Down Many Roads…

The endless journey of life's adventures


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Easter with friends & “Bucket List” talk…

Illinois

Illinois (Photo credit: Pete Zarria)

It was the first really nice, warm spring day we’ve had so far, and our two-hour drive out to spend the afternoon with good friends at their rural lake house in western Illinois was very enjoyable. Having spent time with both of our kids’ families this past week, we would be alone for Easter Sunday. Instead, we were invited to join Barb and Bill and their son and his wife and two boys for dinner and an enjoyable day of doing nothing!

 

Following the early Easter church service and delicious breakfast, we came home, changed clothes, and set off for a leisurely drive through the rich northern Illinois farm land. And after the long, hard winter months, everything about the fields and yards we passed seemed to cry out in relief, as if to say: “Finally, we’re ready. Let’s start the growing cycle all over again.”

 

As we rolled along the old highway, my window partially down to let the good fresh air in, we saw how green things were actually becoming, a sure sign that new life and growth was definitely taking place. No polar vortex was going to interfere with any of that! It was a good feeling to realize that very thing.

 

Shortly after we arrived at Bill and Barb’s, we sat down to a tasty Easter dinner. Thick pork chops

A charcoal barbecue, with six pork chops. Dord...

A charcoal barbecue, with six pork chops. Dordogne, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

off the grill—cooked perfectly!—Michigan asparagus we’d brought along, sweet potatoes, various salads and chilled  jello with fruit made for a sumptuous and delectable meal. Carolyn’s traditional Easter angel food cake, decorated with jelly beans and those yellow Peeps, was the perfect ending.

 

The remainder of the afternoon, we spent outside on their deck in comfortable chairs, enjoying the wonderful sunshine and terrific refreshing breezes. Our conversation turned to dreams and wishes we still might wish to have actually come true—sort of a “bucket list” type of discussion, even though I don’t care much for that term!

 

I hadn’t really given any of that much thought lately, but it didn’t take me too long to answer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to drive the entire length of the famed Mother Road, Route 66. I always said that upon retirement that would be one of the first things we would do. Of course, I’ve been retired since 2007 and have yet to take that journey, but yesterday’s brief chat session kind of rekindled—got the juices flowing once again—the idea and desire to set off from downtown Chicago and hit the road that is

An abandoned early Route 66 alignment in south...

An abandoned early Route 66 alignment in southern Illinois in 2006. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Mariani of shawnmariani.com) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

such an iconic piece of American legend and lore.

 

I’ve traveled much of the Illinois portion of the Mother Road, but I long to cross the big river and explore ever westward. I think Carolyn and I will have to seriously consider working that in to our plans before too many more years fly off the calendar! At any rate, it made for a pleasant and whimsical conversation on a beautiful, sunny, warm Easter afternoon with a couple of very good friends….CortlandWriter

 

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The Value of Courage – “42” A Movie about Jackie Robinson

CortlandWriter:

A writer friend posted this yesterday in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, and I felt it was worth sharing on my blog. Thanks to Francis Guenette for a very poignant post. Please enjoy…CortlandWriter

Originally posted on disappearinginplainsight:

Jackie Robinson - Pasedena CA - throughtheluminarylens

The value of courage, my 200th post, the last day of 2013, baseball and a little taste from my upcoming novel – I have an eclectic mix of thoughts to share today.

When my kids were little, we had a set of books entitled, The Value Tales. These books featured people whose achievements fit the criteria of many important values – Believing in Yourself: Louis Pasteur, Helping: Harriet Tubman, Determination: Helen Keller, Kindness: Elizabeth Fry, Giving: Beethoven and many others. The book that was requested the most in our home was, The Value of Courage – The Story of Jackie Robinson.

Over the holidays, my husband Bruce and I had the opportunity to watch the movie “42” – The Jackie Robinson story. For the baseball lover, “42” is right up there with, The Natural and Field of Dreams.

That children’s book from long ago came to life…

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My writing friend & mentor…

email

email (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Every once in a while, I like to write to people and make sure all is well in their world, especially if I haven’t heard from them in a very long time. And so yesterday I sent a brief e-mail to a friend and his wife to let them know I was still alive and kicking and hoped that they were as well.

