02. May 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Domestic

Since the regular oven died the death a couple of years ago, we have been using a countertop version with a convection and rotisserie option – which functions I have to say come in quite handy. It will be a while until we can have the Chambers stove renovated and checked for safety issues, since it is a gas model, and have the kitchen renovated to accommodate it. In the mean time, in between time – the countertop model gets a good workout. I confess that I don’t really miss a full-size oven, save when it comes to baking a pizza larger than about twelve inches. But since my daughter is in California helping with extended family matters for another few months … it’s not like I need a big pizza for supper anyway.

I have been giving the rotisserie function a workout whenever I have a whole fryer chicken from Granzins’ and a hankering for various meals using leftover rotisserie chicken. (There are numerous recipes for this ingredient, besides using it in crepes, and for chicken salad.) There are several tricks to getting a well-rotisseried chicken from this little oven – and one of the first is to stuff a whole lemon into the body cavity, and ram the skewer through it. The second is to use cooking string, or silicone ties; one around the drumsticks to secure them to the rotating skewer, and another to keep the wings tight to the body of the chicken. As the chicken cooks, it softens … and begins to flop all over the place. The lemon and the ties keep it all neat and compact as it cooks.

With this chicken, I got adventurous: I had a whole small orange with no particular purpose in mind for it – so that was what I used instead of a lemon. But I marinated the chicken for most of a day in a zip-lock bag, in about a quarter of a cup of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Adams Extract Citrus Siracha spice blend. Yes – the Adams Extract series of spices are another one of our local Texas industries branching out. Small-to-medium sized business, experimenting with bold flavors, rather like Fischer and Weiser with their sauces and jams. Both these brands are carried by the regional HEB chain – and both are absolutely freaking marvelous. One of the big HEB outlets has a food demo counter, where we first sampled some foods cooked with Adams Extract spice mixtures. Once a year, they have a BOGO sale at the HEB. As the regular selling price is not … well, this is not cheap stuff, let me tell you. But even so, they are worth it! But the BOGO event was not to be missed – so a bottle of one spice rub mix that we love and were running short of, and one … that I took a chance on; Citrus Siracha.

Once marinated, I took the chicken out of the plastic bag, dried it off, rubbed another teaspoon of Citrus Siracha on it, moistened with a bit of olive oil, and set it to rotisserie for two to three hours at 350. I could have used more Citrus Siracha – up to the tablespoon, I think, but I didn’t want to take a chance on making it unbearably hot the first time out. But it came out perfect; so tender it about fell off the bone, the skin crispy and mildly spicy. Tonight – chicken fajitas with some of the cooked meat, and tomorrow … who knows?

29. April 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic


So, I have been a little … absent from the blogs for the last week or two. There are only so many hours to the day, and I have been caught up in finishing Luna City IV, for publication at mid-May, formally to be launched at the Wimberley Book Festival on the second Saturday in June. Which book is actually a little ahead of schedule; I had thought it would be completed in another month, so I am running ahead of the self-imposed schedule – even with a couple of Tiny Publishing Bidness projects to spend time upon.
This will give me a head start on the sequel to Lone Star Sons, which I hope to have done in time for the Christmas marketing season. Rather like I had hoped for The Golden Road, only what with one thing and another, that particular book missed all but one day of the Christmas marketing season and that one day was a bloody, cold, wind-whipped disaster. Plus, in that wind-whipped disaster, I lost the information for the one person who had paid to order a copy in advance. (Sorry – please PM if you are that person, still looking for your pre-paid copy! Give me the date and place where you ordered it! You’re a fan, and I OWE you a copy!)
Other than that – real life, the garden, the dogs and cats and chickens. Last month’s project was the construction of a set of gates, a lattice gate to keep the chickens in the back garden, and another at the front of the property, to allow a long open garden along the sheltered and south-facing side of the house, dedicated to flowers and vegetables. Plants in the ground, plants in pots along one side, a couple of lattices now half-covered with pole bean vines and lemon cucumbers, and a long bed of native plants and a pair of tomato trees along the other. All of these projects take time, either out in the garden or chained to a hot computer – but I have hopes of both paying back bountifully over the remainder of this year.

When we do a market or book event – my daughter takes care to put out all of my books along whatever table or display space that we have in chronological order. Eight of them are historicals, and can be described as a family saga, in that a good few characters appear in various books – although not always as a main character. Even so, I have taken good care that all my books (Chronicles of Luna City excepted) are self-contained; it’s not one of those series where you have to read each book in rigid order to make sense out of it all. (Personally, I hate those kinds of series.) But the Adelsverein Trilogy, and the five books which share the same four family trees span the years between 1825 and 1900 – mostly, but not exclusively in Texas. To Truckee’s Trail is set in 1844-45, on the California-Oregon Trail, but stands apart from these eight. Lone Star Sons is set in Texas in the 1840s, and has Jack Hays as an ongoing character – but is also stands apart. The Luna City series is set in modern-day Texas, and is completely different in tone, being more a gentle comedic diversion.

With that out of the way – this is the breakdown, in chronological order, for those readers who do want to read them that way:
Dot cover - smallerDaughter of Texas: Runs from 1825, and begins with the Becker family arriving in Texas: Margaret, her brothers Rudi and Carl, her parents Alois and Maria. The narrative deals with early days in the entrepreneur settlements of San Felipe-on-the-Brazos, and Gonzalez, Margaret’s marriage to the local school-teacher, Horace “Race” Vining, the build-up to and the outbreak of the War for Independence, the Runaway Scrape and the battle of San Jacinto. The remainder of the book tells of Margaret’s life in the tiny settlement of Waterloo, which became Austin, up to the year 1840 and the death of her first husband, under circumstances which set up plot elements of Sunset and Steel Rails – which is set a generation and forty-five years later. Besides Margaret, her brother Carl and her son Peter Vining as an infant, this book introduces the characters of Daddy Hurst, and sisters Hetty and Morag Moylan, carpenter and part-time soldier Seamus O’Doyle and Dr. Henry Williamson. Sam Houston, Harry Karnes, James Bowie, William B. Travis, Susannah Dickinson and her daughter, and those members of the Gonzalez Ranging company who went to the relief of the Alamo, Deaf Smith, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Angelina Eberly are some of the historic figures which appear in this book.

Deep in the Heart Cover - 800 pxDeep in the Heart: This book runs from 1841 to 1847, and overlaps some of the events and developments in Adelsverein: The Gathering – although there is a brief “bookend” introduction and afterwards set in 1865, as the Civil War ends. This narrative follows Margaret and her four sons and her friends: she is a widow running a boarding-house in Austin catering to members of the legislature. Her younger brother Carl serves as one of Jack Hays’ Rangers, fighting Comanche war parties in the unsettled Hill Country, the invading Mexican army at the Salado Creek fight, and barely surviving the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. The main narrative ends with Margaret’s second marriage. Historical figures appearing in this book include Sam and Margaret Houston, Angelina Eberly, Jack Hays and many real-life residents of contemporary Austin.

