I cannot say how much the ditching of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name for a yearly award for the best in published books for children and young adults distresses and disappoints me. I am one of those millions of readers who read and adored the Little House books early on, which various volumes my parents presented to me for Christmas and my birthday from the time that I could read – basically from the age of eight on. I would sit down and read the latest gift from cover to cover almost at once, so much did I love the books. After so many decades of honor, respect, and dedicated fanship, after having basically created (along with her daughter) a whole YA genre – historical adventure novels set on the 19th century frontier – LIW is now writer-non-grata, in the eyes of a segment of the American Library Association which deals primarily with library services to kids. Henceforward, sayeth the Association for Library Service to Children, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award, or something equally forgettable. The public reason given for this are two-fold, as nearly as I can deduce.

In certain brief passages of her nine-volume retelling of her childhood on the post-Civil War American frontier, LIW reflected the attitude of wary dislike with regard to the presence of American Indians common to those 19th century Americans, especially those who lived in close proximity to them. In the eyes of tireless social justice warriors, which appear in oversupply in today’s hypersensitive age, this is practically the same as preaching genocide on every page. And in one single chapter, her father and several men of the town put on black-face makeup and performed a minstrel show to entertain their friends. Such a form of entertainment was as popular then as it is considered disgracefully racist today.

So, rather than look honestly at the mores of the past – and perhaps entertain the thought that many of those notions which today we accept merely as conventional wisdom will, in a hundred years or so be held in as much, or greater disfavor than those attitudes held by LIW’s family and neighbors. I wonder though, if the motivations of the members of the Association aren’t just a little more complicated than polishing their social justice credentials. The Little House series presents – more than anything else – the quiet, intimate epic of a strong traditional family; a hard-working, resourceful, loving family, equal to every imaginable hardship going, from frontier isolation, to plagues of insects, bad weather, and grinding poverty. The Ingalls do not lament their lot, as LIW presented them; they make the most of it, and eventually achieve a quiet and modest degree of prosperity.

The Little House series, originally written and published a little short of a hundred years ago, remain overwhelmingly popular. Thousands visit the places which LIW immortalized in her books – the places where she and her sisters lived and grew up, the farm which she and her husband eventually established in Missouri. The TV series very loosely based on the series continued for years. I cannot help wondering if the kind of family and community life thus portrayed in the book series runs counter to everything in those young adult novels currently being pushed upon the younger generation by teachers and the child librarians; books which revel in gloom, despair, dysfunction and nihilism, a kind of literary filboid studge, in which in every grim trope embraced on the page discourages kids from reading. So – a burnishing of social justice credentials or sabotaging a classic series to advantage of contemporary but unreadable books intended for the juvenile consumer? Discuss.

06. June 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff, Luna

Or, half of one, anyway. Titled Memorial Day. (I’m easing back on writing for the moment, being taken up with some other projects, including research for the next couple of historicals. And the household stuff, of course.)

Memorial Day

Jess Abernathy-Vaughn, being of that pale tint of skin which burned and freckled rather than tanned, lounged under the shade of a dark and ultra-violet-ray protective umbrella, planted at a rakish angle, deep into the beach sand at the Gulf-shore side of Galveston Island. She was also slathered with the highest SPF-level sunscreen available over the counter. In spite of not being a fan of sunbathing until one looked more like a leather saddlebag, she was truly enjoying this holiday. A second honeymoon, everyone called it, now that she and Joe had been legally wed for more than a year, and their son was now almost ten months old, and well-able to withstand the baby-sitting ministrations of his great-grandparents, living in the high-ceilinged apartment on the second floor of the ancestral hardware store on Main Square. She watched Joe – as fit and muscular as a classical Greek bronze of an athlete – mastering the use of a boogie-board in the indifferent surf with the same single-minded attention that he brought to every enterprise which took his interest. It killed Joe to not be the best at anything, so he applied himself relentlessly; football, soldiering, law enforcement – and of late, to dedicated fatherhood.

“We’ll be happy to have a baby in the house, once again!” Martha Abernathy exclaimed, even before Jess had ventured the casual boat of her suggestion – that she and Joe spend a luxurious weekend at a Galveston resort destination – onto the tranquil sea of familial relations over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. “Do make the reservations, Jess – you need to take a break now and again! It’s good for a marriage, to make a little time for yourself and your man. Don’t trouble yourself in the least, worrying about Little Joe!”

“Your grandmother has been longing to get her hands on our boy,” Joe grinned when Jess had first tentatively broached the question of a holiday in the sun, surf and sand. That was the evening in Spring Break week, and he had just come home from a tedious day of upholding the law in Luna City, and on the stretch of Route 123 which adjoined the municipality. “Let’s do it, Babe – go back for a weekend, and try and recall the people that we were before becoming a life-support-system for the rug-rat. I’m trying my best to be patient until the day that we can throw the ol’ pigskin around, but I need a break, too.”

Jess sighed. “I can hardly wait until he can cook … Richard swears that he will start teaching him to make a lovely proper mayonnaise as soon as he knows how to handle a whisk…”

“When will that be?” Joe spun his white work Stetson onto the old-fashioned coat-and-hat-rack which stood by the front door of the old cottage on Oak Street and collapsed with a sigh onto the overstuffed sectional sofa – an overstuffed and sprawling thing which took up altogether too much space in the old-fashioned front room, but which was too comfortable to give up entirely. Jess dropped their cooing offspring onto Joe’s mid-section and he yelped, “Ooof! What have you been feeding him, Babe – bricks?”

“Growing boy,” Jess replied, with a remarkable lack of feeling. “You entertain the Soup-Monster for a while I fix supper – tell him mad tales of all the dirtbags you have arrested, and all the speeders you have ticketed … I’ve been talking to him all day about the necessity for retaining receipts for cash business expenses. Among other topics of note.” (Soup-Monster was her nickname for her son, taken from Marsupial Monster, from the early days when she carried him in a baby-sling across her chest.)

“Sounds deathly dull,” Joe replied. Jess sighed with heavy sarcasm as she opened the deep-freeze unit in a corner of the kitchen.

“Attention to such minutia pays the bills for our incredibly lavish life-style,” she called in reply and Joe responded with a hearty horse-laugh. Jess smiled. It pleased and satisfied her to know that she could make Joe laugh. He was wrapped too tight, sometimes – too earnest, too serious entirely. Now, Jamie – she had always been able to make Jamie laugh.

Yes, that pan of frozen lasagna … and a mixed salad to go with, once the lasagna was warmed and bubbling in the oven. Say an hour or so; Jess was also tired; a full day of seeing to her various clients in Luna City, Karnesville and Beeville, driving hither and yon, with Little Joe uncomplaining in his car seat. He was a good baby, for all that. But now and again she really missed the days when she and Joe went out for burgers or pizza as impulse took them, or drove into San Antonio for a meal at one of the Riverwalk restaurants, a table on one of the outside terraces, overlooking the river, the lights that twinkled like fireflies in those monumental cypress trees lining the artfully-channelized river, while live music spilled from one of the other places, and she and Joe people-watch in the twilight, as swifts and grackles swooped into their night roosts. All that without the labor of hauling the Soup-Monster and the heavy freight of his impedimenta – the diaper bag, the stroller, the baby-car-seat and all that along with them.

No – a weekend of leisure in Galveston would be just the ticket. Jess covered the lasagna with tinfoil, turned the oven to 350 and went to join her menfolk, just as Little Joe grinned at his father, an open and uninhibited grin which revealed all of two new baby teeth in his lower jaw. Jess’s heart turned over in her chest – the child looked so like Joe, it was uncanny, even to his tiny nose, which gave a hint of the ancestral Vaughn beakiness, even now. A miracle, the blending of her blood, flesh and bones with Joe’s – and yet, Little Joe was his own person, even at the age of eight months! A whole, new, original, and miraculous little person … again, Jess thanked with her whole heart for Miss Letty’s wise advice.

“Supper in about fifty minutes,” she said, as he settled onto the sectional next to Joe. “Give me twenty minutes, I’ll feed the Soup-Monster and put him down to sleep, so that we can have supper in peace.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Joe replied. “And the weekend thing, too. Let’s go for it, Babe. We need a break, some R-and-R, you know. Be good for the Monster to learn how to wind the grands around his little finger.”

