Yes, from the next Luna City Chronicle – an excerpt introducing Araceli and Berto’s cousin Romeo, who works in the oilfields and … well, things happen when he is around. Things involving broken hearts and occasionally smoking rubble…

Romeo

When Richard woke the next morning – having slept the sleep of the righteous in Superman sheets – he was alone in the Gonzales children’s bedroom, where mid-morning summer sunlight leaked around the edges of the roller blind that covered the single window. The bed opposite, neatly made with Disney princess sheets, was empty and Kate Heisel was gone; Richard was unsure if he was regretful over that, or not. In telling him bluntly that he was very much a celebrity back number and that no one in his old life seemed inclined to seek him out for any purpose; that was a comfort in one way, but a definite kick in the crotch to his ego in another.
His clothing from the night before was neatly folded and stacked at the foot of the bed where Kate had slept, his shoes next to them. Really, Araceli thought of everything. Richard dressed – his native good manners belatedly kicking into overdrive – and took his borrowed pajamas with him.
The smell of bacon frying greeted him out in the small kitchen, where a sleepy-eyed Patrick was scrambling eggs at the stove.
“Hi, Rich,” Patrick yawned. “’Celi said you were sleeping like a rock – and not to bother you until you woke up. She’s gone to work, the kids are at school – me, I’ll hit the sack myself in another twenty minutes.”
“What time is it?” Richard asked. “Thanks for the loan of the PJs. I was … not in good shape last night, but I am much better, now – thanks to yours’ and Araceli’s hospitality.”
“Half past nine,” Patrick answered. “Glad to hear it … ‘Celi said it was quite a ruckus last night. I’m sorry to have missed the excitement. But on the other hand – I might not have been near as polite as Joe was. Just put those in the laundry basket in the bathroom, and siddown for a bit of breakfast. You want some hot sauce on your eggs?”
“No, I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to my morning eggs,” Richard replied, repressing a small shudder,
“You’re missing a thrill,” Patrick shrugged. “Everything goes better with a bit of siracha sauce.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Richard replied. They ate breakfast in companionable silence, Patrick stifling the occasional yawn. Richard, still feeling a little at odds through not having another day at work, decided that he would ride the bicycle home to the Airstream and spend a leisurely afternoon reading Larousse. The weather being temperate – cool autumn being welcomed after the searing blast of summer – he might even sit outside.