 

The Gathering Cover - smallAdelsverein: The Gathering runs from 1844 to 1849. Carl Becker is a major character here; Margaret makes a very brief appearance. This book is about the recruitment and emigration of German settlers by the Mainzer Adelsverein and their arrival in Texas – in this story, represented by the Steinmetz and Richter families: Christian Steinmetz, his wife Hannah, step-daughter Magda Vogel, his sons Johann and Friedrich “Fredi” and his daughter Liesel, who is married to Hans “Hansi” Richter and has two children with him; Anna and an infant named Joachim. The narrative follows their journey – first by sailing ship across the Atlantic, and by wagon train to first New Braunfels, and then to the new town of Fredericksburg, where they happily settle and begin to build prosperous new lives for themselves. The Steinmetz and Richter families are fictional, as are their friends, the Altemeullers – but most of their neighbors in the new settlements are historical figures, including John Meusebach and the innkeeper C.H. “Charley” Nimitz. Prince Karl of Solms-Braunfels appears in this volume, along with his retinue, Jack Hays (again), Indian agent Robert Neighbors, Samuel Maverick, his wife and their household. One minor character – Porfirio Menchaca, the Tejano horse-wrangler at Carl Becker’s ranch, who appears at the end of this book, is the son of an old friend of Horace Vining’s, as mentioned in Daughter of Texas. Porfirio appears as a minor character in the subsequent Adelsverein Trilogy books, and in The Quivera Trail.

9780989782289-Perfect.inddThe Golden Road: This book follows the teenaged Friedrich “Fredi” Steinmetz to the gold fields of California during the years 1855-59. It was mentioned in Adelsverein: The Sowing, and in Sunset and Steel Rails that Fredi followed the Gold Rush, but without any particular success that he wished to talk about later. During those years, Fredi works as a cattle drover, freight hauler, washes dishes in a saloon, sells newspapers on the street, rides for an express mail company, and serves as bodyguard/stagehand for Lotta Crabtree, as she and her mother tour the gold mines. He does pan a little gold, too, in company with a mysterious and musical Irishman named Polydore O’Malley, who may be wanted in England for an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. Or not. O’Malley is fictional, but Fredi does encounter a number of historical characters, some before they became famous – or notorious – including Sally Skull, Jack Slade, Charles Goodnight, Roy Bean, Juaquin Murrietta, William T. Sherman, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Old Virginny Finney, Lotta Crabtree, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Cover The Sowing - smallAdelsverein: The Sowing. The second volume of the Adelsverein Trilogy covers the Civil War years, 1860-65, chiefly following the lives of Carl and Magda Becker and their family, Hansi and Liesel Richter and their children during that time. The main narrative ends with the wedding of Magda and Liesel’s adopted young sister Rosalie to a returning Confederate soldier at the end of the war. There are a pair of brief “bookends” – opening and closing the book, set around 1910 with the aged Magda telling several of her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of what happened during the war. Magda’s brothers Johann and Fredi appear briefly, as does Porfirio Menchaca. Historical characters appearing in this book include (again) Jack Hays, Dr. Ferdinand Herff of San Antonio, Dr.Wilhelm Keidel of Fredericksburg, and a leader of the notorious “hanging band”, J.P. Waldrip.

 

The Harvesting Cover - smallAdelsverein: The Harvesting – This book picks up at the end of the Civil War, slightly overlapping events in the last chapter of The Sowing. The first chapters deal with the experience of Peter Vining, the youngest son of Margaret and “Race” Vining returning to the family home in Austin. He and the small son of his oldest brother are the only surviving males in the family. His three older brothers died at Gettysburg, he is an amputee – and both Margaret and Dr. Williamson have died as well. For lack of a better alternative, he travels to Fredericksburg in the Hill Country and takes employment with Hansi Richter, who has gone into the freight hauling and general store business, along with Fredi Steinmetz and Carl Becker’s oldest son, Dolph. The main narrative concludes in 1876, with Magda receiving news that Dolph has courted and married an Englishwoman. During the course of this book, the younger generation moves more to the front and center: Dolph Becker, his younger brother Sam, Peter Vining, Hansi Richter’s daughter Anna, and Magda’s daughter Hannah. Again, there is a ‘bookend’ beginning and ending, set in 1918, with Magda recollecting events for her youngest daughter Lottie, serving as a volunteer nurse at a military hospital during the great influenza pandemic.


The Quivera Trail
: This book slightly overlaps Adelsverein: The Harvesting, as it begins in 1875 with Dolph Becker courting Isobel Cary-Groves, a titled English aristocQuiveraTrai; Cover 1 - Smallerrat with a desperate need to marry … marry anyone. The main narrative follows Isobel and her very young ladies’ maid, Jane Goodacre as they journey to Texas and begin building new lives for themselves. Alternate chapters deal with their experiences and perceptions as Isobel builds confidence in herself and trust in her husband, and Jane – against her own expectations – develops a sense of independence and falls in love. Magda and her daughter Lottie, Hansi and Liesel Richter appear as supporting characters, as do Peter Vining and his wife, Anna Richter. Hetty Moylan and Morag’s daughter Jemima-Mary also appear. Historic characters appearing include the gunman John Wesley Hardin, and Lizzie Johnson Williams, famous as a woman rancher of the period. The character of Wash Charpentier, champion cowboy, is based on Nate Love, an early rodeo champion – who retired from cowboying to become a Pullman porter. The narrative concludes in the late 1870s, although there is an afterward, set in 1918.

 

9780989782050-Perfect.inddSunset and Steel Rails: This narrative is divided into three parts, set in 1884, 1890 and 1900, following the experiences of Sophia Brewer, the granddaughter of Horace “Race” Vining by his wife in Boston. Jilted by her fiancée, bullied and exploited by her older brother, Sophia escapes by taking another name and employment as a Harvey Girl. Finding love and happiness at last, Sophia’s family and friends are threatened by the horrific Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Fredi Steinmetz is a major character in this book. Magda Becker, her daughter Lottie and daughters-in-law Isobel and Jane also appear, as do Peter and Anna Vining, Peter’s nephew Horrie, and George Richter – an infant in The Gathering, and a Confederate Army teamster in The Harvesting. Wash Charpentier, the cowboy turned Pullman porter also appears. Historical characters include Fred Harvey himself, his son and business partner David Benjamin, and cowboy-turned Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo.
And that’s the run-down – all in order, for those who wish to follow the fortunes of several linked families over 75 years, or who have favorite characters among them. Enjoy!

The lovely mulberry tree at the back of my little suburban paradise – which shaded half the back yard and most of the house itself from the afternoon sun – contracted some sort of dreadful and ultimately fatal tree plague several years past. With sorrow my daughter and I arranged last fall with Roman, the Neighborhood Handy Guy to take it down in time for the regularly scheduled curbside brush collection. At least a quarter of the tree was dead, the rest of it didn’t look well at all, and the prospect of damage caused to the house by a falling branch, or even the whole thing toppling over in a high wind was not a comfortable one. So, the tree came down, leaving a bare and relatively unshaded expanse – and afternoon sunshine blazing pitilessly onto the back of the house from about three o’clock until sunset. I do have a row of three young fruit trees along the back fence-line (and a volunteer hackberry shrub on the far side of it), but it will be simply years before they are tall enough and leafy enough to provide even a portion of the shade provided by the late mulberry. I considered the matter, and decided after some research that some kind of arbor about four or five feet out from the house would do the trick – especially if I could encourage vines to grow up the support posts and romp freely over the shade part.

