Humor columns have a new home

If you enjoyed my humor columns that have appeared in newspapers and in the book Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings, I’m happy to report that those columns have a new home.

Going forward, the columns can be found at fourthingsmywifehates.com. I’ll be posting new columns each week and periodically posting some of the older columns. This is also the very early prelude to publishing a second collection of the humor columns that explore the trials and tribulations of raising sons and being a parent. My expectation is that the next book will be out sometime toward the end of this year, but I’m not really working on any specific timeline.

I’m also working to get the columns into at least one publication, and I expect to be able to make that announcement in the near future.

So if you like the columns, please visit the website fourthingsmywifehates.com. If you’re on Facebook, there’s also a Facebook page for the columns, and that’s probably the easiest way to get notified when new columns get posted. In general, I’ll be posting new columns late in the afternoon on Wednesdays.

Jackson Speed: The Movie

In my ongoing effort to introduce more readers to Jackson Speed, I decided some time ago to shoot a video to promote the Jackson Speed novels.

I enlisted the help of my children who were all kind enough to assist me with the project. We had a pretty good time shooting the video, and I feel like Nathan and Robert have futures in acting if they so desire. My youngest, Robert, portrays Jackson Speed and my middle son, Nathan, portrays Mexican General Santa Anna.

My oldest son, Harrison, directed and produced the video for me.

I wrote the script and portray “the author” in the movie.

It’s campy and silly and funny – all things that I think appropriately reflect the Jackson Speed novels. When Harrison showed me the completed video, I had tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard.

If you enjoy the video, please feel free to share it with your friends and enemies. If you read the books, please leave a review at Amazon.com. If the video compels you to read the novels, you can find them here: The Jackson Speed Memoirs.

Enjoy!

Jackson Speed novels are irreverent historical fiction

I love American history. A quick glance through my bookshelves at home and even my Kindle bookshelf, will reveal volume after volume about American history. Most of my personal study of American history has been directed at martial history – the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II, mostly.

I can’t begin to guess how many books I’ve read about the War Between the States – books written by primary sources and books written a century or more after the war. I’ve read books that were nothing more than letters from soldiers and biographies and essays written by the battlefield commanders.

I suppose it would have been easy for me to write a novel or a series of novels set during the American Civil War that took an appropriately reverent attitude toward the subjects of my novels. Lee and Grant and Lincoln and Davis writ about properly with due respect. I could have turned these enormous statues of history into humans, I suppose, but still suitably solemn.

But what would be the point of that? After all, Killer Angels is already a book, ain’t it?

While I have respect for all these giants of history, it’s never lost on me that they are just men who did what they did during extraordinary times, and often as not they were neither extraordinary nor great. Some were bumbling morons with low morals and lower IQs. I present Dan Sickles as exhibit A. He may have won a Congressional Medal of Honor, but politics has always been politics.

No, when I decided to write a series of tomes about 19th Century America, my mission was to entertain with humor.

Thus was born Jackson Speed, a cowardly, lustful rascal who is driven only by his sense of self preservation and his lust for the fairer sex.

I patterned Jackson Speed after the uproariously hilarious Harry Flashman, the invention of George MacDonald Fraser because no series of books has ever so entertained me as the Flashman books (with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series taking a close second).

It didn’t hurt, either, that the idea for Jackson Speed came to me while I was simultaneously reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative Volume I and re-reading Flashman.

Literally, when I had an epiphany the morning Jackson Speed was born, I had both Foote’s book and Fraser’s book in my hands.

Five books into the series, Jackson Speed has developed his own personality and is less Flashman and more Speed, though certainly he retains the characteristics of his lineage.

While Jeff and Michael Shaara have certainly done yeomen’s work in capturing the War Between the States with proper reverence, not many (or any?) authors have treated the subject with improper irreverence. So I figured there was a niche for my character.

Along the way, I’ve thoroughly researched my novels, and if you keep up with the footnotes at the back of the books, you stand a pretty good chance of learning something along the way.

None of this is to say that I will never write an appropriately hallowed novel about the men who fought in that war. While Jackson Speed’s adventures amuse me, I think they unrealistically jab at those terrible years when our country was torn apart. I am moved from time to time to write seriously about that war, and I’ve made notes and written bits and pieces here and there that may one day find themselves in a more serious novel.

But in the meantime, Ol’ Speedy is still entertaining me as I tell his irreverent tales.

