This last Saturday was the second day of Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas. I had a table there, as a local author, but the cold was so pronounced that the whole event was rather a bust … but it did mean that folding up and coming home early allowed some time for taking pictures on the way back. This is a part of Texas which overlies the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and over the last five years I have noted a good many changes along the route, and in the small towns that we pass through on a semi-regular basis. Continue reading
That’s pretty much what it turned out to be over Friday evening in South Texas. When my daughter returned from briskly walking the dogs before dawn Saturday morning, she told me that the grass crackled underfoot. We set out for Goliad just after sunrise, expecting to spend a chilly day selling books in the open-air. Well, the pavilions set up around the edge of Courthouse Square in Goliad were all essentially in the open-air too. We took along our heaviest coats, extra blankets, bundled Nemo in a doggy overcoat, and I made a vain search for my gloves.
To our good fortune and relief, Estelle Zermeno, who has set up Miss Ruby’s Author Corral ever since I’ve been coming to Goliad for the Christmas event, had located an last-minute indoor venue for us – the premises of a closed restaurant, right on the square; a restored historic building with a bathroom, parking around in back and heat. Alas, that was about the last good bit of news about the day. Two scheduled authors had called off appearing, due to the cold and potentially dangerous drive, so it was down to four authors and a handful of friends.
We had shelter at least, but the other vendors were out in the miserable cold – and to add to the misery, there were very few people come out to shop or cheer for Santa. On the good side of that, I got a very good picture of Santa-onna-longhorn, and his military escort, but there seemed to be only about two dozen children and their parents, where ordinarily there would have been hundreds. No posse of cowboys escorting Santa, hardly anyone with a Christmas-dressed dog for the afternoon dog costume contest. I believe I only had four or five potential customers come and look at my books all day.
We packed it up by 1:30, when a light drizzle began falling, and it was so cold that we were afraid it would turn to ice, somewhere along the road back to San Antonio. I am certain that if we had been outside as well, we wouldn’t have stood it for even that long. There were just no customers at all; this marks the very first time that I came away from an event like this without having made a single sale – and I don’t think I was the only one, not by a long shot.
The feud between the Suttons and the Taylors was one of those epic Texas feuds which convulsed DeWitt County in the decade following the Civil War. It might even have begun earlier in a somewhat more restrained way, but there is nothing besides speculation on the part of contemporary journalists by way of evidence. Both families originated in South Carolina, both settled in DeWitt County … and in the hard times which followed on the humiliating defeat of the South and the even more humiliating Reconstruction, they squared off against each other. The feud lasted nearly a decade, at a cost of at least 35 lives. Participants in it included the notorious John Wesley Hardin, who was related by marriage to the Taylors. Some historians have described the feud as a bitter continuation of the Civil War, between die-hard Confederate partisans and those roughly aligned with the forces of Reconstruction law and order.
Well, it’s a darned good thing this woman is a well-paid CEO, because she sure doesn’t have any skills for living in poverty, no good recipes for tasty, nourishing food, and seems to be innocent of any knowledge of coupon clipping, shopping the ‘reduced for quick sale’ case or the fact that dried beans and rice in bulk are always cheaper than the canned version. And blowing a good sixth of the weekly budget on prepared gourmet pasta sauce … spare me the tales of woe concerning your one week on a tight budget – I can tell you how I lived for a year in the early 1980s on a budget of 25$ every two weeks, plus another 10$ for sundries like detergent and diapers for my toddler daughter. (Advantage being that on weekdays, she had breakfast and lunch at the child care center.) Eggs, cheese, dried pastas, home-made sauces and casseroles, home-made applesauce from a box of apples from the farmer’s market, yoghurt brewed up in the yoghurt maker, and no meat protein that cost more than a dollar a pound. Yes, I shopped with a calculator in my hand, every payday, and usually finished out the day or so before payday with small change in my purse and a dollar or so in the bank account. Other enlisted military members at the time did pretty much the same and likely still do.
How on earth Ms. Moulton even got the notion that a single person or a family on food stamps must get along on that amount is a bit of a puzzle, for it seems that it is merely the amount which has been subtracted per month for a family of four. If the well-off want to see how the other half eats and budgets I would suggest an amount more in line with what a person on food stamps actually will be receiving … and then perhaps a quick consult with those of us who have actually had to pinch our food pennies for realsies until a booger came out of Lincoln’s nose.
36$ a week amounts to $144 monthly for a single person, $288 for a couple – and a whole $576 for the much-vaunted family of four. I could make that budget easily (and have), providing three good meals a day, and no one feeling hungry or tired of lentil stew. Yes, it means no prepared foods, lots of home baking, and getting certain items in case lots or in bulk – and giving a miss to places like Whole Foods. Looking at the comments attached to the linked article, I would guess that Ms Moulton is getting well-schooled along those lines.
Any tales of heroic food budgeting are welcome to be shared in comments
Here we go, the weekend after the day after Thanksgiving, which has become part of what I call creeping holidayitus, in that once it was just Thanksgiving day itself which was the holiday, and then the day afterwards slowly became a part of it, too… and then the holidayitus began creeping in from the other end of the week, so basically kiss off any serious business being done for the last week in November unless you work in retail … or maybe law enforcement crowd control.
Blondie and I had our Thanksgiving Day dinner at home this year, and carefully calculated what we would have so as to minimize the quantity of leftovers. I mean, we really don’t like baked sweet potatoes all that much, and stuffing gets progressively more disgusting every day after T-day that it sets in the refrigerator, and so does leftover mashed potatoes. So – baked 3-pound turkey breast on a bed of carrots and turnips, a single cooked ham slice, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with red onion and kielbasa, and cheddar biscuits, with the usual corn relish and cranberry chutney. For leftovers the night night I made mashed potatoes and a small quantity of gravy from the reserved drippings … all much, much more appealing. And the cheddar biscuits made a divine breakfast paired with sausage. We toasted to all that we had to be thankful for this year, and hope that by next year we will have cause to be just as thankful.