But the shade arbor was just half of the planned projects for this spring. At the same time as the mulberry tree was dying, so was the short gate by the front door which divided the narrow garden space along the side of the house into two unsatisfactory portions. My daughter had long wanted to see a tall new gate put up at the front. This would afford more privacy and an uninterrupted space from the front to the back of the house, which is really more of a cottage, long from back to front, narrow across the street-facing side (which aspect is mostly garage door, with a small portion of living space façade.) One of our neighbors, with a residence and lot size of roughly the same plan and dimensions – and with a gate in that position—showed us their garden some years ago, and we were bowled away. Yes, in a space about fifteen feet wide, by about thirty long – there was the possibility for a long, skinny garden, a meandering path to the front door, and thence to the wider space at the back, a garden richly planted, with charming resting places all along, paved with flagstones set in decomposed granite … and we were eaten up with envy. I don’t imagine that we can replicate their little patch of paradise, since James was a retired city landscape gardening supervisor, from a very large urban space, and he had professional education, life skills and expertise beyond my ken … but still. He and Bess did amazing things with a tiny space, a limited budget and with stuff they got from the local Big Box commercial outlet in season.

Yes, something like theirs was what I wanted – although they had a covered screened porch at the back, which made them a perfect little outdoors room, and shade from a number of their neighbors tall, established and healthy trees. An easy decision, therefore, to go with the fence and gate moved up to the front of the house. Really, I was amazed at how open it made the resulting space, although I should have expected that from seeing Bess and James’ place. No longer two small spaces, chopped unusably into two, with all the growing plants and vegetables crammed into one half of it. Because … Chickens.

Chickens. For the eggs, naturally. The suburban situation suits them, and we like the eggs. So far, I haven’t lost any to predators, although we had a close brush with an ambitious hawk, who had his eye on the smaller of the Bantam Wyandottes. But the chickens are death on just about anything within reach that is leafy and green, save possibly for the leaves of the potted citrus. This makes it necessary that either green and growing stuff be out of their reach, either through a fence, or suspended out of reach in hanging pots or baskets. So, I worked up a plan for another fence, a lower fence of lattice to the rear of the lot, something to keep the chickens at the very back of the yard. And – we could re-use the 4×4 posts from the demolished fence, as well as the hinges and gate hardware, and some 2×4 lumber left from the last fence repair project. The only thing new was the lattice panel itself.

Two weekends, and it has all been accomplished – we even had unused lumber, a lattice panel and some hardware to return for a refund. Now to finish planting for the spring, including some new grapevines to grow up along the support posts and into the trellis for additional shade. At the very least, this will take less time than to grow an entirely new tree for shade.

10. February 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

That is, without the Daughter Unit, who left last Thursday in the very wee hours to spend six months in California, helping take care of family matters. My mother took a very bad fall two years ago, which left her confined to a wheelchair, and living with my sister and her husband. So, my daughter – whose Tiny Bidness is a bit more portable than mine, volunteered to go out to stay with my sister and help with Mom until August. So – I took the Daughter Unit down to the San Antonio Amtrak station, and settled down to a strict round of getting everything about my household done myself, once again. Six months is a walk in the park, although I do mind having the maintain the cat’s litter boxes, since the current cats are hers – mine having all passed over the Rainbow Bridge. We were worried that the cats would miss her, but so far, they seem to be quite insouciant about it all. The dogs insist mostly on being in the same room where I am, curled up and sleeping
And on the up-side, I can fix myself a BLT, or sautéed onions for my own patty-melt, and watch the rest of Downton Abbey, if I want to. And I thought about watching Indian Summer, once I am done with the latest available season of Longmire. Otherwise, I am trying to stick to a regular schedule; a few hours of housework and gardening in the morning, plus any errands, an hour of sewing on the vintage wardrobe project, and then the rest of the day split between working on my own next book, and on a book for one of the Tiny Bidness Clients – a project regarding the Civil War Nueces Massacre, which involved re-doing a lot of the maps and diagrams which the client provided; tedious to be certain, but it will make the finished book look good. I also generated an index for it, which was about a week’s worth of work in itself. I also got the figures for income tax return, and had a meet with the CPA this week to turn everything over to him. No, I am not the most organized person in the world, but things like – the income tax return must be done every year, you know the deadline is mid-April, so why not knock it off as soon as possible, and get back to doing other more enjoyable things. Yes, it’s a chore, but putting it off until the last minute never makes chores any less unpleasant.
I will have a few marketing events before August, though – Texas library convention downtown in late April, a book event in Wimberley in June, and possibly the spring market in Bulverde in May. I’ll have to recruit one of my daughter’s friends to help me with that, as setting up the pavilion and keeping the marketing going all day is a two-person job. So – that was my week. Yours?

We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
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I had an appointment with my primary care health provider at the dot of 9 AM Wednesday morning, down at the primary care clinic at Fort Sam Houston. Some years and months ago, they moved that function from the mountainous brick pile that is the Brooke Army Medical Center, into a free-standing clinic facility on Fort Sam Houston itself. I would guess, in the manner of things, that this clinic facility will undergo some kind of mitosis in about ten years, and split into another several facilities … but in the meantime, this is where I get seen for my routine medical issues … mainly high blood pressure. So; minor, mostly – immediately after retiring, I went for years without ever laying eyes on my so-called primary care provider. A good few of them came and went without ever laying eyes or a stethoscope on me, as well. But this last-but-one moved on, just at the point where he and I recognized each other by sight and remembered each other from one yearly appointment to the next. But once yearly, I must go in and see my care provider, and get the prescriptions renewed, and Wednesday was the day …

Fort Sam Houston – what to say about that place? Historically, it was the new and shiny and built-to-purpose military establishment after the presidio of the Alamo became too cramped, run-down and overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of San Antonio in the late 1870s. I have read in several places, that if the place is ever de-accessioned and turned back to civil authority as the Presidio in San Francisco was, that the inventory of city-owned historic buildings in San Antonio would instantly double. Yes – San Antonio is and was that important. It was the US Army HQ for the Southwest from the time that Texas became a state, the main supply hub for all those forts scattered across New Mexico Territory (which was most of the Southwest, after the war with Mexico), the home of the commander and admin staff for that administrative area. Every notable Army officer from both world wars put in serious time at Fort Sam during their formative military years, and the very first aircraft bought by the Army Signal Corps did demo flights from the parade ground. (I put a description of this in the final chapter of The Quivera Trail.)

But Wednesday morning, I was interested to know if the clinic administration had changed out the pictures of the personnel in the chain of command yet. (Military custom – someplace in the foyer of many units are a set of pictures; President, SecDef, and so on, down to the unit commander and the First Shirt. Part of the materiel which has to be learned in basic training are the names of the various authorities on it. The pictures are for the edification of those of lowly rank who often go for years without ever seeing the higher-ups of their chain of command in person. I went for a year once, without ever seeing my squadron commander, although I think I might have spoken to him on the phone once.) Anyhow, there was a link going around among some of the mil- and veteran blogs to the effect that a number of units had not yet received their official photographs of President Trump and General Mattis – and had filled in with print-outs of some of the more viral meme-portraits of them: President Trump standing on a tank, rolling through a battlefield, and Saint Mattis of Quantico, patron saint of Chaos with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in one hand. I was looking forward in any case to seeing the new pictures, and yes, they did have the new one of President Trump on the wall, but only a sign with the name on it where General Mattis’ picture should be. Ah well – the Army is notoriously humorless and Fort Sam/BAMC is the showplace of Army medicine, but as I walked past the display, I started thinking about how bizarre it all was. I think I first read about Donald Trump in the Village Voice, in the mid-1980s, or perhaps in some other publications in the late 1980s when he and Marla Maples were huuuge tabloid and gossip-column fodder: an almost richer-than-god and bigger than-life real estate developer, flamboyant, combative, crude, even – a hound for publicity even more than for pussy.

