Answers to the podcast never given

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I had a great time this morning doing an interview with J.C. Hulsey who does the Wild West Showdown podcast.

He contacted me last week about being interviewed for the podcast, and so last night I spent some time making notes so that I would be prepared for the interview.

The notes really focused on my new Westerns – Too Long the Winter and Redemption at Two Rivers Station.

These books are going to appeal to more readers than the Jackson Speed novels. I mean, let’s be honest, Jack Speed is a fun character, the novels are set against a very rich (and accurate) historical tapestry, and I love the Jackson Speed novels.

But not as many readers are going to be interested in a womanizing coward as a “hero.”

My new novels are selling pretty well, so I think obviously Mr. Hulsey’s listeners are going to be more interested in hearing about these.

So my notes in preparing for today’s interview focused almost entirely on the new novels.

What did I end up talking about?

You guessed it: Jackson Speed.

The interview didn’t feel so much like an interview. Mr. Hulsey and I just had a conversation, and the conversation naturally flowed toward one thing rather than the other, and I completely forgot about my notes.

But here I am with all these notes and nothing to do with them, so I thought I would share here some of what I prepared in an imagined interview.

I’ll call this “Answers to the Podcast Never Given.”

 

Q. WHY DO YOU WRITE WESTERN NOVELS?

I have always had a fascination with the time period.

My dad is an armchair historian, and in particular he’s always had an astounding knowledge of Civil War history. Growing up, I remember thinking there was no way I’d ever be as knowledgeable as my dad. It’s still a challenge to me to include anecdotes or facts in my novels that my dad didn’t previously know, and once or twice in a novel I’ll manage to surprise him.

The Civil War leads naturally to the American West – what we call now the Old West or even the Wild West, and my interest in this place and time in American history very much developed naturally.

So I’m drawn to that time period of the 19th century from the Mexican-American War, through the Civil War and to the close of the 1800s. That time period takes you from the time of Manifest Destiny and exploration through the War Between the States and into the expansion period.

Not only was it a definitive period of American history, but it was also a time of some really amazing characters. You’ve got so many fascinating and true stories of lawmen like Dangerous Dan Tucker and Seth Bullock and Bass Reaves, and the lawmen were seldom as interesting as the outlaws. And a lot of those folks blurred those lines.

 

Q. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TIME PERIOD THAT IS SO INTERESTING TO YOU?

You also had people who had this really amazing spirit of adventure and willingness to take risks.

Not everybody, of course. Most folks just stayed put in the town they came from, but there were tens of thousands of people who sold everything and set off on an adventure.

Someone back east who sold everything traveled six months across the country, sometimes not really even knowing where they would end up. They faced dangers and obstacles that folks today can’t imagine and wouldn’t dream of taking on if they could.

I’ll tell you a quick story along those lines.

I’m working on the last book in a series of four novels that were inspired by a story from my family’s lore.

Sometime in the mid-1800s I had an ancestor, maybe a cousin to a great-great grandfather, who set out West. The family never heard from him again.

One day his trunk was delivered home with no explanation. No note, no idea who sent the trunk home. Nothing. No one in the family ever knew what happened to him.

That’s a story that has stayed with me over the years and really captured my imagination, and it’s the starting point for the series I’m finishing now.

 

Q. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?

One of the reasons I’m drawn to writing Westerns is that I read Westerns.

Louis L’Amour and Robert B. Parker are among my favorite authors. Robert Parker was probably better known for the “Spenser” novels that inspired the TV series “Spenser for Hire,” but he’s also written some great Westerns.

I love Owen Wister’s The Virginian – a novel that also inspired a TV series back in the 60s.

Robert Utley wrote some fantastic non-fiction books about the Lincoln County War that read like novels.

I’m also a fan of Glenn Tucker and Shelby Foote as Civil War historians.

 

Q. WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR NOVELS?

My goal when I write a novel is to just simply tell good stories. I want to entertain my readers. If you’re not careful, you might learn a little history (especially from my Jackson Speed series which is heavily footnoted with historical context).

But really what I want to do is just entertain folks so that when they finish reading one of my novels they feel satisfied with the way they spent their time.

I charge $3.49 for most of my books, so it’s not a huge investment in terms of money. But it’s humbling to me to think that people are spending their time with my novels, and I don’t want them to regret that. So when I am writing a novel, that’s what I’m thinking about – I’m thinking about a commitment to the reader that I’m going to do the best I can to write a novel that is worth their time.

