember it

Thanks to the wonders of the fully-engaged internet, I finally got around to finding and replacing a book that I had as a kid. It was a collection of poetry, with nice little introductions to each poem aimed at enlightening the junior reader. I certain that I had this book as one of my Christmas or birthday presents sometime between the age of eight – when I began to read confidently – and the age of twelve when I was doing so voraciously. I remembered the poems in the book better than I recollected the title: there was The Lady of Shalott, and The Highwayman, poems by Longfellow, Kipling, Edgar Lee Masters, William Shakespeare, Robert Service and Robert Browning, John Greenleaf Whittier, an excerpt from The Lays of Ancient Rome, a comic bit of verse from W.S. Gilbert, Coleridge’s’ Kublai Khan and a poem by Robert Nathan about two English teenagers venturing to Dunkirk in their own sailboat to rescue the British Army. The poems were enlivened by simple line drawings. Of course, some of these poems were further set in my mind by being assigned to memorize them in Mr. Terranova’s sixth grade class, but in its way, this slim little hardback book was an excellent short compendium of old poetical standards, of the sort that once everyone knew and could recite a verse or two from … or at least recognize an illusion dropped into ordinary conversation or in a popular novel.

Eventually, just about all our childhood books devolved on me. I was the first of my parent’s children to produce offspring, and they took the opportunity of packing up just about every scrap of the remaining kid-lit in their house upon the occasion of the Air Force offering a generous hold baggage allowance after that year that she spent living with my parents. They obligingly directed the packers to the kid-book library, the few personal items of mine left behind, and dispatched them along with my daughter’s hold baggage. But the book of poetry was not among them, although I did look for it, now and again. I can only think that perhaps it was overlooked, or had gravitated to the household of my sister or brothers. In any case, I missed it. All that I could remember was that it was called The Magic Circle. Fruitless looking for it by that name – until a year or so ago when I found it among the used book offerings on Amazon. Yes – that was that very same fabric cover, dark blue with a two-color embossment on the cover of a horse-mounted highwayman under a full moon. I added it to my wish list and ordered it some weeks ago – and there it was, arrived in the mail on Friday.

Yes, the very book that I remembered – although absent the inscription in the front from my parents, noting what birthday or Christmas that it was given to me. It’s about as lovingly worn as my own copy was – and someone took a pencil and wrote “Billy” in block letters along the long side of the pages, and “St Paul” along the top and bottom. But still – the book that I remembered so fondly. I didn’t remember that it was subtitled “Stories and People in Poetry” – but that was a thing obvious.

A Poem about George Washington - Illustrated

A Poem about George Washington – Illustrated

I leafed through it – noting that it was edited by Louis Untermeyer. I presume that he wrote the various introductory notes to the poems. And another thing that I noted too – the very maturity of the poems. I mean – it was a casual expectation up until recently that elementary- and middle-school children would eagerly read this material. I leafed – metaphorically – through several recent collections of poetry for children which didn’t contain nearly as many of the classic, heavy-hitter poets of the 19th century as this single volume did. Too many long hard words, I guess. Lots of more modern minor poets in the newer anthologies, most of whom I have never heard of, and materiel written specifically for children. And the categories for the poems were quite a bit more mundane. Looking through The Magic Circle, I see “Strange Tales”, “Gallant Deeds, “Unforgettable People,” “Our American Heritage” and “Ballads of the Old Days” among others. Practically an antique, this collection is – and dear to me because many of the poems were as challenging as they were stirring, not dumbed-down pap meant to be read in a safe space.

Anyway, I’m glad to have it back – even better than I remembered.

Count me among those who were astounded and relieved – somewhat – to wake up on Wednesday morning, to the sweet sound of my daughter saying, “He won it!” She had stayed up to all hours watching the returns on streaming video, becoming hypnotized by watching the dominoes begin to cascade. I just didn’t have the endurance in me. I thought all day Tuesday (and for a week or so in advance of Election Day) that while he might possibly have an excellent chance, based on the sense that his various, wall-to-wall-scheduled rallies had standing room only crowds, while Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua basically had to bus in Dem Party stalwarts and lock the doors to keep them from leaving. Just the comparative pictures of the crowds … well, that lent hope. The cascade of revelations from Wikileaks also gave hope that perhaps a larger audience would see the Clintons for the grasping, corrupt plutocrats that they have become, and perhaps have always been. But – seeing the major national news media were so neatly pocketed by her campaign, and knowing that 18-wheel trailer-truckloads of fraudulent ballots were likely being packed and loaded – I could not bear to watch our America fall into the status of a banana republic in a single awful night. I believed that at best – Republicans would hold on to the Senate and House and to a preponderance of the state legislatures and governorships. After all, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, AKA Her Inevitableness, is not Evita, and we are not Argentina – and what a pure relief it is to know that millions of Americans of all colors, genders and political persuasions agree with me. “There is a Providence,” as Chancellor Bismarck is believed to have remarked (although likely he didn’t) more than a century ago, “that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.”

It turns out now that most of us who chose, with varying degrees of hope and despair, to vote for Trump, were overlooked by the professional pollsters, fibbing to them when we were not overlooked, and the pollsters themselves nudging their findings this way and that to favor the establishment narrative. That is the other takeaway from last Wednesday morning; that just about every polling and mainstream media organization got it all catastrophically wrong. I mean wrong on the sense of launching an unsinkable ship on a collision course with an iceberg in mid-Atlantic in the late spring of 1912, and then standing about with eggy disaster caked on their faces, wondering what just hit them and why the water level is rapidly rising towards the Boat Deck. Shock, horror, disbelief … that everything which had always worked so well before in packaging and presenting a candidate to the electorate suddenly didn’t. Spending a lot of money didn’t work, suborning the establishment press to your side didn’t work, and collecting celebrity endorsements and the endorsements of the moneyed new-tech class didn’t work at all. Their understanding of the world is rocked … but I am certain that those who have suddenly tripped and fallen flat over a pothole of reality in their road will pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing shattering had happened at all.

Not that we are out of the shadows yet, of course. The hired protestors and freelance rioters are creating mayhem in major cities even now; likely they will continue to do so for as long as the checks from various Soros front “social justice” organizations keep coming, and the busses are for hire to bring them together for a “spontaneous” demonstration with nicely-printed protest signs and carefully briefed professional activists posing as ‘just ordinary folks’. Of course, the establishment media cameras are there to offer lip-smacking, ghoulish coverage. Funny thing, though – as a handful of internet wits are pointing out – basically, this conforms the judgement of those of us who thought that we were taking a huuuge chance in voting Trump. Another mordantly amusing item – the “Not My President” protesters are creating destruction, havoc and inconvenience … in the very places which most probably turned out for the Dowager Queen in substantial numbers, an irony of such density that it threatens to drop through the center of the earth and come out someplace in Tashkent.