And now he is the commander in chief. It’s been like seeing Paris Hilton, or (god save us) one of the Kardashians with a heretofore unheard of skill set, suddenly developing political ambitions, going for it … and getting there. Who on earth would have foreseen that, twenty-five years ago? It’s weirder than anything made up by an author of political novels.
Discuss.

I didn’t watch very much of the horrific YouTube tape of four inner-city “youths” of color tormenting a special needs white kid – a tape that was all over the alternative media last week, and miracle of miracles, even made it to the national media, where incidents of black-on-white violence usually get to be covered, like with a pillow until they stop moving. It goes without saying that if the skin colors of victim and perpetrators had been reversed, just about every other national news story would have been driven off the front page and out of the first twenty minutes of national news for weeks. (Save perhaps one of the Kardashians bursting out of her dress like an overstuffed sausage in the middle of a top-drawer celebrity event.) I know that, you know that, we all are most tiresomely and cynically aware of that. Many would have been the chins tugged, NPR would have been consulting their golden rolodex for the most plummy-voiced commentator with an air of spurious authority over matters racial, CNN anchors and the correspondents of main-line news broadcasters over the world would have been hyperventilating in their efforts to keep up with the currently-fashionable expressions of condemnation of American racism, brutality, racism, cruelty to the ‘other’, white privilege, racism, the center-city of places like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit (aside – is there anything left in Detroit to burn?) would have been going up in flames … so on and so forth, und so weiter.

Only this was the other way around, and so noxious and horrific a brutality to an inoffensive and harmless a young person; attention must be paid, no matter how the usual plummy-voiced commentators drag their metaphorical heels. Here it was – the perps filmed it themselves, and posted their nasty, deed on-line … for what? A brag to their friends, a trophy … seemingly unaware that a recording of their actions would be used against them. Did they not expect law enforcement to somehow, magically not see? Or did they just not care, assuming they would be untouchable. There has been a long, long, long series of horrific black-on-white atrocities – the Newsom-Christian torture/rape/murders in Knoxville ten years ago, come to mind as one of the most brutal and the most little-reported, outside of local media, plus any number of flash-mob attacks, of white or Asian pedestrians suddenly attacked on city streets through the “knock-out” game, of organized looting of retail venues and white visitors to mid-west state fairs threatened as they try to leave the venue.

It’s a soulless brutality demonstrated through these incidents. In the mug-shots of the perpetrators their eyes are dead. They seem to have tormented the kid for fun and no other purpose than that of showing off to peers – akin to pulling the wings off of flies, I suppose. I also suppose this kind of game is encouraged by inner-city thug culture, excused and rationalized away by intellectuals and politicians who one would have expected to know better. Such incidents are hastily covered up by the very same national establishment press, who break out the headlines and commentary by their pet race relations experts ad infinitum when it comes to a Black Lives Matter-manufactured storm in a teacup. I have no idea why it should be this way, but I have read suggestions that secretly the national news establishment are afraid that white flyover country would go all indiscriminately punitive on the ‘hood in the manner of the 1921 Tulsa race riot – or something of the sort.
It is ironic, isn’t it – that the current inner-city black thug culture is demonstrating itself to be as feral, brutal, and ignorant as the 19th century KKK considered that blacks were. There are no chains quite as binding as the ones that you hang on yourself.
Discuss.

Yeah, I’m late again, with reviewing the past year, and look to the bright and shiny new one, with regard to personal and professional goals. I’ve looked back every year about this time (so, sometimes it been a pretty good stretch around. So, I’m an independent small businesswoman. I make my own schedule.) Every year, I have been in the habit of assessing the last year, thinking about what I want to get done in the coming year.
As always, the score is about 75% achieved.

1. The back yard is still not the bountiful truck garden of edible fruit and vegetables. This is an enduring challenge. Part of this is due to my own laziness with regard to watering, a serious hard freeze a couple of weeks ago, and the depredations of the chicken stooges, or as my daughter calls them, “the wup-wups” – from the sound of the gentle clucking they made when they are satisfied with life but still feel chatty. Indeed, the magnificent rooster, Larry-Bird, and his Barred Rock harem of Maureen and Carly, are death on any green edibles that they can reach. They chase the two bantam Wyandottes, Winona and Dottie, mercilessly … but the girls all produce eggs, which is all to the good. (Except Winona, who appears to be permanently broody.) The bantam eggs are handy when it comes to halving a recipe which in the original calls for three or five eggs. We have not had to purchase eggs from the supermarket since Maureen and Carly came on line, although there was some trepidation when they molted for about a month. Resolved, renewed; make the bountiful truck garden happen.

2. Books – at last finished The Golden Road. This was planned as being the adventures of wide-eyed seventeen-year old Fredi Steinmetz in Gold-Rush era California. The good news – finished, after about three years of back-burnering it. The bad news – the cover wasn’t finished in time for me to have print copies in time for the various Christmas markets. Two Luna City Chronicles were finished and put on the market in 2016 – they being light, contemporary comedy, they are fairly easy going as far as the writing is concerned. More light blogging, actually. Another Luna City episode is planned for release in mid-year, and a fifth … well, the various elements of both are being skulled out even as we speak. I have also resolved to do a second Lone Star Sons set of stories. The first Lone Star Sons sold very well at Christmas markets, especially as I button-holed every tween and teen passing by our booth, saying, “Hey, kid – do you like to read and do you like Western adventures?”

3. Home reno … the budget for that was shot over the last year, in having to pay for some repair to insulation of the condensation drain. Which, unrepaired, was dripping through into the kitchen. Being able to pay for repair out of pocket was satisfactory – but this gutted the budget for new kitchen cabinets and countertop, as well as the reno and installation of the vintage Chambers gas stove which Blondie inherited from her spiritual godmother. Resolved in the coming year to get at least some new cabinets installed, as well as counter-tops. The kitchen is small – and we desperately need to maximize the space.

4. The mulberry tree which shaded the back garden was dying over the last two years of some ghastly tree-plague. Attempts to save it were in vain. We paid for it to be removed, working in concert with the neighborhood handy-guy – but now the western-facing side of the house is exposed to the full fury of the afternoon sun. We finagled a deal to have the insulation topped up, such is the power of my revived credit rating – but the new plans include installation of some kind of pergola which covers windows on the west-facing side of the house. Which plans also include moving the existing dilapidated fence farther up towards the front of the property … Alas, budget constraints. Resolved to earn enough from the writing and from the Teeny Publishing Bidness to be able to afford the pergola and the new fencing.

