First reading of Jackson Speed in the Rush gets a couple of tears

Not only is she my first reader, but Jean will also sometimes model books for me when first editions show up.

I am feverishly working on the final edits for the next Jackson Speed novel with the hope that it can be done and published in time for my friend Chris to read it on his vacation the first part of June.

If there has ever been any question about whether or not I love my readers, let this put all rumors to the contrary to rest. I am staying up until midnight night after night after night to be sure that Chris’s vacation has some Jackson Speed in it.

The “final edits” process looks like this: I read over every word and try to catch any last type-o’s, any continuity issues that were missed in previous edits, or anything that just sits funny with me (there are two scenes in El Teneria that still make me cringe when I wonder why I didn’t edit those out).

During “final edits,” I simultaneously give the book to my wife and ask her to read through it.

If you follow this blog, you know that Jean is my first reader, and I put tremendous value in her opinion of my books.

So this is what was going on in our house last night. I was final editing, and Jean was first reading.

If you’re a fan of Jackson Speed, you know these are not weighty books. I try to keep them historically accurate, full of action and satire, and entertaining to read. But periodically I’ll throw in some really terrible stuff because we are, after all, talking about a rough period of American history. My books are full of characters who die. I think of the final chapter of Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs, where Speed is on the battlefield at Fredericksburg and is standing over a dying Yankee soldier. It’s a poignant moment. And while the books are not weighty, there are certainly scenes that get heavier than others.

So last night Jean read through one of those heavier scenes.

And it made her cry.

She wasn’t bawling. She didn’t have snot coming out of her nose. But she had a couple of little tears she was willing to shed over a scene in the book.

That’s what I’m looking for. That’s why I put the book in Jean’s hand and watch her while she reads. If she cries when I want her to cry and laughs when I want her to laugh or shakes her head in disgust as Jackson Speed crawls into yet another woman’s bed, then it’s all a good gauge to me that I’m doing my job as a storyteller.

I don’t expect everyone to tear up while reading this book. It’s a fact about Jean that she’ll cry while watching Hallmark or Folger’s commercials. But for the average reader, there might be a scene or two that make you wonder if the room has suddenly gotten a little dusty.

So Chris need not worry that Ol’ Speedy is going to ruin his vacation with a lot of tear-jerking, but if my first reader’s reactions are a fair representation of the book, then I think I’ve done my job.

This one tops 100,000 words, so it’s a bigger book than all the other (except High Tide) and really it should feel like two stories for the price of one.

I’m excited for you to read it!

Now … back to editing before Chris gets his suitcases packed!

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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.