The Vagabond Novelist

My Journey. My Dream.

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Day 5: Unreliable Narrator

Brian-Head-Shot-for-Vagabond NovelistDay 5

My Airbnb place wasn’t ready so I headed downtown. It was almost time for lunch so I grabbed a spot at the Beirgarten, which is a cleverly disguised name (German for beer garden). I had no idea what sort of joint it was but they seemed to have a lot of women in dirndls and men in lederhosen. (

It should be noted that I’m adding lederhosen to my list of funny words. It’s right up there with pantaloons, monkey, and the phrase “a finely aged gouda”.

new_IMG_2536-e1460690058585-768x1024What attracted me to the Biergarten on the Riverwalk, you ask? Was it the really nice looking waitresses?

No, not at all.

The preceding was an example of the writing technique called the unreliable narrator, a term coined by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction, 1961. (This is not just a blog, it’s a learning experience!)

If I were being honest, which it unlikely, I would say that I was drawn in by the television showing The Masters. Yes, I like to watch golf. (Again, lying. I love watching golf!)

There is something about writing in public that helps my focus. I sat down, ordered a chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun, and got out my iPad. The words leapt onto the page without putting up so much as an inkling of struggle.new_IMG_2532-e1460690233265-1024x768

I think it’s the necessity to tune out the distractions that aids my focus. I’m even able to tune out the nice looking waitresses that had no bearing on my choice of lunch venues.

When my waitress Laura brought my lunch, I had already managed about 500 words on Beautiful Gears. It wasn’t that it took them a long time to make it, either. I was on fire.

While I ate, I put away Beautiful Gears and did some work on the blog post for Day 3. I would love to get the posts up at the end of each day, but I’ve decided I’ll tell a better tale of my adventures if I give it a little time.

Jordan Spieth got a birdie on eight and then a bogie on nine. He had an up and down front nine.

Me, I ordered another soda and got back to writing.

The Vagabond Novelist gives Beirgarten a 33 out of 37.

While I was cruising along weaving my tale, I got a text message that my Airbnb room was now ready. There didn’t seem any reason to hurry, so I wrote until a good stopping point was reached.

I have no idea how Lewis and Clark got around without Google maps. I can only assume that Sacagawea was a beta tester for Apple’s first iPhone. I love having a little voice in my ear telling me when to turn and how far it is to my next maneuver. I’m a high-tech Vagabond Novelist.

My technology got me to my two-day home. The room was clean; there was a tiny desk, and best of all, no television.new_IMG_2546-2-e1460690433636-1024x768

I set up my workspace and settled in for the rest of the day.

Day 4: Goodbye Austin

Brian-Head-Shot-for-Vagabond NovelistChecking out of Hotel San Jose was a little sad. The staff was so friendly and Sarah even made me a list of places I might consider for my travels in Texas.

It was the sort of place I could imagine coming back to one day and never leaving.

But leave I must. The art, food, and wonderful people will be there when I return. I love you Austin.

Sarah at Hotel San Jose

Sarah at Hotel San Jose

The next stop on the journey was San Antonio—home of the Spurs and my friend Tracy whom I’ve known since fifth grade.

Sidewalk Art, Austin

Sidewalk Art, Austin

Since I wasn’t planning on meeting Tracy and her family until Sunday, I had a few days to explore on my own. AirBnb had a great room at $22.00 a night and I snatched it up, but that only covered Friday and Saturday.

I left Austin on Thursday morning figuring I’d find a place along the way.

The Super 8 sign caught my eye when I had just crossed the San Antonio city limits. This was a travel day and I wasn’t too concerned about the accommodations. I mentally set the bar as low as I could.

Sadly, they still managed to disappoint. The gentleman at the front counter was nice and that got them on the scoreboard, but the non-smoking room wasn’t very non-smoky.

The room reeked of stale smoke and the lost dreams of salespeople who had been a big deal in high school but had lost their way. Also, all the power outlets were taken.

The Vagabond Novelist has many tech devices that need constant juice. The outlet in the bathroom, though, only had a hair dryer plugged into it and if you saw yesterday’s group picture with me in it, you’ll know that it is not an appliance I desperately need. I started rotating various Apple products through the charging station/lavatory.

My level of annoyance kept growing as I tried to work. The smoky air bothered me. The only option was to go on the offensive.