Discuss and speculate, as you are inclined.

The first of our Christmas market events was yesterday at the Spring Branch/Bulverde Senior center, which is located on a side street in what passes for downtown Bulverde, Texas … which is not really one of those compact and easily recognizable towns – but rather one of those scattered along a half mile or so of several roads about twenty minutes’ drive north of San Antonio. This is the third year that we have done this event – and it was a good and reassuring start to the season, after a pair of disappointing events last month in Blanco and Johnson City. It is my daughter’s theory – and a good many other venders at those events agreed – people were either uneasy about the election, and not in any mood for Christmas buying. It was our fondest hope that with the election done, and Christmas creeping ever closer … that we would do well at this market.
And we did; I did as well this year in sales as I did at last year, which is pretty good, considering. We had a spot where we could set up three tables in a narrow u-shape, and market my daughter’s Paper Blossom Production Earrings from one side, and my books on the other. There was a good crowd out, and yes, they were in the mood to spend money. I even swapped three books to the vendor next to us in exchange for a covered bowl hand-turned out of local pecan wood – I have been longing for one such, after seeing them offered by woodworkers at other markets, but their prices were always too rich for me. But I liked the covered bowl, and the woodworker’s wife was thrilled to bits to pick out a book each for her daughter, granddaughter and grandson, which were approximately the same value as the covered bowl – so, all happy.

I wore the latest addition to my “author drag” wardrobe; brown poly-wool tweed walking suit, with hat, reticule and shirtwaist, all color-coordinated – and yes, very eye-catching, although the receptionist at the Center related with a giggle, that someone remarked to her that they had just seen Mary Poppins walking in. Another vendor exclaimed that I was just as “cute as a button” – a compliment that I don’t believe has been applied to me since elementary school. The whole thing was eye-catching – as intended – and not all that uncomfortable to wear. So – onto Weinachtsmarkt next weekend in New Braunfels and then to Johnson City for three days the weekend after that.
And The Golden Road is now up at Amazon, for pre-order and release on the 18th. I hope to have the print version available early in December. Fingers crossed…

I could not refind the lovely Veteran’s Day video that I spotted first thing this morning … but what about this one?

Assorted. Random. That’s the way that things are going. So … in no particular order of importance – are we really-o, truly-o in Heinlein’s Crazy Years? A time when Ted Rall and Michael Moore make sense – hey the odds would have to catch up to them sometime. The choice facing those of us who quixotically vote on Election Day have the unedifying choice between a rich, crude and notably vulgar media personality … and a jaw-droppingly corrupt and incompetent rich professional politician who possesses a vagina.

Well, Blondie and I have already cast our votes, for all the good that may be gathered from them … and in Texas, we do have to show an ID or a voter-registration card to early vote so the odds are that our votes will count for something are pretty good. The whole election thing still hangs over us like Damocles’ sword, so we are both waiting for it to be over, over and done.
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We have a breath of non-market time this weekend, and plan to use it most wisely. This week has been a slack time for us, after the Johnson City market last weekend. (A routine medical screening for me, which involved drinking a disgusting fluid and fasting the day before, and world-class sedatives the day of. Enough said, although the experience wasn’t as totally unpleasant as the previous repetition. And the gastroenterologist was a wise-cracking funny man, in the best tradition of M*A*S*H.; “Yeah, any polyps found, we’ll take ‘em out – we don’t do photo safaris here.”)
After careful consideration, we have decided to go for the big event of Christmastime in the Hill Country – the ceremonial lighting of the Courthouse in Johnson City, which associated market event will go over three days – a Friday afternoon, all Saturday and a good bit of Sunday. Everyone assures us that this event is more than huuge, so we are resolved to commit to it. The downside is that the Friday and Saturday market times run until 10 PM … and Johnson City is a little more than an hour drive from home. Which is tolerable in one iteration … but over three days, and six times up and down the highway … and in the dark late at night for two of them, with deer and drunks and god knows what on the highway on a weekend?

No. We bit the bullet and decided on a hotel for two nights; problem being that the affordable motel/hotels in the vicinity of Johnson City are already booked for that weekend. Yes, the event is that big. Finally, we opted for a cabin at an RV park a few miles away, which miraculously was still available at their regular price. The cabin is one of those nicer ones with a shower and toilet in it, and equipped with Wi-fi and a microwave oven. That will be our brief winter vacation. We’ve passed the RV park coming and going last weekend, and it looks quite nice. We’ll be able to set up at the venue and then return there to sleep and refresh ourselves, and I will likely be able to wear my author drag all three days…
Yes, the author drag. I have committed to making a splash by wearing a period costume, and seeing it work out so well in the “attracting attention” department at book events this summer, I am resolved to doing the same this season – but I will need more than just the plain grey and black Edwardian walking suit outfit, especially for multi-day events. So – chained to the sewing machine, doing a small wardrobe of late 19th-century or early 20th century outfits, with accessories … aided in this by shopping the going-out-of-business sales at the local Hancock Fabric outlets this last summer, stocking up on lengths of fabric at knock-down prices, plus judiciously shopping at an on-line fabric warehouse outlet, where I must take the fabric on trust. Which so far has worked out, but gosh, I miss a place like Scriveners, an eccentric local retail outlet here in San Antonio which had a legendary fabric department. (Pause for the obligatory tear for Scriveners … their high-quality wool suitings, their silks, muslins, notions, and their old-style premier staff. Yes, I was a beloved customer with these dearly old-fashioned salesladies; not for being able to spend a bomb as many of their other clientele could, but for being one of the few with the nous to tackle the complicated Vintage Vogue patterns.) This weekend is dedicated to finishing a brown tweed wool outfit of the same pattern as the grey and black… as some of the market events will be out of doors, and yes, it does get cool in Texas in winter. Not just the suit – but the hat and accessories to go with.)