Best of all, our family shopping obligations were wrapped up by 9AM, courtesy of various websites, especially Fischer and Wieser’s – where they were offering a 50% discount for about six hours on everything on the website. Mom is getting a gift basket of their delicious sauces and condiments. Look, I did retail sales in a mall, the first year that I was retired and had a job on the sales floor of a high-end department store, and after that experience wild horses wouldn’t drag me out on Black Friday to a mall, or to any other big-box retail venue in the wee hours of AM. No, getting into a knock-down drag-out fight over some cheap electronics or whatever from China is not Sgt. Mom’s cup of tea.
Besides, I usually have already picked up sufficient inexpensive or marked down gifts during the year and stashed them in the gift closet… this is what we have done for our Red Hat Ladies group – a tea pot and a cookie jar, filled with some appropriate edible goodies, and there we are. This year it’s cookies for the neighbors that we know, as a change from the flavored oils and vinegars, and home made jam.
Next week – Goliad, with Christmas on the Square, which I hope will be as popular a shopping venue as the Christmas market in New Braunfels was last weekend. In a way, I am still doing retail … just not the usual way.
Not so much the 19th century Barsetshire of Anthony Trollope, but the 20th century version; a cycle of interlinked novels by Angela Thirkell, which were sort of chronological in that they were contemporary to the time that they were published – about one a year – between 1933 and her death in 1961. The books were part gentle social comedy, part romance and totally English. The novels were set in a mythical English county, and featured a huge cast of characters, a dozen or more families, houses grand and humble and several small towns. In passing, the books also chronicled those wrenching changes wrought by WWII and its gray aftermath. Quite frequently, a character, or a set of characters that would be front and center in one or two books, would retreat to the sidelines in another, while another character or family – mentioned in passing previously – would be the leading lights in the next. And it was not necessary to read every book in strict chronological order to know what was going on in Barsetshire, although it was obvious that the society which the books reflected had changed substantially from the relatively serene 1930s, to the wartime 1940s and into the uneasy peacetime which followed on it. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you could pretty much dip in anywhere and enjoy.
Some years ago, when I was blogging fretfully about how the research material I had reviewed for writing Adelsverein was leading me inexorably towards making it into more than just one book, a long-time blog fan just advised me to think of it all as Barsetshire with cypress trees and a lot of sidearms – let it rip and make it into two or three volumes. After thinking it over, I realized he was entirely right. And when I mapped out more novels set in Texas, before, during and after the events chronicled in the Trilogy, I realized that this was a most excellent way to think of those books of mine set in Texas; not as a straight start to finish ladder of a narrative, but more like an interlinked network – like Thirkell’s Barsetshire. People and characters change, over time; they have experiences, grow older and settle down, or they move off into something else. I simply couldn’t write the same character over and over again, as if nothing about them had been changed by experience and time. I was already doing this in the Trilogy – by the time of the last volume, The Harvesting, quite a lot of the narrative load was being carried by characters who had been babies or small children in the first two volumes. And there were so many characters whose experiences and back-stories I wanted to explore … really, The Harvesting was nearly twice the page-count as The Gathering, and if I gone down all those entrancing side-corridors, it might have been three times longer still.
So, some of those interesting characters demanded their own books – Margaret Becker, of course – who knew everyone who was everyone, and had a very interesting life of her own, while her brother was off adventuring on the far frontier. And with The Quivera Trail, there is Dolph Becker’s English bride – and Sam Becker’s as well. In the next book, Fredi Steinmetz’s adventures in Gold Rush California and on the various western trails will fill in his own interesting frontier experience. As I look over it all – good googly moogly, have I written six books already about these people and their web of kin, friends and associates? There are so many more at-present-minor characters begging for attention. A reader once wondered wistfully, why didn’t I do something about Willi Richter and his long sojourn among the Comanche? Then, what about little silent Grete, his sister who was retrieved after a year with them? There must be interesting material enough about Tom Becker, the Bandera Kid, who was born in a London slum under the name of Alf Trotter – but at the end of The Quivera Trail, he is a silent movie cowboy star. Surely, there is a fascinating story in that – and in Peter Vining’s brother Jamie; a small child in Deep in the Heart, and dead in Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg two books later. Little Horrie, Margaret’s grandson, a small child in the two books about Margaret, a teenager briefly mentioned in Quivera – what about him? And there is yet another thread – the daughter, or possibly the granddaughter of Race Vining’s Boston wife, coming to Texas by chance and discovering the skeleton in the familial closet?
No, not a ladder – but a net, drawing in all the various stories in our American history, in our past. And there are more of them to be told. Just wait.
Yes, it is that time of year again – and for a wonder, the weather has finally decided to cooperate. One day we were running the AC because the temperature was in the 80s … and then the next morning, a chilly wind was blowing through the neighborhood – and we turned around on the doorstep to put on coats before we walked the doggies … because we had not expected it to be so suddenly cold!
So we were in the mood for Weihnachtsmarkt at the New Braunfels Civic center, and happy, happy, joy, joyful that it was an indoors venue! I don’t think we could have endured outdoors, as we did two weeks ago in Boerne, where it was cool and rainy, not ice-cold and windy. The author book tables are set up in the tall main hallway of the Civic Center, which runs from the front to the back of the building. There are three entrances from the front foyer and the hall into the rooms fitted out as for the market – and Santa is set up in the rear foyer. I am pretty certain it must be a tradition in New Braunfels to come and see Santa at Weihnachtsmarkt. Anyway, this is the third year they have had the author tables, and it’s just a short skip from home, it’s indoors, and most importantly, it draws people with money and the urge to shop, bit-time. I have lots of readers and fans in that area, too. And did I mention that it was indoors?
