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11. October 2016 · Comments Off on Another Bit of Millinery · Categories: Domestic, Random Book and Media Musings

Dressing in period costume for book events has turned out to be a very effective attention-grabber; much more effective than my admittedly half-hearted attempt to wear cowgirl/western get-up. I’ve always rather enjoyed costuming, making doll outfits and all that – so why not make a splash, sartorially-speaking? In a group of thirty or forty other authors, one has to stand out somehow, so a handful of us at TAA events have given it a go this past year or so by wearing a costume of sorts, relating to our various books. The closing of the Handcock Fabric store chain let me purchase the yardage for some period outfits at extremely reasonable prices, so there are a couple more planned period ensembles in the works: a purple evening gown, a plain black dress in the style of the Harvey Girls, a navy-blue walking skirt with a fitted bodice, and another Edwardian walking suit – this one in brown and cream woolen tweed. I got diverted in making a pair of hats to go with these last two, by a Butterick pattern which became available.

I did two of the four hats which the pattern included; a small 1880s style, with lavish embellishments of flowers, netting, ribbon and a plume, and a plainer, Edwardian one in brown velveteen, with a brown satin drape and large bow, and a simple trimming of two light blow flowers. I did not follow the directions exactly when it came to trimming the hats; the kind of netting required in the instructions for the Edwardian hat just was not available for a reasonable price, and the way the veiling was arranged on the late Victorian hat just didn’t look right as specified. And I added way more flowers, because – hey, lavish is the way to go Victorian.


I couldn’t find heavy woven millinery buckram, or 20 gage millinery wire locally – but very heavy-weight Pellon interfacing and 18 gage beadwork wire make workable substitutes. I found it simpler and less messy, working with a needle and heavy thread rather than fabric glue to make the hat frame, as fabric glue takes forever to solidify. But I think they came out quite nicely … and now I have to make the rest of the outfits to match …

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

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

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

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

28. September 2016 · Comments Off on A Fine Finish · Categories: Book Event, Old West, Random Book and Media Musings

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.

18. September 2016 · Comments Off on San Marcos on a Saturday · Categories: Book Event, Random Book and Media Musings

So – we spent all yesterday in the lovely little town of San Marcos, Texas – a day for us that went, as the saying used to be, “from can’t see to can’t see.” This means that it was dark before dawn when we left home and dark after sunset when we got home. The event was the Mermaid Festival – a celebration of all things mermaid, water-based and local. There is a particularly lovely stretch of spring-fed river which threads through San Marcos, and in times of yore, when Acquarena Springs was a local draw there were girls dressed as mermaids who showed off their abilities to swim and stunt in the clear water while wearing mermaid tails, and all kinds of appropriate accessories. So the last couple of weeks have been a charming and locally-based community celebration, which somehow got my daughter involved because of her Tiny Craft Bidness, making origami paper earrings. They were recruiting crafters for the event last week, and making it absolutely clear that they wanted only crafters who made the stuff they were selling, and yes, they wanted to take a look at pictures of it all – none of this re-selling imported junk from wherever. So, the Daughter Unit was pretty chuffed at being selected – and last week we hauled the pink pavilion to the courthouse square in San Marcos for about six hours – but yesterday, we were supposed to start setting up at 8 AM, and keep going until 8 PM.

As it turned out, we were there early enough to avoid any crowds and to snag a relatively good place – back against a row of trees and strip of lawn – but there weren’t any customers until the parade ended … and oh, my lord – the rush started then, and didn’t let up until nearly 7. The Daughter Unit sold her earrings hand over fist. Many customers bought several pairs, as they couldn’t make up their minds over which pair they liked best – and she had priced them sensibly, so that this was not a painful process. We were very, very pleased and gratified with this market. The vendor next to us was a couple about my own age, originally from Austin – and the wife remarked that San Marcos was how she remembered Austin, back when. Eccentric, smallish-town but with a university, and community-oriented. There were heaps of people of all ages, dressed in mermaid and mermen outfits, even a couple of Poseidons with tridents. The live music acts performed through the day, there was a nice selection of local artists and venders, a heaping helping of support from local businesses – including a catering concern who provided boxed dinners and cold drinks for the artists.

I walked down to the river before it all began, and through the relatively deserted park taking pictures. A couple of them – like the old Fisheries Office will be transformed into the next Luna City book.
And speaking of Luna City – Book 3, or Luna City 3.1 is available this very moment for Kindle on Amazon, and through D2D for Nook and for other formats. The print version will be available in a couple of weeks – I may have a stock in time for the Boerne Library Festival on October 1st, and definitely in time for the various other holiday markets later in October, November and December. (And the Golden Road, as well … still a little bit of wrapping up to do on that,)

06. September 2016 · Comments Off on Looking to the Season · Categories: Book Event, Random Book and Media Musings

Here it comes, rolling around again – this season salted with the bitter seasonings of a particularly contentious electoral season and all that this year has brought to us. Seriously, at this moment, I would rather not think about that campaign, and the international situation. I’d rather just put my head down and power through the book and craft events that come our way, and provide us a certain visibility in the local book and origami jewelry direct market in the lead-up to Christmas. And even some sales and visibility, for there is always a follow-on effect.