Robert’s Father’s Day gift to himself that he didn’t have to pay for

Robert and the box of bullets that were his Father's Day gift to himself that he arranged to not have to pay for.

Robert and the box of bullets that were his Father’s Day gift to himself that he arranged to not have to pay for.

My column this week for The Oconee Leader.

We don’t make a big deal out of holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in our house, and we never have. A couple of funny cards, an inexpensive gift and a meal off the grill or at a favorite restaurant is about the extent of what we do.

So it was with more than a little surprise that I accepted the lavish gifts bestowed unto me by my sons this year.

I knew something was going on by the way my 14-year-old Robert kept going into my closet and making furtive phone calls to his grandfather. Later in the day I saw Harrison, my 20-year-old, handing Robert cash.

Giving up of cash is not the sort of thing that happens easily in our house. My sons, like their father before them, are notoriously tight fisted, especially when it comes to each other. So my suspicions were dramatically increased when I saw Harrison voluntarily passing money to Robert.

The obvious conclusion for this sort of behavior the day before Father’s Day was that my sons were colluding to get me a gift. But, as I noted earlier, this isn’t the sort of thing for which there is historical precedence.

Then Saturday afternoon my dad came by the house and got Robert, and the two of them went off on some sort of shopping expedition.

If there is zero historical precedence for my sons to get me a gift, there is even less historical precedence for my dad to go shopping.

What I should have known was that Robert was not colluding with his brothers to get me a gift as much as he was colluding with his brothers to get a gift that he would enjoy.

The mystery was settled Saturday afternoon when Robert walked into the house and handed me my Father’s Day gift: A box of 50 rounds of .40 caliber bullets.

The boys and I go shooting from time to time, and the last time we went we used up all my practice rounds. We all enjoy shooting, but none of us enjoy shooting like Robert does. The last several times he has asked to send some lead down range, I have answered him that I’m all out of practice rounds. And the ammunition I do have is too expensive to shoot just for fun.

Of the 50 rounds Robert and Harrison bought me for Father’s Day, I reckon I’ll fire five or six shots. The other rounds will be distributed between Robert, Harrison and Nathan.

During the brief gift giving ceremony, Nathan complained that he’d been left out of the transaction, and he was made to look like the bad son because he didn’t pitch in on the gift.

So a little while later, Jean took Nate to the Golden Pantry, and when they returned he had a 4-count package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I felt bad for Nathan, who felt guilted into buying me a Father’s Day gift, especially knowing that the gift from his brothers was more for them than it was for me.

Harrison wasn’t around, so using both hands I counted up the number of people in the house – me and Jean and Robert and Nathan – and realizing there were four of us and four Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I decided to divide up my second Father’s Day gift – giving everyone a peanut butter cup.

So it was a successful Father’s Day for me. A box of bullets and a Reese’s cup made me feel like I’d been pretty successful as a father.

On Sunday we went with my parents to lunch, and there I learned that if I thought I’d done pretty well on Father’s Day, it was nothing to how well Robert did.

My mom got me a gift certificate to a shooting range some time ago, and I haven’t used it because the boys and I shot up all my practice rounds shooting at a cardboard box in a field.

Apparently, she said something to Robert about using that gift certificate and he somehow connived to get her to make a wager about me using that gift certificate.

When it’s all said and done, Robert will have gotten Harrison to chip in on the box of bullets, he’ll get to go shooting, and he’ll get his grandmother to pay him (from their bet) for his investment in the bullets. And to top it off, he managed to get a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

I’ve celebrated Father’s Day as a father 21 times now, and somehow, 14-year-old Robert, who doesn’t even have a girlfriend, much less children, has managed to top me in Father’s Day gifts.

Rob Peecher is author of “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings,” available at Amazon.com.

Excerpt from High Tide: Early passes through Gettysburg

A view of the town of Gettysburg from Cemetery Hill.

A view of the town of Gettysburg from Cemetery Hill.

As long as I can remember, one of the many things about the War Between the States that fascinates me is the story of the civilians who lived through the battles.

Imagine sitting safe at home one day and the next day two armies with a combined 100,000 men descend upon your town of 3,000. And then they commence to killing each other, and when they leave, all your homes and public buildings are hospitals and there are more dead people on the hills around your town than there are townsfolk.

As I said, as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with this aspect of the American Civil War.

