The Battle of the Boat video

When writing the Jackson Speed novels, I try very hard to find interesting, unique, and often forgotten episodes from history to slip into my plots. When I was writing the first of the Jackson Speed novels, I stumbled upon the story of the Battle of the Boat, and I knew immediately it was the exact sort of disaster in which Jackson Speed should take part.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of sources about the event, but there were enough that I was able to piece together a pretty thorough approximation of what happened.

In the video above, I discuss the Battle of the Boat and what took place on the Rio Grande to make General Taylor decide that he was not taking any of the Georgia militia units into battle with him during the Mexican-American War.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction and like your heroes to be on the scoundrel side, please check out the Jackson Speed Memoirs. And if you enjoy the novels, leave a review on Amazon!

Also, go and “like” the Jackson Speed page on Facebook where I am regularly posting short videos in which I discuss my research and the novels.

Follow me on Facebook for video updates

I have shot a few videos in the past where I talk about Jackson Speed (such as the one posted above), and I expect I’ll continue to do some longer ones like that in the future. However, I decided recently to start doing some short (2-3 minute) videos on a somewhat regular basis, and I’m going to post directly to the Jackson Speed Facebook page.

Mostly in these videos I’ll talk about the Jackson Speed books or the research I’m doing for the current novel. If you find the history contained in the novels interesting, I’d really encourage you to follow the Jackson Speed page on Facebook to see these videos.

As I research the Jackson Speed Memoirs, I end up learning so much information that never gets into the books. But I love being able to share that information with other people. So Facebook seems like a good place to do that.

I don’t intend to post all of these videos on Youtube or on my website, so the Facebook page is going to be the best place to find them.

If you’re wondering why I’m not going to post them anywhere other than Facebook, the reason is simple enough: We live just far enough out in the country that my internet is pretty poor. It’s not dial-up poor, but uploading video is a time consuming challenge. I start hogging all the internet bandwidth, and suddenly my sons are complaining to me that they can’t watch the latest Ozzy Man video, and my wife is yelling at me because she’s trying to watch videos of dogs doing tricks.

So if you want to keep up with where I am writing the next novel or you want to pick up some interesting tidbits of history, click the link here and like the page. And, of course, please feel free to share it with your friends.

Reading is a manly pursuit

A man's man: Ben McCulloch counted camp fires at Encarnacion.

A man’s man: Ben McCulloch counted camp fires at Encarnacion.

I recently started following The Order of Man on Facebook at the suggestion of one of my sons.

While I don’t need some dude who is a decade younger than me to tell me how to be a man, I enjoy a fair amount of the stuff they post and discuss. I don’t think they’re offering bad advice about manliness, but I haven’t dipped too deep into their content to necessarily offer a heartfelt recommendation for Order of Man.

I’ll say this: If you want to learn how to conduct yourself as a man and you don’t already have in your life some good role models, probably the internet is not the best place to figure that out. I would recommend you find some other men and a river or a path in the woods and let that be your starting point. But maybe the Order of Man podcast can be what you listen to on your drive to the wilderness.

Today one of the Order of Man’s posts came up in my newsfeed on Facebook, and I realized that one of the things they are encouraging men to do is to spend some time every day reading.

I am a lifelong reader. I started reading heavily when I was in middle school. Spy fiction is what I loved best of all back in the day, and then the Spencer series by Robert B. Parker. I devoured those Spencer novels.

In college I took enough English lit courses that I nearly majored in English. In my adult life, I largely switched from novels to historical non-fiction, but I still read fiction quite a bit. Currently I’m reading a Carl Hiaasen novel.

I’m a champion of reading. It broadens horizons. It makes you more knowledgeable, gives you clearer insight, challenges your assumptions, allows you to grow mentally, reveals human truths and understanding, and reading makes you a better man.

When I first started writing the Jackson Speed novels, my assumption was that my readership would consist almost entirely of men. The novels are about guns and horses and armies and war and beautiful women. I just figured that was the stuff that would appeal to men.

James “Old Peter” Longstreet is a recurring character in my books. Nobody at the Order of Man has a better beard than Old Peter had.

Ben McCulloch is a character in the first novel. This is historical fact: Ben McCulloch and a handful of Texas Rangers rode hell for leather through Santa Anna’s camp at Encarnacion in the middle of the night. With Mexican soldiers going bat shit crazy and shooting every musket and swinging every sword they could find at McCulloch and the Rangers, McCulloch COUNTED CAMP FIRES. He wanted to know the size of his enemy, and he was able to guesstimate the enemy’s size by the number of campfires they had.

There are not many men in the history of the world who can lay claim to the sort of manliness Ben McCulloch exhibited, and that was just one evening in a lifetime of machismo.

Anyway, I don’t want to go too far astray of my point.

The other thing I saw over the weekend is that some traditional publishers are hiring “sensitivity readers” to flag offensive content in manuscripts. I find this confusing and stupid. But it suggests to me something that I’ve believed for a long time: Men who have a traditional sense of manhood do not read books.

Having watched trends in publishing for a long time, it seems to me that the vast majority of books are intended for women. Women are the marketplace for publishers, and not a lot of books are being published for men.

I could be wrong, but when I try to find books that I enjoy, I don’t find them among the new releases.

Sure, James Patterson has two new books being published every week, and Lee Child always has a new release. I suppose Grisham and Clancy novels are intended for a male audience, but it just seems to me that most of the new books by new authors are targeted to women.