“Share the blessings,” Jess leaned her head against Joe’s substantial shoulder, the one with the uniform patch embroidered with the city logo of the Luna City Police Department sewn upon it. Another brief moment of pure contentment; Gram and Grumpy had insisted that such in retrospect would be considered the happiest times of their lives. Jess had of late begun to see that her grandparents were right about that.

Now she watched Joe abandon the mild surf, the boogie-board under his arm, striding up through the receding surf, which cast a brief swath of lacy bubbles across the white sand. He collapsed with a brief grunt onto the spread beach towel at her side. Jess spared a covert and concerned glance at him. She’d bet anything his knees were giving him hell again. Good thing she had packed a bottle of extra-strength Motrin. She would mildly suggest that he take a few before they went out for dinner, and hope that he would take the suggestion.

“How’s the water?” She asked. Joe chuckled.

“Salty and wet, Babe.”

“It’s the ocean, it goes without saying.”

Joe lay back in the shade with a sigh. “Thought about where to go for dinner? I’ve an appetite for fish tacos. That place on Seawall with the two big-ass balconies overlooking the Gulf would suit me fine. OK with you?”

“Perfect,” Jess agreed. “A bit noisy, but we can go early… it’s an anniversary for us, you know. We can celebrate.”

“Oh?” Joe raised an eyebrow, and Jess grinned.

“The first time we seriously kissed … and umm. Other stuff.”

“Oh, that.” Now Joe grinned, reminiscently. “After the Memorial Day pig-roast at the V, you had too much to think, and I walked you home? Yeah, I remember.” The grin widened into an expression of outright lewd reminiscence. “Hoo, boy – do I remember, Babe! I was so damned glad you didn’t punch me in the nuts when I made the first move…”

“Joseph P. Vaughn, you are no gentleman!” Jess exclaimed with an attempt at a Scarlett O’Hara exaggerated Southern accent and swatted at her husband with her discarded tee-shirt top. Which launched a good quantity of sand at him – but he just chuckled again and lay back on his spread beach towel.

“No regrets though, Babe?” he said, and Jess shook her head.

“No regrets, Joe.”

14. May 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff

So … even as I am starting research on the American Revolution-era novel, I am moved to start on another — about Minnie Templeton Vining, who was a peripheral character in Daughter of Texas, and in Sunset and Steel Rails.

A blue-stocking and a crusader, and … stuff. At mid-century, where there were a lot of things going on.

Enjoy. I don’t quite know where this will finish out … but Minnie is a ferocious abolitionist. And perhaps has other involvement in the Underground Railroad. It all depends…

Chapter 1 – A Lady of Leisure

A week after the reading of her father’s will, Minnie Templeton Vining sat in the old-fashioned parlor of her father’s tall house on Beacon Street with her sister-in-law Annabelle, while an errant spring breeze stirred the curtains … as well as the festoons of black crepe which adorned the façade of the Vining mansion. Narrow windows of the austere classical style that had been the height of architectural fashion early in the century now overlooked the broad avenue and leafy avenues and meadows of the Common and the public gardens beyond. The room within was furnished in the old manner; chairs, tables and shelves made in the austere style of two generations past, of polished wood sparingly ornamented, for the late Lycurgus Agrippa Vining resisted any change in the mansion in which he had ruled over as absolute dictator for half a century. The paintings and portraits, blue and white China trade porcelain, ranks of books in solid leather bindings, somber dark-red brocade upholstery, and very old-fashioned crewel-embroidered curtains – all testified at least as much to the wealth and pride of the family as to their magnificent disinclination to follow mere fashion … and thereby waste any portion of that wealth on transiently popular fripperies.

“So the house and a substantial income are yours to control absolutely!” Annabelle marveled, as she added sugar to the cup of tea which Minnie had poured from a silver pot which was one of the Vining’s treasured possessions, coming as it had from the workshop of the great Boston silver artisan, Paul Revere. In one of the account books in the old Judge’s study and library was preserved a bill made out in Revere’s own spidery handwriting, for that very teapot and a dozen silver spoons to be adorned with acorns and oak leaves.

“Indeed,” Minnie set down the teapot with a gentle clinking sound and took up her own refreshed cup. She was a confirmed spinster, being something somewhere in her fourth decade; a woman of decidedly firm opinions – and yet attractive to the eye for all of that, at least to those who entertained a taste for fine-boned features, and arresting blue-grey eyes, animated by a formidable and unsparing intelligence. “Cousin Peter is to be my trustee – but he is too sensible a man to attempt any thought of treating with me as if I were a silly child in need of correction and protection.”

“I should say not!” Annabelle chuckled. “One might very well try to rope and ride one of those wild bison creatures of the plains. Your dear brother – my late husband – told me such a tale of the President of Texas shooting one of those dreadful beasts in the streets of the capitol of that benighted place!” The humor briefly departed from Annabelle’s pleasant countenance. She was a slender woman of about forty years, the same age as Minnie – and like Minnie, garbed in the darkest black of mourning for father and father-in-law. They had been friends since their earliest childhood, indulged by their parents, friends of the heart, as well as of marital and distant blood connections. And Annabelle was a Saltinstall connection, which counted for something in Boston.

“My brother had many tales to tell of his travels,” Minnie acknowledged, although she held deep in her heart the one which she would never distress Annabelle by telling – of that low-bred woman in farthest Texas, the one who had cohabitated with her youngest brother, and bred four nasty brats with him, or perhaps some other man, no matter what her brother claimed was a proper marriage in that benighted place. That was a deathbed secret and confession she would take to her own grave, rather than distress Annabelle with revealing it. Annabelle was his wife in the eyes of the law and of Boston. That woman in Texas was a nobody and of no character at all. Annabelle – dear, innocent Annabelle – deserved a measure of peace of mind, if not happiness, in the wake of a marriage-not-marriage to a husband who was never present in Boston but always gone on interminable ocean voyages and travels in a vain attempt to recover his health.

“Telling the absolute truth can often be a brutal cruelty,” her father, Judge Vining was wont to say. “Consider well the costs of relieving your own conscience, Minerva, if that cost comes at the expense of another’s peace of mind and happiness.”

“He did, indeed,” Annabelle smiled, ruefully. Her husband – Minnie’s youngest brother – was dead some eight years past, in this very house. The consumption took him, painfully, on his final return. Minnie did not like to think of that even now, or the embarrassing situation which had brought him home for that one last time. “You were such an angel, Minnie – nursing him through those last awful days. Need I say again how grateful I was for that? It was all such a tangle – Sophia having just married, and in such difficulty with her first child. It was all that I could do to attend on my dearest little girl, night and day … I feared so much for her! Richard was a treasure in her travails, of course – but a husband is not so attentive as a mother – or a sister would be!”

“It is what we do, my dear – for those whom we love,” Minnie replied, whereupon her sister-in-law sighed.

“So we do, Minnie,” and her expression brightened with genuine curiosity. “Now – that you are a spinster of independent means, and your dear father is enjoying his heavenly reward; what will you do with yourself, and this establishment?”

Minnie set down her teacup and regarded the parlor; hers and hers alone, to do with as she thought fit. This was a heady feeling, and Minnie longed to stretch her wings and soar, soar on the pleasant updraft of a generous income and control over it, after two decades and more of being bound by obligation to family. Truth to tell, she had not minded all that very much. Papa-the-Judge (for so she always thought of him) may have been a magisterial and terrifying parent to his sons, employees, and those brought before him at the Bar, but his only daughter had always had an especially affectionate bond with her father. Her mother – dead in childbirth with her – had been the Judges’ second wife for a brief time.

“A clever woman,” Papa-the-Judge had often said, on those rare occasions when he had been moved to speak of such personal things. “Bold as brass, fearless – she was a spy in the late war, Minnie – did I tell you of that?”

“Yes, you did, Papa – often,” Minnie had replied.