My daughter says, though – that if I write any more books, I will have to get another table, or at least a larger one. There’s only room for the seven, hardly any space for the various table-top attention-getting items or the little dish of candy that we like to put out … and it turned out that we had eaten all the dark chocolate and peanut-butter M&Ms anyway. This was supposed to be the official-official roll-out for The Quivera Trail – as I just knew that everyone who had read and loved the Trilogy would want to know what happened next!
All worked out as I had forseen – and we had much better results than at the Boerne Market; we came with three tubs and two boxes packed full of books, and brought home only two tubs. This recovered the table fee and the cost of the books themselves. One amusing sidelight was that on Friday afternoon, I realized that the author at the table next to us had a familiar name – and that I had used one of his books about the early history of Austin in researching Deep in the Heart – and that a good few of the incidents he included in his book I worked into mine. I even gave a credit in the notes at the back of Deep in the Heart. Jeffrey Kerr – The Republic of Austin. This is not quite the first time this has happened to me; that was at the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene a couple of years ago, when Scott Zesch was one of the headline guest speakers. I had read The Captured, and was moved to include a story-line in the Trilogy about the tragedy of a white child taken captive by the Comanche and returned – too late – as a young man, never able to re-assimilate to life outside the People again.
The gratifying thing is that the other vendors that my daughter talked to all reported having goodly sales – which is a relief after lackluster sales in Boerne. With this, we have hope that the economy will revive here, at least a little for Christmas. My daughter is already making lists for our own Christmas gift-giving, although some of that will involve going through the ‘gift closet’ to see what there is, and who it would be suitable for. In between the next Christmas Market – at Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, we have Thanksgiving to consider… a roast turkey breast and at least some of the traditional fixings. All good wishes to you – and thanks to everyone who bought books from me, or who will buy them this holiday season!
(I spent Friday and Saturday at a book event – the Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, at the conference center in New Braunfels, for the launch of The Quivera Trail. So – barely time to post this thrilling frontier adventure until now. The details and the quotes are taken from Walter Prescott Webb’s history of the Rangers, which is so powerfully testosterone-laden that I have to keep it sectioned between a couple of … milder-themed books which have a sedating effect.)
After the debacle of the Civil War, the Texas Rangers barely existed as an entity – either in Indian-fighting, or law-enforcing. The Federal government would not countenance the organization of armed bodies of volunteers for any purpose. Combating Indians or cross-border bandits was the business of the regular Army; interested semi-amateurs need not apply. But a Reconstruction-Republican governor, E. J. Davis, did institute a state police force in 1870, the existence of which was lauded as necessary for the preservation of law and order – such as it was. The state police under Davis was relatively short-lived and unadorned by laurels during its brief term, being dissolved at the end of his administration – but one of their officers had such a sterling reputation that when the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized, he was charged with heading one of the two divisions. One was the Frontier Battalion, dedicated to the Ranger’s traditional mission of fighting hostile Indians. The other – the Special Force – was charged with generally upholding law and order, shortly to become the Ranger’s modern raison d’être. Leander Harvey McNelly served for only a brief time in the interim of the change from Indian fighting to upholding law and order – but his leadership inspired many of those Rangers who took note of his personal example to heart.
So – coming up on another one of those Very Significant Anniversaries, I see – being reminded by the perfect flood of stories reflecting back on Jack and Jackie and that fateful swing through Texas in 1963. My – fifty years, a whole half-century … yes, it’s time again to go back to those heartbreaking days of yesteryear and recall the blighted promise, the towering intellectual and romantic splendor of the Kennedy White House, the space race to the moon, Jackie’s unerring sense of style and taste … also little things like Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets, immanent thermonuclear war, speedball injections from Dr. Feelgood, and the Kennedy men porking anything female who was unwary enough to stand still for a moment. Why, yes – I was never really a Kennedy fan, per se. Nor were my family, since Mom and Dad were your basic steady Eisenhower Republicans, and maintained a faint and Puritan distrust of anything smacking of glamor, or media-generated BS. Which they were correct in, as it eventually emerged in small discrete dribbles and decades later, that practically everything about the Kennedys was fake, except for Jackie’s taste in fashion and interior decoration.
I didn’t know anything about all that – at the time. I had just started at a new school since Mom and Dad had just moved during the summer from the White Cottage to Redwood House; Miss Gibson’s class, at Sunland Elementary School – a slightly larger school than Vinedale Elementary, about half a mile up La Tuna Canyon Road from the White Cottage. There were some friends which I missed seeing every day, but I was settling in OK. We were all looking forward to Thanksgiving, and the leaves on the big old sycamore trees around the pink classroom bungalows were shedding their leaves. I liked Miss Gibson – she had hit on the notion of reading aloud to us for about half an hour after lunchtime, every afternoon; there had been a long book about the life and adventures of an otter, an Agatha Christie country-house murder mystery which had us enthralled for weeks; and if memory serves, even a few stories from The Illustrated Man. One of the other treats for her class was a radio series of dramatized biographies; about half an hour long, I think, and broadcast in late morning, after recess. That program was supposed to be broadcast, that November day; Miss Gibson dismissed us all to recess, and went to turn on the radio and turn it to the correct station in advance. Another girl and I stayed behind; some question that we had to ask of her, as she fiddled with the radio. But the first thing that we heard was a news bulletin; the President had been shot, was dead. I think the announcer repeated the announcement at least once, but we didn’t need any more confirmation, because Miss Gibson began crying. This was huge news, of course; the only other presidents being assassinated that we knew of, had all been a long time ago. We ran to tell our classmates; I suppose there would have been some official announcement later, but I can’t recall it. Certainly by the time we were dismissed at the end of the day, everyone knew. This was long before Mom and Dad had a television, but there was non-stop coverage on the radio. I rather think we listened to as much of the funeral as we could bear; my friends who did have TV said there was nothing on but coverage of it all. For a long while, we had a copy of that Life Magazine issue with all the classic pictures; arriving at Love Field, the Connellys and the Kennedys smiling from the open limo, of Oswald grimacing in pain as Jack Ruby shot him, Jackie in her blood-stained suit standing as LBJ was sworn in on board AF-1 on the way back to Washington, veiled in black with the two children in pale blue coats on either side … I might still have that issue, somewhere in a box in the garage.
