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So that was a fun Saturday, although exhausting as it always is to pack the Montero, drive a certain distance, unpack the Montero, find a good spot, transport the canopy, tables, the tubs of books and the tub of table dressing and giveaway materiel, and the two camp chairs to it, and set up, ready for business. Then – four to six hours of face-to-face direct sales, broken by a sandwich from the HEB deli (No, lunch is a chancy thing at these events. There may be a food truck or a concession handy with something that we’d want to eat and don’t mind paying for … or not. We have wised up. We bring HEB deli sandwiches, and an insulated bag of bottles of drinking water.)

This is the second year for the Boerne Book Festival – last year there were about twenty of us, spaced out in a back room in the main building. If records and memory serve, we did sell a handful of books, but mostly, us authors were reduced to looking at each other after a certain point in mid-afternoon. I did have a table across from a local historian, Jefferson Morgenthaler, who did a very good book about the German settlements in the Hill Country – a book that I absolutely recommend, as he covered the same territory in non-fiction the same ground that I did in fiction. He is one of those local authors that I knew of, but had not met until that point – so last year’s event was not a totally wasted effort.

Neither was this year’s; they set us up on the landscaped grounds of the library, under the trees where a winding paved path went down to an amphitheater which was the venue for a couple of scheduled events, starting with a children’s ballet company performance: the mini-dancers performed as various forms of sea-life to the music of Saint Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals”. This was the most-well attended segment of the presentations in the amphitheater, I will have to admit, although the later presentations/discussions did have an audience. One of the authors wrote zombie thrillers and was of sufficient celebrity as these things go to have the local Barnes & Noble store with a representative sample of his books.

There were about thirty-five authors present, plus Alan of the Texas Author’s Association, who had a booth filled with books by members of the association. One of them was Clay Mitchell, who was a client of Watercress Press. Alice and I had done some substantive and line editing for his book, Amid the Ashes and the Dust, which is a terrific and evocative read, set in East Texas. Another was John Keeling, who has started a western series about cattle ranchers in Texas; the first book is called Take ‘em North: The 2E Brand Begins. We had a brief chat about writing about the post-Civil War long-trail cattle drives; always go back to the primary sources, we agreed. Just about anything about that enterprise that you saw in a movie or a TV show during the Golden Age of the Western (say from 1930-1970)  is liable to be howlingly inaccurate.

Boerne is one of those towns just about commute-distance from north-side San Antonio; with a very distinct identity, and a well-established historical district. The ambiance is one of very substantial proto-yuppie prosperity. A couple of new developments on the outskirts of town have sprouted up in the last few years, and the various businesses in the historic downtown have – for as long as we’ve been visiting – been very, very upscale. It is, in a word – a prosperous place.

My daughter and I did venture by turns into the used-book store, which is an outgrowth of the Patrick Heath Public Library; a lovely building on the grounds, with a two-level terrace at the back, and a beautifully-arranged selection inside. Seriously – this is a library used-book outlet, which was as well-sorted and set out as any high-end retail book store. My daughter bought Alison Weir’s bio of Henry VIII and I found a copy of the Crabtree and Evelyn cookbook, which I bought for sentimental reasons. And yes – I can’t resist cookbooks of a certain sort. I really used to love that company when they had an outlet in North Star Mall, across the street from the office building where I had a job, some years ago. Sadly, the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet vanished, seemingly between one week and the next. Eventually, there was nothing left in that mall which I was interested in, on my lunch hour, save maybe the Williams-Sonoma outlet. It all became high-end designer clothing, makeup and jewelry. I commiserated with the volunteer cashier at the bookstore about that. She was leafing enviously through the cookbook during the time it took for me to go back to our tent and get my purse. ‘Hah!’ I said. ‘You had your chance!’