His bicycle was where he had left it the afternoon before, leaning against the stairs leading to the screened back porch. As he left by the front, where a low chain-link fence enclosed the front garden, he did note a single lonely news microphone covered with an enormous furry windscreen muff lying abandoned by the gate. It looked at first glance like a very large, very road-killed raccoon. A Basset hound with lugubriously drooping ears waddled over from across the road, cocked a leg and peed luxuriously on it, and looked at Richard as if seeking approval.
“Good boy!” Richard said. Gunnison Penn and his friends must have retrieved the rest of their jettisoned video gear under cover of darkness. He wheeled out his bicycle and set off, feeling as if he were on a bit of a holiday.
Coming up to the dirt road turn-off for the Age of Aquarius, he heard a truck behind him – slowing to make the turn. He took the prudent step of pulling entirely off the road and letting the truck pass him; a slightly battered but otherwise well-kept extended cab pick-up truck of the sort that half the working men around Luna City drove. There was a weathered twenty-foot Fifth-Wheel travel trailer hitched to the back of the truck – one of the plain bare-bones models without any of the bump-outs that increased the living space when parked. Trailer and truck alike were layered in dust, and alike bore North Dakota license plates. Richard let the dust settle, before he followed after; it looked like Romeo Gonzales had not followed the advice of his friends to just keep going.
Well, thought Richard – a social gain for him, in having company at the Age of Aquarius, besides the over-friendly goats and the annoying Canadian treasure hunter, Gunnison Penn. By the time he got to the campground field proper, the driver of the truck had deftly backed the Fifth-wheel into a parking place at the other end of the field from the Airstream. Well – since the place was all but empty for much of the year, they might as well give each other space. As far as Richard was concerned, Gunnison Penn could give them all the space of the entire county.
“I wonder how much longer he’ll be staying anyway,” Richard wondered aloud. He really hoped that Romeo would be a more congenial neighbor, in spite of Sefton Grant’s worrisome aside about Romeo’s propensity for attracting strange energies, and Araceli’s tale of how he was a particularly disaster-prone Jonah in the oil fields. So, good that his Fifth-wheel and pick-up were parked the length of the campground away. Richard propped his bicycle against one of the posts that held a metal awning over the Airstream and opened the door; he had adjusted so much to the ambiance of Luna City that he never locked door any more, either. He felt again the contentment of coming home, a feeling unknown to him since his school-days. When Romeo the walking disaster-area was done with settling his trailer in, he might walk over and introduce himself.
Some fifteen minutes later, a small yellow Jeep Wrangler appeared in the rutted and unpaved lane leading to the campground. Richard closed Larousse Gastronomique; Jess Abernathy; thirtyish CPA and championship barrel-racer, daughter of Martin the acting mayor, an Abernathy of the hardware store Abernathys, who as things went in Luna City were nearly one of the establishing old families. The Jeep bumped across the lumpy field and parked next to the Airstream, and Jess emerged from the driver’s seat.
“Hi, Rich,” she said, with an expression of relief. “Doc said that I should check on you today, although Araceli says you seemed to be OK this morning.”
“I’m fine,” Rich answered. “You needn’t have gone to the trouble.”
“No trouble,” Jess grinned, mischievously. “And I was coming out here anyway. When Doc heard about last night, he was pretty pissed-off. He considers you one of his personal projects, which is terribly patriarchal of him, but hey – consider him a product of his age and upbringing. He had his personal lawyer get ahold of the district judge and write up an injunction. Mr. Gunnison Penn is hereby instructed on pain of arrest to not approach within thirty feet of your person, your place of residence, the Café, or any private or public place where you happen to be.” Jess flashed a large manila envelope. “And the same with regard to Araceli and Patrick and their kids. I was charged with delivering copies of the injunction to Mr. Penn, since Doc was too angry to wait on the availability of a bailiff. Not an errand, but simply one of life’s little pleasures.”
“Ah – it seems this Monday morning has much to recommend it,” Richard was feeling better and better. “And your friend Romeo has arrived safely – is that him?”
