I used to post some of the following at Technorati:
“Retired Texas newspaperman (politics, crime, science, medicine, technology), married father of one child, antique rose gardener, new adult student of the violin, self-publisher, and Vietnam combat veteran (MACV, I Corps, 1969).”
That more or less sums me up, for the purposes of this blog. I might have added sailor to the list. But I sold the family sloop after twenty-three years of sailing Lake Travis, west of Austin. I faced the fact that I am too old and too slow for it any longer. And the summer heat is enervating.
But I stopped linking to Technorati when it became obvious the “service” was not updating me. I know they had millions of blogs to deal with but I have to wonder about their software when nine days after the fact they still had not noted that Instapundit, a top blog with many, many thousands of links, had linked me on Dec. 5, 2006.
It was a great honor, of course, but it produced next to nothing in new, unique visits. Only seventeen, in the first two days. One rare reader suggested I may have made blogosphere history getting such a small response from an Instapundit link. Yes, well.
I started the blog a few months after retiring in April, 2006, after thirty-four years of newspaper reporting and editing, mostly reporting in the subject areas above, preceded by one year of television and radio news writing and delivery–essentially because I didn’t want to stop writing every day, although most of what I had done before wasn’t personal in the least and was, usually, politically constrained.
It was a challenge, at first, to get a personal voice into this, though my choice of subject categories does that to an extent. I’m not after any sort of persona, just to go with my personal (often Libertarian) reaction to the news, ideas and feelings of the day.
I occasionally write about my wife, who I disguise as Mrs. Charm so she won’t get mad at me and about our son, my only child, who was newly six when I retired but is an adolescent now. I refer to him as Mr. Boy to maintain his privacy, and won’t be including too many embarrassing details about his sometimes unruly behavior so that he continues to think kindly of his old man when he’s grown. So old I am already that his teachers sometimes confuse me with his grandfather. Although I have found that older men being new fathers is not such an unusual thing anymore.
Gardening, of course, is mostly weeding, which isn’t a lot of fun, though it carries a certain satisfaction, and even more when you plant something you like. For me that’s antique roses, particularly hardy Chinese roses, so-called because they entered Western commerce from China in the late 18th through the 19th centuries.
They are bush-like, rather than tall and spindly in the fashion of modern hybrid roses. In truth, they don’t usually require much attention, except judicious (but non-finicky) pruning twice a year to encourage repeat blooming in spring and fall.
But I’m finding them a challenge at Rancho Roly Poly (click on the category and scroll to the bottom to see where that name comes from) because all the oak and elm trees on the lot reduce the amount of sunlight in the yard, of which roses need at least six hours a day, and the maurauding deer (who think of rose leaves as candy) when they get into the back yard. As the roses bloom each season, I post pictures of them from time to time. I must confess that Mrs. Charm does most of the weeding.
The violin is a new passion of mine, and eleven months into learning it, primarily via the superb http://www.violinlab.com/, I finally have a live teacher in James Anderson, an Austin professional jazz volinist who is instructing me in the fundamentals. I’m an old trumpet player so I already knew how to read music.
Self-publishing is something I never considered until the advent of print-on-demand and the birth of lulu.com which is free if you do it yourself. Unlike the disreputable vanity presses of old that charged thousands of dollars, and even their more ethical POD offspring such as iUniverse which still charge hundreds. Lulu will get you on Amazon.com and other online sellers (or you can go direct through Amazon now) and the the rest is up to the book and your own efforts to publicize it. You only have to pay for each book as you buy it. They also offer discounts on large quantities.
It’s even easier to do with ebooks at Amazon, which will take them from you directly, but getting them formatted can be a bear if you don’t know HTML (I don’t) or can’t pay for professional formatting which I can and do.
My books so far are three. The first one was a collection of sixteen post-war short stories “Leaving the Alamo, Texas Stories After Vietnam.” There’s also a free preview of one of the sixteen stories if you sample the Kindle edition. Reviewer Marc Leepson in Vietnam Veteran Magazine called the book “…a first-rate collection…”
Go to Amazon.com to buy it here. The ebook is just 99 cents. And if you’re (understandably with self-published stuff) more cautious, you can download a free pdf version here. Then, if you find value in what you read, you can go back and blow 99 cents, big spender.
My second book was “Knoxville, 1863,” an historical novel about a little known Civil War battle involving some of the most famous commanders and units of the Union and Confederacy. On February, 2009, I entered its first chapter in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It made the first cut, to the top twenty percent. Then it went down in flames on the second cut to five percent. Bragging rights, at least, in the hunt for an agent. Or so I thought at the time. Turns out agents are not impressed by such things.
Indeed, after more than a dozen agent rejections (of my query letter, not the manuscript which they never asked to see) I finally got the message (as I also later read at Publishers Weekly) that Civil War fiction is no longer in great demand. So I went the POD and DIY route, once again, at Lulu and Amazon. And the finished product is available here. Where it is also available for the Kindle for 99 cents.
Reviewer Robert Redd of the blog Confederate Book Review pronounced it “the Killer Angels of Knoxville.” If you understand the reference.
And I recently finished a third book, a Vietnam war novel I titled “The Butterfly Rose,” which I am currently selling only as an ebook for Amazon’s Kindle at the usual 99 cents.
Reviewer Claude Cooper, a retired Army colonel and Vietnam combat veteran, said: “This book is unlike anything else you will read about Vietnam, but it’s well worth the read.”
Meanwhile, I’m finishing a non-fiction regimental history of the Thirteenth Mississippi Infantry Regiment, and writing a memoir of growing up in the Cold War. I hope to finish them by the summer of 2013.
You can contact me at Scribbler (at) TexasScribbler DOT com, if you have any questions or comments that you don’t want to share with the world—as worldwide as my modest blog readership is.
It grew to more than 200 unique visits a day by 2010, but has recently declined for reasons I know not. Thank you to my loyal rare readers who continue to visit and comment. I’m grateful.
I hope you find something in The Texas Scribbler that interests you.
LAST UPDATED: Nov. 20, 2012
The feds and the pols are doing their best to take over the Web. So far they’re just chipping away at it. Case in point: the Federal Trade Commission requires that I disclose any relationship I have between a product manufacturer or service provider when I write about a product or service.
Other than my books described above (and my Amazon Affiliate shopping link on the lower right of the front page) there is no relationship. I’ve never been paid (alas) for any content I’ve posted on the Scribbler and I don’t expect to be.
I happen to believe that bloggers have all the privileges of journalists, which is to say First Amendment rights, with the proviso of being legally responsible for libel. I try to remember that. If the FTC has any similar “relationship” disclosure rule for newspapers or television or radio news, I’ve never heard of it and I spent more years than I care to remember in all three.