IMG_2525-3-e1460608243731-1024x768I asked Siri for nearby grocery stores and found one eight tenths of a mile away. A few snack items and a bottle of Febreeze later I was back in the room casting away the foul stench of lost souls.

The room became livable and I even gave it another dosing in the morning. I figured the next person to stay there would appreciate it.

With the problem solved I got to work.

The Vagabond Novelist gives Super 8 a score of 16 out of 37.

It’s been amazing how much I’ve gotten done each day since I decided not to go home. There’s something about the constantly changing scenery that fills me with energy.

IMG_2545One of the biggest changes has been my daily list. In the past I’ve made lists but not on a consistent basis. The logistics of living on the road without any idea what comes next requires I record my tasks. Having the list makes me work harder to get things crossed off.

The daily lists have expanded my own belief of how much I can accomplish. It’s also allowed me to delegate tasks to my assistant Laurie and keep track of everything. She’s a machine!

I use the Paperless app and it synchs between my phone and iPad so I’m always current.

Being organized is a bit of a rush. Who knew it could be so fun?


Day 3: Ninja Author Dinner

Brian-Head-Shot-for-Vagabond NovelistEvery month a group of authors who live in and around Austin get together for dinner at a location known only to them.

It’s my understanding there is a secret handshake that is so guarded they don’t even use it when meeting lest prying eyes should notice. I’ve heard a rumor they might also be ninjas. Nobody really knows what goes on at these outings, though I suspect there may be an exchange of cat photos.

Rare North American Carrier Duck

Rare North American Carrier Duck

Luckily for me, I was able to secure an invitation through my underground channels in Brussels. It wasn’t easy. My contact had to reach out to the Bolivian Embassy, who in turn needed to speak to the “Russian.” She passed word of my desire to be included onto the keeper of the list — via carrier duck. Carrier pigeons are so last century.

It was either that or I could have asked on Facebook.

With invitation secured and the location committed to memory, I put the address into my Google Maps app.

What I didn’t know is that the Ninja Author Enclave (not their real name) had hackers to test my resolve.

As I drove through Austin toward the restaurant my Google Maps suddenly told me to take a bike path. What?! I was not on a bike. I don’t even own a bike. It was rush hour and I couldn’t just stop and reprogram the app to use roads.

Panic set in.

I kept one eye on the bike route and fortunately the road stayed on a similar course. That is, until about half way there, then the course that the Google Maps lady (likely also a Ninja) wanted me to take veered off through a park.

It didn’t look good.

I called on The Force, that mysterious power in the universe that guys use when the directions their girlfriend have in the seat next to them would cast into question their entire being. I’ve called on this force hundreds of times.

I was sure that this time it would work.

Fonda San Miguel

Fonda San Miguel

The traffic was fierce but I crept along knowing that eventually I’d have to make a left turn. When I did pull the trigger on that maneuver Google Maps seemed okay with it.

Ten minutes later I was close so I started to look for a sign. There wasn’t a sign. There was, however, a parking lot next to where my app said I was going.

I found it. The author ninjas were just inside the door and as is the custom, issued some hugs. I love a hug.

The food and company were wonderful. I’m so glad I stayed around Austin and got to spend an evening with these amazing people.

Author Dinner April 2016

Author Dinner April 2016

The life of a Vagabond Novelist is fraught with peril and adventure. It’s worth it.

IMG_2516-e1460232023666-1024x768It would be remiss not to mention the food at Fonda San Miguel. I had the Gulf shrimp. It was delicious, without any hint of a “BP” glaze. I jest. I didn’t think there would be any problems and my choice was a good one.
The decor was Spanish. The staff was friendly. The conversation was fantastic.

The Vagabond Novelist gives Fonda San Miguel a 33 out of 37. (Hint: one point added for a good parrot named Paco.)IMG_2515-e1460232146479-768x1024



Day 2: Good Food and Bats

Brian-Head-Shot-for-Vagabond NovelistDAY 2

Room 69, San Jose Hotel, overlooking S. Congress in Austin, was loud in a really great way.

The last few hours before I went to bed a band at the bar across the street floated their amazing music up to my room. I was working and it was delightful.

I went to bed closing out day #1, satisfied with my new life.

Down the street from The Hotel San Jose.

Down the street from The Hotel San Jose.