Both of them are in their 80s and really not doing very well at all. I knew this from the last communication I had several months ago, but I always am holding out hope that the good Florida sunshine and climate will be an elixir that is good for what ails them.

When I checked my e-mail early this morning, there was a reply from my old friend telling me that his wife was no longer able to feed herself or manage any of the other necessary functions and was now a resident of a nursing home. I wasn’t a bit surprised, but it was still sad as I thought back to our first meeting back in the mid-90s, the both of them vibrant and healthy and happy-go-lucky.

I became acquainted with Dick one evening by chance back in the America Online days, when all this Internet/Web stuff was new to most of us. His online name—something indicating that he was a writer—caught  my eye, and I dropped him a message telling him about my same kind of interest in writing and publishing.

And as it turned out, he was a transplanted, retired Chicagoan living in Florida, and he was very interested in my desire to be a writer, having written and published several books himself. From that very first meeting online, we exchanged long and wonderful e-mail letters (most of which I still have in a three-ring binder) for many years.

English: email envelope

English: email envelope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was still teaching middle school, and every March Carolyn and I, our two kids in tow, would head off to Florida for spring break to spend the week with her parents in Sarasota.

The year I met Dick, we made plans to meet with him and his wife, Alice, while we were down there for spring break. Dick and Alice lived farther north,  near Clearwater, so they suggested they’d drive down in their camper to a campground of which they were familiar in nearby Sarasota and have us join them for dinner and a get-to-know-one-another visit.

That turned out to be a wonderful time as we enjoyed a real face-to-face meeting and shared our personal stories of our lives, families, and interests. I could tell that Dick was sincerely interested in being a sort of mentor to me in getting started in writing seriously and, eventually, publishing.

I learned a lot from that first meeting, not the least of which was that to be a writer, one must have discipline—a word that Dick would remind me over and over again in e-mails and conversations in the ensuing years.

And though I puttered and tinkered with my writing during those years, it wasn’t until I retired from teaching in June of 2007 that I sat down and told myself that all of the dribs and drabs and various drafts I had started over the years needed my serious attention. In short, I found some of that discipline which Dick liked to talk about and began in earnest to write my first novel. It turned into Black Wolf Lodge, and I even paid tribute to my friend Dick in the story as the “wind chime man,” a person who had inspired the main character, Rick Brenson, to pursue his dream of writing.

Over the years, the e-mail communications slowed and then all but petered out, for one reason or another. I never knew if I had said or done something to offend my friend, but those long and newsy e-mails stopped coming. Carolyn and I did stop and see him and Alice a few years ago on our journey through that part of Florida, but things just weren’t the same. There was an obvious tiredness in the man, and Alice was frail beyond belief.

Sadly, Dick had lost his zest for writing and now spent most days forwarding news items about politics and the great divide this country has experienced. Instead of reading and enjoying things sent from this man—my writer friend—as I did for several years, I now simply hit [DELETE].

Though it was wonderful to receive an actual e-mail note from Dick yesterday, it was also sad and heartbreaking to realize that age and health have caught up with him and Alice, and those glorious days of “getting to know you” are but a memory—yet a good memory!…CortlandWriter

Taylor Lake Park, Largo, Florida.

Taylor Lake Park, Largo, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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That sneaky old April!

I can honestly say that today feels as though some good spring weather is just waiting to thrust

Springbrook Prairie Naperville 001

Springbrook Prairie Naperville 001 (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

itself into the big picture—and none too soon, either! The sun is brilliant on this April Saturday morning; the sky is as blue and clear as one can imagine. And the temperatures are a very pleasant 50° at the moment here in northern Illinois. It’s the kind of morning that I really feel guilty sitting here at my MacBook to create this post because I know I should be out doing something—even if it’s just picking up debris and litter, leftovers from the winter blasts.