They’re just about all gone now – the Kennedys. Robert was assassinated five years later, and the rest of them fell away, one by one. Only Caroline survives, and the luster of Camelot has pretty well faded. Glamor always does – in the archaic sense of something wrought by magic and illusion to disguise something otherwise rather tawdry. But while that glamor worked, they looked good, the whole clan of them; handsome, fashionable, intelligent and able – the good PR on them was impeccable. They had the best press that money could buy; just as the Obamas would be treated like precious pearls, lightly buffed with a soft lint-free cloth and displayed on a velvet backdrop, so were the Kennedys.
And just as with the Obamas in 2008 and 2009, I would swear that the mainstream media and the intellectual establishment then were just as deeply in love. How heartbroken they were over the assassination, the loss of their precious, their Golden One. Really, I believe that at least some of the resulting vicious treatment of LBJ throughout the rest of the 1960s must have stemmed from a feeling of pique – that that ill-spoken, uncouth Texas pol would dare follow in the footsteps of their idol. To be fair, LBJ richly deserved much critical comment which came his way, especially when it came to foreign policy.
(Since The Quivera Trail is launching next weekend – at New Braunfels’ Weihnachtsmarkt, no less – I have begun research for the next historical adventure, that picaresque California Gold Rush adventure which I have always wanted to write. This research takes the form of reading every darned history and contemporary account that I have on my shelves, or can get my hands on. One of these books is The Shirley Letters from the California Mines 1851-1852, by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith ‘Dame Shirley’ Clappe.)
Louise Amelia – better known by her pen-name, Dame Shirley – was an irreproachably Victorian lady, possessing a lively intellect and observant eye, which the education typically given to girls at that time did nothing to impair. Conventional expectations for upper-class women of her day seem hardly to have made a dent in her either. She was born around 1819 in Elizabeth New Jersey and orphaned by the deaths of both parents before out of her teens. She had a talent for writing, encouraged by an unexpected mentor – Alexander H. Everett, then famed in a mild way as a diplomat, writer and public speaker. He was twice her age, and seems to have fallen at least a little but in love with her. She did not see him as a suitor, but they remained friends and devoted correspondents. Eventually she was courted by and consented to marry a young doctor, Fayette Clappe – who even before the ink was dry on the registry, caught the gold fever. Fayette and Louise Amelia were off on the months-long voyage around the Horn to fabled California. The gold rush was almost overwhelmingly a male enterprise – wives and sweethearts usually remained waiting at home, but not the indomitable Louise, who confessed in one of her letters to her sister Molly, “I fancy that nature intended me for an Arab or some other nomadic barbarian, and by mistake my soul got packed up in a Christianized set of bones and muscles.”
Go here and read this. Take as many Kleenexes as you need.
A new Downfall parody – Hitler criticizes the Obamacare campaign … with excerpts from Obama speeches…
I swear, now there will be another line to that joke about the Big Lies: The check is in the mail, If you get pregnant I’ll marry you, and If you like your plan, like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your plan, keep your doctor.
It was said to me so long ago that I really can’t remember who or when they said it – that being a writer is like drawing words from a cistern; you have to keep replenishing the store in the cistern by reading – and reading even more than you write. Was it Mr. Terranova, the whirlwind 6th grade teacher, or maybe the elderly gentleman who came to speak to a school assembly at Vineland Elementary when I was in about the 2nd or 3rd grade? He was blind, with a seeing-eye dog named Rosie whom he let off duty long enough for her to run down the center aisle in the auditorium for a good petting. Our teachers told us that he was an Enormously Famous Published Author – for some reason I thought for years that he was William Prescott, the author of The Conquest of Mexico and the Conquest of Peru, never mind that William Prescott would have been dead for a little over a hundred years by then. Yes – Mr. Terranova had us read excerpts of The Conquest of Mexico and Peru, which should give an idea of how eccentric and bloody brilliant he was as a teacher. The Enormously Famous Published Author with the seeing-eye dog named Rosie did give us one bit of authorly good advice, using ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill’ as his example; telling us to show them going up the hill, describe the hill, and why Jack and Jill did so, and what they saw and felt. Show, not tell, in other words. But enough of my early influences in writing, such as they were.
I have to limit myself when working on a book project; nothing by other fiction-scribblers working in the same area or time-period. This is because there is a danger for me of inadvertently taking an idea for a character, or an incident or accident of plot from someone else’s visualization, so at this time, all fictional accounts of Gold Rush-era California or the various trails and journeys towards the Ophir of the far west are strictly off the table. I have this totally bird-witted habit of seizing on certain things as I read about them, as if they were bright and shiny objects, and thinking, “Ah-ha! This has to be in The Book!” Other things just grab at me, and I come back to them again and again. In Adelsverein – to give just two small examples – it was the concept of the children, taken by Comanche Indians, who were returned, but never returned in spirit, and the massacre of the Texians at Goliad.