During his last days on this earth, Papa-the-Judge had often patted her hand, at the conclusion of maundering about in his reminiscences, and promised, “Well, then, Minnie – you are to be well-provided for, my girl, since you aren’t inclined to matrimony. I’ll have Peter as your advisor, but he’s a sensible man. Have seen too it, y’see. The only intelligent female child of my blood … the image of your mother. She was a spy, you know. Carried messages for Doctor Warren’s network, back in the day when the bloody Lobsterbacks. Bold as brass, although she was only a bit of a child when I first lay eyes on her … she would want to see you holding to your own independency”

“I know, Papa,” Minnie would answer. She knew very well that she was the image of her mother. There was a small framed portrait painted on ivory in Papa-the-Judge’s monumental desk, secreted in one of the small drawers, which Minnie knew the secret to opening. When she was younger, she had often compared the painted features to her own, reflected in the small elaborate glass mirror which hung opposite the window in Papa-the-Judge’s study. And in any case – Cousin Peter, and others who had known her mother had often commented on the likeness.

No, she would not change the parlor, or Papa-the-Judge’s library, or even all that much about the house. All too dear and familiar, and now it was all to be hers, to order as she liked … but Minnie felt a restlessness in her. It was, she thought, like one of Annabelle’s songbirds, looking out from an elaborate silver cage, to which the door was open, wanting to spread her wings … yet wondering if she yet dared.

Yes. She did. Minnie sipped from her own teacup, and then set it down again with a tiny, decisive clink against the saucer.

“I have decided to go traveling,” she announced. “Oh, not terribly far, Annabelle – just as far as Charleston, and then for a stay in Richmond in Virginia. Cousin Peter has kin by marriage in Charleston. His daughter and her husband ministers – he is in orders, you know – to a very respectable parish in Richmond. They have written, extending their hospitality. I am of a mind to accept. Would you like to accompany me? I would welcome your companionship.”

“For how long, do you plan to remain abroad from Boston?” Annabelle regarded Minnie with an anxious expression, and Minnie smiled in a manner calculated to reassure.

“Not terribly long – for the length of the summer, and return in time to celebrate Little Richie’s birthday, of course. It is …” and Minnie sighed. “My dear, I long to escape these walls for a time, and refresh my soul by gazing on new vistas. I beg you to accompany me, for the sake of respectability. And …” she shot her sister-in-law a severe glance. “It would be energizing for the both of us. We are both allowed a certain considerable degree of freedom by our status as widow and spinster? Why not explore, as far as we are allowed by the strictures of decent society? Why should we be kept mewed up in our little tiny parlors, like falcons wearing blinding hoods, when we might soar?”

“Because …” Annabelle began, irresolutely, and Minnie couldn’t keep herself from snorting.

“Because, fiddlesticks. I have a purse and the inclination, and I want to do something other than sit in my parlor, see that the maids dust the furniture properly and take calls on my at-home day. There is a larger world and great causes to fight for, Annabelle – shouldn’t we begin claiming parts of it for our own, rather than just live as silly simpering angels in the house?” She fixed her sister-in-law with her most ferociously-determined expression, and – as Minnie had been certain that she would – Annabelle crumbled.

“Of course, I will accompany you,” her sister-in-law yielded with a sigh. “But … have you set a date for commencing this … this project of yours. And … I suppose I shall not require any winter things in my trunks…”

“Next month, I think,” Minnie replied, in secret relief. “I shall have to see to the arrangements, and consult with Cousin Peter, of course. But oh!” she smiled and took Annabelle’s hand in her joyful embrace. “It will be such fun!”

03. January 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Literary Good Stuff, Luna

The next Luna City installment will be called A Half Dozen of Luna City – and herewith a snippet of one of the stories.)

Five Men and a Baby
“The whole thing came up at the last minute,” Joe Vaughn groaned. He sat at one of the picnic tables out in back of the VFW, while a mild spring breeze stirred the leaves of the monumental sycamore tree overhead. Sitting in a monumental car-seat/baby carrier/rocker set on the table top, the infant Little Joe sucked on his tiny pink fist and regarded those gathered for guest night with eyes which had already gone as dark as blackberries. “I’ve been subpoenaed to testify in a court case – Monday in San Antonio. Not in Karnesville, which would be a walk in the park. God knows how long the trial will drag on; guarantee I’ll be sitting on my ass in the Bexar County courthouse for a week, at least.”
“I don’t see what the problem is,” replied Richard, sitting across from Joe and nursing a very respectable ale produced by a local small brewer. Really, he reflected privately – there were subtle advantages to this place, which no one coming from the outside would ever have considered. It was guest night at the VFW; he was enjoying the ale, and the company of Joe, Berto, Chris, Sylvester Gonzalez, and Jerry Walcott.
Joe sighed, heavily for dramatic effect. “Baby-sitting, Ricardo. Jess is away at the Methodist women’s retreat as of yesterday – until next Sunday.”
“So?” Richard sank another satisfying draft of ale and ventured a friendly wink at Little Joe – who merely chomped again on his baby fist and scowled in reply.
“Everyone – that is, every one of our female kin is also on that same retreat,” Joe answered glumly. “Every single one of them. Even Miss Letty – she would advise me as to who would be a good fill-in. Pat and Araceli chose this weekend for a get-away to the coast for some relaxation, or I would ask them. Look, guys – this is Jess and mine own first-born child. Handing him off to strangers, or giggly teenagers for a week is just not an option.”
“Tell me about it,” Richard acknowledged in a morose tone of voice. Beatriz and Blanca were filling in adequately, as far as front of the house service went – between giggling, and Robbie Walcott helped out at the back – but dammit, this was a disruption to his routine! Richard did not welcome disruptions, or handle them gracefully when they occurred.
“What about your parents?” Berto Gonzales asked, in a tone of voice which suggested an attempt at being helpful.
“Off on a Caribbean cruise,” Joe replied, dolefully. “They flew out yesterday – not back until two weeks.” He fetched up a deep sigh, from the very core of his being. “Screwed, blued and tattooed, guys. I need a babysitter for Little Joe … else I am taking him into the Bexar County Courthouse every day, and giving him to the bailiff to hold, when I am called to the witness stand.”
“What’s the problem with that?” Berto asked, in genuine curiosity, and Joe sighed again.
“Look – the bailiffs aren’t there to do that job. And anyway – have you seen the stuff you have to take along with a baby? They search everything. It will take me half the day just to get through security at the courthouse alone. God – think of the bugs that he would be exposed to! Just from being in that old building, with all those people! He’s too young to be exposed to all those viral cruds; kindergarten is soon enough.”
“They’re so small,” mused Sylvester, dapper in his usual retro-nerd wardrobe – today a pair of classic chinos and a fetching short-sleeved aloha shirt printed with images of palm trees, surfers and pineapples. “Babies, I mean – but all their stuff! It takes up so much space!”
“Tell me about it,” Joe grunted. Under the table was a diaper and sundries bag the size of a small steamer trunk.
“We could take care of him for you, Joe,” Jerry Walcott was home in Luna City for the weekend; a gentle and competent late-twenty-something, who worked as a nurse at the Karnesville Medical Center. “Seriously,” Jerry added, in serene response to the skeptical looks on the faces of the other men at the table. “I did my last rotation in pediatrics. It’ll be a gas to look after a healthy kid. Serious, you guys.”
“I can help, Berto offered. “It’s spring break. I gotta help Papi at the garage during the day, though.”
“I’m done at the Tip-Top ‘bout half-past five every evening,” Chris ventured, thoughtfully. “And Ricardo – you’re free in the afternoons, aren’t you?”
“Well…” Richard temporized. “I’m busy at the Café from about five in the morning until after lunch.”
“We can do it in shifts,” Sylvester pulled out a small spiral notebook. “When are you done at the hospital, Jerry?”
“Six AM,” Jerry replied, and Richard protested, “Look, chaps – I don’t know anything about caring for infants. I’ve barely worked up to having a cat…”
“Nothing to it,” Jerry answered. “Bottle at one end, clean diapers at the other, keep them from being too hot or too cold…”
“A piece of cake, as long as I don’t confuse one end with the other,” Richard meant to sound derisive, but both Berto and Jerry were impervious to sarcasm, and in any case, Sylvester was already mapping out a schedule.
“Ok, five of us – we can cover the baby-sitting duties round the clock. Four hours and forty-five minutes each – no sweat.”
In the space of five minutes and another round of drinks, Sylvester had worked out a rotation, while Jerry gave a swift demonstration of applying a bottle to the appropriate end of Little Joe and a diaper (accompanied by hygienic wipes and sticky white diaper-rash ointment) to the other. Berto and Sylvester volunteered to spend their nights at Joe and Jess’s house for their shifts – “Hey, the kid can sleep nights in his own bed, ‘kay?”. At around 6:30, when Jerry got home from the hospital, he would take Little Joe for nearly five hours. Then – it would be Richard’s turn, for the afternoon, until Chris finished at the Tip-Top. The plan had Chris delivering Little Joe home to Sylvester and Berto after supper, to begin the whole cycle again. Still, Joe’s expression as he looked around the table, and regarded his offspring was one torn between gratitude and worry.
“I owe you guys,” he confessed at last. “But I dunno about handing him around like a hot potato. I mean, Jess will have a conniption fit…”
“Babies thrive on the stimulation,” Jerry said. “And doesn’t Jess take him with her, when does her client consultations?”
“Yes, but …”
“I don’t see the difference,” Jerry said. “If he’s used to it, he probably likes it.”
Richard had a feeling that Joe didn’t precisely agree – but in the face of a workable solution, he had no other choice.
“We’ll start on Monday,” Sylvester folded away his notebook, after writing down a copy of the schedule for everyone else. “Any questions?”
Richard briefly considered asking for release from the rota – but then he considered Little Joe, and his own long-term plans to inculcate an appreciation for good food into a younger generation – and really, how much younger could you get than a six-month old? This merited careful consideration, but when he asked it of the table, both Jerry and Joe laughed.
“At this age? Rice cereal, and not much of it,” Jerry replied, and Joe snorted.
“Mother’s milk. No – really. The fridge is full – Jess began stocking up weeks ago.”
“Moth – oh, I see,” Richard considered that he had already looked enough of an idiot in front of the others; best now enjoy the weekend, before flinging himself into the baby-minding rota.