“It certainly is,” Jess shaded her eyes. The distant driver of the truck with North Dakota plates was now busying himself with setting the braces to balance the trailer, and unhitch it from the truck bed. She looked amused and exasperated. “But we really aren’t friends, as it were. He was … oh, three years ahead of me in high school and our social circles didn’t intersect. He was a total jock … Around here, there is a sort of social pecking order, based on your sport. Did you play sports at your school, Rich?”
“Nothing brutal like rugger – I was on the rowing team, and on the school sailboat.”
“La de-dah,” Jess snickered. “Then you wouldn’t have rated at all, when it came to date-bait. Neither did I, back then.”
“I presume that you were a total swot … what you Yanks call a bookworm?”
“Glasses and braces both,” Jess nodded. “Romeo was always perfectly charming … but just a sort of male butterfly, flitting from flower to blooming flower. He usually didn’t bother much with the barely-open buds.”
“I was going to wait a while before I introduced myself,” Richard ventured. At that moment, Sefton Grant appeared from the direction of the Grant’s untidy yurt-based home site farther up the hill. He was carrying something over his shoulder – several very long slender poles, some of them tipped with … Richard blinked. Some kind of green glass insulating knobs, of the old-fashioned sort that used to be used to insulate electrical wires, and a heavy sledge-hammer in the other. “What on earth …”
“We may as well go say howdy,” Jess said, firmly. “And see what fresh lunacy Sefton and Judy are going to inflict on their guests. Mostly it’s the fairly harmless kind, although the LCVFD safety officer did have to warn them sternly about that sweat-lodge they built at mid-summer…”
As they passed Gunnison Penn’s RV with the fading Treasure Hunter International logo painted across the side, Sefton Grant had paced off the corners of the space surrounding Romeo Gonzales’ Fifth-wheel. He was setting a pole in each corner, plunging the end deep into the ground – which had been mercifully soften by a series of recent rains – and then pounding it further in with blows from the sledge-hammer. Each blow clanged like a bell; once well-seated in the earth, the second, glass-tipped pole was set into it.
Jess muttered something under breath about New Age crapola, and demanded, “Sefton, what on earth is this?” as soon as they came close enough to speak without shouting. Sefton Grant, who looked like a younger, fitter and less-run-to-seed version of Willie Nelson, hefted the sledge-hammer, and picked up the last set of poles.
“Judy’s idea,” he explained, somewhat abashed. “Something to bleed off the excess psychic energies before they build up. I’d explained it already to Romeo … hey, Romeo, you remember Jess Abernathy, don’t you? And this is Richard – he runs the Café now, lives out in the old Airstream. He’s from England.”
Romeo, thus addressed, wiped grime off his hands with a somewhat less dirty bandanna, tilted his straw cowboy hat further back on his head, and stuck out his right hand.
“Howdy, folks,” he drawled. Richard was momentarily nonplussed. He had never, in his life, either before arriving in Texas or after, observed anyone tilting their hat and saying ‘howdy, folks.’ “Jess! Good to see you, girl! You don’t say – England, huh? Man, I feel like I’ve driven from there, these last few days, instead of all the way from Missoula, Montana. Good to meet you!” he pumped Richard’s hand with the strength which can only come from a man who has spent the last fifteen years wrangling heavy tools and machinery. “I guess we’re neighbors, then!” Romeo added, with a cheerful and wholly openhearted grin.
“I guess that we are,” Richard said, after searching his mind for something to say.
“I’ve heard about you,” he added. Which he had; but one of those things he had not heard was that Romeo Gonzales was so very blindingly the winner in the lottery of good looks in a clan whose appearance clustered around a norm of ‘average’ to ‘pleasant’ with an occasional outlier of younger Gonzalez/Gonzaleses in the direction of ‘cute.’ Physically, he was tall, lean-hipped wedge of a man, with chiseled facial features, and pale blue eyes which contrasted to devastating effect with black hair and a tan not acquired in a salon through artificial means.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of you, too – you’re that chef guy, ‘Celi’s boss,” Romeo exclaimed. “Say – when I get settled, we ought to go out honky-tonking together! It’ll be a blast…”
“That’s what we’re all afraid of,” Richard thought he heard Sefton say, in a discrete murmur, and to cover it, he replied, “Well … I have the Café, and they expect me to be there very early most mornings, so my evening social life is … for the moment, pretty constrained.”
“No problem,” Romeo favored him with another one of those blinding grins. “I’m gonna work driving the wrecker for Uncle Jesus at the garage, so I’ve gotta be careful myself about staying out of trouble, I reckon.”

