When I left a multi-hatted publishing job in the Big City to take over Desert Exposure, people sometimes asked me, "So, are you semi-retiring?"
As Desert Exposure has grown over the past two-plus years, we've found ourselves busier and busier. Thanks to the support of our advertisers and the terrific response from readers, each monthly issue seems to be bigger than the same edition was the year before. (Last June, for example, was 48 pages. This year, the June issue is too fat to fit into a single section.) Earlier this year, we expanded online to a fully featured Web site that contains not only the current issue, but all 2005 issues, easily searchable. Advertisers have already hopped on the DesertExposure.com bandwagon in a big way.
And this month, our "semi-retirement" gets even busier with the publication of the first title under our new book imprint, Gila Books. You can read all about the book, Six-Guns and Single-Jacks: A History of Silver City and Southwestern New Mexico, and author Bob Alexander, including three excerpts from the book. You can order the book online at www.gilabooks.com, or buy your very own autographed copy at one of Bob's lectures and book-signings in Silver City the weekend of June 18-19. He will be signing on Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Desert Blossom Books, 117 E. College, 388-3475. A special book-signing and publication party, open to the public, will follow at Silver City Brewing Co., 101 E. College, also on June 18, from 4-6 p.m. The next day, Sunday, June 19, he will deliver a lecture based on his new book and also sign books at the Silver City Museum, 312 W. Broadway, 538-5291, from 2-4 p.m.
Firing up our frenzied "semi-retirement" even further with Six-Guns and Single-Jacks was irresistible once we'd met Bob Alexander and heard him talk about the colorful history of Silver City and Southwest New Mexico. A former lawman and award-winning author of Western history, Bob spins a tale like the best campfire storyteller. But his stories of our Old West heritage are all true, and meticulously documented (999 footnotes, to be exact). The book also contains more than 80 historical photographs, most of which we bet you've never seen before, that really bring those wild and woolly pre-statehood days to life.
Moreover, we've been passionate about this area since the moment we moved here, and wanted to do our part to help preserve and share its lively past. In particular, we've felt that Southwest New Mexico's Old West saga deserved its due, and could form a powerful magnet for boosting the area's tourism. As Bob's new book makes clear, the pantheon of Wild West hot spots—Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge City—needs to make room for one more: Silver City. (The book's also got an awful lot about Deming, Lordsburg and the rest of what was, after all, in those days all part of Grant County, NM, which included present-day Luna and Hidalgo counties.)
Besides local readers interested in learning how Silver City and environs got from then to now, we think Six-Guns and Single-Jacks will appeal to aficionados of the Wild West everywhere. That's not just wishful thinking: The book's introduction, after all, is by Robert G. McCubbin, co-publisher of the nationally renowned True West magazine. We'll be promoting the book (and, indirectly, this whole corner of the state) with a flier in the next issue of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History's Quarterly. Bob will be part of the program at that group's meeting in Taos, as well as the Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association's annual conference in Santa Fe, both in July.
Apart from celebrating the history of this corner of New Mexico we've quickly come to love, the other rewarding aspect of this new publishing venture is that it's enabled us to work with a group of fellow publishing pros —and friends— scattered across the country. We're all refugees from Big Publishing in one way or another—hence the group's moniker of "Castaway Media." So this little book about Southwest New Mexico was edited and designed here but proofread in northern Virginia, promoted out of San Diego, with a Web site created in North Carolina. The Internet makes this all possible, just as it enables, we hope, a new model of book publishing very different from what we left behind when we "semi-retired." We're thrilled that Silver City and Southwest New Mexico are the first beneficiaries.
The Internet and related technologies aren't perfect, of course. We learned that the hard way when, to our horror, we opened the proof of Bob's book and saw that we'd sent the wrong digital file for those 999 footnotes. ("Honey, shouldn't these be italicized?") Not to worry—those pages are all fixed in the actual book you'll enjoy later this month.
Then there's our online reader survey for Desert Exposure, which we tried for the first time this year, to make it easier and faster to respond to our traditional print survey. Questions seven and nine took the form of a grid, in which the same possible responses ("Always," "Sometimes," "Never," for example) could be used for several different parts of the question.
At least that's how it was supposed to work. Two little checkmarks in the wrong places sent that into the "best-laid plans" pile, however.
So we're giving you another chance-having fixed the glitch, we're pretty darned sure-and extending the deadline for both the print and online survey until June 23. If you've already responded online and got frustrated by questions seven and nine, please go back to www.desertexposure.com/survey and answer just those questions. If you haven't yet given us your opinion on your favorite (and least-favorite) parts of Desert Exposure, now's your chance! Click on www.desertexposure.com/survey and tell us what you think. Remember that we'll pick 10 respondents at random to receive a piece of Desert Exposure gear as a thank-you.
Speaking of deadlines, don't forget that the cut-off for our annual writing contest is July 15. Send us your best writing in any genre that celebrates life in the Southwest, and you could win the $100 first prize or one of four $25 second prizes, plus publication in the pages of Desert Exposure. Mail entries to PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who knows? Maybe this writing contest could be the first step toward your own "semi-retirement." Let's just hope you can keep up the pace.