He had nearly forgotten about it all – or at least, shoved the trepidations to the farthest and most neglected corner of his mental attic, when the Café’s door opened and shut to a musical jingle, and Jerry appeared, with the baby – a tiny pink-faced morsel dwarfed by a monumental stroller. Richard could verily swear that he had seen smaller motorcycle sidecars. The enormous necessity bag was stowed at the back of the stroller. With some difficulty, Jerry maneuvered it through the dining room and into the kitchen. Richard was there alone; Robbie and the girls having capably dealt with the with the most immediate pressing post-lunch-rush chores.
“Here we are!” Jerry announced. “Little Joe is all ready to spend quality time with Unca Richard.” He almost succeeded in concealing a yawn. “He’s already had his midday bottle – you’ll want to give him another just before five. It’s in the side pocket of his ditty-bag with an ice-pack to keep cold. Just warm it up before you give it to him. Blood warm is about the right temperature. Remember, how I showed you how to hold him for feeding? Yeah, that. Remember to burp him, when he’s done – and check his diaper, too – he’ll probably poop again, just to make room for the fresh intake.”
“What do I do with the little … little tyke until then?” Richard demanded. He had almost made himself forget his promised child-minding obligation.”
“No idea,” Jerry yawned again. “Talk to him. Play simple games, pay attention to him, stimulate his imagination. That is, when he isn’t sleeping, eating, or pooping. Use your own … sorry … imagination. See you tomorrow, the same time. Chris will take over from you at five-thirty.” Upon delivering this dispiriting intelligence, Jerry took himself out the door – the bell chiming musically. Little Joe and Richard looked at each other.
“Goosh,” commented Little Joe, blowing a spit-bubble. It sounded philosophical; neither hostile or overly-affectionate.
“The same to you, my little man,” Richard replied. Well, that took care of the social niceties. “Look, sport – you’re a little young to become a kitchen apprentice. And I’m told that … well, you aren’t quite old enough to start cultivating a sophisticated palate. How about just keeping me company while I prep for tomorrow?”
“Goob-gurgle,” replied Little Joe with perfect amiability.
“Right then,” Richard said, and fetched one of the three high-chairs from the front of the house, setting it up next to the big all-purpose table which served as prep-space. Summoning up all of his nerve and silently sending up a prayer to the heavens that he not inadvertently damage the little sprout in any way, shape or form – since Joe and Jess between them had the capacity and will to inflict horrific damage on anyone who harmed a single one of the barely-visible hairs on the head of their tiny offspring – he lifted Little Joe from the stroller and settled him into the high chair. Regarding his handiwork, Richard thought the infant was sagging a little too far to one side in the chair – which would accommodate a much larger child. A pair of small cushions wedged in on either side of Little Joe did the trick. The two of them regarded each other solemnly across the worktable, and Richard continued his prepping for the following day’s business.
“Cinnamon rolls,” Richard ventured. “It’s cinnamon rolls for tomorrow.”
“Goo-goosh!” commented Little Joe, and Richard was heartened. Didn’t Jerry advise talking to the little sprout? Stimulate his development, or some such child-rearing mumbo-jumbo. “They’re a mainstay at the Café, don’t you know – well, you should. I think your Mum had one every morning. So – here’s the dough for them. Been rising in the warmer for a couple of hours. Now, this is the mixture that goes onto the dough, once I have patted it out just so. Light on the flour, by the way…” he continued in this vein, as if he were explaining and training a new apprentice, as he worked the dough with the expertise of long practice, and the yeasty odor of newly-risen dough filled the workspace. Little Joe was even drooling a bit. “Pity you’re just not old enough for a taste,” Richard commiserated. “Never mind, young-chappie-my-lad; soon enough, soon enough.”

19. November 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff

The last two weekends of scheduled marketing events, in anticipation of the Christmas holiday season … no, strike that – the last two weekends, and the marketing events in October as well – have just not produced the sales figures that my daughter and I had expected, based on previous leading-into-holiday events. The October events were supposed to fund the November and December events, but those anticipated sales just did not happen; one of them fell to inclement weather, another to plenty of people looking, but darned little buying. So we could not venture into things like Dickens on Main in Boerne, as we had planned, and we were too late for another go at Johnson City for the courthouse lighting, as we did last year. I was even too late to sign up for Saturday in the Author Hall at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt, and had to make do with Friday instead. While we did at least, recover the table fees and then a bit, it’s a lot of work and energy for very little return.

This is not just our judgement, but in commiserations with other vendors; they also experienced the same bafflement – plenty of shoppers at well-established and well-advertised event, not over-pricing the goods, we worked the crowd and engaged with shoppers, instead of sitting behind the table looking at our Kindles and iPads … but with disappointing results. We speculate that perhaps we have worked the weekly market days dry, after having been profitable over the previous three years. My daughter wants to do more of the art events, specifically in San Marcos, and I’d prefer more book-oriented events and author appearances, where at least people are primed to expect to consider books. The one good thing about book events, is that I am at the point where doing an appearance brings invitations to do others (and bring books to sell!) which is not nearly as labor-intensive as an all day, or a two-day market.

So – a slight rethinking of my marketing strategy, as well as signing on to Patreon, and committing to producing good bloggy ice cream for patrons and backers, while I work on the next book – tentatively entitled When the Lanterns are Lit. Which, if you like, is kind of a circle around to how I went about funding publishing of To Truckee’s Trail – friends, fans and readers made contributions to cover the costs of publishing it through a POD house, when interesting a mainstream agent and establishment publisher in the manuscript for it fell through. What goes around, keeps on coming around, I guess.

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!

Some time ago and in another blog-post I wondered if it were possible for those with conservative and libertarian leanings to develop some kind of secret password, or handshake with which to identify themselves to new-met acquaintances who might possibly share those inclinations. We tend to be polite, do not relish open confrontation – and really, why pick unnecessary fights with neighbors, casually-met strangers, distant kin, or fellow workers? Most times, it just is not worth the hassle, or the chance of turning a casual social interaction or relationship turning toxic. Most of us do not eat, sleep, dream, live politics twenty-four-seven, anyway. But it certainly is pleasant to discover someone of like sympathies, usually after a few rounds of warily sounding them out, and assuring them that no, we will not come unglued if they confess to having voted for or liked (insert political figure or philosophy here).

