Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The first time I ever took notice of Dwight Yoakam was his duet with the legendary Buck Owens, "The Streets of Bakersfield." Their chemistry together was so tangible that my father was convinced Yoakam was Owens' son recording under a different name. Regardless, this Tejano-tinged song is one that's darn near impossible to hear without smiling. It's simply fun. And I adore the concise storytelling in the lyrics--"I took fifteen dollars from that man" Yoakam sings of a drunk thrown into the same San Francisco jail cell as he, before Owens jumps in with the clarification, "Left him my watch and my old house key/Don't want folks thinking that I'd steal." How great is that? I aspire to write such character-defining lines in my writing, and here it's an almost throw-away lyric in the song. The video also gets bonus points from me for the Colt .45s cap and the return of Owens' signature red-white-and-blue guitar.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Electric Light Orchestra.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: For those keeping score at home

Okay, I've been very busy lately and very remiss on keeping this blog updated. A thousand pardons. Last Friday, September 23 to be exact, I had a signing in San Marcos at Bad Boy Books, which had the singular misfortune of coinciding with the Texas State/University of Houston football weekend. Which meant the city center was full of college revelers with nary a parking spot to be had for miles. That put a real damper on the turnout for the event, but we soldiered on and and a heck of a time anyway.

Sunday found me at Rustic Ranch in Wimberley for the annual fundraiser of the Wimberley Players. Their theme this year was "The Best Little Playhouse in Texas," and someone thought having me there would be entertaining. That, too, was a lot of fun. The M.C. for the night dressed up like the legendary Marvin Zindler and I officially sold out of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch. A portion of every sale went to the Wimberley Players, so it was win-win. I had a lot of great conversations, particularly with Allison, a student from Texas Woman's University who's in the women's studies program. We got into a great discussion on the merits and drawbacks of legalized prostitution versus prohibition, and I look forward to continuing it some day. And yes, I have more books on order, but this is the first time since early July that I've not had a single copy of my book in the house. That's an odd sensation.

Monday proved to be one of those "interesting times" Chinese proverb-tellers are always going on about. My car was dead in the morning (foolish me somehow left the lights on and killed the battery) so I had to take my daughter's car to work. Okay, fine. Except right around lunch the skies opened up with a bonafide deluge. The San Marcos River rose up to cover the Aquarena Drive bridge, which means we're getting a lot of the wet stuff. But this wasn't a normal flood. There were pockets of heavy rain, and other pockets of really heavy rain, and that caused localized flooding where it hadn't ever been seen before. Like in the parking lots around the edge of campus. Like, in the parking lot where I'd parked my daughter's car. This particular lot was partway up a hill, so one would think the drainage would preclude any flooding. One would be wrong. The rain was coming down so hard, and the runoff from up hill was coming down so fast that everything pooled in the relatively flat lot. I saw one SUV with white water halfway up its doors. I got to my daughter's car with the water lapping around the rear wheels, and then relocated it to the third floor of a parking garage three blocks away. Then walked back to my office. My raincoat and waterproof hiking boots were completely soaked through. After dealing with the media excitement, I rushed home at the end of the day, took a hot shower and put on some dry clothes before rushing back to San Marcos for a meeting of the "Trashy Ladies Book Club." I'm telling you, I love book clubs, and the Trashy Ladies are at the top of my list. They were brassy and bawdy and knew how to throw a party with good food and plenty of wine flowing throughout the evening. That's them in the photo above. I signed a whole bunch of books and answered all manner of questions about the Chicken Ranch and Miss Edna. The ladies discussed the practicalities of "having a poke" at the Chicken Ranch so much I felt like I was an extra on the set of Lonesome Dove. It was a great deal of fun and I'm grateful for several of them leaving me reviews on Amazon. So, yay for reviews!