Not as cool as a couple of years ago at Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, where it plunged into the 20s, by the thermometer, and by the wind-chill factor, likely a few degrees colder than that. That weekend was ghastly, BTW – minimal attendance at what was normally a big local thing. I’m on the docket for this year’s iteration – and Miss Ruby’s Author Corral will be in an open space on the Courthouse Square next to the library – where a couple of years ago a narrow shop-front was demolished, to reveal a nearly-pristine mural Bull Durham advert on the side of the building adjacent. This is now a pleasant courtyard, part-shaded by an awning – and this is where I will be on the first Saturday in December.
Other stuff … a considerable kerfuffle in my neighborhood over the late summer about the community mailboxes being raided by some dirtbag with a penchant for stealing mail and packages with possibly valuable contents. (We adore our local mailman – his name is Alfred, he is hard-working and efficient, also a veteran; he has put us wise to some of this.) The dirtbag possibly responsible for the most recent round of vandalism and theft has been busted by the SAPD – apparently red-handed, which was the only way said dirtbag could be arrested… that is, caught in the act. Meanwhile, those of us in the neighborhood are considering our own methods of protection for the community mailboxes. Mainly this involves either installing security cameras at our own expense, or tilting those which we already possess in order to focus on the community mailboxes. Alfred approves of this community and self-organized thing. I have a security camera, which covers my own driveway – and alas our house is too far away to cover the nearest mailbox. I will note that functional communities have no need of a self-proclaimed community organizer – they are of themselves self-organizing. No need of outside talent when that within is sufficient.

Oh, and we went to the early voting location today. Might as well get it over with; the line went out the door and almost to the end of the parking lot. Never seen that before. We did meet two of our neighbors, and had a lovely chat as we stood in line for nearly an hour. Yes … interest in this current election cycle is particularly intense …

For a moment, as the saying used to go, when I was in. The first part of that truism was, “The military will take care of you.” – This bitter wisdom is now being discovered anew by a number California National Guard troops, who – when they were offered bonuses for re-upping ten years ago, accepted the bonus, reupped and served … and ooops, now it turns out that they weren’t qualified or eligible for said bonus, and the Big Green Military Machine wants the money back. With interest and penalties, it would appear. The Big Military Administrative Machine writes and enforces the rules to suit the needs of the machine – a thing which is screamingly obvious to anyone who ever signed a contract of any sort with the Big Military Administrative Machine. (It was always a point of bitter observation to us overseas, that as the dollar-to-local-currency exchange rate rose or dropped, the military paymaster’s adjustment for that exchange rate lagged or sped up in a manner which invariably screwed the military member living on the local economy. The Big Military Administrative Machine will have their pound of flesh, regardless… And it will not favor the individual military member.)
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I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.

I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war.

You would think that the Confederacy, after establishing the principle that if you don’t like the results of an election, you can take your marbles and secede, had little ethical grounds for persecuting those elements within Texas who didn’t like the results of the secession convention, and wished to take their marbles and rejoin the union – but they did, anyway. “It’s only OK when WE do it” has a longer-than-suspected-history in the Democrat Party, it seems. Colonel Burrier’s thesis is that influential elements among the Texas Hill Country Germans were organizing an all-out, balls-to-the-wall armed and political resistance movement, with the aim of breaking off from Texas, establishing a separate and free state, and rejoining the Union, just as West Virginia did. It’s liable to be a controversial one, since it is contrary to the accepted opinion, which tends more to the concept of relatively innocent non-participants in the peculiar institution generally, and disinclined to participate in the Confederacy’s war specifically – being brutally persecuted for exercising their rights of free speech and association. Repression bred resistance, and violence on both sides.

As in all civil wars, this one split families, friends and communities. One of the most heartbreaking that I can imagine, from reviewing and formatting Colonel Burrier’s assemblage of chapters and notes is that Fritz Tegener, who was elected leader of that party of militant German Unionists who went south towards Mexico together in 1862, was a married man with a small daughter and a two-months-pregnant wife, Susan Benson Tegener. When his party was ambushed by pursuing Confederates, he was badly injured, to the point of incapacitation in the resulting fight, but managed to survive and spend the remainder of the war south of the border in Mexico. Susan Tegener, whose two older brothers were members of the Confederate militia unit assigned to keep order in the Hill Country was taken into custody, along with the families of other suspected Unionists, but eventually released. Assuming her husband dead, Susan married twice more – to Confederate sympathizers. After the end of the war, when Fritz Tegener turned up alive and well, her divorce from him was, as might be assumed, spectacularly ugly. Fritz Tegener never acknowledged the second child as his … and Colonel Burrier suspects that Susan Tegener may have spilled all to the Confederate authorities about her husband’s planned departure with sixty other Unionists in 1862 anyway. Fritz also had two brothers; Gustaf, summarily hanged at Spring Creek later in 1862 by Confederate authorities (or vigilantes – hard to tell which, sometimes), and William – also lynched by pro-Confederate vigilantes the previous year – apparently for his disinclination to embrace the Confederacy.

The other sobering element is how swiftly things turned, and turned again, for many of the well-established and respectable men in the German community. The elected sheriff of Gillespie County, one Philip Braubach, was taken to San Antonio in the indignity of chains with a heavy cannon-ball weight attached. His companions in miserable captivity included two Hill Country store owners – one a former justice of the peace, and the other a former officer in the local militia. They all three were charged by a military tribunal and found guilty – fortunately they escaped shortly thereafter. Others coming under suspicion and persecution were just as well-established in their respective communities. They held responsible offices – state representative, justice of the peace, surveyor, militia company officer, ran profitable businesses, had the absolute trust of their friends, neighbors, communities … and for a season of madness, were branded traitors, plotters, brigands and revolutionaries. And for that, they spent three or four perilous years, hunted as outlaws and traitors until the wheel turned again …

I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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So, I am taking a break from writing about political stuff this week, in this last stretch before the elections. For one reason – I have said what I have to generally say about it all, several times over, and for year after year; just not interested in finding a way of saying it all again. For another, there are bloggers and commenters who are saying it all much better than I could – about the possible apotheosis of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, the possible repercussions of said apotheosis, and the fighting chances of The Donald. Frankly, it impresses me that he pisses off a whole lot of individuals who have a long, long, long history of insulting and denigrating me, as a military veteran, a proud member of the aspiring middle class, and Tea Party participant. No, he isn’t the answer to every political maiden’s ardent prayer; he’s a loud, proud, out and out oft-married Noo Yawk vulgarian, which most intelligent political mavens realized early in the game – but as Abraham Lincoln was moved to say in defense of Ulysses S. Grant, early on in the first civil war, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

So – The Donald fights, which is quite refreshing for a quasi-conservative, and a nice change for the manner in which so-called representatives of the conservative end of the National Uniparty usually react. * They curl up and whimper apologetically when accused of some offense – whatever is the prime offense of the moment according to the current crop of screeching garbage babies – and then they move on as if nothing had ever happened. The die is cast, in any case: the election itself is in less than four weeks. Whatever deals are in the works have been cut, the planned media bombshells have already been primed and aimed, the required ballot-boxes have already been stuffed in the strategic districts, either actually, or by electronic means; the set speeches written and the responding authoritative editorials composed and set on time-delay release. All that us ordinary citizens can do is to buckle in for the bumpy ride, and vote as our conscience dictates.