Because the last quarter of the year is traditionally the best for retail sales; when the Daughter Unit and I go all-out. Towards the end of it, we have an event every Saturday, or every Saturday-Sunday. The most brutally taxing are the ones where we haul out the pavilion, the folding tables and all the racks, chairs, and all the display stuff. This fills up the backs of the Daughter Unit’s Montero and takes both of us to set up and arrange. The least demanding events involve just the merchandise and maybe both tables. Still, it means that both of us will be tied to the venue of the day for at least six hours, which is exhausting in it’s own way – especially if a long drive is also involved.

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

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

Right after Giddings, we have to turn around and head up to San Marcos for a day – this is not for books, but for my daughter’s origami jewelry and beadwork. Art Squared is having a special art market to kick off Mermaid Week – on Courthouse Square in San Marcos.

And that’s just the start of our confirmed fall events, for both my books and her stuff. I’ll have a place at the Boerne Book Fair, on the grounds of the spanking brand-new Patrick Heath Library in Boerne on October 1st, and we’ll share a place at the Bulverde-Spring Branch Fall Craft Fair, which is in the Senior Activity Center on Cougar Bend Road, on November 12. Other events and markets will be filled in as they begin taking applications.

27. July 2016 · Comments Off on Oh, Happy Squirl! · Categories: Random Book and Media Musings

Hurrah! I have just now finished adding the locations to Adelsverein: The Gathering, Daughter of Texas, Deep in the Heart, and The Quivera Trail to the Squirl website, so that anyone who has that app on their cellphone can “look around” and find locations written about in books… or conversely, look up a book and find the locations in it.

This has taken a bit longer than I thought, especially for Quivera Trail … because the characters traveled a LOT! I have to call up a map, match the location in the book to a location on the Squirl map, and add a bit of commentary and an excerpt from the book to that. Still to come – Adelsverein: The Sowing and The Harvesting, Sunset and Steel Rails and finally — To Truckee’s Trail, which will be … fun, because that book was ALL journey.

14. May 2016 · Comments Off on A Place Recreated, Digitally · 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.

14. April 2016 · Comments Off on Computers, Books, Progress and All · Categories: Domestic, Random Book and Media Musings

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.

This was on the grounds of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture – which as it turns out – is a little bit off the road from where we go once a month for the local Tractor Supply outlet; a lovely meadow dotted with oak trees, patches of wildflowers, and old houses, moved onto the property to be an indoor-outdoor museum.

The Littlest Santa of them All

The Tiniest Santa-dressed Dog of Them All

The long pre-Christmas market marathon is finally complete – this last weekend was our last event, and possibly the most strenuous, involving as it did two days in Boerne (three, if you count set-up on Friday afternoon), with the pink pavilion and all the gear – the tables, display racks, two strings of Christmas lights and an extension cord – not to mention my books and my daughter’s origami earrings and bead bracelets. We have had a market event every weekend since early November, save for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so our state of exhaustion is nearly total. This was compounded (1) by both of us having caught (in sequence) a filthy cold/cough/flu and (2) a mid-week overnight trip to Brownsville to tend to the project of one of the Tiny Publishing Bidness’ clients. The client covered the costs of the hotel stay and gas, and treated us to a perfectly magnificent lunch at an Argentine steakhouse, so there is that. But my daughter felt perfectly awful for one week, and then the cold hit me on the return from Brownsville and I have been barely able to function ever since. Monday was the first day that I could really succumb to how awful I felt, and crawl into bed for much of the morning. Until some robocaller (curses be on their head this Christmas season, and all their stockings be filled with lumps of coal) on the cellie woke me up and set the doggles to barking about mid-afternoon.

Anyway – now that I am feeling slightly better – here’s a wrap-up of my observations of the holiday season. I avoided all malls, and big box stores, by the way. Our Black Friday shopping was all on-line, for items of quality (books and specialty foods, mostly) to be sent by mail to dear family members. I would not be surprised to learn that such is the case with many other shoppers this year. I would also not be surprised to learn that people are being very careful with their purses and credit cards, when it comes to Christmas shopping. I’ve been tracking sales of my own books at direct marketing holiday events since 2009, and there has been a definite dip in sales this year and in 2015 over previous years. I noticed also that sales deals offered via email with regard to Black Friday, and the week after have been extended, and extended again.

People seem quite defiant in the way they say “Merry Christmas!” to each other; not so much the carefully non-denominational “Happy Holidays.” No, it’s “Merry Christmas!” out loud and proud. And I have noticed that my neighbors have been particularly assiduous in decorating their houses and gardens with lights, inflatables and outsized Christmas ornaments this year … and in exchanging small gifts between neighbors.  We gave small boxes of home made gourmet fudge to those whom we know best, and also to the mailman, local firehouse, the nearest police station, the guy who drives the garbage collection van, and the staff at the bank branch where we do business … and have received in return a wealth of thanks and good wishes, as well as a pound of home-smoked pork chops, a bottle of red wine and a pair of replica Indian arrows, fletched with buzzard feathers and tipped with points made from bits of sharpened deer antlers … yes, we have neighbors with interesting hobbies.

There is in the air, I sense, a determination to have a Merry Christmas in spite of it all … threatened riots in certain cities, the pall of terrorism and crime, of political turmoil, a worsening economic situation, and the smothering hand of political correctitude, a bright flame against the threatening darkness. Merry Christmas, indeed.