(To be continued of course. Luna City 3.0 will be out this fall, in time for Christmas, hopefully!)

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

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

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

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

Yes – the Edwardian walking suit and the spectacular feather, lace, net and flower-trimmed hat did everything that I had hoped for at the Wimberley event; attract attention, in a room full of forty or so other authors. It did not attract much in the way of immediate sales (although there has been a good follow-on, as we passed out flyers, postcards and bookmarks throughout the day). But as my author friend with the books set in 19th century China who had a full rig of formal Mandarin robes with all the trimmings advised – you gotta do what you gotta do. The formal Mandarin robes worked for him in a crowded field, the Edwardian suit and flamboyant hat worked for me, and were actually not as uncomfortable as other people seemed to think. (And some of them were incredibly awed that I had actually sewed them myself; hey, I am not just a pretty face!)

What with a full schedule of author events this summer and fall – I mean, there is at least one a month, and by the time we get into the Christmas shopping season there’ll likely be something every weekend, and a couple of them may go for more than one day – I have a thought to adding to my collection of outfits. I may as well do so on the cheap right now, since the fabrics at the going-out-of-business sales at Hancock Fabrics are hitting the 60% off threshold, and there is still a goodly selection available at the nearest store to us. (It’s the last remaining open in San Antonio, apparently – so they have stock from the other local stores and their warehouse.)

The Next Project

Picture this in dark violet with gold lace trim … and me wearing it, of course.