I've got another book club visit coming up October 9 in La Grange, when I pay a visit to the 2nd Sunday Gang at the Fayette County Library. I doubt there will be as much wine flowing, but I expect it to be a blast nonetheless, because hey, it's La Grange. Before that, though, I'm at the MSC Bookstore on the Texas A&M campus, prior to the big A&M/Tennessee football game, so for any Aggies looking to get some Christmas shopping out of the way early, I can fix you up. Then on October 15 I'm back in Houston (I can't stay away from this place!) for a 3-5 p.m. signing at River Oaks Bookstore. I've had some great experiences in Houston thus far, and am really looking forward to the return trip.

That wraps up my October events, but I've got a full slate coming up in November. Beyond that, I've got some spring tour dates firming up as well. I'll share those pretty soon, but for now, wow, I sure am busy!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Chicken Ranch: Signing in San Marcos!

A quick reminder that tonight, September 23, I will be in San Marcos for a reading, signing and Q&A session for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at Bad Boy Books/Dahlia Woods Gallery. The event runs 7-9 p.m., so everyone in the area who's wanted to talk about the infamous Chicken Ranch or get a book signed, this is your opportunity to shop local and support downtown San Marcos businesses.

In other interesting news, Houston Matters aired my interview with Michael Hagerty about Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch yesterday. I've already had a few people mention they heard it while listening to NPR, but you don't even need a radio to listen, as the entire conversation has been conveniently posted online. Listen in here.

Finally, if you're curious how my Reddit Ask Me Anything adventure went, you can read for yourself at this link. I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively few number of trolls. Yes, some popped up asking juvenile questions in a misguided attempt to be funny, but that didn't derail the discussion. So, yay!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chicken Ranch: The Reddit Experience

So, this Ask Me Anything for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch is happening. Join the party at

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Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy Birthday Sheriff Jim Flournoy!

On this date in 1902, Thomas James Flournoy was born to Tom and Etta Flournoy on a ranch near Rock Island. He would grow up to work as a ranch hand on the famous King Ranch, a Texas Ranger patrolling the Big Bend region during World War II and--most famously--as the long-serving sheriff of Fayette County. Sheriff Jim famously defied political and media pressure to close down the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel outside of La Grange in 1973 before acquiescing to a direct order from Governor Dolph Briscoe. A year later, Sheriff Flournoy confronted Marvin Zindler on the town square, ripping off the reporter's hairpiece and throwing it in the street. The resulting lawsuits and counter suits were eventually settled out of court with a large donation to the Shriner's Children's Hospital.

Sheriff Flournoy died on October 27, 1982, from heart problems. He would've been 114 years old today.

This Friday, September 23, I will be in San Marcos for a reading, signing and Q&A session for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at Bad Boy Books/Dahlia Woods Gallery. The event runs 7-9 p.m., so everyone in the area who's wanted to talk about the infamous Chicken Ranch, get a book signed or corner me about that $20 I owe you, here's your chance to scratch that particular item off your bucket list.

If, for some unfathomable reason you are not able to make the San Marcos signing on Friday, you can still help me observe Sheriff Jim's birthday this evening by joining me for my Reddit Ask Me Anything starting at 8 p.m. Central Time (that's 9 Eastern). My username is "JaymeBlaschke." It should be an interesting couple of hours. See you there!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Reddit vs. the Chicken Ranch

Well, now. This should prove to be interesting. I have been approved for a Reddit Ask Me Anything with--what else?--the Chicken Ranch as the primary topic! Can you tell I'm excited? Nervous? All of the above?

My AMA will be 9 p.m. EST (that's 8 p.m. for us normal, Central Time folks) on September 22, a date which just coincidentally happens to coincide with Fayette County Sheriff J.T. "Big Jim" Flournoy's 114th birthday. See what I did there? The Reddit AMA will happen at this link and it should appear on the sidebar calendar before long. My username is "JaymeBlaschke."