 

So … According to my notes from last night, that’s absolutely how the interview went. I was able to talk all about my interest in American history and my new Western novels and I hardly even mentioned Jackson Speed at all.

When the podcast airs, I’ll post a link and you can decide for yourself whether or not I accomplished anything resembling my goals.

I think, actually, the most interesting thing I said in the podcast is that I’m a professional doorman for my dogs.

I need to wrap this up now because I hear someone scratching at the door.

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Tearing down the Confederate statues

 

I remember as a child riding through Southern towns with my parents, and always searching for the statue of the Confederate soldier. When I was very young, my father had pointed them out to me and told me on road trips to look out for them.

To me, the statue was a tangible and expected memorial to the history of the War of the Rebellion, the war my father studied in the books sitting the table beside his chair; a war my great-great grandfathers fought in. The statues, to my young imagination, were a representation of my great-great grandfathers, one of whom donated his arm at Vicksburg to the cause of liberty.

I craved the statues of soldiers rather than a plain obelisk bearing only names, because in the faces of those statues I saw the faces of the dead in the old photographs from my father’s books. I frequently would lie on the floor and look at those picture in the books and try to imagine the lives of the corpses scattered on the recent battlefield; I would try to imagine who they had been and what they had lost.

The South was thoroughly beaten in the war. Sherman cut a swath through Georgia and the Carolinas, destroying property the entire way. The Army of the Potomac, and not much less the Army of Northern Virginia, ravaged the Virginia countryside. Veterans returning home near the battlegrounds in Virginia easily got lost as they found themselves in a landscape that in no way resembled the homes they had left in 1861. The men felled entire forests in service to their respective armies. Towns and homes and farms – all the familiar landmarks – were leveled.

Nearly all the battles fought happened in the seceded Southern states. Gettysburg and Antietam being the primary exceptions, the biggest fighting of the war occurred in Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.

Like any beaten nation, the states that comprised the Confederacy suffered long after life in the Northern states returned to normal.

The Southern states were occupied and governed, at least initially, in the way that any victor would occupy and govern the land of a beaten foe.

Many efforts were made for swift reconciliation, and for some, that swift reconciliation came. Many of the South’s leaders went on to occupy elected office in the states or even the federal government. Others commanded black troops in service to the United States government.

But deep wounds festered in the South.

Politically and economically the South would not recover for two generations or more. Much of the South suffered in poverty for decades after the war. The blame, or much of it, can be laid not at the feet of the conquering Yankees, but at the feet of the Southern politicians who discovered that their political power was sustained by a weak and poor population. But so long as the Southern black was poorer than the Southern white, Southern politicians could be guaranteed reelection. Deepening the divisions of race to deflect attention from the solidarity of poverty was good business for white politicians.

Of course, the boll weevil and store credit played no small part in rural Southern poverty, but economics has a multi-faceted nature.

As the Confederate veterans aged, it became proper that they – and those who did not age – would be memorialized.

It does not require a vivid imagination to understand the motivations. Men and women who lost friends, cousins, brothers, sought to honor them. The sons and daughters of the aging Confederate veterans took up collections to raise statues to their fathers.

They did not erect statues to honor nameless and faceless heroes of the past, but to honor the people they knew and the people they lost.

In some instances, surely, the statues went up at the expense of the taxpayer and likely as not these were cynical (and successful) appeals for votes. Undoubtedly these statues also were intended as a defiant gesture against the Yankee government when Southern Democrats regained political control. That the statues were also intended as a message to freed slaves and their sons and daughters should not be ignored. That very defiance to the Yankee government told another tale to Southern blacks, a Jim Crow tale, and a warning of continued political oppression.

And so the question we must ask ourselves is whether it is right to continue to honor these Confederate dead, knowing as we do that their memorials in public places were often erected with the dual intention of telegraphing a message of defiance and oppression.

As much as some might want these statues to be lasting symbols of heritage and culture, the sad fact is that for many of our neighbors and our fellow Southerners, these statues are a constant reminder that their heritage at one time was the oppression of a people who equaled under the law only three-fifths of a man.

I cannot help but reach the conclusion that these statues should be removed from public squares and parks. I hate this, because for me personally these statues represent a tangible connection to the not-so-distant past, a past that thoroughly obsesses me.

But knowing that the statues hold a very opposite meaning for so many of my fellow Southerners, and believing that their view of these statues cannot be reconciled with mine, I see no way forward where everyone can be made satisfied and these statues left in place.