Not much that I can do at this point to change any of that – so I am prepping for market events this month, next month and the first half of December. I am a hard-working scribbler of historical fiction and light contemporary comic romps – and writing the books is just half the job. The other half is getting them out in front of likely readers, and in this last quarter of 2016, this is where most of my direct sales are made, and this is why I try to have a new book ready for release in time for those markets. My daughter, with her origami art, has suggested and has the purse sufficient to enable us to explore other market venues which have reasonable table fees for participation. San Marcos – for two markets in conjunction with their Mermaid Festival worked out very well for her, so we are off to exploring other craft and local markets in Blanco, Johnson City, and back to Giddings, for a series of craft and book events which will likely take up a Saturday, or even a whole weekend; this in addition to the events which we have done in previous years; Bulverde, New Braunfels, Goliad and Boerne. It’s frankly an exhausting schedule from this next weekend until the week before Christmas, so I am trying to get as much as possible done in advance; the business cards, the book flyers, the freebie bookmarks and postcards … all printed up and assembled at home. Because the actual process of doing the market is also exhausting. Load the Montero, drive to venue, unload the Montero, set up the pavilion and tables, work the passing crowd of shoppers for six or eight hours, break down the market set-up and drive home … the easy market events are those where we only have to bring the merchandise, or the tables and table-dressings, and for an indoors venue. This can be rewarding … but also exhausting. This is the price of getting your books and craft items out there – and now is the beginning of the peak season.

*As for the current Trump ruckus du jour … Trash-talking with another guy about women? Oh, please. Both the Daughter Unit and I overheard cruder stuff from the male servicemen who were our co-workers during our time in service, and in the Daughter Unit’s case – she sometimes joined in. (Me – I’m a f**king lady – I wear a hat and gloves – and don’t you forget it!) Dems getting the vapors over this is epically hypocritical, especially after overlooking Ted Kennedy’s truly crude and abusive behavior (not just words, but actual and disgusting behavior over a period of decades as a senator) and Bill Clinton’s serial abuse of women – abuse which was enabled by the current Democrat Party candidate for the presidency – and excused by the members of that same party when it all came to national attention in the last year of his presidency. Get back to me when being a total male pig is condemned equally across the board. And for something more substantial than just crude talk.

03. October 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front, Old West

So that was a fun Saturday, although exhausting as it always is to pack the Montero, drive a certain distance, unpack the Montero, find a good spot, transport the canopy, tables, the tubs of books and the tub of table dressing and giveaway materiel, and the two camp chairs to it, and set up, ready for business. Then – four to six hours of face-to-face direct sales, broken by a sandwich from the HEB deli (No, lunch is a chancy thing at these events. There may be a food truck or a concession handy with something that we’d want to eat and don’t mind paying for … or not. We have wised up. We bring HEB deli sandwiches, and an insulated bag of bottles of drinking water.)

This is the second year for the Boerne Book Festival – last year there were about twenty of us, spaced out in a back room in the main building. If records and memory serve, we did sell a handful of books, but mostly, us authors were reduced to looking at each other after a certain point in mid-afternoon. I did have a table across from a local historian, Jefferson Morgenthaler, who did a very good book about the German settlements in the Hill Country – a book that I absolutely recommend, as he covered the same territory in non-fiction the same ground that I did in fiction. He is one of those local authors that I knew of, but had not met until that point – so last year’s event was not a totally wasted effort.

Neither was this year’s; they set us up on the landscaped grounds of the library, under the trees where a winding paved path went down to an amphitheater which was the venue for a couple of scheduled events, starting with a children’s ballet company performance: the mini-dancers performed as various forms of sea-life to the music of Saint Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals”. This was the most-well attended segment of the presentations in the amphitheater, I will have to admit, although the later presentations/discussions did have an audience. One of the authors wrote zombie thrillers and was of sufficient celebrity as these things go to have the local Barnes & Noble store with a representative sample of his books.

There were about thirty-five authors present, plus Alan of the Texas Author’s Association, who had a booth filled with books by members of the association. One of them was Clay Mitchell, who was a client of Watercress Press. Alice and I had done some substantive and line editing for his book, Amid the Ashes and the Dust, which is a terrific and evocative read, set in East Texas. Another was John Keeling, who has started a western series about cattle ranchers in Texas; the first book is called Take ‘em North: The 2E Brand Begins. We had a brief chat about writing about the post-Civil War long-trail cattle drives; always go back to the primary sources, we agreed. Just about anything about that enterprise that you saw in a movie or a TV show during the Golden Age of the Western (say from 1930-1970)  is liable to be howlingly inaccurate.

Boerne is one of those towns just about commute-distance from north-side San Antonio; with a very distinct identity, and a well-established historical district. The ambiance is one of very substantial proto-yuppie prosperity. A couple of new developments on the outskirts of town have sprouted up in the last few years, and the various businesses in the historic downtown have – for as long as we’ve been visiting – been very, very upscale. It is, in a word – a prosperous place.

My daughter and I did venture by turns into the used-book store, which is an outgrowth of the Patrick Heath Public Library; a lovely building on the grounds, with a two-level terrace at the back, and a beautifully-arranged selection inside. Seriously – this is a library used-book outlet, which was as well-sorted and set out as any high-end retail book store. My daughter bought Alison Weir’s bio of Henry VIII and I found a copy of the Crabtree and Evelyn cookbook, which I bought for sentimental reasons. And yes – I can’t resist cookbooks of a certain sort. I really used to love that company when they had an outlet in North Star Mall, across the street from the office building where I had a job, some years ago. Sadly, the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet vanished, seemingly between one week and the next. Eventually, there was nothing left in that mall which I was interested in, on my lunch hour, save maybe the Williams-Sonoma outlet. It all became high-end designer clothing, makeup and jewelry. I commiserated with the volunteer cashier at the bookstore about that. She was leafing enviously through the cookbook during the time it took for me to go back to our tent and get my purse. ‘Hah!’ I said. ‘You had your chance!’