So, now I am faced with doing the episodic and picaresque Gold Rush adventure that I have always wanted to write. I grew up with this, because it was the event that I think made California what it was, for better or worse – and in the brief blink of an eye, as far as time goes. It was a sleepy agrarian backwater with a wonderful climate and spectacular scenery, a paradise to those who lived there at that time, a lost Eden to which they looked back on later with considerable nostalgia. And in the space of two or three years – the whole world piled in. The sleepy port of Yerba Buena became the muddy, lawless, brawling town of San Francisco, from hundreds of residents to thousands in mere months. The empty bay was suddenly forested with the masts of hundreds of abandoned ships. The properties of entrepreneur John Sutter were swamped with squatters, rogues and gold-seekers, the pristine rivers and streams in the foothills all alive with more men, looking for gold. Gold from the mines of California – and from just over the border in Nevada – kept the Union from going under entirely, so say some … and I have always wanted to write about it.
The next book, (after the bagatelle of Jim Reade and Toby Shaw, in the days of the Republic of Texas) will follow the adventures of Fredi Steinmetz, the younger brother of Magda Steinmetz-Becker, from the Trilogy. I’ve noted in other books that he went out to California as a cattle drover in the 1850s … and he returned, thinking not very much of the place, for a variety of reasons.
So, that’s why I am reading, and not writing and posting quite so much. I know the main character, one or two of the secondaries, and the rest will suggest themselves in time. The overall and relatively episodic plot will come out of what I am reading now; Maryat’s Mountains and Molehills, Dame Shirley Clappe’s Letters, Captain Gunnison’s history of the Mormons in Salt Lake City, Randolph Marcy’s 1859 advice to transcontinental travelers, William Manly’s account of his journey through Death Valley … and at least a score or more of others as they take my butterfly interest. Some of them are on my own bookshelves, some as eBooks or PDFs stashed away in my computer file … but shusssh … I am reading now.
Did you know that William Tecumseh Sherman and Edwin Booth were in California at the very time of the window for Fredi Steinmetz’ adventures there?
That is what our booth at the Boerne Market Days contained this last weekend – the first time that we have done Boerne Market Days as a vendor and not as a strolling shopper. Saturday morning was rainy in San Antonio, and the skies were overcast all day. None of the vendors minded not having any sunshine – as long as it didn’t rain! We had a nicely-placed booth space, about midway between the bandstand at one end, and the food-trucks parked at the other. By the way, the gorditas are fab. Sometimes they make the chicken gordita with cut-up chicken chunks, instead of ground chicken meat – but still tasty, anyway. Another good thing – one of the big trash cans was right in front of us, so no need to set aside a bag for our own trash. And it was a landmark for anyone looking for us.
My daughter and I have done a lot of book events, some of them in conjunction with a craft fair, like Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, so we pretty much know the drill; bring tablecloths, plenty of stock (packed in plastic tubs with lids) plenty of change, receipt books, lots of flyers, postcards and business cards, and something to ornament the table with … and chocolate candy. Most everyone likes chocolate, although one of the most relentless book marketer I know has a cookbook with recipes incorporating lemons – she makes lemon cookies or cake, and gives away samples.
This time, we had two more improvements to our retail efforts; a folding dolly hand-truck, which can carry one of the heaviest tubs and one of the lighter ones at a time, and folds up very compactly… no, it isn’t industrial-strength, but better than schlepping the heaviest tubs of books by hand for half a block or more. $20 bucks at Sam’s Club, which might very well be the best and most useful $20 ever spent there, over the long haul. The other was a little attachment for my daughter’s cellphone, which allows us to process credit card payments to her Tiny Bidness Paypal account. We couldn’t process credit/debit accounts before, which has sometimes been a bit of a bind since … well, not too terribly many people carry around checkbooks any more, or cash, either – and going to an ATM and getting cash for a sale is sometimes a bit of an inconvenience for people.
If we keep this up – this making an appearance on the regular market circuit – there are certain things that we will just have to get, in addition to the storage tubs and the hand-truck. We rented the pop-up tent, two folding tables and a chair from the Boerne Market Days management, but eventually we will have to get our own 10 X 10 pop-up; most of the other regular vendors had them, in varying degrees of quality, with zip-up sidewalls for additional privacy, security and shelter from the elements. We will also probably invest in a pair of banners, either to clip to the front of the pop-up or to the front of the table, advertising our various enterprises.
We made back and a bit more the amount that we paid for the space, and rental of the conveniences – but not very much more. We talked to many other vendors, who were similarly disappointed. Either it’s just not close enough to Christmas to loosen the purse strings – or that everyone is looking at the current economic situation with a very tight hold on the pocket-book.
Even so, this last weekend was a learning experience – and one of them was that Boerne Market Days is very animal friendly. A lot of shoppers had dogs on leashes, and one iconoclast among the vendors eve had a pair of infant goats on display. They were such cute babies – but I am told that when they are fully-grown, they can be evil in the extreme.
Covered here, at length, I am certain that New Mexico, or at the very least, the Hidalgo County PD needs a new motto.
How about “New Mexico – Come for the enchantment, stay for the thorough cavity searches”?
Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – The Keyster Kops!”
Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – Let Us Take You Up the Khyber Pass”
Or “Hidalgo County Police Department – Illegal Anal Probs R Us!”
Seriously, if ever there was an occasion which calls for prolonged and vicious mockery, this would be it. Don’t these people have enough real and obvious criminals to deal with?