But I think that I have hit upon a handy shorthand method for discerning the political sympathies of another without coming outright and asking. This insight came about through following a couple of libertarian-leaning or conservative blogs – Sarah Hoyt and Wretchard at Belmont Club being two of the more notable – and noting that the principals and many of their commenters all seemed au courant with Kipling.

Lines from “The Gods of the Copybook Headings“When ‘Omer Smote ‘is Bloomin’ Lyre”, “The Sons of Martha” “The Three-Decker” and “Dane-geld” or “The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon” and any number of other poems from the pen of the Glorious Rudyard were tossed about with abandon, along with references to various short stories and novels. Tags and lines from these poems and others were almost a currency in comment threads at these websites and blogs.
If you like Kipling … then you are likely to be some stripe of conservative, libertarian, or an original independent. I have not much of an explanation of why this should be so, other than that Kipling was an unparalleled master of storytelling, and his poems – traditional in the sense that they had a rhyme and meter – sometimes are still topical and always quotable. He has been out of fashion among the mainstream intellectuals and tastemakers for going on a century; In the place of the story-teller and poet there is a massive straw-image of him, labeled with every nasty -ism that can be applied; imperialist, racist, and so on and so forth. Die-hard fan of British imperialism – or not – he certainly was an acute observer of the institution and of his times. Perhaps it is the clear-eyed observer part of the Glorious Rudyard that appeals. Any other explanation would be welcomed, but the correlation between a liking for Kipling and conservative leanings is pretty well marked in my mind. Your thoughts?

24. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Literary Good Stuff

(This is a short-story version of an episode in Adelsverein: The Sowing, which I reworked as a free-standing Christmas story a good few years ago, for a collection of short stories. The scene; the Texas Hill country during the Civil War – a war in which many residents of the Hill Country were reluctant to participate, as they had abolitionist leanings, had not supported secession … and had quite enough to do with defending themselves against raiding Indians anyway.)

It was Vati’s idea to have a splendid Christmas Eve and he broached it to his family in November. Christian Friedrich Steinmetz to everyone else but always Vati to his family; once the clockmaker of Ulm in Bavaria, Vati had come to Texas with the Verein nearly twenty years before with his sons and his three daughters. “For the children, of course,” he said, polishing his glasses and looking most particularly like an earnest and kindly gnome, “This year past has been so dreadful, such tragedies all around – but it is within our capabilities to give them a single good memory of 1862! I shall arrange for Father Christmas to make a visit, and we shall have as fine a feast as we ever did, back in Germany. Can we not do this, my dears?”
“How splendid, Vati! Oh, we shall, we shall!” his youngest daughter Rosalie kissed her father’s cheek with her usual degree of happy exuberance, “With the house full of children – even the babies will have a wonderful memory, I am sure!” Her older sisters, Magda and Liesel exchanged fond but exasperated glances; dear, vague well-meaning Vati!
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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!

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 …

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?

15. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff, Memoir
The Front Cover - if there was ever a dust-jacket, I don't remember it

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

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

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

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

A Poem about George Washington - Illustrated

A Poem about George Washington – Illustrated

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

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

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

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

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 …

I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Well, not quite everything, of course. I am speaking of the Edwardian-style suit that I was moved to construct, as something eye-catching to wear at an author – especially a multi-author event – of which I do have a few, coming up over the next months. The Second Chronicle of Luna City was done and put to bed – that is, uploaded, signed-sealed-and-delivered to LSI last week, and so I had a bit of time to devote to other-than-writing chores. I finished the suit, re-trimmed a flamboyant wide-brimmed hat to go with, a small bead and lace-trimmed hand-bag ditto, bought all the parts to make a small fake-fur tippet, of the kind that I used to see the elderly church-ladies wearing … although I still do have to make the tippet. It will be the kind made to look like a small furry animal biting its’ own tail.

This should amuse small children immensely – much as it used to divert my brother JP and I, seeing the ladies at church, with their menageries of furred stoles, slung about their shoulders, glaring at us over the back of the pews with their very-realistic glass eyes. The furry stoles, not the elderly ladies, I mean. Those stoles had glass eyes, little toothy jaws, and little black noses, and sometimes dangling paws as well. Yes, we were often horrifically bored during long sermons. Fancying that the little furry stoles were live animals, and might come bounding over the pews amused us at least as much as sorting out the various Biblical stories and parables limned in the splendid early 20th century windows of a church which was designed to look sort of like a minor English cathedral, inside and out. (Granny Jessie was a member from earliest days, Mom and Dad were married there, all of us were christened, and my sister married there and still is an active member. Supposedly, it was made in sections from poured concrete and supposed to be faced in stone, but the Depression put paid to that ambition, and eventually everyone agreed that the concrete had weathered so nicely, that why go to the bother and expense?)

The next event on my author schedule is a book festival in Wimberley, Texas, on June 11, at the Wimberley Community Center. There will be forty other writers there, so – standing out in the crowd is imperative. Then, following in July, there is the second annual San Antonio Indie Book Fest – this will be at Say Si, in downtown San Antonio on July 16th. There’s nothing set yet for August, and I have not yet heard anything firm about the Giddings Word Wrangler, in September. I’ll have a full supply of my books to carry me through the year, and am investigating the possibilities of drop-cards, so that buyers who want an ebook edition can buy the card from me. We have finished up all but a single one of the Watercress Press projects as well – so until a new one pops a head above the parapet, I’ll be working on my own books from here on out, for the foreseeable future.

14. April 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Geekery, History, Literary Good Stuff

Coming up for air, after more than a week of … well, stuff. Firstly, Blondie and I decided to bring out the sequel to Chronicles of Luna City at the end of this months, rather than try and do three books all at once at the end of the year. I have the sequel to Lone Star Sons to write, and The Golden Road to finish – those last two got set aside in the rush to finish Luna City and Sunset and Steel Rails in time for the Christmas market season. Inspiration, OK? It strikes where it will. So – finishing that sequel and going through editing and layout, and devising new pictures for the chapter heads … and right in the middle of all that, my main computer chooses to not be able to internet. Seemed to be a purely mechanical thing – as in some connection in the innards not being able to connect – and I had some handy work-arounds, which were sabotaged by the wireless router crashing shortly thereafter. And then my daughter’s computer crashed utterly and irretrievably. Sigh.

This is why we have a spare everything, in boxes in the closet. Computer, monitor, router … and also why I back up everything to a thumb drive and an external hard drive as soon as I finish writing a chapter. And a laptop, which those generous people running the Amazon Vine program offered me earlier this year. I will never forget that horrible day around Christmas 2007 when I was just about ready to sit down and write that fifth chapter for Adelsverein: The Gathering – where Carl and Magda meet cute on the bank of a river when she is desperate and he is heroic – and the then-current computer crashed, taking all four previous chapters with it. My dear late friend, Dave the Computer Genius was able to sort out the crippling virus infestation after a couple of days, retrieve all my files (including the chapters!) and revive the then-current computer unit to serve for a few years more … but prepared is to be forewarned. Hence the redundant back-ups. And I also bought into some particularly effective virus-killing programs and have used them religiously ever since. This is my livelihood, OK?

Still, it does take some time to migrate everything to the new unit/units. It’s rather like a PCS – moving into a new space. There is some time required to settle everything familiar into the new location, get comfortable with the layout, locate the new electrical switches – especially because the new units and the laptop came already pre-loaded with Windows 10 … as well as some kind of leftover function that made me sign-in repeatedly, if I walked away from the computer or didn’t move the mouse or strike a key in one minute. Took two days to sort that one out, which tends to tell on the writing time, let alone re-installing certain necessary programs, which I was foresighted enough to have on original discs. (What is with this thing about paying a monthly fee to have certain programs available – a rant for another occasion, I think.)