One fall events – the Giddings World Wrangler features an evening reception – and what better option than a period evening gown? Edwardian again, since that period was relatively uncomplicated, in comparison to – say, the full Gone With The Wind massive hoopskirt, or the massive Gilded Age bustle and trailing train. Butterick Patterns has a perfectly lovely pattern for a relatively plain evening gown, Downton Abbey style. I recalled that I had bought some lovely amethyst earrings and a matching brooch/pendant with a stone in it the size of a pigeon’s egg when I was in Korea. Something in a color that would set that off, would be grand, although I think that a tiara would be over the top. Something in lavender or purple, or perhaps brown … although my daughter warned that I would likely look like a fat ripe grape in the first, and not to consider brown… Anyway, we found some heavy dark lavender satin at about $4 a yard, and I had the idea to look for the thick lace trim in gold and found it on Amazon – naturally. So – the next seamstressing project. I aim eventually to have about four different outfits, relating to my books and the period they are set in; perhaps Sophia Brewer Teague’s Harvey Girl black dress and white apron, and Isobel Becker’s tailored riding habit. There are patterns out there which are within my skill set to make, and with the prices for fabric plunging throughout the next month at the Hancock Fabric outlet, there is no better time. Someone in a comment thread over the weekend also recommended this particular fashion blogger for costuming on a budget through creative use of a thrift store and craft store finds.

And I promise – I will come up with pictures of me wearing the outfits. Soon. Promise.

Alas, I only sold a single book, and my daughter swapped a copy of The Chronicles of Luna City for another author’s book – a veteran with an account of a more than comically interesting deployment to Afghanistan. But I had a fair number of talks with other authors looking to work with Watercress Press in facilitating their next book, or a re-issue of a previous book. An ongoing complaint from them was the high cost of getting print copies, the speed of their delivery upon being ordered, the difficulty of working with someone on the other end of an 800 telephone line, or maybe even an erratic email address for a contact who might be anywhere at all, and the recalcitrance of those contacts to address problems … so, I do not think that I will adding to the stable of Watercress Press authors – but I am thinking that there is definitely a future in providing editing or formatting services, cover design, and in walking them through setting up as a teeny independent publisher with an account at LSI, (Lightening Services, International), and assisting them in managing their own account and their own books.

Frankly, LSI offers a perfectly dazzling array of options, once one has threaded the maze, which is what most writers – who only want to write! get rather daunted by. Just as there are very few writers now wanting the expensive full-service and high-quality local printing and binding which Alice so favored, and that we are on the high-end of pricing as far as POD publishing, this will offer an even more affordable option for them – and will keep the post-publication administrative load off me. Most Watercress authors do direct sales; I’m about the only one with regular payments from on-line sales of my print books through LSI/Ingram – and that because I have twelve books out there. The largest portion of my sales are through the ebook versions anyway.

We reacquainted ourselves with a handful of other writers that we met at previous events – Miss T, JC Hulsey, CM Bratton, who is organizing the San Antonio Indy Bookfest next month – but the one big success was my Edwardian walking suit with the absolutely flamboyant hat. Yes, that was eye-catching and memorable; the author at the next table to us said admiringly that I looked like Kathy Bates, playing Unsinkable Molly Brown in the movie Titanic. It was not that uncomfortable to wear, either, although getting into and out of the Montero in a narrow long skirt was a bit of a challenge. The very lightweight polyester suiting was not that hot – and the hat was skewered through my hair done up in a bun on the top of my head with one of those foot-long, needle-sharp old-fashioned hairpins. A genteel lady’s weapon of choice, so I hear tell, although I understand that a tiny, two-shot pearl-handled derringer was not entirely out of the question. I regret that my daughter didn’t take any pictures of me, although others at the event did. I really want to have some professional snaps done, as I am not one of those who naturally looks amazing in front of any old camera lense.

I am definitely going to work up some more late 19th or early 20th century outfits to wear as part of my author wardrobe, though. Patterns are ordered already.