But it should not be the work of angry mobs, nor of politicians craving to garner the same cynical votes they craved a century ago.

The solution should come from the very people who erected the statues in the first place.

The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, the ones to whom the statues represent heritage and culture, should be given first right of refusal to receive back the statues they bought. And they should then mount the statues in private parks, or in museums or donate them to the Civil War Trust to put on battlefields where it might make sense.

And in places where these statues were erected by governments and not by private organizations, paid for by taxpayers, the Civil War Trust should be given the statues to put in appropriate places.

Whatever else these statues might have been, they are now forever a part of our history, a history that is complicated and often means vastly different things at the same time. The statues themselves are a part of our history beyond just what they represent. And history should not be lost nor ignored. But the place these statues occupy in our present should not be the places they presently occupy.

Public places – government places – must be places of equal access, and having statues of Confederate soldiers standing guard at courthouses and town squares is an inappropriate use of public property.

Making the Jackson Speed run down the Oconee River

Our boats on Rose Creek just before we broke camp to make the Jackson Speed Run down the Oconee.

Our boats on Rose Creek just before we broke camp to make the Jackson Speed Run down the Oconee.

Friday night I camped out on Rose Creek and then paddled the Oconee River from Rose Creek to a boat ramp at a place called Dyar’s Pasture.

If you have a familiarity with the area and know my Jackson Speed novels, you’ll understand why – even though the current of the Oconee is slow to nothing along this stretch – I’m calling this the “Speed Run.”

Rose Creek enters the Oconee River just above an abandoned old mill town called Scull Shoals. Scull Shoals, of course, is the place where Jackson Speed was brought up and first began his gallivanting ways. It was along this stretch of the Oconee River where Jackson Speed made his very first flight from an enraged and cuckolded husband – Uriah Franks (El Teneria).

In Speed’s day, the river would have moved a bit swifter than it did on Saturday when my buddy Rodney Carr and I paddled the river.

Dyar’s Pasture is at the north end of Lake Oconee, one of two man-made lakes between Scull Shoals and Milledgeville, where Speed disembarked from the river. The lakes slow the current. My suspicion is that in 1845, when Speed made his run down the Oconee, the river flowed similarly to the current on the North Oconee up around Athens, Georgia.

It was a fun experience to paddle the river there and camp across the river from Scull Shoals. We actually drove down to Scull Shoals and put in there, paddling around the rock piling that once supported the toll bridge controlled by the blacksmith (who in the Speed universe was Speed’s uncle).

The spot we found to camp on Rose Creek was a perfect little ledge just the right size for a campsite, and I could easily imagine Speed swimming across the Oconee (or, in summers with little rain, walking across the Oconee) to camp out on Rose Creek.

One of the things I love about paddling around north Georgia is the history I get to see. On the North and Middle Oconee rivers, there are old dams – now broken down – that helped to run mills. On the Apalachee, another river we frequently paddle when the water is high enough, there is a sandbar where we can always find Native American pottery shards and sometimes arrowheads.

Rodney had recently read about Frenchmen who in the 1600s used the Oconee River to transport gold from the North Georgia mountains.

If you’re like me and you have a love of history, I would strongly encourage you to get a canoe and put it in a river. Rivers used to be our highways, and the history around them is fascinating.

So, if you’re a Jackson Speed fan, don’t be surprised if the next Speed novel includes a scene with Speed camping on a ledge on Rose Creek.

Jackson Speed: Not really like other historical novels

Billy Oates, Alabama governor, Confederate colonel who led his men up Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. Some of the humor of the Jackson Speed novels comes from putting a character like Ol' Speedy next to a man like Billy Oates.

Billy Oates, Alabama governor, Confederate colonel who led his men up Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. Some of the humor of the Jackson Speed novels comes from putting a character like Ol’ Speedy next to a man like Billy Oates.

A few years ago, when I wrote the first Jackson Speed novel, I was talking to a buddy of mine and trying to describe the book to him.

It’s easy if someone is familiar with George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers, because then I can just say, “Well, Jackson Speed is similar to an American Flashman.”

But my friend wasn’t familiar with Flashman.

“Is it like Shaara’s books?” he asked.

“Um,” I hesitated. “Not really.”

Of course, Jackson Speed is almost nothing like the historical fiction of Jeff and Michael Shaara.