5. Which brings me to the management of clients for the Teeny Publishing Bidness. I have decided over this last year to offer our services to other indy authors, in helping them to set themselves up as their own Teeny Publisher. I will walk them through getting an account at Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, or CreateSpace, see to editing and formatting their book for the usual editing and formatting fee, arrange for cover design … and turn them loose. I already have done this for two clients; it’s basically what I have always done for the Teeny Publishing Bidness, everything but our name on it as publisher, but this way they will have an increased level of control over their books and be able to order printed copies at a better price per unit. Several other indy authors that I have talked to in the last year are unhappy with their current facilitator/publisher, which is what gave me the idea in the first place. They want to write; and going into it as their own publisher was a terrifying prospect. There were and are a good few POD places out there which are overcharging and offering unnecessary services: Alice and I were appalled and amused at some of the itemized services that were on offer from them, and the prices they were charging.

So – that’s it. Check back in 360 days or so, and I’ll review.

19. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff

The last of the Christmas markets was done and over for us, as of about 2 PM Sunday – when it became plain that a) at least three-quarters of the other vendors at the market had packed it in over the previous evening due to high winds and very low temperatures. Saturday at the Boerne Cowboy Market was lovely and for me, fairly profitable. The town square was packed to the limits, the weather was fair and near to summer-warm, plenty of shoppers, live music, shoals of shoppers … but the forecast for Sunday had in it a dire warning of near-to-freezing temps, and high winds that were promised to diminish by about ten AM. It’s one of those things – there is the promise of the after-church-service crowd – but the bitter cold put the kibosh on that. So, with no other potential shoppers save other venders or friends of family of venders, we packed up our stock at early afternoon and came home.

Yeah, I know that vendors in outside Christmas markets in locations less salubrious than the Hill Country of Texas are probably snickering into their sleeves at our overall lack of cold-weather-hardiness … but still. Thirty degrees or less of wind-chill cold; up with which the casual browsing customer is not willing to put. The market management who had rented us one of their canopies came and took it down in the wee hours, to prevent damage to it, I guess – so we were left canopy-less on Sunday. Those of us surviving vendors – all of whom had put up the table fee for a two-day market and were by-damn agreeable to giving the second day a good old-fashioned try on the hope of seeing the after-church service crowd … well, no hope of that, with the brutal cold, and the wind that kept tossing the surviving pavilions and their walls about – although we all had long winter underwear, heavy coats, mufflers, hand-warmers, and propane heaters available to us. None of that does any good unless there are shoppers about, and of that were there none.

So, we packed it up and came home to thaw out … revising on the way, our schedule of markets for next. This has been a kind of exploratory mission for us – working out what venues, time frames and conditions work best. We will probably not do any markets past the second weekend in December, it being our conviction that people are “shopped out” at this point – and so are we. We probably won’t do Blanco again, but will be there for the Johnson City court-house lighting on the Black Friday weekend, even if that involves a two-night stay in a hotel or RV park. The Bulverde craft fair is a keeper, and so is Goliad. Another possible is Boerne’s Dickens on Main, although that involved two weekends – and evenings, at that. Still – large crowds, enthusiastic shoppers may make the table fee worthwhile. We’ll look at other events, throughout the year, mostly in order to build up Blondie’s Paper Blossom productions business. Showing up, building up clients and fans – even branching out and providing specialty items for other vendors would, hopefully, provide a steady income stream for her – but the effort has to be made.

Now begins our short Christmas break; a time of rest and relaxation, as well as enjoying the day in the warmth of indoors. Of course – now that the markets are done for the year, I finally have received the printed copies of The Golden Road. I did have one paid order for it – from a particular fan in Goliad who bought one of my other books, and ordered a copy of the Golden Road – but the order form was lost in the windstorm on Sunday morning. Did you order a copy of The Golden Road, at Goliad, on December 3? Please get in touch with me, so that I can send it to you!

That is – one more holiday market to go, and then we can put up our feet and enjoy Christmas … well, save for perhaps regretting that we didn’t have time enough to hang out lights and ornaments on the bay tree for the amusement and edification of our neighbors. But on the other hand, we did get the Christmas fudge all done and distributed, save for the batch of Brandy Alexander which never solidified as it should have done … well, there’s always one batch that doesn’t go quite as satisfactorily as it should have, but with eight different kinds, it’s not that anyone would mind or even notice.

Blanco was cold and miserable; in the forties all day, with a sullen drizzle threatening in late afternoon. Still, there were people shopping, and we did pretty well, considering – but would have done better if the weather had been as pleasant as it was in Johnson City two weeks ago. But still – the cold! And this time we were in the pink pavilion, on grass, instead of in a place with a roof on three solid walls. I had long winter underwear on, and the brown woolen Edwardian suit, with gloves and a scarf, but my feet were near to freezing in thin leather lace-up boots. My daughter had a lovely insulated pair of winter boots, so her feet were fine, but the rest of her was miserably cold. Note to self – another pair of long winter underwear, and one of those little portable heaters that run on a propane gas bottle. The weather is expected to be milder for next weekend for the Cowboy Christmas Market in Boerne, though … but that brings up still another problem. The pink pavilion developed a bend in one of the support legs which makes putting it up and taking down even more difficult than usual. Not certain of how it happened, but the metal is quite definitely indented and broken. It was never the sturdiest of pavilions anyway, and now some of the other joins have developed bends or cracks at weak points. It was most definitely not designed for the hard use that it has gotten over the past two and a half years, so this next weekend, we have to rent one of the Boerne Market Days pavilions (plain tan and completely featureless) while we arrange to purchase a sturdier pavilion for the next market season. One of the other vendors in Johnson City had a very nice one, with much heavier top and sides; she bought it at Costco; a new one of similar design and features is on our list.

Today we went through some local favorite shops, picking up this and that with an eye to mailing gifts to family, and making our own Christmas the merrier. This included a stop at a Half-Price Book outlet, where neither of us found what we were looking for – stocking stuffers for cousins/nieces and nephews – but I found a pair of David Hackett Fischer’s accounts of two episodes in the American Revolution. The next of my historical novels is dimly to be seen, at a considerable distance – something set in that period. I thought earlier this year of what the next should be, after finally completing the Gold Rush adventure. I suppose the natural tendency would be towards continuing into the early 20th century, with the various characters from Adelsverein, from Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails. I’ve already hinted at some of those developments relative to the First World War … but I find myself curiously reluctant to go there – mostly because that was the time and place in which the optimism of the 19th century died, in mud and blood, tangled in barbed-wire. Right now – I don’t need tragedy and heart-breaking disillusion. I’d rather go back, to the start of our republic, close to the foundation of the American experience …

Besides – I have already hinted at a couple of different possible characters and plotlines: Race Vining had a relation named Peter, who served in Washington’s tiny, desperate army at Valley Forge – and Carl and Margaret Becker’s grandfather Heinrich was a Hessian deserter, who fell in love with an American woman … and perhaps the notion that the individual was the master of his own fate. Nothing more certain than that; the specifics of the plot will grow from research.
Besides – I have to write another Luna City chronicle, and another Lone Star Sons, first.