Day #2 started with a full well of motivation. The first task was to make a list. There is a certain urgency to get things done as a vagabond. It’s as if procrastination is a luxury of the old Brian.

In thirty minutes I had fifteen items that I really needed to get done. One of those was to buy a razor as I had left mine at the Hyatt.

My author buddy, Honorée, and I had a recent conversation about the mysteries of the universe. We like to get deep; that’s how we roll.

So, keeping the mysterious universe in mind, I went down to the desk to solve my first issue, hunger. I didn’t know where I wanted to eat. The front desk folks would know. They’re friendly and clever at Hotel San Jose.

While I waited in line I was looking at the interesting mix of things for sale. One could buy high-end headphones among other products that I typically don’t think of as being wares for a hotel lobby. On the bottom shelf was a Henry razor.

Now, all hotels have razors one can buy, but I’ve been curious about the Henry razors for a long time. It was ten dollars and I bought it. Thanks universe.

I got a suggestion for breakfast. Elizabeth Street Cafe is a French/Vietnamese restaurant and it was less than a mile from the hotel.Elizabeth Street Cafe

My choice of items to break the fast included Earl Grey tea and a delicious (a word I use only because none of the languages on earth have created a proper descriptive for the level of yumminess of this sandwich) scrambled egg Báhn Mì sandwich. It’s made on a French baguette. I also ordered a pain au chocolat.

The pain au chocolat is a French pastry item that I adored when I lived in Lyon, France in the summer of 1995. I had a four pain au chocolat-a-day habit back then. The pastry has the light texture of a croissant but in the center is a stick of chocolate. When it’s heated up the chocolate melts and the angels sing.

The Báhn Mì sandwich was even better than the pain au chocolat.

Nicole at Elizabeth Street Cafe

Nicole at Elizabeth Street Cafe

Most wouldn’t think a breakfast sandwich could have a profound effect on one’s life, and I might be drifting into hyperbole, but there is amazing joy in trying new things.

Nicole, a lovely and helpful barista, not only suggested the Earl Grey, but also humored me with conversation (as I’ve been known to mingle). She confided in me that writing was her passion as well. There may be a blog in her future and I encouraged her to take that leap. To be honest I think everyone should try writing. Some who do give it a whirl will find their joy in words and story.

How many of you would read Nicole’s blog?

I know I will.

It’s the people along the way that make this trip exciting. I’m also looking for a greater understanding of myself. Speaking of which, my friend Laurie made an observation on my first post. A soul mate may not be a reasonable expectation for a vagabond.

We both agree that the sort of person who would fit that description, if such a person exists, wouldn’t necessarily be apparent in a first meeting. I’m not a “love at first sight” sort of hopeless romantic (maybe that disqualifies me from the adjective ‘hopeless’, I don’t know the rules) and it does make sense that to truly know someone it takes time to get to the deep stuff.

Not knowing the rules applies to being a vagabond, too. Who knows what I can accomplish and who I might meet. A few more lifelong friends would be a pretty good thing, too. Knowing I love the Báhn Mì sandwiches is a win to be sure.

The Vagabond Novelist gives Elizabeth Street Cafe a solid 34 on a scale of 1 to 37.

What a great start to Day 2.

I’d knocked out about six items on the list and was hungry again. My room has a tiny balcony so I went out to survey the horizon.

I didn’t see much on the horizon, but right across the street was Lucky Robot, a Japanese restaurant.

Emily at Lucky RobotMy server was a woman named Emily. She had the sort of smile that chases away the clouds on an overcast day. Emily, I learned, had moved from NY to Austin to pursue acting. It had gone well, though the boy she followed had turned out to not be quite as “move across the country” worthy as she had thought.

The next thing she told me, as her smile beamed, was it had all worked out because she was dating a much better young man. The universe is pretty clever if we listen to it.

Emily, who was listed as Auntie Em on my receipt (this made me chuckle), did a nice job of suggesting an appetizer and entrée, which were delicious. IMG_2481-e1460062044890-1024x768


The Vagabond Novelist gives Lucky Robot a 34 on a scale of 1 to 37. (Hint: The friendliness of the staff is a HUGE component of my grading system.)

Lunch is always best when followed by a nap (Vagabonds do love their naps), and then came the exercise portion of my day.