I suspect most Reddit users will be more familiar with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas than they are with the historical Chicken Ranch itself. I wonder how many people are going to ask if the madam really looked like Dolly Parton? See you there!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Friday, September 02, 2016

On the road again, Chicken Ranch edition

Last night saw me and The Wife pay a visit to Inferno's Pizza in Gruene for the Comal County A&M Club's happy hour. I'd never been to Inferno's before, but I was impressed. Upscale, gourmet pizza and stromboli (along with other interesting menu items) at prices that weren't unreasonable. Recommended. Apart from the pizza, I had a lot of good conversations with the Former Students there about the Chicken Ranch and the real history behind "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Believe it or not, we ran into one recent graduate who had never so much as heard of the Chicken Ranch, much less A&M's relatively close ties to the notorious brothel. As Good Aggies, The Wife and I rectified this gross oversight in his education, and he came away with a new perspective on his university. I gave away a bunch of koozies and sold a few books. Everyone had a pretty good time.

That was just the warm-up. Tonight (actually, in just a few hours) I'll be heading back to La Grange for the Fayette County Fair, where I'll be signing copies of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Fayette County Record booth from 6-10 p.m. So for any of you folks in the La Grange, Schulenburg, Weimar, Smithville or Columbus area, come on out and say hello.

After getting home and grabbing a few hours' sleep, I'm back on the road again, this time heading to College Station, where I'll be signing books at the MSC Bookstore at Texas A&M University from noon until 2:30 p.m. That's right before some little football game going on between the Aggie and the UCLA Bruins. I hope I don't siphon too many fans away from them. Again, stop by my table and say "Howdy!" if you're in the area.

Finally, the piece below was in yesterday's edition of the Austin American-Statesman. It's nice to be appreciated, and every little bit of press helps spread awareness for my book. Thanks to everyone who's helped to make this ride a fun one!

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Office build-along, pt. 5

When last I wrote about my office build-along, way back in June, as it turns out, I'd just stained a bunch of lauan plywood for the backing of my book shelves. Since then, a lot of other things have coopted my time, including major yard work involving mulching much brush and branches, a book launch and signing tour (such as it is), as well as the construction of a tiki bar. I'll do a post of that one soon--I didn't think to do it as a build-along, so that's on me.

The long and short of all this is that my office remodeling project and construction of the built-in book cases has lain semi-dormant most of the summer. Not entirely so, however. I removed several sections of crown molding and baseboards from my office walls that will host said cases, and ripped up some of the cheap laminate flooring to get better access to the far wall. The "far wall" was once a wide open walkway into the dining room, which is what my office was prior to my closing it in with 2x4 studs and a bunch of drywall. I took a few photos of that process when I started it back in 2015, but I can't seem to find them. You can see part of the drywall peeking out from behind the already-installed lauan paneling in the photo below.

Know what else you can see? All the boxes of books and other assorted office detritus I'm storing here in the aftermath of last October's garage flooding. That doesn't make the task at hand any easier, but it's manageable for now. Also visible in the photo below is the "bump" in the corner that is giving me consternation. It's a big load-bearing pillar in the center of the house that utilities are piped up through. The bulk of it is in the kitchen, but there's just enough of it protruding into the former dining room to make the installation of book shelves a tad more challenging.

Here's a closeup of the lauan panel at the edge of the bump. A vertical book shelf support will go here, so I won't panel over this exposed section of drywall.