So – a very good and reassuring start to the last-quarter-of-the year selling season. One of the readers that we sold a set of the Luna City Chronicles to, stayed for a while to lament about how her widely-geographically-spread friends visualized Texas … in a most unflattering way, of course. My daughter has marveled at how her English FB friends seem to think that we all live in little desolate towns, where tumbleweeds roll through deserted unpaved streets, and everyone lives in tumbling-down shacks with outhouses out at the back and gunfights in the streets on a regular basis.

No, it’s not like that – not anything like that at all… But perhaps we want to keep that quiet, because then everyone would want to move here, and that would quite wreck the place. Say, did I mention how hot it is in Texas during the summer? It’s boiling hot, miserable-hot, fry-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. For five whole months, and sometimes six! No, stay away, stay away!

Anyway, the Daughter-Unit and I are planning out the next market events on our schedule; Johnson City and Blanco are a go for their markets, and Saturday morning at the New Braunfels Sophienburg’s Christmas marked in November at the New Braunfels Civic Center. Dates to be posted as soon as confirmed.

30. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

I followed a link from one of my usual daily reads to Angelo Codevilla’s of-linked most recent essay, After the Republic and read it with the usual sense of renewed depression which usually attends me on reading a disquisition on our current political/social conditions. (Wretchard at Belmont Club and Victor Davis Hansen also produce pretty much the same results – what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.)
Especially this paragraph:

Who, a generation ago, could have guessed that careers and social standing could be ruined by stating the fact that the paramount influence on the earth’s climate is the sun, that its output of energy varies and with it the climate? Who, a decade ago, could have predicted that stating that marriage is the union of a man and a woman would be treated as a culpable sociopathy, or just yesterday that refusing to let certifiably biological men into women’s bathrooms would disqualify you from mainstream society? Or that saying that the lives of white people “matter” as much as those of blacks is evidence of racism? These strictures came about quite simply because some sectors of the ruling class felt like inflicting them on the rest of America. Insulting presumed inferiors proved to be even more important to the ruling class than the inflictions’ substance.

Repeating the last sentence for emphasis: “Insulting presumed inferiors proved to be even more important to the ruling class than the inflictions’ substance.” Especially since the tidal-spew of insult from that we think of as the bi-coastal ruling class, the gatekeepers, the fortunate 1%, the intellectual class and the media darlings towards ordinary, working-class and middle-class residents of what I have begun thinking of as Flyoverlandia has achieved tsunami-depth in the last few years … indeed, the last few months. More »

So, I had this marvelous inspiration for an epic miniseries last night, which I am sure has probably occurred to other people – would that at least one of them might be in a position to act on this inspiration. We were watching Father Ted, and on the way to watching it, skimmed through some of the other offerings available through Amazon, Netflix, and Acorn … and I was thinking, since there are so many period series available, which offer all sorts of alternate or even just slightly-skewed versions of history, especially the versions which offer the actors the opportunity to get all vamped up in corsets and coats trimmed up in gold braid and whatever … what would be a good and popular historical novel series to make a TV miniseries out of … something with a swaggering, handsome and sexually-adventurous-hero, who romped all through the known world of the 19th century, brushing elbows with all kinds of interesting men of note and bedding women likewise, hip-deep in scandals, scoundrels and skullduggery, oh my.

Can you picture for a shining moment – what a thumping good miniseries the Flashman books would make? Yes, George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman series of books, wherein the dashing rakehell of the outwardly heroic, inwardly lily-livered Harry Flashman goes from the First Afghan War, scampering down the corridors of power all over the globe, looking over his shoulder and putting on a desperate burst of speed. Think of all the famous historical personages portrayed over five or six episodes by well-known actors doing a guest turn, consider all the supporting and reoccurring characters, whose listing on imdb would feature this role at the top of their CV. Consider all the exotic, exciting locations for Harry Flashman’s adventures … well, OK, likely Afghanistan is off the list as a real-life shooting location since history is still repeating itself there: You got England and Scotland, Germany, the Crimea, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Mexico, all through the US and better than half a century of significant events, wars, campaigns and punitive expeditions across four continents. You got Abraham Lincoln, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Empress of China, pirates in the South China Sea, mutineers in India, and Apache on the warpath.

It would be splendid. And with even more book materiel than George R. R. Martin, too. Enough to do at least ten seasons if they did all twelve books, although likely to fill in the American Civil War segment, they might have to figure out exactly how Harry Flashman managed to fight for both the Union and the Confederacy. GMF never wanted to do it up in a book; Flashman being an Englishman, the American Civil War was just one of those minor foreign scuffles to him.

And the best part – would be that nervous-nelly, eternally politically correct social justice warriors would absolutely melt down into puddles of anguished tears at it all.

Well, hallelujah and hurrah, I finally finished out the final draft of The Golden Road which was conceptualized something like five years ago when I mentally mapped out another trilogy-companion set to the Adelsverein Trilogy. Yes, there would be a book about Margaret Becker Vining Williamson, which would slot into the sequence as a prelude to the trilogy – and that took two books to bring to completion. (She was a fascinating character, who saw a lot of Texas history either happen right before her eyes, or just around the corner and out of sight.) There would be a book following on to the Trilogy – the Quivera Trail, which would pick up with Dolph Becker’s English wife and her travails in a new and alien country. And – in between the first and second Adelsverein volumes, there would be the Gold Rush adventures of Magda Vogel Becker’s young step-brother, Fredi Steinmetz. Fredi appeared as a minor character with some brief dramatic turns in the plot. He had gone to California following the rush for gold … but was never forthcoming about what he had done and seen there, between the settling of Gillespie County and the start of the Civil War. I always wanted to write a Gold Rush adventure somewhat like The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, or so I told myself … but it kept being put on the back burner, metaphorically-speaking. I bashed out the two books about Margaret, and then Quivera Trail … for a good bit, I was actually writing them simultaneously. When I got bored or stuck, I’d work on the other. Which is a good method, as long as one is equally motivated. And then I wandered off-track.