The father and son writers do a magnificent job of interpreting history through their stories, and if you have an interest in the Civil War and that time period, I highly recommend them. I’ve also enjoyed reading Bernard Cornwell’s Starbuck series (although I like his Sharpe series better).

Jackson Speed also isn’t much like Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey.

These are all great historical novels well worth reading.

The history in them ranges from precisely accurate to complete fiction, but they are all wonderful novels that tell really entertaining tales and, for the most part, offer readers mini-lessons in history.

I hope that Jackson Speed also entertains, and I know that there are history lessons hidden within the fiction. But with the exception of Fraser’s Flashman, all of these books take a pretty stoic view of history. Their heroes are heroic. Even when these authors allow their protagonists to be flawed, the flaws are overcome and the heroes find redemption.

Jackson Speed is without redemption, and his flaws run deep, but the thing that drives me when I write these stories is a desire to not take any of it too seriously. I write about horrible times and terrible events, but what I like about Speed is that so long as he escapes it, none of it matters much to him.

When he sees a man shot in the gut in battle and the guy is dying a slow death with his intestines leaking out on the battlefield, Speed is just thankful it wasn’t him who was shot.

When he is forced to give a thought to the institution of slavery, he’s ambivalent because he ain’t in chains.

Of course he’s also horrified by all of it, and scared to death. Part of what makes Jackson Speed so awful as a person is his willingness to succumb to his fear. While the brave men he meets (typically real people from history) charge into battle or do the duty, Speed is crouched behind a tree trunk praying for safety. I love the juxtaposition of Jackson Speed and, for instance, William Oates of the Fifteenth Alabama on the side of Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg.

Oates – both the Oates in Jackson Speed at the High Tide and the real Oates of history – was a tough and fearless man, and the men of the Fifteenth Alabama only left that hill when they were nearly out of ammunition and exhausted from terrible fighting, a 20-mile march and climbing up the side of Round Top. And then there’s Jackson Speed, and you’ll know how he escaped that ferocious battle in the woods on the side of that famous hill.

And then, because we see all of this action through Jackson Speed’s memory, these stalwart men of history are viewed as maniacs and imbeciles. And that just amuses me to no end.

So if you’re looking for historical fiction that casts these characters in a stoic and properly respectful attitude, there are some great books out there that I highly recommend.

But if you think you’d like a little humor in your historical fiction, a little coward in your hero, some pinched nipples and slapped butt cheeks, then you might want to give Ol’ Speedy a read.

Is it farcical? Yes.

Is it absurd? Sometimes.

Is it interesting and informative? Absolutely.

Is it like most other historial novels? Um. Not really.

Officially launched: “Jackson Speed at the High Tide”

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“The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” photograph by Timothy O’Sullivan, Civil War battlefield photographer.

When I was a small child I used to look through my father’s books about the War Between the States, in particular those that bore lots of photographs and maps. I would guess they were probably Time-Life books that I dragged out of the bookcase and sat on the floor and looked through. I remember the first time I saw the photo “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter,” a photo by battlefield photographer Timothy O’Sullivan.

I vividly remember the way that photograph captured my imagination. Maybe I was 5-years-old. Maybe six.

In the photo is a dead Confederate soldier in among the boulders of the Devil’s Den. His musket is propped against some stacked rocks – rocks that presumably the soldier put there to protect him and failed in their task. The lifeless body never seemed real to me.

Some years later, when I was a teenager, I visited Gettysburg with my parents. It was a stunning thing to me to be walking in among the rocks at Devil’s Den and find myself staring at the exact spot where the photo was taken.

I had spent so long when I was little staring at that picture of death that could clearly see the body on the ground, the gun propped against the stacked rocks. The stacked rocks, to this day, remain in place.

This is Gettysburg – a place that haunts the American conscious. It is remembered as the “Bloodiest Battle” of the War Between the States. When old veterans of the war held reunions, those reunions at Gettysburg were the most prominent. Presidents attended reunions at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg marked the time and place that the Confederacy was at its highest point – it’s High Tide – and it was the moment that the fortunes of war began to turn in favor of the Union.

Argonne in World War I, and Battle of the Bulge and Okinawa in World War II were worse than Gettysburg in terms of total American deaths, but the 3-day battle at Gettysburg saw 51,000 casualties and some 8,000 Americans killed. It was the “bloodiest” battle of the Civil War, though Sharpsburg (Antietam if you’re reading this from north of the Mason-Dixon Line) was the bloodiest single day battle.