Anyway, now settled into the new work-space and picking up those writing projects set aside, and thinking about new ones. What to work on when I finish The Golden Road? I’ve been toying with the thought of a WWI novel, since there are characters in The Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails of an age to have been affected by it. I may still do something of the sort, but writing about how the 19th century world came to an end in bloody mass-slaughter of men and empires, not to mention a certain degree of confident optimism … at this present depressing time, I don’t need any additional depression. I’m toying more energetically with the idea of an adventure set in the American Revolution; how the original Becker paterfamilias came to America as a Hessian mercenary, and deserted at the end of the war to stay behind, marry a local girl named Katerina, and set up a prosperous farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. That would be more to my liking – picking up the circumstances briefly mentioned in Daughter of Texas, with a young Margaret Becker fondly recalling her grandfather; the wisest, kindliest and most humorous man of her acquaintance, who made certain that she and her brothers spoke proper German.

How careful he had been in speaking the old language, ensuring that she and Rudi said words in the proper way, so that Oma Katerina laughed and laughed, saying that the children sounded as if they had a broomstick up their backsides, so prim and careful with words and sounding like proper children of Hesse. Margaret had never thought that Opa had been sad about leaving his family, and his soldier comrades. The story of Opa and Oma had a rightness about it, the comfort of a familiar fairy-tale for children; of course young Opa Heinrich should stay in America and marry the young Oma Katerina. That was the happy ending which all fairy tales had.

That will be an interesting book to write, although I shall have to stretch my research library in a whole ‘nother direction; I do have some materiel about late 18th century America and life in the colonies – but more will be required.
And I will have to find the time to get out the sewing machine and start to work on my author-garb for the upcoming year – the Edwardian-style walking suit and a towering period hat to wear with it.

It seems that there is a great social and literary kerfuffle going on in some circles about J. K. Rowling writing about the sub-rosa magical world of Harry Potter, and extending it into North America … and collecting a ration of butt-hurt thereby, over an interesting concept called cultural appropriation. She earned this through including Native American – as in Indian-with-a-feather rather than Indian-with-a-dot – legends and aspects of culture in her writing and world-building. In using the feather/dot descriptive extension, the Gentle Reader may gather straightaway that I care not for jealous cultural-claim holding, so if a wide-ranging and imaginative use of literary sources outside the one that a writer was born into offends thee, then retire to your fainting couch and trouble this noble company no longer!

Or attend to my gentlewomanly words … sorry, I seem to be channeling the idiom of the great English genius, William Shakespeare, who was and still often is accused of not possibly being the person that he seemed to be – a hard-working lower-to-medium-middle-class actor, playwright and greedy cultural-appropriator of every thing going and available to him in the 15th century – and also imagining the character and conversations of nobility and royals, of soldiers, lawyers, cutpurses and bawds, of innocent virgins and the not-so-terribly-bright lovers who loved them …

So – clearing my throat and waving off the last vestiges of the various cinematic Shakespeare romps that we have watched over the last several evenings – really? Certain tropes are now off-limits? Because … ohhh – those doing the writing and appropriating are not of quite the same matching color and culture of those doing the appropriating. Really?

Sorry, my own dear segregationist cultural warriors … won’t wash. First – if it is out there, it will be used by story-tellers. Full-stop. Oh, it is still frowned upon to outright plagiarize – but there is nothing new under the story-telling sun. To take an element, a character-type, a plot device, a trope – as it were, and run away romping with it in one’s own style … well, that’s pop-culture all over. I did a college course in Greek and Roman lit, back in the day – where the professor confessed that in all of Roman comedy there were only about three plots and half a dozen stock characters, which made it sound like late 20th century TV situation comedies, or possibly even classic commedia del arte.

So appropriate away – just for the love of the audience, make it good. Take those little Lego blocks of characters, tropes, plots, legends … and build something new and amazing. At the very least, make it interesting.

(This is another short essay about the mostly mythical South Texas town of Luna City … which Blondie and I have created together. We have a website for Luna City — here, and the first book about it is upon Amazon, here. Official release date is November 12. This is my tenth book in ten years. Yay, me! And WHERE has the time gone?)

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 career in the Army in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. But he is the exception; mostly, Lunaites have served a single hitch, 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 of Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – including Joe Vaughn and Chris Mayall – having served in various capacities in more recent operations in the Middle East.
There is not much need in Luna City for very elaborate observances of Veteran’s 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 the eleventh day of the eleventh month 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 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 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 which sometimes serves as an overflow parking lot during Founder’s Day, six weeks before.
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 Veteran’s 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 Veteran’s Day in Luna City.

My two books for the year are done – both the historical adventure, and the contemporary romp. (Two in the space of a year? Haven’t come close to that since the Adelsverein Trilogy, which was three separate books – but one single narrative – done in the space of two years, research, writing and all.) Now comes the hard graft of putting the two out in front of the reading public, via the usual internet publicity methods, and in doing Christmas market events in various small towns, and somewhat larger towns in the neighborhood of San Antonio.

Yes – writing the book is just half the job. The other half is the marketing thereof – which starts next weekend with a craft fair at the Community Activity Center in Bulverde, Texas, followed on the next weekend with the Christmas market – Weihnachtsmarkt – in New Braunfels. Weihnachtsmarkt is staged in the New Braunfels Civic Center every year as a benefit for the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. A good few years ago, they began setting up for local authors in the long hallway which leads from front to back of the Conference Center. And it’s indoors, and the tables are supplied … although, my daughter has been saying lately that if I write any more books, I will have to start getting two tables … or even buy a floor stand to display the books, and flyers and postcards about my books on. With Sunset and Steel Rails and The Chronicles of Luna City, and that doesn’t even count the German edition of Adelsverein: The Gathering, the hard-bound all-in-one volume of the Trilogy, or that first harmless little family memoir, assembled from early blog-posts and published through Booklocker in …(hastily checking copyright page of Our Grandpa Was an Alien) … 2004? Wow! Time does fly when you are having fun.

Ten books in ten years. That’s the same rate achieved by some of the professionals, although there were scribblers of pulp fiction who managed even more than that. Still, at this point in the game, every one of my books – even the YA adventure collection of Lone Star Sons, and the comic narrative set in contemporary small-town Texas – is an advertisement for all the others, historical fiction-romance-western, call them what you well.

And with that – off to work up promotional flyers for the market events. The work, as it says on those comic office signs, isn’t over until the paperwork is done …

I know that I have not been posting much lately – here or anywhere else lately; just the bare minimum of commenting on other people’s posts and other people’s blogs and websites, but I had a couple of projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness to work on, and then the two major projects to finish, format and upload to various platforms. Yes, I decided to go all-out and finish two books in time for the Christmas marketing season this year. Amazingly, neither one was the one that I had declared at the beginning of the year that I would have all done and ready to launch by this time  … yes, the adventures of young Fredi Steinmetz in Gold Rush-era California is rolled back another year. Sigh. I still have to do an epic-truck-load of reading of contemporary accounts and skull out a plot sufficient and historically-accurate to fill the last half of the book; which so far in my head will include a stint in San Francisco the year of the epically well-organized Vigilante organization, encounters with various historic personages, to include William T. Sherman, Lotta Crabtree and her formidable mother, some murderous claim-jumpers and a young woman seeking justice – while disguised as a boy. So, yes I will get on to that presently. After all The Quivera Trail was held at a third completed while I worked on Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, and it didn’t seem to do any harm in the long-run.