From last year - a representative sample of our neighborhood Christmas gift

From last year – a representative sample of our neighborhood Christmas gift

Seventeen days to Christmas and counting … yikes. It’s coming at me like a freight-train. We finished the custom fleece blankets for the nieces and nephews … but have yet to package and mail them. I have yet to order some Christmas presents to be sent to family … seriously, where the heck does December go? And we’re just a week into it, too.
Of course, I am distracted by the weekly market events. Blondie’s Montero has been kept loaded since mid-November with all the market impedimenta; the pavilion and the weights, the tables, folding chairs, signage, display racks, table dressings, the strings of lights and extension cords for the events which require them, the tool kit for emergencies, the Rubbermaid tub with the folder of extra flyers, postcards … and of course, the other tubs and boards of merchandise which are the whole purpose for these excursions. We have not even unpacked the Montero between market excursions. The purpose for all this is pure basic capitalism: We have goods – books and origami creations, to exchange for cash or occasionally in kind – with people who desire to own said books or origami creations. This – leading up to Christmas, and the customary exchange of sometimes frivolous consumer goods between consenting adults, and presented to the immature specimens of our species of whom we are fond – is the reason that most vendors of consumer goods make their nut in the last quarter of the calendar year. I have no critique to make of this arrangement; it’s our custom, and not only do I demand respect for it, I participate willingly.
But enough about the commercial aspect of the season – now about the neighborly and altruistic aspect. It has been a long-established custom in our family to make home-made treats to present to hapless acquaintances and neighbors. My mother’s practice was for cookies – a fairly decent basket-assortment of butter-cookies and slabs of cake and fruitcake, which we attempted to emulate for a couple of years. Then we tried out giving small gift-baskets of other gourmet items, since simply everyone does Christmas cookies … until my daughter hit upon the notion of boxes of gourmet fudge, after visiting a candy store in in Fredericksburg some four years ago and sampling – and purchasing a few bits of their finest specialty fudge. Oh, a hit – a very palpable hit! Boxes, tins and plates of various flavors, made from the very best ingredients. High-quality chocolate, real butter and cream: We knew that we had a winner after the first year, when in late November of the second year, various neighbors began to hint, wistfully. “Say, are you gonna be doing that fudge again … that was soo good…”
This was the week that we scheduled for making up batches of eight different kinds of fudge; chocolate with nuts, chocolate with nuts and cranberries, brown-sugar and toasted-pecan, white chocolate coconut, raspberry-creamsicle, peanut butter, and Bavarian mint chocolate, and brandy-alexander chocolate. That was Monday thru Wednesday; Thursday and today are dedicated to packaging and delivering. We do a massive pair of boxes for the local fire station, and the nearest police substation to us; a smaller one for the Frost bank branch where we do business, for Alfred the mailman, and the guy who drives the trash collection truck. Those all went out yesterday, to great appreciation from the receiving staff at the fire station and police station, especially. Today – it’s another round of packing and delivering boxes for the near-in neighbors. Another Christmas objective achieved; tomorrow, it’s all day at the Old Courthouse in Blanco for the next to-last Christmas market. Sunday – perhaps we’ll feel sufficiently energetic to hang out some ornaments on the bay tree, and to sit down and do mail-order gifts for the family in California. And that was my week …

04. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

And our Christmas marketing marketing marathon thunders on; last weekend in Johnson City for three days, and this weekend a Saturday in Goliad. Which seemed nearly as tiring as the Johnson City event, as it rained on us for nearly all the distance of a two-hour drive there, and again all the way back, as well as raining heavily on Friday night and all of Saturday night … a night which was enlivened by a massive local power outage.
The rain did not actually fall on the event itself, which was a huge relief; oh, it was a little windy and chilly, and we were in a sheltered outdoor venue next to the Goliad Public Library, but most of us bundled up in warm clothing, expecting such conditions. Although when it comes to adding to my period “author drag” wardrobe, it occurs to me that a fake-fur muff may be a very appropriate accessory. The ‘author drag’ continues to be of worth as far as attention-grabbing goes – there were many compliments from other people on the outfit, and my mastery of the art of millinery and tailoring. The outfit of Saturday was the brown wool tweed Edwardian walking suit which was almost heavy enough to be comfortable, except when the wind blew directly on me. Eventually, I hope to construct a wardrobe of five or six period outfits with appropriate accessories and suitable/comfortable for every occasion – indoor, outdoor, summer, winter, day or evening. I did add to my collection of accessories – again – with the purchase of a vintage 9-inch hatpin from an antique shop on the square. Nothing special or particularly pricy – but somewhat shorter and lighter than my first two, which are much thicker and over 12 inches long and must date from the pre-WWI era of big hair and hats the size of wagon wheels.

The shops on Goliad’s town square are looked very revived, over five years ago, by the way; the shale oil boom continues to shower a bit of prosperity on the place. The venue where we were stationed as part of Miss Ruby’s Author Corral was just renovated over the last year, along one side of an open courtyard where a building was removed a couple of years ago, revealing an almost unweathered Bull Durham advertising mural on the side of the building next door. (Now the public library.) The building on the opposite side of the courtyard is being remodeled to serve as a bed and breakfast. The owner of the property had both ends of the space with the mural enclosed and roofed over, fitted out with chairs, small tables and a couple of outdoor heaters, and graciously lent the space to the organizer of Miss Ruby’s Author Corral. Eventually, the whole place and the B&B will be an event venue, and a charming place for small gatherings – say, under 150 people, right on the Courthouse Square of historic old Goliad. Goliad and San Antonio are both within a couple of years of celebrating their 300th anniversary of being established as towns, by the way. I shall have to think of something to write, novel-wise, which will commemorate this.
A wet, tiring, but moderately profitable Saturday was had by all; my weekend. Yours?

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.

24. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

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!

20. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff, Local

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?

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.

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 …

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.

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.

26. July 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun and Games

There was a brief hiccup of indignation last week regarding the French police choosing to downplay the fact that the dead hostages taken by Islamist terrorists at the Bataclan music hall had been viciously tortured and their bodies mutilated. There was the same brief hiccup of indignation when it appeared that the German police likewise chose to downplay those instances of sexual abuse perpetrated on local women by so-called Syrian “refugees.” A commenter on one particular thread discussing this observed, acidly, that we were now well into Pravda and Izvestia country, where the published news stories must be carefully scrutinized and parsed to tease out the actual facts; what is released regarding certain occurrences is not meant to inform us. Instead, such reports are meant to appear as if we are being informed, but the actual intent is to conceal and not to offend those in political power.

I’ve begun to believe, though, that our establishment media and those elements of the Ruling Class (in the Anthony Codevilla sense) who control or collude with them are going well beyond simply obscuring current events – but are deliberately practicing a kind of mass-gaslighting on us all. Gas-lighting? Oh, yes; this is a definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary:

A form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity … A more psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim – having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.

False information presented – making us doubt our own memories and perception of events. Systematically withholding factual information from us. Having the gradual effect of making us anxious, confused, less able to trust.

Yep – we’ve been gas-lighted all right; and some of us more than others. I’d say that the African-American community is being royally gas-lighted by the Black Lives Matter organizing cadre, and the Democrat party has also been gas-lighted in a grand scale into believing (or pretending to believe) that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified presidential candidate evah! Barack Obama takes the absolute prize, though – in having gas-lighted himself into believing that he is the very best US President in our history.
Discuss.