First it was Lone Star Sons, then I got taken up with Sunset and Steel Rails – in which Fredi appeared as an older man, a hard-bitten, yet courtly romantic interest for a heroine who chose (through a series of dramatic circumstances) to be a Harvey Girl – and then by the ongoing Luna City Chronicles. Really, I wonder just how much I did want to write a Gold Rush adventure after all, since it kept getting back-burnered so frequently. I posted the first chapter in January, 2014 – but two years in the writing is about par for me, in a historical. So – actually not all that bad in the actual writing and research. So – finally roughed out, start to finish, send to the beta readers, and now to buckle down again with the various contemporary accounts collected. Lot of blanks to fill in – where, for example, was Mary Ellen Pleasant’s boarding house/restaurant in 1856-57? What were the names of express companies in operation in the northern diggings in that same year? How far degraded had the riverbank of the middle fork of the Yuba River become by that same period? Had that vicinity pretty well been overtaken by hydraulic mining – in which whole hillsides were washed away by huge gets of water. And how – exactly were daily newspapers distributed in San Francisco. I am certain that subscribers must have had theirs delivered, and equally certain that they were also sold on the streets … anyway, back to work.

The fall book event schedule carries on this Saturday with the Boerne Book Festival in Boerne, at the Patrick Heath Library, a little off Main Street at Johns Road, just past Main Plaza Park. I’ll be set up in the park and amphitheater by the side of the library – hope to see you there! When the market schedule lets up, after Christmas, I will turn to working on two more book projects – another Lone Star Sons adventure, and the 4th Luna City Chronicle for release in late 2017.

21. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General

So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …

The thrust of that particular post was to do with the creation of credible villains – but it did set me to thinking about calumny, which is either the eighth or ninth of the Biblical ten commandments, depending on your religious tradition: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Ancient Biblical law took this prohibition so seriously that anyone found to have brought false witness would receive the punishment for that crime which they had accused an innocent party of. Which brought to mind the unfortunate frequency of political calumnies; the most recent of which being Hillary and her so-called Basket of Deplorables – je suis Deplorable, anyone? At this point, I would venture a guess that those people that she meant to insult are having a good laugh and making a joke of it all through t-shirts and other novelty items, while she has hurriedly backed away and apologized. She is but a single person, and a sick and feeble one at that, even if she is a long-time political operative borne up on the shoulders of a groveling media establishment, attending on her like courtiers of an unpopular monarch.
She is but one person and that was one single instance of shooting from the lip in the manner that we have all come to expect of her. What has been of more damage, over which I took much more offense was the near universal calumniation of Tea Party supporters over the years since the first big protests began in 2009. Here were earnest, educated and contentious Americans, demonstrating their concern over a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of our national leadership – as is our right and duty to do so. And the wide-spread response from a substantial portion of the so-called media, entertainment and intellectual elite was to be painted as ignorant, racist and reactionary morons. That is calumny on a grand scale, in solo and chorus, and has never walked back from or apologized for by the perpetuaters. That narrative still stands, in the minds of those who never had actual personal experience of participating in a Tea Party event or organization. It is the calumny that will not die, but I can at least take comfort from knowing that it has done at least as much damage to the credibility (and possibly the pocketbooks and long-term careers) of those who flung it, as was done to those at whom it was flung. Discuss.

15. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Fun and Games
9780989782272-Perfect.indd

Cover for Luna City 3.1

We had a lovely time last weekend in Giddings, for the 11th Annual Word Wrangler event, although we skipped getting BBQ from the City Meat Market this time, in favor of taking some pictures of the Giddings Volunteer Fire Department vehicles. This will be for the next Luna City book, wherein Richard, the former celebrity chef, in trying to become a better person and responsible member of the eccentric little community of Luna City, decides to be a volunteer fire fighter … but all that will come next year. For now, we are finishing up the third Luna City book, Luna City 3.1, which should be available very, very soon. This is the volume which will reveal the location of the Mills Treasure, involve Richard in a local drama society presentation, a possible romantic involvement, the resolution of his entanglement with Susannah the Bunny Boiler … and developing a closer friendship with some of the other Lunaites, such as Chris Mayall, Joe Vaughn, and the Walcott family. Oh, and see the eccentric treasure hunter Xavier Gunnison Penn bitten on the rump by an enraged llama … but I don’t want to give away simply everything. The cover was completed this week; the ebook should be ready in the next few days, and the print version available by the end of this month. The writing on the Luna City books goes quite swiftly, in comparison to the historicals, mostly because of the research. Although there is some research necessary for Luna City, the necessary elements are much easier to find, being mostly of a contemporary nature.
Following on the Word Wrangler, my daughter had an art event in San Marcos – with another event this Saturday. This involves her original origami crane earrings. Last weekends’ event went very well; although there were many other artists set up on the courthouse lawn in San Marcos, she had about the most affordable items there. We rather liked the set-up, as the various artists participating had to submit pictures of their art/products, by way of proving that they just weren’t re-selling cheap junk from China but things they had made by hand, themselves. Like many another shopper going to these local craft fairs and markets – it’s kind of disappointing to go and see the same-old, same-old items in booth after booth.
We are working up our schedule of events for this last quarter of the year; between my books, and her paper jewelry, we might very well be doing something every weekend from the end of this month to the week before Christmas: craft fairs and markets in Bastrop, Giddings, Bulverde, Boerne, New Braunfels, Blanco, Johnson City and Goliad are all in the mix – it depends on our own stamina, sales, and the table fees. And that was my week – yours?

11. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

06. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Here it comes, rolling around again – this season salted with the bitter seasonings of a particularly contentious electoral season and all that this year has brought to us. Seriously, at this moment, I would rather not think about that campaign, and the international situation. I’d rather just put my head down and power through the book and craft events that come our way, and provide us a certain visibility in the local book and origami jewelry direct market in the lead-up to Christmas. And even some sales and visibility, for there is always a follow-on effect.
Because the last quarter of the year is traditionally the best for retail sales; when the Daughter Unit and I go all-out. Towards the end of it, we have an event every Saturday, or every Saturday-Sunday. The most brutally taxing are the ones where we haul out the pavilion, the folding tables and all the racks, chairs, and all the display stuff. This fills up the backs of the Daughter Unit’s Montero and takes both of us to set up and arrange. The least demanding events involve just the merchandise and maybe both tables. Still, it means that both of us will be tied to the venue of the day for at least six hours, which is exhausting in it’s own way – especially if a long drive is also involved.