So – the Harvey Girl adventure, Sunset and Steel Rails is done and ready for release on the 19th, in print and in Kindle. Amazon is dragging their feet apparently, in expediting the ‘Look-Inside’ feature. It isn’t up at present, but it should be in the next couple of days. Not bad, for something that I only got inspired to start in February of this year.  But The Chronicles of Luna City is a light and amusing present-day trifle which my daughter and I only got started on at the end of July – and here it is November, and that book is done and nearly finalized as well.  Three months, and just 70,000 words (but with pictures!) which is short for me, as most of the other books run 125,000 and up. (Although Lone Star Sons pegged in at 65,000.) There was one of the professional pulp adventure fiction writers – whose name escapes me at the moment – who was said to have done a book a month at one point in his career. Don’t know what the total word count was on any of them, but he must have worked in a white-hot blaze of energy … and Luna City is a light and diverting trifle, requiring very little research. Well, except for looking up restaurant equipment, and the names of obscure British TV series of the 1980s, and making certain that there aren’t any real companies with the same names of companies that I have mentioned in Luna City. Movie production companies really go for the obscure, I have to say. Had to nix six or seven possible names because there is a real production company out in the world with the name of something I thought would work for a movie production company. Luna City is pure contemporary escapism, utterly devoid of any redeeming social value in the eyes of the established guardians of our high literary culture … which I believe a lot of us have a need of these days, given how particularly screwed up, violent, and depressing real life seems to be, lately. (Oh, Established Guardians of our High Literary Culture? Yoo-hoo … over here! Now, gaze lovingly upon my upraised middle finger!)

So, light blogging will commence, now that all the hard labor of writing, editing, formatting and polishing have been done. Did you miss me?

So, leafing – metaphorically speaking – through the video delights on offer through the Acorn video catalogue in search of something amusing to while away the evening after a day’s labor on various book projects, the most pressing of which is not my own, but a paid client – we came upon a two-part version from about ten years ago of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. I suggested that we watch it, since I had a bout of Waugh fever about the time that I was in college upper division, in hot pursuit of that relatively useless degree in English. (But I enjoyed the pursuit very much on its own merits, not being one of those one-percenters with delusions of the diploma leading me author-matically into an lavishly paid gig anywhere in the academic or in the publishing establishment.)

Anyway, I had read a good few of Waugh’s books early on; liked Scoop – as vicious an evisceration of Big Media as it was in the 1930s as was ever set to page – and the first book of the Sword of Honor Trilogy, as a similarly bitterly cynical romp through the first years of WWII. The training year, the ‘Phony War’ year … when nothing much (aside from Nazi Germany overrunning Poland, the Low Countries, Norway and Denmark, and France) was happening. And then it all turned deadly serious, with which Waugh just didn’t seem able to cope. The seriousness of it all, I mean. Literary and serious observers, looking through their lorgnettes at current events sometimes have this difficulty, I know. Poor P. G. Woodhouse also had the same trouble, regarding WWII, even as it caught him up in its ghastly coils. I surmise that dear old P. G. dealt with it by moving to America and never dealing with it at all, within the frame of his books; probably a wise literary decision, since he had the formula down pat, so to speak.

We watched the whole two-part distillation of the Trilogy – enjoying the scenic views of Daniel Craig no end – but the miniseries kind of left us cold. I suspect that re-reading the Trilogy entire would also leave us rather cold. Apparently in the purview of the Great and Good English Literature Establishment, The Trilogy is held to be one of the Majorly Significant Novels dealing with WWII … to which I blow a large raspberry. (That all you got, English Literary Establishment? Really…) Yes, Evelyn Waugh was a magnificent prose stylist, and his satiric novels in the 1930s are bitchy and hilarious, Return to Brideshead is elegiac and heartbreaking … but the Sword of Honor Trilogy is a very odd fish. The first volume was true to the bitchy and satiric form; frankly, I found it very funny because … well, it was to do with the weirdness of the military. Of any age and country, really; a sort of inside black humor, best appreciated by those who have lived through and endured. (G. M. Fraser’s McAuslan cycle is a wonderful example of this, only not burdened by the weight of being A Majorly Significant Novel, so it can be appreciated for its own merits. What a lovely miniseries the McAuslan cycle would make – I can’t imagine why it has been overlooked in this respect… anyway, back to the subject…)

The rest of the TV version – and take into consideration the fact that I am trying to recall the source novels that I read a lifetime ago – rather fell flat for both of us. We agreed that Waugh couldn’t really write women – although he did have the manipulative bitch subset of the species down cold. It was just rather depressing that just about all the various characters which the hero character tried to help in some way came to rather awful ends. Perhaps that was the inclination of the screenwriters; but really – the message is that it’s useless and futile to be a decent person and do the right thing? How nihilistic is that?

I wonder also if trying to write a novel about current events isn’t rather a trap for the writer; in retrospect it certainly seemed so for Waugh; the Holocaust together with the Communist aggression in Eastern Europe were just too horrific for a satirist to manage within the scope of a serio-comic novel.

With some apologies because this is not a matter which particularly touches me, or the books that I write, I am moved to write about this imbroglio one more time, because it seems that it didn’t end with the official Hugo awards slate of nominees being finalized – with many good and well-written published works by a diverse range of authors being put forward. The Hugo nominations appear for quite a good few years to have been dominated by one particular publisher, Tor. And it seems that the higher levels of management at Tor did not take a diminishment of their power over the Hugo nominees at all gracefully. (This post at my book blog explains the ruckus with links, for those who may be in the dark.)

A Ms. Irene Gallo, who apparently billed as a creative director at Tor, replied thusly on her Facebook page, when asked about what the Sad Puppies were: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

Oh, yes – outraged science fiction fans had had fun with this resulting thread.
And who can blame them? Four sentences which manage to be packed full of misrepresentation and a couple of outright lies; the voicing of similar calumnies had to be walked back by no less than
Entertainment Weekly when the whole Sad Puppies thing first reached a frothing boil earlier this year. Now we see a manager of some note at Tor rubbishing a couple of their own authors, and a good stretch of the reading public and a number of book bloggers … which I confidently predict will not turn out well. I have not exhaustively researched the whole matter, but tracked it through According to Hoyt and the Mad Genius Club, where there are occasional comments about anti-Sad/Rabid Puppy vitriol flung about in various fora. I would have opined that Ms. Gallo’s pronouncement probably isn’t worst of them, but it seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, coming as it does from an employee very high up in Tor management. People of a mild-to-seriously conservative or libertarian bent, are just sick and tired of being venomously painted as – in Ms. Gallo’s words – “right-wing to neo-nazi” and as “unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic,” when they are anything but that.

Discuss.

(Cross-posted at my book blog, and at chicagoboyz.net)

This is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks – tending to home, and to the business, and wrapping up two of the three current book projects. The two authors involved are thrilled to bits with the work done for their books, and both of them – marvelously – have each a follow-on project which will come to me by the end of the month. Hopefully, the third follow-on project will be completed by then. The visual elements for that book are … well, the author is one of those who has to see the completed project before deciding if it is satisfactory, or not. Anyway, the business is paying nicely, and so I can afford some more home renovations and repairs.

Last month’s home renovation project was a complete revamp of the kitchen pantry – basically, a small closet, 25 inches wide, and about 27 deep. The original builders put in five or six wooden shelves, which ran the full width and depth of the closet … and basically made anything shoved to the back of the shelves unfindable and irretrievable. Unless you emptied everything out. Last month we hit Peak Exasperation with the whole thing – that is, the point where the hassle of doing anything constructive about about the problem is less than the hassle of continuing to put up with it. So – emptied everything into cardboard boxes, knocked out the shelves, repaired the various small dings in the drywall, repainted to cover the patches … and applied about $140 worth of wire shelving from Lowe’s, an assortment of square bulk storage containers from the Container Store, and mirabile dictu, now we can find everything easily.

This month, the project was – where to store Blondie’s inherited vintage Chambers stove, and all of the gear we need to do the various markets, especially around Christmas; the tables, the pop-up, the dolly, the chairs and all. The garage is packed pretty full with Blondie’s household goods already, and so … it came to us – a shed. A nice, tidy little shed in the back left corner of the yard; for the stove, and all the market gear, and various gardening tools, the home-brewing and canning things – which take up an incredible amount of space in a small house … any way, whatever we decided on would have to be fairly attractive, because the windows at the back of the house look out on that patch of garden. Function and beauty – as William Morris’ dictum has it, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

All the wooden sheds that I really, really liked the look of were way too expensive, even if we put them up ourselves – and I am just not interested in that kind of construction any more. The inexpensive ones – Rubbermaid makes them, and I seem them all over the place – do not age very well at all. We compromised on a metal version – temporary and portable – the salesman assured us, but built to order. It was a bit more than I had thought to spend at first – but we wanted one that had the appearance of a small porch with an overhang at the front, although the porch is really more of a wide step. It has one little window, and a door, rather like a kindergarten drawing of a house … and two carpenters from the company came to install it yesterday. It had to be assembled on site, but the four walls were already pre-fabbed, so they only had to build out the foundation, slide it into the most advantageous position, put the four walls on it and nail them together, and then do the roof. It only took half a day – Blondie thought it would be more than a day, but they were quite terribly efficient.