November already? I swear, where does the time go. At least we can turn off the AC – finally! – and open the windows. Although that does heighten our appreciation of our next door neighbor’s relations with his two basset hounds; one male who is alert and ready to give voice at any provocation, and one female who is quiet and sedate, and very likely pregnant. Well, when you have two young unfixed dogs of the opposite sex this kind of thing is gonna happen sooner or later. He has also not been able to housebreak them with any degree of reliability (although we have tried to tell him about crates) so they spend a large part of their day outside. This does mean that anyone who comes close to the front of either of our houses gets barked at, which does have some benefit. He has offered us one of the puppies, though.
We will have a booth at the Boerne Market Days this weekend; half with my books and half with Blondie’s origami art. This is her big roll-out for Paper Blossom Productions. She has been working away at various pieces for the last couple of months, and only this weekend got around to inventorying and packaging up a number of pieces … like $300 dollars worth of earrings featuring beads and miniscule origami cranes. I will have three plastic tubs of books – as this month is the roll-out for The Quivera Trail. Later on in the week we will turn from organizing inventory to organizing the display of it; stands, hooks, baskets and s-hooks and hangers, as well as table cloths to cover the tables with. The weather is predicted to be mild – neither too hot or too cold, which is a good thing. The Market Day is traditionally held on Town Square, under the shade of a massive stand of pecan trees, but we have to be there for two days, from 10 AM to 5. Having a broiling hot day, or a freezing cold and /or rainy one will be … uncomfortable, to say the least. This is the time of the year when I do most of the face-to-face book-selling – so, apologies in advance if the blogging is brief and to the point.
The land sale meant that there is a cushion of sorts to fall back on – and I was able to clear away one ongoing debt entirely, although having to have the transmission in Blondie’s Montero rebuilt entirely has delayed plans for replacing the windows in the house. Ah, well. On the bright side, she went through a lot of trouble early this year to procure health insurance for herself, believing our President’s assurances that if you had a plan you could keep it. So she went with an $87 a month plan from Humana – which she could afford without much stress on the budget. Call it The ACA-compliant plan offered by Humana as option B this last month cost $230. For now, she is sticking with option A, in the fond hopes that the whole unAffordable Healthcare Act will implode as terminally and as messily as the planetary monster transported through the digital conveyer on Galaxy Quest.
Spent part of the weekend setting up two crocks of homemade sauerkraut; yeah, we’ve gotten a taste for the stuff, and it couldn’t be easier and cheaper to do. Cabbage, 4 heads, finely shredded, and a scant cup of pickling salt. Pack tightly into a clean glass jar, ad a little brine to the top if the cabbage hasn’t exuded enough moisture to cover – and let ferment for three to six weeks. Then heat to a simmer, pack into hot canning jars, seal and process in boiling water. We’ve just eaten the last of the jars that I processed last summer. Oh, and the last of the mixed vegetable pickles as well, so here goes some time and fresh carrots, cauliflower, pearl onions and sliced cucumber the weekend after next to stock us up. We’re doing OK on jams and preserves, though – and still have some jars of pickled okra. And that’s our plans for the immediate future.
Since the Amazon Author Page function which supposedly allows one to post a schedule of events doesn’t seem to be functioning in any useful way, here I go, posting the my schedule the old-fashioned way, as a blogpost:
November 9th and 10th from 10-5 both days – at Boerne’s Market Days, which are held on the town square, just off Main Street in Boerne. Look for the four rows of white pavilions, set on the grass among the pecan trees lining the square. My daughter and I are sharing a booth; I’ll have books, my daughter her original origami art. Very likely there will be live music in the bandstand for most of the days, and if the people who have the mobile kitchen serving gorditas – check them out. Their gorditas are awesome, and almost big enough for two people to share.
November 22nd and 23rd from 10 to 5 on Friday, and 10 to 6 on Saturday – I’ll have a table in the Hall of Authors at Weihnachtsmarkt in the New Braunfels Civic Center, which is located at 380 South Seguin, in New Braunfels. The whole Christmas Market is to benefit the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. There will be several huge rooms full of vendors, selling all kinds of neat and crafty things – and there will be a good assortment of local authors with their books. What makes a better gift than a book, I always say. Which reminds me – my 10-year old niece wants one of my books for her Christmas present from me; To Truckee’s Trail is the most appropriate for that age, so she will have it with my best wishes and personal message for her. My brother says she loves historical fiction…
Saturday, December 7th from 9 to 4 (or so) At Christmas On the Square in Goliad. They usually set up Miss Ruby’s Author Corral in a little area next to the Chamber of Commerce, on Courthouse Square in beautiful downtown Goliad. Santa arrives mounted on a long-horn, and there is music and revelry, food and crafts for sale and a dog costume contest.
I will have a good stock of books, including the latest – The Quivera Trail – and if we run out, I will have order forms. This year, we have obtained one of those little attachments for Blondie’s cellphone which allows us to process credit/debit cards, so the 21st century has caught up to us at last.
So, the main-line establishment GOP – apparently seeing the writing on the wall and determined to make themselves even more irrelevant – is now going to go all-out against Tea Party sympathetic candidates in the next elections. They have seen the enemy and they is us … that is, us small-government, strictly-Constitutionalist, fiscally-responsible, and free-market advocates, who were the means of ensuring certain outcomes in hotly contested races, and that Mitt Romney even had a ghost of a chance in the last round. Nope, obviously those partisans who feel that our government should be guided by strict adherence to the Constitution, not spend more than it takes in, and not be rick-rolled by crony capitalists and the lobbyists who do their bidding, are – to put it frankly – dangerous radicals who must be excised from the GOP organization.
Because, you know, it is so much better to be a meek and polite little opposition party occasionally allowed to dip a snout into the trough. And insisting on a degree of fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and truly free markets is apparently is just too dogmatic, too radical, and un-collegial within the rarified inside-the-beltway establishment GOP.