So as I prepared to write Jackson Speed at the High Tide, I knew that I wanted to place Speed in Gettysburg prior to the battle.

If you’ve read the book, you know that Speed arrives in Gettysburg in June, 1863, just a few weeks before the two armies.

What you may not know is that both the Confederate and Union army had large units pass through Gettysburg prior to the battle. In both instances, the citizens of Gettysburg interacted with the passing soldiers.

One of my favorite scenes from the book takes place as the Confederates are passing through Gettysburg prior to the battle. Jackson Speed is playing the role of a wounded Union officer on leave to recuperate from his wounds.

As unlikely as it seems, I believe the scene is consistent with actual events in terms of the friendly banter that took place between the Confederate invaders and the townspeople. The scene takes place on June 26, 1863 when Confederate General Jubal Early’s division passed through Gettysburg on its way to York, Pennsylvania. This is about five days prior to the battle. As Lee advanced north into Pennsylvania, very strict orders were in place to prevent looting and thievery and other bad behavior toward the citizens. In lieu of looting, Confederate soldiers sometimes took what they wanted and paid for it with Confederate cash which, of course, was worthless in Gettysburg (and pretty well worthless everywhere). So, maybe it’s splitting hairs to say they didn’t loot and steal.

The following is an excerpt from High Tide in which Jackson Speed, a spy for the Confederacy, encounters Jubal Early’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia in Gettysburg on June 26, 1863.

 

I won’t say that here and there they didn’t do some rotten things – vandalism and theft was the worst of it – but on the whole I thought Bobby Lee’s army behaved themselves very well. Those who might have been inclined to do worse to the women had fellow Confederates keeping a pretty sharp eye on them.

Mostly the soldiers walked through the town. I think they were intent on putting up a good show for the citizenry – as the cavalry had done – because soon enough Jube Early would be riding into town making demands for cash. In groups or sometimes in ones and twos, the Rebels engaged the women and men who were now almost universally coming out of their homes. Some shopped in stores. Many stopped by one of the city’s hotels or restaurants for a drink or two or three of whiskey. I saw for myself a small group of Southern privates bust into a sweets shop, roust out the owner and then pay him in Confederate bills for all they took.

I witnessed one rebel private who had clearly got hold of some liquor stumble into a yard where another private was sitting on the front steps. The boy on the steps had asked for food, and the woman of the house had gone inside to get him some. Having seen the woman moments ago, before she’d turned to go back into the house, the drunken private said something pretty rough about what he intended to do to the “Yankee bitch.”

The private on the steps had a pretty calm air about him. As I recall, he was picking at his fingernails with a knife, or maybe he was whittling a stick. Either way, he didn’t look up from his business. But he said pretty clear and loudly, “You do it, and I’ll report you.”

Whatever warnings were issued among the men to behave themselves must have carried with them the promise of swift and merciless punishment, for the threat of being reported was all it took for the drunken private. He did an about-face and fell back in with the rest of the marchers, muttering to himself but making no real objection.

I was at my ease walking among them in civilian clothes, and not a one of them paid me any mind. Nevertheless, with an invading army in the streets and whiskey available on every block, I decided I didn’t need to linger too long in the streets, so I returned to Jenny’s house where I found her on the front porch giving bread and butter to a group of soldiers.

“Cavorting with the enemy now?” I asked her as they wandered off.

Jenny shrugged. “They looked hungry,” she said, “and they’re causing no harm. It’s not as if they’re stealing or burning or killing. Most of them are just boys, anyway.”

Well, those who were boys were not much younger than Jenny herself, but her work as a spy had turned her into an old soul. Of course, these boys in the infantry had souls old enough, too.

It should say something of how Johnny Reb behaved that as Early’s army passed through Gettysburg, some searching houses and others demanding bread and butter, that I felt at ease enough to lounge on Jenny’s front porch with her, rocking in a chair. Lee’s army was in high spirits, and the worst I saw from any of them was gentle teasing.

“How come you ain’t fighting fer the Yankees?” one of them asked me, stopping at the white fence in front of Jenny’s house while Jenny and I watched the soldiers pass from her rocking chairs. He was a young man, probably around twenty years old, and he wore a hat with no crown, a pair of pants with a hole in one knee and a white shirt so grimy with road dirt you’d have thought it was butternut brown. A couple of his buddies – one of them wearing a hat with no brim, a thing I will not forget for between them they had one good hat for two heads – stopped with him, grinning like buffoons as he questioned me.