So – the project for the holiday weekend is to fit out the inside with shelves, move everything intended to be inside it to them, paint the bare wood of the support posts and balusters to match the color of the trim (dark green) and to re-accomplish the landscaping around it so that the shed itself presents an attractive appearance. We’ve promised a couple of pictures to the company, of course. And that was my chief concern – Blondie’s is how to go about moving the Chambers stove from the back porch into the shed. I think we’ll appeal to some neighbors for help on this.

I don’t know if I can really claim to be a science fiction fan – I am not hard-core, at any rate. I have had my moments with particular authors in the genre, I’ve been to a couple of cons (Salt Lake City and Albuquerque – the con here in San Antonio costs too much at the door for my budget) – I have all of Blake’s 7 on VHS tape (taped from broadcast on Salt Lake City’s public TV station in the early 1990s), most of Babylon 5, and I have purchased every on of Lois McMaster Bujould’s Vorkosigan novels when and if they present themselves in paperback. Oh, and I really enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but they’re not really science fiction – more fantasy with a wry twist. I watched Star Trek when it was originally broadcast – but who of the age that I am now didn’t, unless their parents were Luddites who wouldn’t have a TV in the house?

And Dad worked as a scientific sub-contractor for NASA, now and again. Something to do with circadian rhythms and space travel might possibly affect them, either positively or negatively, so –yes, science!

I guess I can say that I’m a kind of casual sympathizer; it’s not my own genre as a writer, but I dip into it now and again, and I have a writer friend or two of the online-variety who are a great deal more serious about science fiction. Because of this mild interest, I have been casually aware of the great SFWA bru-hah-hah of recent months, mentally crossing myself and thanking the deity that at least those who scribble historical fiction seem to be much less prone to epic fits of politically correctness and inclined to go off on witch hunts directed against those who offend. Or maybe they do – and I just don’t know; the only professional writer’s association that I belong to is the Texas Association of Authors – and they seem to be more about … well, promoting books, authors and local events. Whatever the current active leadership of the SFWA are epically pearl-clutching about, the TAA doesn’t seem to give a damn. But it’s a state organization, in a state which seems lately to be more focused on economic and societal realities, not every politically-correct momentary interest that appears, dancing across the intellectual horizon.

Anyway – (Yes, I do have a point and I am getting to it) following on the latest round of Savonarola-like fiery cleansing of those determined to be unclean from the holy halls of SWFA membership, there is a new and rather painful issue arising. Of course, I can appreciate the double or perhaps triple-strength irony of an organization which raised the holy banner of anti-sexual harassment and feminine empowerment on high, and whose members went on what amounted to a kind of Stalinist internet show-trial against those held to offend the most mightily … now discovering that Marion Zimmer Bradley – one of the most respected and feminist science fiction authors in their pantheon was complicit in child sexual abuse – by her husband at best interpretation, and herself at worst.

And that it was one of those weird open secrets among insiders and common knowledge among the inner circle – apparently – but just now breaking into the wider world of fans and readers. The freak-out is epic, and to me, rather personal. I very much enjoyed the Darkover novels, when I first discovered them in the early 80s, after coming off a tour in Greenland; cold, dark and very, very isolated – yes, I could relate to that. I even scribbled some fan-fic and submitted it for one of her anthologies. (Without any luck, I might add – she had stopped accepting fan-fic by the time I got around to it.) There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here, you would understand; a writer whose books I rather enjoyed and who had a good reputation for mentoring younger writers is revealed as having conducted herself in a manner quite the antithesis of the public persona. I am pretty certain that if I went back and re-read those books of hers which are still on my shelf that I would not enjoy them now nearly as much. Mind you, I don’t demand that writers whose books I enjoy have a perfectly blameless personal life and innocuous political opinions – but I do draw the line at child abuse.

Finally, there is the element of hypocrisy involved, one which I watch with a certain amount of glee – schadenfreude, even. The Social Justice Warrior element within SWFA, who went all Savonarola on Larry Correia, Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, and Sarah Hoyt, among others, for politically incorrect thought-crimes, ought to be just as righteously steamed about reverencing and/or enabling a pedophile and sexual abuser of their own child. Correct? No? Well, then – please explain why it’s bad when someone who disagrees with you on certain social or political fundamentals, but perfectly okey-dokey or at least excusable when someone whom you do agree with commits serious crimes. Ah, yes – another spectacular SWFA melt-down, resulting from the violent collision between reverencing a past honored member of the in-group, and application of their own rule-book.

I still haven’t made up my mind, though – if I ought to get rid of the Bradley books entirely. Maybe I should just put them in a box in the garage until I do make up my mind.

I honestly do not know if all of last weeks’ horrific headlines and those of the week before are a cunning plot to serially distract the body politic and public by dropping everything on us all at once, without a chance to analyze or begin fighting back, or if it indicates that the wheels are coming off the Obama administration once and for all. Either way … there is a lot to write about, just at the time that I don’t have the time or inclination to muse upon it all at leisure in a way which would give my venom full justice; all in good time, my one or two regular remaining readers. Among other things, I am fighting a god-awful summer cold and cough, a return of the chronic cough I had last year, which took about eight months to throw and on several occasions had me coughing so hard that I threw up. And another thing of a personal nature; Alice, whom I bought the Tiny Publishing Bidness from early this spring, passed away early in June. She was tended by her family and Blondie, and a series of very professional and compassionate home-hospice-care nurses for the last three weeks before that. She had been given six months last October when she was proscribed aggressive chemotherapy … but she detested chemo and refused it after two rounds, and lasted for three months longer than forecast at the time. She actually did pretty well, with Blondie doing her housekeeping and errands … until the last three weeks.

Just as all this was happening, of course I had two books projects to juggle, and Alice’s last book for an old friend of hers, a local poet who brings out a small chapbook of his writings every year or so. She kept his most recent book back from the sale, intending to work on it herself, but her memory and her health was failing catastropically, and so I inherited it as well. So – three books to juggle at a time; isn’t commerce grand? And I still have two books of my own to work on (The Golden Road and Lone Star Sons), plus reviews, four websites (three of them being my own) and little chores like the garden, housekeeping, walking the dogs and cooking regular meals.

By the way – we found another dog this week; a small boxer-colored female, who may be part lab, possibly boxer with a bit of small pit and Wiemeraner, as she has rather lovely golden-green eyes. She looks, if anything, like a quarter-sized version of Calla-puppy, my daughter’s Boxer mix. We are resisting the allure of keeping her, but caved on turning her into the county shelter. She is very people-oriented and very, very affectionate. Onward with the chore of finding her a permanent home and not with us; anyone in the South Texas area want a new dog; 25 pounds, about half-grown that we can tell, just having cut her permanent teeth, still catching on to that house-breaking and obedience thing, but tolerant and affectionate, and OK with other dogs and cats. Let me know in comments – we can provide pictures and delivery within reason.

I did a book event in Sisterdale, the first weekend in June – and it was born upon us that we need a shed in the backyard, first for the garden tools and supplies, and second for the various items that we have acquired for doing events … like the pop-up pavilion. You may say, as Mom did, ‘But you have a garage!?’ Alas, it is full of Blondie’s furniture and various other gleanings from yard sales, against the day when she has an establishment of her own, or I have my Hill Country retreat/country cottage. We can not fit another blessed thing into the garage, or find it if we did … so. Shed; for the storage of items of professional gear in – the pavilion, the tables, the weights, the display racks, et cetera; likely we will go with a local small enterprise which does bespoke tin sheds for a price competitive with the big box places. The backyard being so small, the shed must and will be attractive, since we will be seeing it from the back porch and two of the three windows at the back of the house.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these last two weeks, but I promise that regular vicious commentary will resume as soon as the bile reservoir has replenished itself.