Seriously, this is an amusing development and not entirely unforeseen. When we first started up a local Tea Party and realized how many people out there shared a certain degree of exasperation with the establishment GOP, as well as the devotion to fiscal responsibility, fidelity to the Constitution, etc., we vigorously rejected also any input from any establishment GOP politician, organization or consultant, although this was not for want of trying on their part. We had our belly-full of listening to those guys, now it was their turn to listen to us, although the Establishment GOP remained touchingly hopeful that all that Tea Party energy, enthusiasm and contributions had created for them a brand new pony, saddled and bridled and ready for them to ride. No, as I remember telling some drone from the national GOP HQ who called me once to touch me up for a donation; I certainly would not, I told her. I would make donations to individual candidates who campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility, etc.
We also rejected any notion of encouraging Tea Party sympathizers to form a third party, although there had always been a strong Libertarian component in the organization whose interests lay in that direction. Nope, we agreed, that way was counter-productive in the extreme. Better to take over one of the existing parties, working from the precinct up, from local to state to national. And we knew it would be a long and arduous process. I think most of us were inclined towards the Republican Party; anyway, we agreed that it would be an easier mark and generally a slightly less ill-fit for our principles. We did acknowledge to ourselves that there would be plenty of candidates who would cheerfully mouth the right words, take our contributions and our votes, and swan right off to Washington, where they would be absorbed into the squishy establishment. In that case, we would just have to vote them out and elect someone who meant what they said and said what they meant.
So, I have to be at least a little amused at the Establishment RINOs trying to stay ahead of the curve; the curve that is slowly turning against them, like dinosaurs ignoring the nimble, fast-moving and motivated proto-mammals running around between their feet. Rove, Boehner, McCain – all the rest of them seem to be going through the motions, protesting against the darkness falling. In trying to neutralize those committed Tea Party Republicans, they likely will ensure their own extinction; the passion, the energy, the involvement and the money are on the Tea Party side. All the establishment GOP has is habit and money. YMMV, of course.
This was something we actually managed to do for a whole 24 hours straight, more or less, although I swear – next time that we do it, the two small doggies are going straight the Rob Cary Pet Resort for the duration. I had an invitation to do another book club meeting in Fredericksburg – this one extended by Karen V. whose old Houston book club had read the Trilogy and come to Fredericksburg for the fun, the gemutlichkeit, and the wiener schnitzel. Karen had us and all of her visiting friends parceled out among hers and other guest-houses, and a nice conference room at the school district offices for the meeting itself – and a nice sized audience, as well. Blondie and I lugged in two heavy tubs of books, and the little Paypal credit-card processing gadget which attaches to her cellphone, so that we could take payments in all forms …
And then I answered questions for nearly and hour and forty minutes – the books and how I came to write them, if I had found out anything about certain specific people and organizations, why the Adelsverein fell flat on their collective princely faces … all that and more. Which is strangely exhausting to do, standing in front of an audience and keeping engaged; I had to pull up a chair and sit down for the last twenty minutes or so … since I have finally managed to put on the jazzy vintage and unworn Ariat boots that I bought at my daughter’s very favorite charity gift shop a couple of months ago. (I had to have her help in pulling them off, at the end of the evening, though.) Afterwards – sell a few books with Blondie’s neat little gadget which lets us run credit and debit cards attached to her cellphone. She processed the sales, I signed the books and talked some more … and then it was off to Friedhelm’s Bavarian Inn Restaurant which seems to specialize in wiener-schnitzel in a great many forms and additions, include one which Blondie ordered – a cheese schnitzel, thinking that it would be breaded and fried cheese, but was actually the usual pork cutlet, pounded, breaded and fried – but with a generous topping of melted cheese.
Altogether a lovely, sparking evening with Karen and her friends – all ladies of a certain age, some of them her former co-workers in the school district in Houston, some of whom had traveled far, but none being military veterans. I enjoyed it so much – really, I ought to get out more. But we called it a night and headed back to her house and the little guest-house about nine o’clock. Time was when we first began coming to Fredericksburg, the entire town rolled up the sidewalks at 5 PM sharp, save for a handful of restaurants. Now there are a good few more restaurants open, Main Street is lively and lit, with people still walking up and down – but all the strictly retail establishments still fold up relatively early in the evening. There was a movie theater, Karen told us – she being used to a livelier evening scene in Houston – but the local scandal is that the owner or manager skipped with his inamorata and all the takings, so the theater is closed and under renovation to be a kind of local small-scale Alamo Drafthouse, with dinner, drinks and a movie all at once … which has the virtue of efficiency, always one of those Germanic things. We all gathered in the morning at Karen’s for a Sunday morning breakfast and another one of those sparkling good times. Yes, I really ought to get out more. And to get her recipe for cinnamon bread strata with bourbon sauce …
Back home, to a houseful of rather worried but relieved animals, and a dinner of sliced brisket from the Riverside Meat Market in Boerne. We have another weekend to work on stuff – and then we will be tied up for two days running at the Boerne Market Days, where Blondie will launch her Paper Blossom Productions origami art, and I will have a table of my books … and, curiously enough, a bag of doll costumes left over from doing a Christmas Bazaar at the Zaragoza O’club a good few years ago. I guess I can say that the doll costumes are even more vintage as my boots. And that was my weekend …
We are temporarily fostering a kitten for some neighbors who may not be all that enthusiastic about having a second cat in the first place, being as the husband is allergic to the one they already have, and that they wish to raise him as an outdoor cat and he is way too young to fend for himself on that basis … I mean, there are hawks in this neighborhood – they hunt squirrels, small dogs and kittens, for pete’s sake. So young Muffin (whose full name is now Stud Muffin) is living with us temporarily. He gets along very well with the other cats, tolerates the company of the dogs, and thinks that he has landed in kitty heaven when Blondie opened the small galvanized trash container that we keep a stock of cat food in …
We will not keep him permanently. If the neighbors are honest about their disinclination, we will find him a permanent home in the next few months. In the meantime, Blondie is getting her kitten fix.