But Gettysburg, for some reason that I don’t know I can even articulate, holds a place of prominence above all those in the hearts and minds of the American people. Perhaps the only battle that stirs our collective soul more than Gettysburg is Normandy.

When I sat down to write about Jackson Speed at Gettysburg, I knew I was heading into rough waters. If you want a fictional character to tear down your most revered places, Jackson Speed is the character to do it. And, truthfully, I doubt there are many people who revere Gettysburg more than I do.

So I went into the writing of “High Tide” with an internal conflict.

Also, you know I am a fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman and you know that Flashman was a huge inspiration for Jackson Speed. In the Flashman books, Fraser often implied that there would be a “Flashman at Gettysburg” novel, but he did not live to write that tale. (Interestingly, I read an interview where Fraser said he really wasn’t interested in writing about Flashman in the American Civil War because the subject bored him!)

I’m certainly not suggesting that “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is the Flashman book Fraser never wrote, but I will say that in writing “High Tide” I did feel I owed a certain respect to Fraser.

So I went into the writing of “High Tide” more than a little intimidated.

I’ll leave it to readers to decide if I managed to tell a story that entertains while respecting the revered status of Gettysburg and honoring the memory of Fraser and the character he created.

But I will say I’m pleased with the thing.

Heavily footnoted (there are 78 footnotes), I dug into my research pretty heavily. I cite Glenn Tucker and Shelby Foote in the acknowledgements, but I can’t imagine the numbers of books and articles I referred to in the writing of this book. One of the real joys for me was going to original sources. I read tons of material from people who lived in the town of Gettysburg – civilians during the battle. How fascinating that was! I went directly to Longstreet, Pickett, Doubleday, Oates, Chamberlain and many others to get their first-hand accounts of the battle.

Without intending to, I built a case that Ewell could have won the battle of Gettysburg for the South if he had pressed his advantage on the first day of the battle – at least, that was Speed’s opinion. Speed also spends a fair portion of the book defending Longstreet, and – as is his way – puts all the blame of Confederacy’s loss on Robert E. Lee for engaging the Federals at all.

Maybe the most fun I had was writing about the day Early’s troops came through Gettysburg a couple of days before the battle. They rode through town making a nuisance of themselves, and you’ll read where Speed has a conversation with a couple of Early’s men. It still makes me laugh and I’ve read it a dozen times to anyone who will listen (mostly my wife and children because they can’t escape me).

The promise I’ve always made to my readers is that the Jackson Speed novels will be historically accurate, and with the exception of the presence of Speed, I think you’ll find “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is more accurate than your average textbook.

Can you learn something from reading this book? I promise you can. Even if you think you know Gettysburg, I can almost guarantee there is some historical fact in here that you’ll not have already known.

Can you find some entertainment from reading this book? I certainly hope so. If you have no sense of humor or you don’t care for a cowardly scoundrel, then this book probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy novels that don’t take themselves too seriously, if you’re even slightly interested in history, and you can enjoy the tale of a rascal whose only interests are pretty women and not getting shot, then I think you’ll find that reading “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is a worthwhile use of your time.

Also … in formatting the ebook, I learned how to create links for my footnotes. This was a huge discovery for me, because the footnotes add so much to the story (you should read the footnotes). Because something more than 90 percent of my sales are ebooks, I really wanted to figure this out for those readers. So moving between the footnotes and the body of the novel is a simple thing now. Though it’s time consuming, I may at some point try to do this for the previous books, but I will definitely do it with all future books.

At The High Tide FinalAs always, I hope you enjoy the book! If you do, please leave a review at Amazon.com. Reviews help me sell books. And if you want to get in touch with me, please do that, too. I ABSOLUTELY love to hear from the people who enjoy my stories. Every time I get an email from a reader who enjoyed one of my novels, it makes my day.

So, without further ado, I’m officially smashing the bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship “Jackson Speed at the High Tide.”

Whether its paperback or Kindle ebook, go and get you one of these and learn a little bit and have a laugh and enjoy getting lost in the world that plays out in my head!

Update on Jackson Speed at the High Tide

The trauma of NaNoWriMo has left me speechless. I’ve not written a blog post in two months.

For you fans of Jackson Speed, here’s where things stand: The fourth book is written but I am still editing/rewriting.