So – what is coming up this holiday season? I will have two books to launch; the third Luna City Chronicle, of course – and the long-awaited picaresque Gold Rush adventure, The Golden Road, which I have had on my to-do writing list for … umm, the last three years? I just kept getting sidelined … read – distracted with bright shiny stuff, and completion of that book just kept getting rolled back. Lone Star Sons, the two previous Luna City books, Sunset and Steel Rails. This is the adventures of Fredi Steinmetz in California, which were referred to in the Trilogy – and in more depth in Sunset and Steel Rails, where he is an older man who has knocked around the old West for quite a bit. The Golden Road is … well, it’s about his time and adventures in California during the late 1850s, which never came up much because in the Trilogy he was a minor character, and in Sunset, he was decades beyond the impulsive, adventurous teenager he is in The Golden Road.

We’re loading on a full schedule, beginning with the Giddings Word Wrangler event this week. This was not such a big-selling event for us last year, but it was a blast to participate in because it was so strongly backed by the community. There was a banquet on Thursday evening with all the local important people there, as well as other authors, then an all-day event at the Library-Community Center on Friday, where the kids from local schools were bussed in to do the rounds of the author tables, a luncheon sponsored by city employees at mid-day … and it was all the most splendid fun. Yes, it does mean an overnight stay, with a two-hour drive on either end of it, but honestly, for Texas, a two-hour drive is reasonably close – and no, this will not include a large part of it being stuck in traffic.

Right after Giddings, we have to turn around and head up to San Marcos for a day – this is not for books, but for my daughter’s origami jewelry and beadwork. Art Squared is having a special art market to kick off Mermaid Week – on Courthouse Square in San Marcos on Saturday, September 10.
And that’s just the start of our confirmed fall events, for both my books and her stuff. I’ll have a place at the Boerne Book Fair, on the grounds of the spanking brand-new Patrick Heath Library in Boerne on October 1st, and we’ll share a place at the Bulverde-Spring Branch Fall Craft Fair, which is in the Senior Activity Center on Cougar Bend Road, on November 12. Other events and markets will be filled in as they begin taking applications.

There have been any number of important stories covered by the nationally-based establishment media in the last decade or so – in the deathless phrase tweeted by Iowahawk, David Burge, “with a pillow, until they stop moving.” Through the internet and alternate media, a good many of those stories that would have stopped moving through judicious use of the media pillow in previous decades – have still managed to percolate from those alternate media sites into the national mass media conversation. Things like the Dan Rather/TANG faked memo, the Swift Boat Veterans going after John Kerry as the duty-shirking Eddie Haskell of the Swift Boat service and dozens of other incidents fought off the smothering pillow, the Chick-Fil-A boycott, and yes – eventually got discovered in the major media outlets. With considerable reluctance, one might add. The matter of black on white violent crime may be on the edge of being discovered by the mainstream media, much as the Hollywood producer in the Godfather movie discovered the head of a dead horse in his bed.

There are these issues, you see – about which the major national media outlets appear to have a strange, almost Victorian compact; a determination NOT to see them, even when ordinary citizens know about. Not only know about, but are deeply concerned – and have strong opinions. (I mentioned one of these issues some months ago – here.) The matter of illegal immigrants in the US is one of those radioactive issues that the media, the political and intellectual leadership in this country do not wish to touch. They wish for various reasons, including the fact that there are certain monetary and social benefits to tolerating an influx of illegal immigrants, that the issue be disappeared, bundled out of sight and off the front pages. But the issue adamantly refuses to stay disappeared – precisely because there are so many stories like this one; the horrific bus accident in Louisiana on IH-10 this last week, where it appeared that the driver of the bus was not only an illegal alien, but unlicensed as well.

It’s a regularly occurring thing, all across the West and southwest; automobile accidents involving uninsured and unlicensed drivers, often illegal residents. Sometimes alcohol is involved as well. Precise statistics are hard to find – especially since partisans on one side don’t wish to find them, and those on the other side may be prone to exaggerate for effect. But with so many ordinary Americans having had an on-the-road accident experience where the other party was unlicensed, fraudulently unlicensed, uninsured, illegal or any combination of the above … there must be a substantial number of them – together with their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors affected to a lesser degree. Then there are the million working Americans whose social security numbers have been stolen by illegals – a matter over which the IRS feels no particular urgency. A large part of Donald Trump’s popularity across flyover America is precisely because he does address issues like this. Perhaps this will break the major media’s reluctance to acknowledge such matters.
Or not. Your thoughts?

27. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Geekery, History

A lovely animated visualization of how Pompeii was destroyed and buried –

23. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

(And on the Unjust Fella … But mostly raineth on the Just, for the Unjust steals the Justs’ umbrella!)

Yes, it’s been raining here in South Texas for all of about this week. Not that we’re here in any danger of being washed away as they are in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and environs, although there have been reported a couple of high-water rescues on the local news. It’s just one of those things; kind of embarrassing, actually – that there are certain stretches of road (to include some lengths of interstate highway) and intersections within the city boundaries which, given a certain amount of rain, falling in a limited space of time – are guaranteed absolutely to flood out. Just one of those things. All of us locals know where these places are, since many of them are helpfully marked with bright yellow indicators, marked off in feet by the side of the road in low places so that one may judge – and others are just uncomfortably close to certain watercourses which usually only have flowing water in them when it rains. So the rain has fallen, to the tune of about ten inches in nearly as many days, according to the gage in my back yard, with not much effect here save pleasantly surprising everyone expecting August in Texas to be interminably hot, dry, and medium-crispy. The lawns and highway verges are all turned a lush green; mark us all down as relatively happy with this local result of Global Climate Change … or what used to be called “weather.”

The residents of Louisiana have not been quite so fortunate, in receiving considerably more of a deluge in the same period, but have been overwhelmingly fortunate in being self-sufficient, self-organizing and down-right neighborly, especially as regards the “Cajun Navy”. That is – all those outdoors, hunting and fishing types in and around Baton Rouge coordinating with each other and local authorities to rescue those stranded by abnormally high flood-waters. There have only been a bare handful of casualties, in massive flooding which has reached far, far into places thought previously to have been well above flood stage. In the words of Instapundit – these owners of small boats have been their neighborhood’s own first response team in a crisis. And that is just how it should be; functional communities full of responsible individuals are basically self-organizing.