So – a very good and reassuring start to the last-quarter-of-the year selling season. One of the readers that we sold a set of the Luna City Chronicles to, stayed for a while to lament about how her widely-geographically-spread friends visualized Texas … in a most unflattering way, of course. My daughter has marveled at how her English FB friends seem to think that we all live in little desolate towns, where tumbleweeds roll through deserted unpaved streets, and everyone lives in tumbling-down shacks with outhouses out at the back and gunfights in the streets on a regular basis.

No, it’s not like that – not anything like that at all… But perhaps we want to keep that quiet, because then everyone would want to move here, and that would quite wreck the place. Say, did I mention how hot it is in Texas during the summer? It’s boiling hot, miserable-hot, fry-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. For five whole months, and sometimes six! No, stay away, stay away!

Anyway, the Daughter-Unit and I are planning out the next market events on our schedule; Johnson City and Blanco are a go for their markets, and Saturday morning at the New Braunfels Sophienburg’s Christmas marked in November at the New Braunfels Civic Center. Dates to be posted as soon as confirmed.

27. August 2016 · Comments Off on A Diversion – The Last Day of Pompeii · Categories: Uncategorized

I visited Pompeii in 1970, and then again in 1985 with my daughter. It is a fascinating place, a ghost town, and once away from the main gates, quite empty; winding little streets between walls that stand higher than a single story. It’s easy to close your eyes and picture it as it might have been …

15. August 2016 · Comments Off on Behold – The Mighty Fighting Moth’s Team Logo! · Categories: Uncategorized

Mighty Moth Mascot Image

The Mighty Fighting Moth!

 

10. August 2016 · Comments Off on Well, Butter My Buns … · Categories: Uncategorized

… And call me a biscuit. My books are in Walmart. Not in the actual stores that I can see, but on the Walmart website.
Link here.

14. June 2016 · Comments Off on Another Sewing Project · Categories: Domestic, Uncategorized

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.

01. May 2016 · Comments Off on The Hat Project · Categories: Domestic, Uncategorized

So, having decided to update my author ‘drag’ — that is, a bit of eye-catching something to wear when doing an event — I found a pattern for an Edwardian-style suit; a straight long skirt and jacket at a Hancock Fabric store. Yes, one of those which is going out of business, sadly. Yes, the bargains are nice — but this will put us down to one single chain fabric store, and the limited selections at Hobby Lobby and Michaels . Yes, I am old-school enough to have gone into absolute mourning when a local San Antonio institution, Scrivener’s – which was an eccentric and upscale vendor of hardware, stationary, gifts, hardware, housewares and who knows what else — closed out the fabric department, and then within a year or two, closed down entirely. They had marvelous fabrics, and quality notions and buttons – and oh, heck – I am getting weepy just recalling. No, I couldn’t afford much of their very best – but they had quality, in the old-fashioned way, and I was viewed with affection and respect by their salesladies, as I was one of the very few of their customers who tacked the extremely difficult Vintage Vogue designer patterns. They always did well by me, when I had a sewing project.

But anyway – the Edwardian-style suit; that will need the appropriate Edwardian hat to go with, and just this weekend I was able to get cracking on that, starting with a wide-brimmed black felt number manufactured in China  that someone must have bought for me a good few years ago; my daughter, possibly, when she was stationed in California. I remember having to wear it on the flight home, where once arrived, it went into the closet to emerge … possibly not until now.

The nice thing about it being wool felt is that it could be re-shaped, with damp and steam. The brim of it was upturned and tripped with a yard of black plush fake-fur. I removed that – oh, I have plans for that narrow strip of plush fake-fur, but that will be another project entirely.

 

And no – not by any means are these authentic Edwardian lace, tulle or trimmings; this is not meant to be a historical reenactor costume, but something eye-catching and splashy, made with materiel readily available at ordinary retail outlets. It took about two and a half hours, all told. The finished suit itself won’t be anything particularly authentic, either – grey polyester suiting, so as to look good and relatively wrinkle-free on those occasions when we have to set up, and haul tubs of books around.