05. July 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic
A selection of books from the PTA book sale, including some issues of AH

A selection of books from the PTA book sale, including some issues of AH

Well, that was a bit of a shock this morning, when I went to my bookmarks menu to look for an article I recollect reading ages ago about Theodore Roosevelts’ first wife – and the bookmark for the American Heritage website turned up … well, nothing. As in – nothing found. I used to use their archive to find articles in my vintage hardbound copies of American Heritage, a collection that I started to rebuild through used book sales, in an attempt to reconstruct the collection of them that my mother had. Mom was a subscriber from the very earliest days, when Dad was a grad student on a tight budget. This must have been a substantial expense for them – as she had a subscription to AH’s sister publication, Horizon. Both were hard-bound, without advertising – and the collection filled almost half a wall of shelves in the house that burned in 2003.

My own love of history and enduring affection for writers who make ripping good read out of writing it can be directly laid at the door of those issues of American Heritage which regularly arrived in the mailbox, and which I devoured. (I swear also that reading Horizon in similar fashion also greased my way through college, since – whatever the topic was, I had gleaned some interesting tidbits from those pages, like the derivation of the word ‘chauvinism’ which a professor dropped on us one day, in mid-lecture. I was the only one in the class who knew it, and the professor confessed in some awe that I was one of a bare handful of students he had taught in his time who did.)

Mom did keep up the subscription, when it went to a quarterly, softbound and chock-full of advertising, and I dipped into the later iterations for a year or two at a stretch, but the updated version just didn’t have the same … I don’t know – wide-ranging gravitas that the early, hard-bound versions had. Mom remarked once or twice that in the later versions, they didn’t seem to go any farther back in time than mid-20th century, whereas the older issues romped freely from early colonial times on. It turns out that she was correct on this, and it was deliberate editorial policy in the publication’s later years.

And so – I pretty much lost interest in keeping a current subscription, which turns out to be just as well, and it seems that those who did have a current subscription were left flat when American Heritage suspended print publication four years ago, without even refunding subscribers. Possibly around that time they stopped adding content to the website. Four years ago … and I never even noticed until now, which is pretty sad, considering what an influence Mom’s subscription to it had on me. Some things just end with a bang, but some with a barely audible whimper and then sink without a trace from the internet.

To: Ms Yvette Felarca

Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

North Berkeley, California

From: Sgt. Mom

Re: Selective Application of the Right to Free Speech

 

  1. It saddens me that I must inform a member of the teaching profession that the right to free speech – with certain exceptions for slander/libel, incitement to break the law, and falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater – is inalienable. It is certainly not within the rights of you or your so-called organization to make decisions regarding the exercise thereof by organizations of which you do not approve. I know, this may come as somewhat of a surprise to you.
  2. It is also a misguided notion for you and your so-called organization to enforce your judgement by exercising physical, organized violence upon those expressing opinions which you have ordained as unfit. This establishes an extremely bad and dangerous precedent in the civic life of this nation. I would suggest that you review the political and social history of Weimar-era Germany, with special attention to the party-based brawling which led to breakdown of a sort-of-stable social situation and the rise of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, or acquaint yourself with this history, if such study has not been included in your previous education.
  3. By the way, do not assume from the tenor of this memo that I therefore approve or disapprove of Nazis, self-appointed social justice warriors, censors of any political stripe, the KKK, Donald Trump, freaks like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Twitter and Facebook mobs descending upon your employer threatening you, your employer and your students. I merely wish to emphasize to you and other community organizers what a horrifically bad idea you are endorsing.
  4. But having established the precedent that organized violence is an appropriate response to those whose political and social opinions you disapprove of, you have opened a particular dangerous can of worms; that persons who disapprove of your own political sympathies may respond in kind with perfect justification. As you deal, so will you be dealt with – and you will have no basis for complaint, having chosen to overturn a painfully-struggled for convention in American political life that violence against a political opposition is off the table. It is a slippery slope, this business of physically attacking other people, merely for exercising their rights.
  5. Hoping that you will consider these words carefully and take them to heart – although I am not holding my breath on that.

I remain, as always,

Sgt. Mom

20. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Yes – we have books. And there was a long note and some discussion on this particular regular thread about places where there are no books, or even just fake books, or real books chosen for the color of their binding or the general richness of appearance … Yeah, my daughter watched some of those celebrity home shows, where there were huge rooms and endless lengths of shelves …
And no books, or anything much save a scattering of knickknacks interspersed with sports or performing trophies. It seemed a sad and desperate way to live, in a house or a mansion without books, or even magazines – although perhaps the internet and ebook readers are taking the place of corporeal books.

Still, not to have books at all … even my paternal grandparents, who were not bibliophiles, by any stretch of imagination, had a small case full of books, stashed away in the guest room, mostly – and Granny Dodie had a library card and used it. So did Granny Jessie. Her possession of three shelves full of books (mostly by turn of the last century lady authors with three names) marked out Mom’s family as the towering intellectuals of South Lotus Street.

Mom and Dad bettered either one of the ancestral collections, when they married and set up a household – which naturally included books. For a good many years, the bookshelves in the den – which contained the bulk of the collection – were of concrete block uprights with well-smoothed and varnished planks laid across them to serve as shelves. (Sensibly, I don’t think this unstable arrangement went higher than about three levels.)
I went out on my first overseas assignment with a box or two of my own favorite books, eventually adding to the collection through being overseas, in places where English-language bookstores were thin on the ground away from base, and the base libraries and Stars & Stripes bookstores were usually quite small. So – book clubs and mail-order catalogues were my friends, and it was a good thing that Amazon was a distant dream the whole time I was overseas, for I might have returned to civilian life with twice as many books as I did. (When we packed out from Spain, the packers had a bet going on how many boxes of books there would be. It topped out at 65, eventually, and I don’t know what the winner of the pool got. Bragging rights, maybe.)My working space - with the most often-referenced books

When she was in high school, my daughter managed to swing a good few term papers using our own book resources. And that was even before I started seriously writing myself, and acquiring even more books, specifically for research and reference. I’d say the collection of Texiana and for the 19th century frontier is pretty comprehensive – and if I carry through with the intention of writing another in the Adelsverein series, going back to how Carl and Margaret Becker’s Opa Heinrich came to America as a soldier of Hesse in the Revolutionary War … there will need to be another shelf at least.

I suppose that the most horrifying aspect of the Trump rally in San Jose last week was not that there were obnoxious and semi-coherent protesters outside the event, or even that they became violently abusive to those attending the Trump rally. It was that the San Jose PD, and the civil administration appear to have at best sat back and watched ordinary citizens be chased down and physically abused – and at the very worst, facilitated, enabled and afterwards blandly excused such attacks. The civil government of the city of San Jose apparently decided that it was okeydokey for the agents of law and order in San Jose to sit back and allow law-abiding citizens exercising their rights in attending a political rally to have the c**p beaten out of them … because they didn’t approve of the particular candidate.