My author buddy, Honorée and I are using the “Couch to 5K” app to help get me in shape. She doesn’t need the app and was, at age 9, the world record holder for the marathon (3 hours 15 minutes). That record has since fallen, but the point is, my writer buddy has run marathons at 2 hours and 45 minutes. She has no problem getting off the couch and this training is so she can help her writer buddy achieve one of his goals and be healthier. She’s awesome!

Everyone should get a writer buddy.

The app started me off with five minutes of warmup walking. I headed toward downtown Austin. It was all downhill from there. No, literally downhill from Hotel San Jose to the bridge that crosses into downtown.

I finished the cool down back at the bridge, which had hundreds of people lining it and looking down at the water.

Day 2 Austin, Texas

I thought maybe it was a boat race or something. I didn’t see any racing boats, so I asked.

It seems that the underside of the bridge is home to thousands of bats. The bats, who love having a nosh on bugs after the sun goes down, all take off and fly out and up into the evening sky. The crowd was there to watch.

Of course, I wanted to see the hungry bats, too. The wait was about forty minutes but then a few started to fly out. The numbers grew until it was an impressive stream of night hunters heading out to the mosquito buffet.

I took some video. The fading light made it hard to get a great shot of the bats, but if you’re interested you may see it here.

Day 1: The Vagabond Novelist

I decided not to go home.

A few weeks ago I turned 49. This isn’t a midlife crisis, mostly because I plan to live to 350. Being almost one seventh of the way through life, though, I decided it’s time to get serious about the living part.

My name is Brian D. Meeks, though on some book covers it’s Arthur Byrne, and I’m a novelist.

Downtown Austin, Texas, April 4, 2016

Austin Downtown on April 4, 2016

On Jan 1, 2010, I hated writing.

The next day boredom led to a tiny blog post on my foibles in woodworking. Because I posted it in a woodworking forum (, the path I was on in life shifted under my feat and I didn’t even notice.

Up until ten days ago I had written a blog post every day on since Jan 2, 2010. I left for a conference and just didn’t have the time or energy to keep the streak alive. I’ll still blog on, but now a new streak begins.

The decision I made yesterday was, for me, profound. As the first day of my new life began I saw possibilities beyond. In my daydreams I’d imagined what life on the road might be like.

You see I’ve been picturing a life where I sit in cafes (I’m currently in the Magnolia Cafe in Austin) and write novels. I don’t know how many times I’ve told people my dreams. It always starts out with “You know, the thing about being an author is I can do it from anywhere.”

My dinner on Day 1 at the Magnolia Cafe on S. Congress.

My dinner on Day 1 at the Magnolia Cafe on S. Congress.

Yesterday I realized I had been on the road for ten days and was loving it. The sales of my novels are doing fine, so why not follow my dream and stay on the road?

There aren’t any children in my life. I’ve never been married. When asked why I’ve not walked down the aisle, I usually give a snarky answer.

The reason for not being serious is that I just wasn’t sure. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, heavy on the hopeless. I’m not sure why I started thinking about this, today, but as I was walking along in downtown Austin, I had an epiphany.

I’m on the road looking for inspiration.

There were many successful authors at the two conferences I attended and the vast majority was married to spouses who supported them and made their achievements possible. One can succeed and find their dreams traveling alone through life, but it’s easier and likely more fun to find a soul mate.

I started to wonder how many people who have said they wanted to find their soul mate actually go and look for them?

There may be an adorable woman out there who wields master level snark. She might want to find someone too. I don’t know, but I’m going to figure out where she’s hiding.

The Hotel San Jose

The Hotel San Jose

This is my journey.

The next few days I’ll be living in The Hotel San Jose, Austin, Texas. After that, I’m going to go see a friend I’ve known most of my life and meet her family.

The staff, Nadia and Jay, who checked me in were both delightful women. Everyone else I’ve met thus far has been equally pleasant, which is not surprising because the hotel is an amazing place to spend time.

It’s so ascetically pleasing I can’t imagine anyone not loving every moment they’re here. If you find yourself in Austin, book a few nights and let the stress of the the 21st century fade away as you drift back into time at this delightful hotel.

The Hotel San Jose

The Hotel San Jose

I can’t see where the road leads after that.

That’s the best part of the life of The Vagabond Novelist…the unknown possibilities.


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