09. April 2016 · Comments Off on Just For Fun – Animation of Times Past · Categories: Uncategorized

There are three official historical markers in Town Square, much cherished by local citizens. The most noted is the one marking the site where Old Charley Mills was nearly lynched by infuriated citizens, which action was forestalled by the timely intervention of somewhat less-infuriated but more clear-thinking individuals, who included Doc Wyler’s father, Albert Wyler and his younger brother Thomas Wyler, the Reverend Calvin Rowbottom, then senior minister of the Luna City First Methodist Church, and a handful of others whose irreproachable respectability was of such a degree that they were able with reason and persuasion, to turn their fellow citizens aside from such an irrevocable action. The second official historical marker is set into the wall of the building now housing Luna Café and Coffee and marks the site of the last officially noted personal gunfight on the streets of Luna City in 1919; this being a duel between Don Antonio Gonzales and Eusebio Garcia Maldonado. The only casualties were the radiator of Don Antonio’s Model-A sedan, a city street-light and a mule hitched to a wagon parked farther down the square, and felled by a wild shot from Eusebio’s revolver.
The third historical marker is set into the red brick and neo-classical style exterior wall of the what was once the Luna City Savings & Loan, but now houses city offices and the Chamber of Commerce. The Savings & Loan was a casualty of the Depression, closing its doors in 1933; since then, most Lunaites must do their bank business in Karnesville – but in the evanescently prosperous decade of the 1920s, it was a temple of the local economy. It even looked rather like a temple, a smaller mirror of the Luna City consolidated public school across Town Square – but in January, 1922, that magnificent neo-classical façade concealed a weakness: the bank’s massive safe was an older model, and vulnerable to a form of safe-cracking which was the forte of the quartet of bank- and railroad-robbing Newton brothers, of Uvalde, Texas. The mastermind of the gang, brother Willis Newton had procured a list of banks with old safes from a corrupt insurance official, and methodically worked their way through it. None of their bank heists were particularly notable for the size of the haul but they regularly cleaned out everything of value from a targeted bank, including small change and the contents of safe deposit boxes, striking early – usually in the middle of the night – and often, and making a clean getaway as well. In other words, the Newton boys and their safe-cracking expert, Brentwood “Brent” Glasscock, practiced bank robbery assembly-line fashion. Regular and successful looting of small-town banks amounted to more in the aggregate over a long period than an occasional spectacular and more dangerous raid against a bigger target.
But Luna City proved to be more than a match for the Newton boys, through a couple of fortunate circumstances. The first was that the local telephone exchange had just that very week been relocated to new premises, and the second – that Albert Wyler and a number of fellow ranch owners and cattlemen from across Karnes County were having a post-New-Years get-together at the Cattleman Hotel, a get-together involving much marathon yarn-telling and a certain amount of well-disguised alcohol consumption.
Although Karnes County was by tradition and practice not completely ‘dry’, at this time the United States labored under the burden of the Volstead Act, which likely only inconvenienced casual social drinkers … including Albert Wyler and his friends, some of whom – like Albert himself – had also been volunteer Rough Riders with Teddy Roosevelt’s cavalry company twenty-five years before. Luna City was, after all, the home town of Charles Everett Mills, bootlegger extraordinaire. Sometime around two in the morning, Albert Wyler excused himself from the gathering in the Cattleman Hotel’s second floor small salon and smoking room, pleading a call of nature and retiring to the room which he had taken for the night, for convenience, rather than returning in the early morning hours to the Wyler main house, which was a mere two miles from the Cattleman. Little did he expect the good fortune that would come from this circumstance. Even as Albert Wyler made his excuses to his fellows, receiving a certain amount of ribald teasing in response, Willis Newton was silently shimmying up the side of the building which had formerly housed the telephone exchange, and cutting what he assumed was the main line, thus rendering the whole of Luna City unable to communicate to the outside world … or even from telephone to telephone within city limits.