“Wounded at Antietam,” I told him.

“Antietam, eh?” he called back, thoughtful like. “I was at Antietam. May be I’m the one that did it?”

I grinned back at him. “Could be,” I said, adopting his thoughtful attitude. “I was wounded when a jack ass kicked me and broke my leg. You look very much like the fellow.”

His buffoon friends guffawed all the louder now, slapping my inquisitor on the back. “Haha! You do look like a jack ass, Mose,” one of them said.

Young Moses, without a quick enough wit to find retort, accepted his besting pretty well and laughed along with his friends. He stood at the fence for a moment longer, searching for some sort of response. In the end, he grinned widely, shook his head and said, “Well don’t ye get behind me or I’ll kick ye again.” And with that Moses and his friends continued on their way.

Those boys were in high spirits. I do not think that any of them even realized it was possible that they would not have Philadelphia or Washington D.C. within the week. I think they all just accepted as fact that wherever Bobby Lee wanted them to go they would win another victory.

Field marshaling at the Oconee Cup

My favorite keeper collecting a bouncing ball as it comes into his box.

My favorite keeper collecting a bouncing ball as it comes into his box.

My weekly humor column (which will also appear in this week’s Oconee Leader):

I’m not sure if the by-laws of the Oconee Cup require that it be held on the first really hot day of the summer or if the Old Farmer’s Almanac determines that the first really hot day of the summer must be the same day as the Oconee Cup, but it doesn’t make any difference whether the chicken or the egg came first because the Oconee Cup always coincides with the first really hot weekend of the summer.

This year’s Oconee Cup was no different.

We’ve been attending Oconee Cups for six years now, since our oldest son was a rising freshman.

For those whose lives do not revolve around high school soccer, the Oconee Cup is a pretty big tournament of 7 v. 7 soccer for high schools in Georgia. This past Saturday we had nearly 50 teams involved in the tournament.

Our middle son, Nathan, was playing with Oconee County High School in the tournament, and Jean and I both volunteered to help (Jean took two slots by volunteering as a field marshal for a couple of hours and in the concession stand and I spent a couple of hours as a field marshal).

And it was so hot. And we all got so sunburned.

It’s not a complaint, though. I love soccer. After the Oconee Cup, we came home and watched back-to-back professional games on television. I never complain about soccer – even soccer on the first hot day of the year. And the truth is that my absolute favorite kind of soccer game is the soccer game one of my sons is playing in.

To watch my sons play soccer I have melted, baked, frozen, and even been soaked to the bone, and while I haven’t always enjoyed the weather, I’ve always enjoyed the game.

Nate played in four games on Saturday, and I’d have loved to have stood in the sun and watched another four (although, at some point Nathan might not have been ready for a break).

I also had fun spending time as a field marshal.

Field marshals at soccer tournaments have incredible amounts of responsibility and authority. Typically, I don’t like to volunteer to be a field marshal because I am a firm believer that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I don’t want to be absolutely corrupted.

But when my wife guilts me into volunteering, I generally go for field marshal duties rather than concession stand duties because I’m lousy at customer service.

We met at 1 p.m. to receive our equipment: A little blue vest that identified us as field marshals and a walkie-talkie so we could call for medical assistance if necessary.

Darrell was serving field marshal duties with me, and we’ve both been to enough soccer tournaments that we’re old hands at field marshaling.

Nevertheless, Julie gave us our equipment and our instructions: “Just walk around the fields. There is a jug of water at every field, so just make sure those have water. If they don’t, tell the rec department staff and they’ll replace the jugs. Make sure the referees aren’t having any problems with anybody. We haven’t had any problems today, and I don’t expect to have any. If someone needs medical help, the medical tent is over there.”

Now, I’ve field marshaled enough that I know my authority as a field marshal extends well beyond these rather insignificant duties outlined by Julie. For instance, Constitutionally, I believe soccer tournament field marshals fall just below Speaker of the House for succession to the presidency. But Julie probably failed to mention all these other responsibilities because she knew Darrell and I had it covered.

So for two hours I walked the fields looking for parents who were fighting or coaches who needed to be escorted out of the park for arguing with referees, but I saw none. I suppose it was too hot for tempers.