Well, at least those police supposedly keeping public order after the Trump rally didn’t send for popcorn and cheer on the beatings, or participate in the active part of the thumping themselves, so I will give them props for a few lingering shreds of professionalism. But this is not a good thing – it is in fact, the second step on the way to a new civil war, or at least, to Single Party-Ruling Hell. It sends a very clear message, when thugs on one side of a political divide can routinely beat the ever-living-snot out of citizens exercising their right to be politically involved, or at least politically interested, in the face of a massive police presence … and the police just shrug and look away, while the local civil authorities essentially say in response to criticism, “NOKD and they richly deserved it.”

That was the Second Step. The First Step on the downward-leading path to Single Party-Ruling Hell is the routine “othering” of a political element, or a portion of the citizenry, on the part of not just an ambitious political class, but becomes especially noted when the political punditocracy and popular media join in the fun. This process has been going on for some time, but I noticed it particularly with regard to the Tea Party. Earnest, responsible middle-class (for the most part) good citizens, newly engaged in the political process, championing fiscal responsibility, fidelity to the Constitution and free markets … and for all of their efforts and evidence to the contrary, got painted by politicians, the punditocracy and the popular media as dumb, racist, stupid hicks. And this ‘otherizing’ stuck – I have the evidence of my own family to confirm it.

So, this “othering” was accomplished, and has proceeded at a break-neck pace with all the fuss about Black Lives Mattering (but only when they have been killed by a Policeman of Pallor), the academic ruckus about so-called White Privilege (which somehow never seems to accrue usefully to working-class and rural residents of fly-over country who happen to be of a pale or lightly-freckled pallor.) and by the animus poured on … well, non-coastal, red-state conservatives of every class. I had only to look at the comment threads on major news sources when they posted stories about the Bundy Ranch imbroglio, or about the stand-off in Oregon with regard to the Malheur location … as an aside to various liberal commenters on that matter – My god, people – do you comprehend how ugly you sound, when you urge the elimination of rural ranchers and their sympathizers? By whatever means possible?

So, Step One – the “otherizing” of those judged by the righteous and the good to be … beyond the pale. Infra Dig. NOKD (Not our Kind, Darling) They deserve what is coming to them, by the actions of the righteous and just. That has already been concluded, as far as I can see. Step Two – seems to be in train, by the example of San Jose and the Trump rally last week.

Step Three … ah, that is the use of civil law against those previously ‘otherized.’ Really, whichever law can be utilized. Step Three seems to be in the formative stages at this point. The motion in the California legislature to criminalize doubt with regard to global warming. Weaponizing the federal bureaucracy – the EPA, the IRS, ATF – against perceived enemies of the state has already been done, through selective investigation and enforcement of existing laws.

Step Four involves locked boxcars, and distant reeducation camps, and ordinary citizens looking away and murmuring things like, “Oh, too bad … but they had it coming.” And no, we really don’t want to go there, as much as leftists like Bill Ayers and his Weatherman friends fantasized over that very prospect, back in the 60s.
Discuss.

Texas Sized Rain GaugeThis being the first of the month, my daughter and I did our monthly major shopping today – beginning somewhat earlier in the day than we normally do. We had a heck of a thunderstorm blow in at about three yesterday afternoon; rain so heavy that it was blowing sideways and wind-gusts that were twirling the tree branches every which way. Our neighbor as a particularly large oak tree in her back yard, with two very long, heavy branches that reach over the roof of the back of her house. My daughter was so worried, watching the tree limbs bend, that she called the neighbor to advise her to stay out of the two back bedrooms until the storm finished blowing through. This morning, there were small branches down all over the neighborhood, and a family on the other side of Spring Creek Forest lost a fairly good-sized tree. It split in half, at the height of the storm, but apparently in a rather gradual manner. One half slumped onto the next-door neighbor’s garage roof without causing any damage to the roof that anyone could see, and the other half onto the driveway. This morning, the tree was well on the way to being sliced, diced and stacked. It looked like the main trunk was diseased and rotted out. We’re afraid that residents may lose more trees, as the ground is so saturated that a stiff wind could topple them over from the roots.

It may storm again this afternoon, so we wanted to be home well before it does. Hence – the early start; to Granzins’ for meats, to Tractor Supply for dog and chicken food, to Costco for laundry soap, cheese, and certain other sundries, Sam’s Club for certain others, and finally the big HEB over at Blanco Road for all the rest. Yes, we have worked out where to get the best for the least. We start out with a big ice chest in the back of the Montero, and stack up the bags of pet food evenly. Tomorrow I’ll get out the vacuum seal bags and process everything for the freezer out in the garage.

We had a very nice sales month for books in May; the Second Chronicle of Luna City did very well, and a fair number of readers also bought the first Chronicle as well. And there are some nice new reviews up on Amazon for both, and a reader in England who discovered both by accident left a very nice comment on the website page for the Chronicles – so yay! However, there has been a curious occurrence, in that there is another writer named Celia Hayes, who has written a single ebook comic romance … the reader in England who loved the Chronicles also loved the other Celia’s book, and found them in searching by name. I am not sure what, if anything, I ought to do about this. I understand that the writer Elizabeth Taylor had somewhat of the same problem, in that her name was also being used by another woman … who was rather more notorious than a simple scribbler of literary fiction.

As far as other book matters go, I have maybe three more chapters to go in winding up The Golden Road – which adventure has been a long time in development, what with being distracted by other writing projects, and then by the requirement to broaden my research field a little more, to encompass California in 1856-58. There were a lot of later important and/or interesting people there at that very time, including William Tecumseh Sherman, Edwin Booth and Lola Montez. Because the Luna City Chronicles are proving to be so popular, and let’s face it – my daughter and I are having a giddy and humorous time in writing them – I’ll have ago at doing the Third Chronicle over the summer, side by side with another set of Lone Star Sons stories. We’ll see how it works out.

Schedule-wise, we seem to have a book event every month for the next few; the Wimberley Book Festival on the 11th of this month, then the San Antonio Indy Book Festival in July – and this very day we received our invitation to the Giddings Word Wrangler bash in September! That community book bash is an absolute blast to participate in. No, we didn’t really sell all that much last time – but the community involvement made it all terrifically special; a gala the evening before, classes of school children being bussed to the library to meet the authors, and a wonderful luncheon the following day, as well as a ton of regional authors to meet and socialize with! Oh, yes! We’ll be there with bells on. (And me in my period costume, but that’s another story, entirely.)

29. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

(A brief account of Memorial Day in Luna city, from the Second Chronicle of Luna City, which we brought out at the beginning of May, in response to a chorus of pleading from readers who want to know how the cliffhanger at the end of the first Chronicle was resolved.)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid Army career in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. He is the exception; Lunaites mostly have served a single hitch or two, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.

The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – to include Joe Vaughn, Sylvester Gonzales, and Chris Mayall – serving in various capacities in more recent operations in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.

There is not much need in Luna City for elaborate observances of Memorial Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day, but in the main, the most notable civic event marking Memorial Day is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks.

The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although spring rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families and guests nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip-Top. Joe Vaughn, who had been the star quarterback for the Mighty Fighting Luna Months in his senior year, sits out the game with considerable regret. Three hitches of particularly strenuous Army service have blown out his knees; jumping out of perfectly usable aircraft or fast-roping down from helicopters in full battle-rattle will have that effect on mortal joints and bones.

The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Memorial Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Memorial Day in Luna City.