Unbeknown to Willis Newton, he had gone to the wrong building to sever the telephone wire, and during his brief absence from the gathering of cattlemen, Albert Wyler stepped out on the second-floor gallery for a breath of fresh air. Before rejoining his fellows, he looked down into the shadowed square, faintly illuminated by the streetlights of the time, and noticed a large Studebaker automobile, with headlamps dimmed, idling in the street before the Savings and Loan. Albert noted this initially with mild curiosity and then with growing concern. Automobiles were not uncommon in Luna City at that date; however, ownership of one was sufficiently rare so as to render each easily recognizable to a knowledgeable resident of the area. And Albert did not recognize the Studebaker at all. In those few moments, the conviction was formed in his mind – as he so related later – that there was nothing good going on, what with a strange automobile, it’s engine running in the street in front of the Luna City Savings and Loan. Indeed, this was the customary stratagem of the Newton gang – small town, dead of night in the middle of winter, fast and powerful automobile for a quick getaway. So firm was Albert’s instant conviction of this, that he hurried back to the gathering, exclaiming,
“Fellows, grab your irons – I think there’s a gang about to rob the bank!”
At that very instant, and as if to add emphasis to Albert’s words, Brent Glasscock blew the door of the massive safe – using a combination of nitroglycerine forced into the slight gap between the safe door and the safe itself, and setting it off with dynamite caps. The explosion was massive; not only did it open the safe, it also blew out the front door, every glass window at the front of the bank, and rattled windows all along the square. It also wakened every resident – and there were more of them in that day than this – who lived over a shop on Town Square, including Charles Abernathy, of Abernathy Hardware. (The father of Hiram Abernathy, grandfather of Martin and great-grandfather of Jess.)
Charles also looked down from the second floor window of the building which housed his enterprise and his family, and being closer to the Savings and Loan, had an even better view – or he would have, if he were not so near-sighted as to require eye glasses. But he could see the Studebaker, and the blurred forms of the robbers, even as three of the gang dashed back into the bank to grab what they could from the blown safe. Charles Abernathy caught up his father’s lever-action Winchester shotgun which had ever been the Abernathy’s first choice when it came to protecting their home, business and high-value stock, and blasted away.
Two of the Newton gang stood fast, with their own weapons and blasted back, not with any particular effect but to waken everyone who had not been wakened by the explosion in the Savings & Loan. Albert Wyler and his friends were also doubling through Town Square from the front of the Cattleman Hotel, howling and whooping like banshees, and firing their own sidearms. That there were no human casualties in this encounter is doubtless due to several factors. The Newton boys, unlike a number of other robbery gangs of that and an earlier era, had a demonstrated reluctance to add murder charges to that of robbery, in the event that they were ever captured and brought to trial. They were scrupulous in that respect, preferring to menace, scoop and skedaddle – hence their preference for minimizing risk by robbing banks when no one was likely to be around. That they were not casualties themselves was due to Charles Abernathy’s near-sightedness, and the amount of alcohol consumed by Albert Wyler’s companions.
Realizing that the element of surprise was lost, and that elements of the local citizenry were aroused, and perfectly willing to make a fight of it, the Newton gang prudently cut their losses and ran for safety, having only had time to empty out a small portion of the safe’s contents. They fled with the Studebaker’s engine roaring – waking up at last that portion of Luna City which had managed to so far to sleep through the explosion and the subsequent exchange of gunfire. Law enforcement was alerted in a timely fashion, but fortune smiled belatedly on the Newton gang, and they were able to shake off pursuit. It is a matter of record that they were somewhat shaken by their hairsbreadth escape in Luna City; their next recorded robbery of any substance took place in Toronto, Canada, the following year – nearly as far away from Luna City as you could get, without departing from the North American continent entirely.
There are still some obvious small chips and divots in the lower outside walls of the old building which housed the Savings and Loans, which are still pointed out to visitors – supposed to have been caused by one of Charles Abernathy’s missed shots, on a chilly January early morning in 1922.