I checked the jugs of water on each field – and I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I found two that were nearly empty. I ran from one end of Veterans Park to the other to inform the rec staffers that I had discovered two nearly empty jugs of water, and they both were in tears thanking me and congratulating me on a field marshal job well done.

I found no medical emergencies, but twice a ball from one field rolled onto the field where another game was being played, and I ran onto the field to kick the errant ball back to its proper field.

The end of my two hours of field marshal duties were nearing an end and I’d not yet had a serious situation or emergency to deal with, and I was growing a little frustrated that the only official action I’d taken as a field marshal had been to find a couple of empty jugs of water.

Just then my walkie-talkie emitted a loud, long screech. Someone had pressed and held the call button of their walkie-talkie. An eerie wind blew across Hog Mountain Road, and there seemed to be an ominous hush that fell over the fields. I had a strange sense of impending doom, and – like Spiderman sensing danger – I had a premonition that I was about to have to summon all my field marshal powers.

I held my breath as I waited to hear what message would follow the screeching emergency sound from my walkie-talkie.

“Who called?” someone else said into their walkie-talkie, and I could hear the same sense of urgency in his voice that I myself was feeling.

Still I held my breath; the walkie-talkie in my hand; my eyes scanning the fields looking for the emergency that had caused one of my fellow volunteers to press and hold the call button on their walkie-talkie. Had a player broken a leg or taken a knock to the head? Did a fan fall out from heat stroke? Were parents fighting? Was a coach on a rampage?

“This is it,” I said to myself. “This is what you’ve trained for!”

Finally someone else came over the walkie-talkie.

“Sorry, it was me. I hit it by accident,” the voice said.

The situation defused, I went back to checking water jugs.

Next on our soccer itinerary is the Habersham 7 v. 7 tournament, always held in late July and, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it will coincide with the hottest day of the summer.

Rob Peecher is author of Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings, available at Amazon.com.

New Speed reviews from the author of Water Music

water music

I met Chris Botkin a few weeks ago through an online group we’re both a part of. Someone in that group asked everyone about their hobbies, and there were a few writers in the group. That sort of spread off into a side discussion among the writers, and the next thing I knew Chris had read Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings and was offering to court Jean if I kick an untimely bucket.

So, when someone reads Four Things and comes away with an understanding of how awesome Jean is, that person is okay with me.

Chris and I chatted online a little about the book, and he reviewed it on Amazon.

Then he started reading the Jackson Speed novels, and has left reviews on the first three Speed books.

Every night before I go to sleep I pray that when I wake up in the morning I will find that I have a new review on Amazon. And every morning I rush downstairs in my pajamas, sit under the Amazon tree and call up my list of books hoping to unwrap a shiny new review.

Most mornings I am disappointed.

But lately I’ve been able to unwrap Chris’s reviews, and they are among the shiniest of reviews.

I love a review – even a 1-star review that complains about 15-year-olds getting laid – and I treasure every review I’ve ever received. But Chris’s reviews are magnificent. Even if you don’t want to read any of my novels, you should seek out and read Chris’s reviews on Amazon because they make my novels sound very interesting!

As I noted, Chris is also a writer. I am reading his novel Water Music, but it’s a little bit longer than a Jackson Speed novel (by about 250,000 words!) and so I’m still working my way through Water Music.

Chris is a talented craftsman with words. He constructs his sentences with a cadence that marches through his story. In Water Music, he’s created a vocabulary of words for his imagined universe. Typically, this is the sort of thing I find tedious and might well turn me off of a book, but Chris’s language flows seamlessly into the consciousness of the reader and is easily interpreted.

I’m not far enough into Water Music to provide anything near a review, but I can say that I’m looking forward to the moments I can snatch away to read it. There is something very simple and endearing about the universe of the Traeppedelferes, and I am easily caught up in it. Also, reading it, I have an expectancy that each new chapter is going to bring me deeper into this world and it will be a lovely immersion.

Where I’m at in Water Music, there is something a little magical and a little sinister going on in the world of the Traeppedelferes, and I’m excited to know where Chris is taking me.

You should check it out if you enjoy fantasy novels, which I ordinarily do not. So, maybe you should check it out even if you don’t enjoy fantasy novels.

When I am finished reading it, I’ll give it a proper review. But I have this feeling about Water Music that even when I have completed reading it I will not be finished with it. It seems to me that Water Music is the sort of book that stays with you even when you hit the end.