From the current work in progress (well, one of them anyway) — the adventures of Fredi Steinmetz in Gold-rush Era California. I have been making great advances on this picaresque adventure, The Golden Road,  which in the time-line of the Adelsverein Trilogy slots in neatly between Book One and Book Two. Magda’s scapegrace younger brother Fredi went to California in the mid-1850s, which was mentioned several times in the Trilogy, and in Sunset and Steel Rails, by which time he was late in middle age and the romantic interest for Sophia Brewer Teague. But this is the story of his younger days in California… it should be out by the end of this year.

Chapter 15 – The Express Mail

Not the final for-real cover, but a place-holder for now

Not the final for-real cover, but a place-holder for now

Wakened just before dawn by a distant rooster crowing in protest in the next street over from the saloon, Fredi crawled out from between his blankets. Pale light seeped through the gaps between the boards that made the lean-to shed appended to the back of the Craycraft Saloon. He pulled on his outer garments, noting with some surprise that Edwin and his bedroll were nowhere to be seen. From the foot of O’Malley’s bedroll, Nipper looked out from beneath O’Malley’s worn coachmen’s overcoat with bright eyes, but declined to rouse himself. The dog abominated cold, as well as damp – and Fredi sympathized wholeheartedly with Nipper, especially on this chill morning.
Still – Fredi did wonder what had happened with Edwin. O’Malley gave every indication of being deep in slumber, and Fredi was loath to wake him and demand an explanation. Was it to do with the quarrel between the two on the night before? And where was Edwin? O’Malley would be playing the piano in the saloon tonight – as well as for Lotta’s second performance. It was his understanding that the Faery Star would perform twice more at the Craycraft Saloon, so he would have the opportunity to see a performance at least one more time, after his journey with the mail and back.
The previous evening, he had importuned the Chinese cook – by gesture and very simple English – to put two potatoes to bake for him on the stove, when he banked the fires for the night; now the potatoes were done and hot. Fredi slipped them into the pockets of his coat, where they radiated warmth, somewhat enthusiastically. He helped himself to coffee, from the pot already sat at the back of the stove; the coffee was also hot, and there was molasses to sweeten it, but no milk. The Chinaman came in from the outside, with an armload of wood for the stove. Fredi nodded to him, from courtesy. He didn’t quite know what to make of the man, with his almond-shaped eyes, and long black queue snaking down his back; he didn’t speak much English – or German. China was called the Celestial Kingdom, and was along away across the Pacific Ocean, and if Fredi had known much beyond that, he had forgotten it long since.
O’Malley was still gently snoring in his bedroll; Fredi pulled on his coat, wrapping a heavy muffler around his neck and mouth, and tiptoed more or less silently out of the back door of the saloon, still wondering where Edwin was, and what the dispute between the two had been.
It was light outside now; a faint pearly light sifting through the overcast. Frost crunched under his feet – either a heavy frost from last night, or a light snow-fall. The river was not yet frozen, although a substantial layer of ice rimmed the banks, those rocks in mid-stream and those places where the water lay still. The water itself was black, cold-looking, and shriveled between its banks. Fredi walked along to the express office, down a muddy street which even at the crack of dawn was full of lively activities; a few stores were already open, and the gambling hells really never closed.
The express office was no exception, either; Mr. Layton, who managed the office was a stickler for opening early. In the early days in Downieville, it cost a dollar a letter. Profits were still good enough, however – and the mail service was even faster. In the early days, before California was annexed and gold discovered, Fredi had been told it took six months or a year, for a letter to travel from the east.
“Morning, Dutch,” Mitch Layton said, as Fredi came in. “Hope you dressed warm, today – it’s gonna be cold enough to freeze the tail off a brass monkey, and even worse tomorrow, if my bunions aren’t lying.”
“Two sets of flannel longjohns,” Fredi replied, cheerfully. “And hot potatoes in my pockets.”
“You’ll need ‘em today, Dutch. You gotta full pair of saddlebags, and likely the same waiting for you in Camptonville. Oh – and keep your eyes wide open. There’s been a couple of road agents reported laying for the stage, last couple of weeks.”
“Good thing I’m only carrying letters, then,” Fredi patted the reassuring weight of the long-barreled Colt dragoon revolver, hanging from the belt under his coat. “Nothing worth getting shot over.”
“You never know,” Mitch Layton answered. “There are some damn-stupid sons of whores out there.” He handed Fredi the packed pair of saddle-bags, bulging with mail, bound for Camptonville, San Francisco and the east. “Don’t take any risks with ‘em, if you do run into one. Especially with my horses.”
“Safe as if in a baby’s cradle,” Fredi replied jauntily, and slung the saddlebags over his shoulder. The horse was already bridled and saddled, tied to a hitching rail out in front, stamping impatiently and blowing out steamy breaths into the frigid air. Fredi flung the saddle-bags over, and mounted up, feeling as free as a bird soaring into the air. Mr. Layton’s express horses were a very fine collection of horseflesh, Fredi thought to himself once more; fine-blooded, high-spirited stock rather than the small and nimble mustang cowponies of no particular breed that he had been accustomed to riding back in Texas and with Gil Fabreaux’s outfit. Today’s mount was a tall brown gelding with a slightly darker mane and tail; Mitch Layton said that this horse was named Brownie. Even at a trot, Brownie had a comfortable gait, and his canter was a smooth as silk. There were some stretches when Fredi must rein him in, for Brownie loved to run when he was fresh – but it was a hard twenty miles and a little more to Camptonville, over a twisting, rutted road which had been established more by use and custom than any deliberate program of road-building.
No – Fredi was done with gold-seeking, not if it meant standing knee-deep in ice-cold river water for most of a day, or grubbing a dark tunnel into a hillside, like a mole. It was only after giving up that notion of a fortune in gold to be had for a small labor that Fredi could see to the heart of the matter. Did this insight mean that he was closer to being a man – an admirable man, like Carl, or O’Malley, or Gil? Riding for the express mail suited him better, although the work of it was no less arduous, and certainly no warmer.
“I’m just not cut out to be a miner, Brownie,” Fredi confessed to his mount, and Brownie’s ears twitched, as if he was listening and sympathetic, even if Fredi was speaking German to him – that language of his childhood, although he had spent so much time of late speaking English that now he thought he had begun dreaming in English, too. “I can’t stick staying in a single place. Maybe I will, some day. But this … always a fresh prospect over the horizon … something new and exciting. Vati used to say that you had to know yourself. Perhaps this is what he meant by that.”
The sun was just peeping over the eastern horizon as he left the flats behind; a thin golden thread illuminating the mountaintops, but the valley of the Yuba Forks was still masked in blue shadow. Walk, trot, canter – at a steady pace, intended to make all possible speed while conserving the strength of his mount.
Walk, trot, canter, matching pace to the condition of the road and the pitch of the slope in it; Brownie’s steady, obedient hoof beats ate up the miles, as the sun rose higher and higher at their backs, the mild midday warmth melting the frost on the trees, and at the edges of puddles.
“It’s one of those things, Brownie,” Fredi continued, in a confiding mode when they reached a slightly up-hill stretch of road. “Loyalty to a pard, like you and I. One for all, all for one. O’Malley and me – we’re partners, too. And Edwin, too – even if I wonder what he has gotten up to? O’Malley sounded angry last night … What we do, we ought to do it together – a man needs good friends out here, and no mistake. There’s men who wound up being shipped off on a ship to Shanghai, or dead in a ditch, if they didn’t have friends looking out for them. O’Malley, now – if there was a man who needs a keeper. And Edwin – he’s a babe in the woods, like that old story – for all that he says he isn’t. If it weren’t for them, I’d take my share of the gold from Pine Tree and go home to Texas. And that’s the truth of it.”
Brownie’s ears twitched again, as if he understood perfectly. Walk, trot, canter, yet again. Pause to water him from the river, pause again for Fredi to dismount and stretch the kinks out of his legs and back, and eat his near-to-cold potatoes. Let Brownie graze briefly on a patch of winter-killed grass, and feed him a handful of oats, before resuming the journey. He saw only a handful of other travelers, all that way, for winter was closing in.