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.

03. March 2016 · Comments Off on Midnight Rock and Roll – Adventures on the Radio Station Night Shift · Categories: Uncategorized

The winning AFRS Championship Team in the Gold Cup Invitational Softball Game

The winning AFRS Championship Team in the Gold Cup Invitational Softball Game

Since I did the TV overnight shift for one of my ebooks, I thought an archeological reconstruction of an overnight shift on AFRTS-Radio would make a nice balance: This is a shift I would have worked at EBS (European Broadcasting Squadron) Hellenikon in 1984ish

My daughter has already been asleep for several hours. She is used to being carried downstairs, wrapped in a blanket and strapped into the car seat in the back of the orange Volvo sedan for the short ride to the sitters, over in Sourmena. Her friend Sara, whose mother is our babysitter, is already in bed. In the morning, Sara’s mother will take them both to preschool, and I will collect Blondie from school. We’ll have the afternoon and early evening for ourselves. Blondie curls up, thumb in mouth, fast asleep as soon as I have tucked her into the bed she will share with Sara. I say good night to Sara’s parents, and drive down hill towards Hellenikon. It’s 9:30 at night; by Greek standards it’s the best part of the evening, especially in summer. The shops have just closed, but the restaurants are doing a booming business, and traffic is heavy on Vouliagmeni, the main boulevard between downtown Athens, out to Glyphada and the coastal road south to the temple at Sounion.

Hellenikon Airbase is a narrow strip trickling downhill to the airport runway, a single road zigzagging from the entry gate, all the way down to the MAC terminal and weather station, at the bottom by the ramps to the flightline. A professional baseball pitcher could probably fling a baseball entirely across it at any point.

The entrance gate is on Vouligmeni, set back a little way from the traffic, and heavy concrete balks, the size of trash dumpsters force vehicle traffic to zigzag slowly, in a single lane. The base is regularly targeted by protestors, and threats of violence. Those threats are delivered upon often enough to make the Security Police, as well as the rest of us, very, very wary.
I show my ID card to the SP, and continue down the hill, past CBPO, and the short road towards the car wash and BX gas station. All the base is to the left or right of the road, which splits into a one-way loop halfway down the hill, below the Chapel and the BX complex.

Across from the chapel are the old radio station building, and the Post office; further downhill are the barracks buildings for single airmen, the hospital. The new radio station building is behind the post office and the Rec Center, backed up nearly to the perimeter fence. I swing into the parking lot and run in to see if there is mail in my box: Letters and magazines, and goodie, a pink cardboard slip, meaning there is a package for me to pick up at the window sometime the next day, but until then duty calls.

The new building replaced a tiny structure the size of a three-car garage, into which was wedged with fiendish ingenuity two studios, a radio library, a work area for the engineers, a teletype room, a small office/work area, with an even smaller one for the station manager, and a lavatory not appreciably larger than the station managers office. In the old days, there were not chairs enough to seat the entire staff at one time, or the space to put them all if there had been. For the last eight months, we have been reveling in the generous space afforded by the new building: two lavish stories, three studios, and a huge high-ceilinged work area with a curving stairway against the wall. Security lights keep the outside nearly as bright as daylight; I have never had a moment of worry, working alone at night. There is a telephone extension in a metal box by the door: I use it to call up to the studio for the swing shift guy to let me in, and wait until he comes down the stairs.
“Anything much going on?”
“Nope… the voiceline’s dropping in and out, I called Comm already. Same old, same old, trouble at Mt. Vergine, it’s fixed when it’s fixed. I’ve left you two newscasts. Can you voice a couple of lines for a spot? Just leave the tape on the desk with the script.”
“No problem. I’ll take over now, if you want to split.”
The previous operations supervisor, a man not long departed from the unit (to the profound relief of most of the junior broadcasters) had insisted that the only voices used for produced spots be those of the assigned military staff. As I am the only woman assigned to the unit, anyone wanting to use a female voice for a spot must use mine. Frankly, if I weren’t me, I’d have been sick to death of the sound of my own voice. More »