I don’t fault authors or publishers. You write and publish what sells. I fault the untruths that we told boys for a couple of generations. Somewhere along the line I believe we failed to disabuse boys of the notion that reading was a “girly” pursuit. I think we raised up a generation or two of boys who thought that time spent in a book was time in a feminine activity.

So, I found it refreshing when I read on Order of Man that they are encouraging men to read. I don’t know if they have a reading list or if it’s every man for himself. But I like the idea that there are men out there who are holding out reading as a manly pursuit.

When I was a kid I was enthralled with my dad’s knowledge. I remember, even in my early 20s, thinking that I would never know as much about the Civil War as my dad did. And then it occurred to me that when I was young my dad frequently had a book in his hand. And the books he had were nonfiction Civil War histories. So I started reading nonfiction Civil War histories to try to catch up with my dad. I’m not saying that I have an equal amount of knowledge (he has a 30-year jump on me, after all), but I will say that there was footnoted material in Jackson Speed at the High Tide that when he finished reading the novel my dad said, “You uncovered somethings even I didn’t know.” Now that’s book review worth having!

Maybe I’m all wrong and men are reading books and books are being written, published, and marketed to men, and I just don’t realize it. None of what I’ve written here is statistical and researched, it’s all anecdotal observation.

Nevertheless, I find it encouraging that somewhere out there men are telling other men that they should read books.

And if Order of Man has a recommended reading list, maybe I can convince them some day to put Jackson Speed on their list as a sort of “how not to behave like a man” guidebook.

What happens when you call an Irishman a mule? Author Robert Peecher discusses the ‘battle of the boat’ in The Hero of El Teneria

Rob Peecher and Melissa Bowden at Library book signing.

Rob Peecher (left) signing books at an author talk.

I periodically do author talks, and they are usually a lot of fun for me.

I enjoy being able to talk to a group of people about Jackson Speed and the research that goes into writing historical fiction.

What I most enjoy about them is the audience interaction and being able to answer questions and have a conversation with the audience about the books.

Unfortunately, most of the talks I do are in front of people who have never read any of the Jackson Speed books. Most of the folks who read Jackson Speed are in far off places like Alaska and the United Kingdom, and I don’t have any publishing house send me on worldwide speaking tours.

So until someone decides to pony up the cash for a worldwide speaking tour, I thought it might be worthwhile to stand in front of a video camera and get some footage of me talking about Jackson Speed, and that might be a way for people who have enjoyed the books to have the opportunity to “attend” an author talk.

Obviously, we lose the interaction, but if anyone posts in the comments here or at Youtube or on Facebook, I’ll be glad to try to answer their questions.

The first talk addresses the question that I still get from readers more than anything else: Was the battle of the boat scene in the Hero of El Teneria based on an actual event?

Let me know what you think – and if you have questions, feel free to post them on the blog or at any of my social media accounts and I’ll try to get you an answer!

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.

Best sales month yet

In a month when all of my other books sold pretty well, Iron Curling Ale performed very poorly. Nevertheless, I love this little book and I'm still glad I wrote it.

In a month when all of my other books sold pretty well, Iron Curling Ale performed very poorly. Nevertheless, I love this little book and I’m still glad I wrote it.

Over the past month I’ve managed to put together my best month of sales and my best single day of sales for my books.

As I’ve said many times, sales of my books aren’t going to get me on any New York Times lists, and I’m not making anything more than date-night money off the books, but sales of the books give me something significantly more valuable than cash in my pocket.

There really is nothing more gratifying to a writer (at least, this writer, I shouldn’t try to speak for anyone else) than to see that someone is willing to drop $4.50 on one of my books. And especially when it’s the later books in the series. That suggests that someone has read one of the books and liked it enough to come back for more. That’s the best part.

So, this month was a good sales month for me.

The book of my humor columns, “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings” had a mini resurgence. Never a book to draw much interest from readers, several people bought it this month and one of them left a new 5-star review.

I’m grateful for that! All indie authors understand that reviews help sell books, and so a new review really helps.

The Jackson Speed books sold very well, also, and I’m really thrilled to say that all four of the novels and the new novella sold, which is great. Some months I’ll sell a few of one book and a few of another, but I don’t always sell copies of every book in the series every month.

One thing that was really cool, on my best single sales day yet, I sold at least one copy of all five of the Speed series!

In the big picture, that’s not a big deal, but it was a little milestone that I was happy to celebrate.

I also sold a fair number of paperbacks, and that very rarely happens. I go some months without selling any paperbacks, so that was also a nice surprise.

My sales this month were a happy mixture of sales from the United Kingdom and the United States. As always, I am grateful that so many people in the United Kingdom enjoy reading about a cowardly scoundrel in 19th Century America.

Sadly, Iron Curling Ale achieved another month of zero sales. I don’t mind saying that I’m disappointed with Iron Curling Ale. When I wrote it, I thought maybe it would be the sort of book that would pick up a following. It was only ever going to appeal to a narrow niche of readers, and I always understood that the audience for Iron Curling Ale would be limited.

It’s a rough story all about drugs and sex and drinking and a cross country road trip, and you probably had to have spent time drinking with me in college to even begin to enjoy this book (but, as my wife pointed out, the people who drank with me in college may very well outnumber those who did not).

But Iron Curling Ale is sort of like my offspring – no matter how much it might disappoint me with its sales, I’ll still always love that book. That little book has a piece of my heart.

Meanwhile, to all those who are reading about my actual children in Four Things and those who are following Jackson Speed’s adventures, I remain grateful to you for your interest.