On the back wall, next to the closed-up walkway is a switch for the light/fan. It's a three-way switch, meaning there's one on either side of the room to control the light. I suppose I could've paneled over it, but I'm reluctant to do that, so instead there will be a switch built into the book case, most likely never used. This necessitates cutting a hole through the paneling for the switch. This is an area I've got quite a bit of failed experience at. I've tried making precise measurements and cutting from that. Never works. While working on The Wife's photography studio, I read of a trick where one rubs down switches/plugs with colored chalk and then press the drywall against said switches. Afterward, use the chalk outlines transferred to the drywall as a cutting guide. Unfortunately, the chalk didn't always transfer very clearly and errors crept in. This time I cast about, hoping to find something more effective. Alas, I didn't think to take any photos until I'd finished. But this is what I did--I got some mouse bait, a type of greenish gel in a squeeze bottle slightly larger than a bottle of eye drops, and applied a thin line of the stuff around the edge of the switch. If you look carefully, you can still see the greenish remnants in the grooves of the white switch I'm holding in the image below. I pressed the paneling against the switch, and I've got to say, the gooey transfer was about as perfect as one could hope for. I marked a rectangle a half inch out from the gooey lines, and drilled out four holes in the corners. Then I used a jig saw to slice the lines between the pilot holes. Placing the panel up against the wall, I was rewarded with a perfect fit. After nailing it into place, I replace the white switch with a brown switch to better blend in with the dark-stained paneling. It almost looks like I know what I'm doing.

Next, I had to clean out the far corner. I'd already removed the baseboard from the far wall, but the baseboard on the adjoining wall was a problem. Lots of stuff stacked against that outside wall could not be readily moved, yet the baseboard couldn't stay there. I ended up prying the end of the baseboard from the wall, and after marking a vertical line at the 12" mark, used the jig saw to make the straight(ish) cut. Not what I'd normally recommend, but I made it work, using a pair of pliers to snap off a few shards of wood that didn't quite get cut. Then I vacuumed up all the sawdust and splinters and drywall debris and other crap that always seems to build up in corners. Judging from the yellowed water stains on the drywall and under floor, the previous owners kept a potted plant in this corner of the dining room and over-watered it on occasion. Fortunately, it doesn't appear to have been a chronic condition and I'm finding no damage beyond the cosmetic.

I just realized I left out one important step--use a stud finder to locate all the 2x4s in the wall behind the drywall, and mark their locations on the ceiling right above where the paneling will cover. Since I have 9' ceilings and the panels are 8', I mark the wall below where the paneling will go. I can get away with covering only 8' of a 9' wall because those cabinets I spent all that time staining will cover the gap. Now comes the tedious detail work. The heads of the finish nails I used to secure the paneling to the wall do not blend well. I suppose I could simply say "They'll be hidden by books. No big deal." But I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive. I'd know the job was only done half-assed. So I take a nail set and tap each nail maybe 1/16th below the surface of the plywood.

Next, I take wood putty--the common Elmer's brand seems easiest to work with--and fill in each hole. The putty's moist, so I mound it slightly to compensate for shrinkage while drying. It's such a small amount of putty that it dries fairly quickly, and I can rub the excess away from the surrounding area with my fingers after about 10 minutes.

The next day--I let it dry thoroughly overnight--I sand all the now-puttied nail holes with super-fine, 400-grit sandpaper. I don't use a sanding block or anything. The areas are so small this goes really quickly. Nice and smooth.

Next, I grab a can of the stain I originally used on the paneling and use the corner of a folded-down paper towel to apply the stain to the putty. I get a little sloppy with it, but there's no worry, as any excess will blend in with the existing stain. Right?

Wong. Remember back when I stained the paneling using Minwax Special Walnut and decided the wood came out dark enough to forego a second, topcoat of Dark Walnut? Well, Dark Walnut and Special Walnut come in cans that look exactly the same except for the actual words on the label, and if one does something foolish, like, maybe, not actually read which stain he may or may not be using, the two could easily get mixed up.

So yeah, I screwed up. I got about halfway through staining the putty holes before thinking those stains looked a little too dark. Then I discovered the excess wouldn't wipe away. The Dark Walnut stain formed irregular donut rings around the putty holes that kinda betray my efforts to make my shelves look all professional-like. From a distance, they look a lot like the dark knotholes that dot the plywood. Up close they look like screw-ups. It still blends better than the naked nail heads or the light putty, but I'm annoyed at myself. Fortunately, this will all be covered up by books, so nobody will ever notice. :-)

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