I guess that it must be proof of sorts that we live in a pretty OK residential area … and also that Blondie and I are snoopy and stand on our rights and obligations as citizens, in that we have had cause to call the San Antonio Police Department twice in three days, and both times officers of the gendarmerie appeared within about twenty minutes or half an hour of the time we called. Yes, we are those neighbors … well, not the kind of ‘those neighbors’ who unite the other neighbors in disbelieving horror, but the other kind of ‘those neighbors’ – the ones who know other neighbors casually to speak to, who note and recognize things which are curious and out of normal order, and are not afraid to speak up and tell someone in ostensible authority. Like whoever is on the other end of the non-urgent telephone number.
This is what good neighborhoods are made of – not gates, security fences with combinations, private patrols, and not middle-class values and paychecks. It is also a relatively fragile construct, because once the forces of darkness and unrestrained disruption/criminality take over, it is damn hard to get control back. The people who live in a place must have an element of effective control over it through the soft power of social control – backed up by civil law, otherwise it’s a straight shot to gangbangers shooting up at random, kids sleeping in bathtubs or on the floor, and 24-hour mercantile establishments with their cashiers behind bullet-proof glass bastions and metal shutters over the windows.
I don’t want to live in a neighborhood like that – probably neither did George Zimmerman – and so this why Blondie and I take our phones with us when we run in the wee hours of the morning, and walk the doggies in the slightly-less-wee-hours. Mess with our neighborhood – we will dial 311 and explain the mess to the obliging dispatcher. Maybe this explains the difference between red and blue states at the working-class level. Here in the last redoubt of red-land, we still believe that we can hold fast; we can keep our neighborhood a place where you can walk the dog, let the kiddies play in the front yard, put garden ornaments of nominal value in the front yard and have faith they will remain there – and go running and dog-walking at all hours with a feeling of relative security. It’s just how we roll.
1. Unhappy cat who gets bullied by other cats and looses bladder control when frightened by other cats is frightened by another cat while I am out running … and pisses on bedding. While out walking the dog – having put unhappy cat in locked bathroom, another cat pisses on bedding in another place.
2. Car does not start. Have to borrow Blondie’s Montero to pick up prescription at Fort Sam Primary Care Clinic.
3. Get speeding ticket from SAPD for doing 54 in 45 MPH stretch of road in the Montero. Didn’t notice that I was going faster than anyone else. Suspect this stretch of road is now a speed trap.
You know, I have never been one given to donning a tinfoil hat when it comes to pop-paranoid theories about this and that. I firmly believe that JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald (a well-known commie-symp acting alone), that the Bilderbergers are nothing much more than a fantastically wealthy international social group (a kind of Chamber of Commerce on steroids) and that there aren’t any mysterious black helicopters flying from sooper-secrit bases in the American West – after all, the damn things have to come down sometime, be refueled, crewed and maintained somewhere, and as wide-open and thinly-populated as parts of the west are – a quasi-military base with an active flying mission cannot help but attract notice of the locals. Yes, I love to puncture conventional wisdom; it’s one of my hobbies. And yes, oh 9/11 Truthers … steel does indeed melt.
However, increasingly of late and upon considering the current administration, I do find myself looking speculatively at the roll of Reynolds-Wrap in the kitchen drawer. Gun-running to Mexican narco-traffickers, spilling confidential information on political opponents, the IRS coming down like a ton of bricks on Tea Party groups, the Park Service on members of the park-visiting public, the NSA listening to everyone, and whatever shenanigans was going on with regard to our consulate in Benghazi a little over a year ago … one cannot go wrong underestimating the veniality, or at very least, the competence of the Obama administration.
A Facebook friend posted a link to this story – which has apparently just barely made a dent outside the local area.
Last weekend western South Dakota and parts of the surrounding states got their butts handed to them by Mother Nature. A blizzard isn’t unusual in South Dakota, the cattle are tough they can handle some snow. They have for hundreds of years.
Unlike on our dairy farm, beef cattle don’t live in climate controlled barns. Beef cows and calves spend the majority of their lives out on pasture. They graze the grass in the spring, summer and fall and eat baled hay in the winter.
In winter these cows and calves grow fuzzy jackets that keep them warm and protect them from the snow and cold.
The cows and calves live in special pastures in the winter. These pastures are smaller and closer to the ranch, they have windbreaks for the cows to hide behind. They have worked for cows for hundred of years.
So what’s the big deal about this blizzard?
It’s not really winter yet.
The rest is here.
(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz, and at www.celiahayes.com)
Click on the link… click twice on it. It’s OK. Mind-boggling, but OK.
So, I have been fiddling around with the next book – well, the next two, anyway. The joking suggestion regarding re-booting a certain popular western serial adventure as a straight historical, after filing off a number of readily-identifiable and no-doubt-ferociously-protected-by-cast-iron-copyrights elements … well, it started to have considerable appeal, especially after Blondie suggested making it a YA adventure and focused toward boys – tweens and teens. Look, it works for Harry Potter, so … why not?
I’ve had a go with four chapters so far; relocating the time-frame to Republic-era Texas, and drawing on a number of historical characters. It’ll be more of a light-hearted romp than the Trilogy and the other books set in that period … which have gotten rather dramatic of late.
Enjoy. I’ll be doing that Sarah Hoyt does – that is, posting the first draft of chapters as I write them. The finished adventures will be edited, polished, added-to and re-written for eventual publication as a print and eBook.