It’s all very heartening to read about, and to read about it mostly in the alternative media; blogs, Facebook, local Baton Rouge news reports being linked and repeated by others, and to reflect upon what a tremendous difference there has been since the last time Louisiana got massively flooded. What a difference a change in administration and a distance of sixty or eighty miles’ upstream from New Orleans makes! Competent civic authorities with well-thought-out disaster-prep plans just doesn’t make for shriekingly hysteric news coverage on the part of the mainstream media. (An incisive after-the-fact analysis of national media failure here, from Lou Dolinar.) Mind you, there wasn’t a massive hurricane involved … but then, Hurricane Katrina didn’t actually hit New Orleans full-on, but the Gulf Coast well to the east. It was the levees bursting afterwards which flooded the place, and left Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco basically running in circles, hysterically blaming everyone else.

It is rather ironic, though – considering how the national media gleefully unloaded on then-President Bush with regard to the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans … and now make every excuse for President Obama’s apparent disinterest.

Discuss.

… Or as I used to refer to Hillary as “Her Inevitableness.” This was back in in that campaign season of 2008, when she and the Fresh Prince of Chicago were going toe to toe. I called that contest “Ebony vs Ovary” and regret that such a pithy phrase never caught on in the blogosphere.
Anyway – bend over, for here she comes again, the woman whose’ main qualification for high office seems to have been in staying married to her horn-dog of a husband who coincidentally was the occupant of the White House three administrations ago. She does not appear to be particularly charming or charismatic, or to enjoy the company of other people, as her spouse did. She also doesn’t seem to have any facility for above-board political wheeling and dealing among parties or individuals of equal standing. She has, however, been very good at ruthlessly manipulating others from a position of strength, in the manner of a Mafia don. She has a long-standing reputation of treating no-name personnel who worked in the White House or the State Department – military, housekeeping staff, and members of the Secret Service – with rudeness and outright abuse. Increasingly, there are indications that her health is not all that good. She may not be in very good physical shape at all; certainly unequal to the grueling demands on one’s energy and intellectual resources necessary for a successful candidate-driven campaign. Indeed, her campaign thus far is lackluster compared to that of Bernie the Socialist and The Donald. It’s as if she began it determined to only put in the minimum of effort required, on the way towards that inevitable coronation … sorry, swearing-in.

We are in a vacuum as far as polls go; fewer and fewer people want to say to any but trusted friends who they are voting for. Can the polls be trusted at all, even? No one but the confidently confrontational wants to put out a lawn sign, or a bumper sticker on a vehicle, risking petty vandalism at least or a physical confrontation at worst. Yes, she might very well be sworn in as the next president. She has the greater part of the establishment media and a large chunk of the entertainment world in her corner, all elbowing each other in jostle to get closer and kiss the ring, and gain glory in having supported the first woman president of the USA, writing open letters demanding that The Donald fold his campaign tents and meekly go away, leaving the field uncontested. Entertainers and the establishment media counts for nothing with those of us who are relatively internet-savvy, politically knowledgeable and on the libertarian-conservative side of the scale. But they do count with low-information voters, and low-information voters in concert with strategic vote fraught might very well carry the day for Her Inevitableness.

And that is when things might really get interesting – especially if widespread voting fraud is involved in Her Inevitableness’ victory. Those who voted for anyone else will be furious, and those who backed Hillary would, I think, be bitterly vengeful. Under a Clinton administration, the vampire squid that is the federal establishment would be jamming its tentacles in everywhere with even more force than in the last eight years; Washington would get even richer, almost everywhere else would get even poorer, desperate, and even more angry. The disastrous international chickens launched by the Obama administration would also come home to roost – I derive some small comfort from knowing that they would roost in the Clinton/Democrat party coop.
Discuss.

The base at Hellenikon was often under siege and sometimes physically so; before, during and after I was stationed there in the early 1980s; regularly once a year when the local national employees went on strike, and blockaded the front gate, and now and again by anti-US and anti-NATO protesters. Although there was a Greek Air Force installation right next to the American base, there was no passage between the two, unlike the base at Zaragoza, where Spanish and American personnel had pretty much free passage between their respective halves of the facility. In the case of striking workers, or hostile protestors at the main – and only entrance – those of us inside the base were stuck there, while those outside were also cut off. Only one year did it become a problem lasting more than a single day – but it was an inconvenience for us all, and particularly frightening for family members.

And I was remembering all of that, this weekend, reading about how Incirlik Air Base – which also used to be called Adana Air Base – was cut off for about a day this weekend, after having commercial power cut off for nearly a week by Turkish civil authorities, in the wake of an attempted coup against a president who strong-armed himself into office by side-stepping the established rules. Because of the deteriorating situation in Turkey, all family members were ordered out at the end of March, 2016; a NEO evacuation, as it used to be and still is termed, for Non-combatant Evacuation Operation. (I used to have to keep current paperwork for an escort for my daughter, in the case of one of these; she would travel with various friends who would deposit her eventually with my parents, while I would stay behind.) Months before, the military quietly stopped facilitating accompanied tours to Incirlik. Currently, according to the bases’ own website, there are about 1,400 American military personnel serving there, with another 400 civilian employees. The dependent schools, teen center, child care center – all are closed; presumably the various employees of same are either evacuated themselves, or enjoying a nice vacation.

Incirlik’s mission and that of the 39th Air Base Wing is, according to the bases’ website, “to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power.” Part of this mission also includes a store of nuclear weapons. The base website is naturally, non-committal about this aspect of their mission. Even if there aren’t any such weapons in the bomb dump at Incirlik, likely there are all kinds of interesting munitions and weapons. Which is all very good and well – but Turkey’s President Erdogan has been loudly accusing the US – and the former USAF commander of Incirlik – of plotting and assisting with the failed coup. The commander of the Turkish Air Force assets at Incirlik is reported to have asked the US for asylum, which was refused; the man is now under arrest, as part of the purge of Erdogan’s political enemies. I have read here and there that those American military assigned to the base are confined to the base itself; considering Erdogan’s incendiary accusations, probably a wise move.

As for what now – like Will Rogers of blessed memory, all I know is what I read in the newspaper, or on-line at various sites. But the nightmare visioning that woke me up several times this weekend was of a full-on mob attack on Incirlik’s American sector, on the order of the Benghazi consulate writ large, and with even more weapons and determination … and with the tacit encouragement of Erdogan’s government and Islamist allies.
So much for being a NATO ally. And since our State Department did very little in the case of the Benghazi attack, save for blaming it all afterwards on a mysterious video that hardly anyone had heard of … can one count on the DoD being all that proactive in the event of a serious attack on Incirlik AB? Discuss.