He reached Camptonville – brawling, sprawling, wood smoke-shrouded Camptonville very late in the afternoon, Brownie, being a well-conditioned horse and accustomed to the regular long journey, still had sufficient energy to prance, as Fredi threaded through the outskirts to the express office, and the stables behind. John Harvey, the express agent at Camptonville, came out to take charge of the saddlebags. He was a very thin young man, a little older than Fredi, afflicted with a persistent racking cough that hinted at consumption. He had wrecked his health through laboring in the placer mines for three seasons.
“No problems?” he asked, as Fredi un-cinched his saddle girth. Brownie seemed to shiver with delight, and blew out his nostrils in a great sigh of relief.
“Not a whisper,” Fredi shook his head. “Mitch said he had heard about a road agent setting up along the road, but I expect that he must be laying for the stage. I didn’t see anyone the whole way who didn’t look like he had a good reason for being there.”
“It’s too cold a day for any but an honest man,” John replied, and coughed. “Well, when you get done with rubbing down Brownie, we’ll go over to the Nevada House for supper. My treat, Dutch.”
“Bring a full poke,” Fredi replied, “I’m hungry enough to eat a whole beeve.”
John Harvey laughed, shaking his head, and left Fredi to finish tending Brownie. The stable was unexpectedly warm; the bodies of the other four express horses and the milk cow stalled therein likely had a lot to do with it. Fredi filled the manger of the empty stall with dried hay, and a handful of oats, rubbed Brownie’s long nose with affection, and went into the express office. John Harvey lived there, in one of two little rooms behind the office; two lengths of dark red calico stretched from wall to wall and floor to ceiling formed the separating walls, Fredi would spend the night in the other, sleeping on a straw pallet, and head back to Downieville the next morning, with the mail dispatched from Yuba City which had arrived the day before. Fredi liked to think of that company of express riders, moving up and down the tracks between San Francisco and the remotest of the gold camps; the saddle-bags of letters, moving by relay riders on twisting mountain tracks, and by steamboats ploughing up and down the rivers. Perhaps he would be tired of this job soon enough, but at the moment – especially this moment, with his day-long journey over – he was supremely contented with it.

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Where we will be a week from today! I shall be easy to find – I’ll be the one in a grey Edwardian suit, accessorized with a period hat.

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

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

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

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

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

26. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic

And yes, there is freedom unimaginable in it – that bit of technology available since the last half of the century before last. A sewing machine, a pattern, a small degree of skill with them both, and personal fashion style is your oyster. One will never again be held hostage to the fashion trend of the moment, especially if said fashion trend is desperately unfattering, unfitted to make a good impression for the profession or occupation that you are in, otherwise unsuitable, and expensive. What brought this on was a discussion on another author website regarding certain fashion preferences, and a lamentation that it was so hard to find exactly what would be suitable, fitting, comfortable and all … and I am remembering how this was so not a problem for me, when I was working in an office and business professional was the order of my day and wardrobe. If I could not find exactly what I wanted – a black lightweight wool slightly-below-knee-length pencil skirt, to give one example – I could just buy a yard of suitable fabric and a seven-inch zipper, and go home and make it in an afternoon.

There’s an enormous freedom in being able to make exactly what I wanted, and make it to fit, and in a flattering color. Oh, usually it costs something to sew an outfit yourself, considering the costs for the pattern, the notions and the fabric – usually as much as just purchasing it off the rack on sale, but not near as much as full price from a quality outlet like Talbots’ or Neiman Marcus, and for a pittance in relation to having it tailored individually.

I have read that home sewing is one of those things that is just not done so much anymore, or not so much as was done routinely in past decades; certainly not for every-day clothing, when tee shirts and jeans are the backbone of every day wardrobes for most Americans. But there are still enough people doing it, enough people certainly to keep the pattern companies in business, and fabric and notions departments in mass. For special event clothes, costumes and crafts – I would say that there is still a good market in catering to the home seamstress or tailor. It’s just one of those once-widespread skills – like cooking – which is now more of a hobby than an every-day practice.
But still a darned useful skill to have.

19. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Book Event, Domestic

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. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Random Book and Media Musings

Medieval London, before the great fire – This is just awesome; I wish they had paused long enough to look inside some of the ground-floor shops, and into the church.