Taking Jackson Speed at the High Tide as a continuation of Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike and considering them one complete work as they were initially intended, I’ve got to say Volumes III and IV of the Jackson Speed memoirs are my personal favorites so far. I’m really proud of these two books, and I cannot wait for Jackson Speed fans to see Volume IV!

Speaking of Jackson Speed fans, I’ve occasionally written about my sales here, and I’ll say a word about sales today, too. December was awful. I’d been riding a pretty good wave of sales from May through November, but December my sales fell off the wagon.

Thankfully, January picked up steam and February (so far) has been very good. Interestingly, I’m selling books in the United States again. Back in June my sales in the United Kingdom began to increase dramatically, and through the second half of 2014 almost all of my sales came out of Britain. But my U.S. sales outpaced foreign sales in January. I think that’s a good thing, because my novels offer a chance for more people to learn about U.S. history as seen by Jackson Speed – and what better way to learn than with Ol’ Speedy as your teacher?

When I say that I am grateful beyond words to you people who buy my books, I hope you understand that I am being completely genuine. It’s not the $1.34 I get from the sales in England or the $2.05 I get from the sales in the United States … it’s the fact that people are enjoying my work enough to come back and read the next book. That’s really so amazing to me.

When I started writing the Jackson Speed novels, I was writing stories that would entertain me. I created this character who I found amusing and put him in historical situations that I found interesting. I didn’t know if I would ever sell a single book or if anyone who read the stories would even enjoy them. Basically, Jackson Speed was just a pleasant diversion for me.

But when I go to look at my sales chart and see that I’ve sold a copy of Blood Tubs or Orange Turnpike – that people enjoyed El Teneria enough to want more – it truly is the most gratifying experience.

While I work on edits of High Tide, I’ve also got some other projects that I’m working on – many of which are in some latter stages of completion – and I hope to soon be able to share some details about some of those projects.

My target date for publishing Jackson Speed at the High Tide is late March (though it could be mid-May), and when the time gets a little closer I’ll release the cover image that Alex McArdell created for High Tide. It’s spectacular!

50K words in 30 days

The last time I checked the word count I was just over 53,000 words into Jackson Speed at the High Tide. I might be up to about 55,000 now.

I’ve been working on this fourth novel in the Jackson Speed Memoirs for more than a year, pausing periodically to finish up other projects (including Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike which was published in May).

The previous three Speed novels were all between 65,000 and 70,000 words, and generally that is my target length when I’m writing. However, I believe High Tide – which takes up Jackson Speed’s involvement in the three day battle of Gettysburg – is going to turn out to be a good bit longer.

At 53,000 words, I am only up to about 3 p.m. on July 2, 1863 (the moment the second day’s fighting started). Granted, about half of what I have written so far involves the month or so leading up to the war, but I suspect I’m still at least 30,000 words from finishing, maybe more than that. It seems like there is a lot of story left to tell, and I could easily see this book approaching 100,000 words.

My intention was to have the book ready for my editor well before the end of the year (maybe by the end of October), and at my current pace I suppose that’s still possible. Because life and work and kids’ soccer games tend to get in the way, I suspect it could be next spring before I’m done.

I’ve never liked working exclusively on one project. Instead, I like having lots of irons in the fire at one time. So to keep plenty of irons heating up, today I made the decision to go ahead and start the fifth book in the Jackson Speed Memoirs in November.

Among the writing community the NaNoWriMo challenge is a pretty big deal. This is a challenge where you set a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Lots of authors do it with varying degrees of success.

I’m not big on gimmicks, but if you know the story of my first Jackson Speed novel, then you know that I wrote the thing at a frantic pace. I skipped meals, wrote at work, stayed up all night writing and in 28 days I’d knocked out a 65,000 word novel.

But when I did that I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, and I did it from mid-May to mid-June of 2012 so it didn’t count for the National Novel Writing Month.

Since first finding out about it, I’ve thought often about maybe trying to participate NaNoWriMo, and I’ve decided now that I am going to. I signed up today for NaNoWriMo 2014, and I am going to start getting some of the preliminary research done for the fifth Jackson Speed novel so that come November I can hit the ground running.

My goal is to put myself in a position where next spring I can publish back-to-back Jackson Speed novels. I’m really excited about it, and I hope it doesn’t turn into a complete disaster where I can’t get anything done – that’s as possible as being able to finish two novels at roughly the same time.

But, the challenge is made doubly difficult because all through November AMC will be airing new episodes of The Walking Dead, and obviously TWD will take precedence over Jackson Speed (or anything else).