Chicken Wire Role

Chicken Wire Role (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, there are the numerous chicken-wire protective “cages” we put around most of our young bushes and trees to thwart the ravenous attacks of the rabbits these past frozen months. Last year, we failed to protect the plantings, and the rabbits chowed down heavily, taking everything right down to the ground. Fortunately, most bushes survived last year’s onslaught, and this winter’s precautions have seemed to work all the better. Now, it’s a matter of taking down the wire and stakes and storing them away until late next fall. Within the next few days, I’ll be making a trip to buy the first application of crab grass preventer/weed-n-feed.

I’ll also be attempting to fix our 20-foot telescoping flagpole. One would think that a simple little release button that doesn’t pop out would be an easy fix, but I’ve had a devil of a time trying to get it to work. I’m sure the problem is all a result of the terrible weather these past months, and I’m counting on the manufacturer to ease my pain and help me get the thing back in normal operation!

Sitting here and typing these words, I realize that April has really sneaked up on me this year. Could it be that we’ve been so beaten down by the winter that just was, that we have forgotten about the ceaseless march of time? And though it’s still been cold, damp, and bitter most of these early days of the month, there have been glimpses of what is surely to come.

And this year, I’m certainly ready to get out and tackle these spring chores that need doing—without any hesitation or hemming or hawing, either! Each day, I am thankful that I completed The Good Luck Highway when I did and am free now to spend the time necessary outside, away from my writing desk—especially on a day such as this one.

I’ve had some wonderful feedback and positive comments regarding my second novel. It’s amazing just how much a writer can learn about his own work through the comments and feedback from readers. My story, a very fun one to write, touches on friendship, love, disappointment, trust, and growing up. I hope anyone reading it will see these elements clearly—while having a fun time along with Mac and Led on their “adventure.”

Thanks to one and all who have bought the Kindle Edition, Nook Book, or the paperback. Very soon, I’ll get back to tackling my next projects: A series of short stories and the next novel. It will bring back Rick and Karen Brenson, main characters from Black Wolf Lodge. It has been a fun story to start writing, and I’m growing very eager to dive right back into it after being away since November.

Long farm lane that dead ends at a chicken house..

Long farm lane that dead ends at a chicken house.. (Photo credit: D.Clow – Maryland)

In the meantime, outdoor beckons…and I must heed its call!…CortlandWriter

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That “in-between” time…

English: A new incarnation of Image:Question_b...

English: A new incarnation of Image:Question_book-3.svg, which was uploaded by user AzaToth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What now?
An important question, indeed. The book is finished, published, out in the world for one and all to consider and buy (I hope!) and read and eagerly await the next one!

This strange little “in between” time seems to be perfect for catching up on so many things that there just wasn’t time for during the hectic writing, revising, editing, formatting, and publishing stages these past few months.

For instance, my writing desk hasn’t been this tidy and organized in over a year, although the side cabinet shelves next to my printer still need attention. I’ll get to that, I promise myself.

Plus, I’ve even donated a large bag of old paperbacks I’ll not need again, clearing some much-needed space on my tall book cases here in my office.

And I must say, it’s a very good feeling to actually be “weeding out” and eliminating all of the flotsam and jetsam that has slowly and steadily crept into my workspace.

I’ve also begun some Scrivener “housekeeping” as well. Since I like the settings that I used for The Good Luck Highway, I created a template from that project and will be ready to hit the ground running when I begin work on the next book, without having to fiddle around with anything—especially Compiling!

And, of course, there’s the all-important marketing aspect of promoting The Good Luck Highway. So far, I’ve had a nice response from friends and strangers, but I’m finding that this marketing thing is a never-ending process.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an agency to handle this and do it up right! Alas, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so I have to do the best with social media, word of mouth, and my charm. (Well, two out of three might work!)

Regardless, this whole thing is fun. Some people collect things. Some paint. Others build birdhouses. Still others work on old cars or remodel and “flip” houses. I write. And, yes, it’s fun—even when the words won’t come and the ideas have gone the way of the dodo bird.

I read once that an author, after completing a book, will find himself caught in a sort of “dead zone” which usually requires readjusting to a normal pace, free of the daily grind of pounding out the words to reach a deadline successfully. Although I never gave it much thought until now, I realize the truth in that.

It’s much like going through a form of withdrawal—getting away from the story and plot and conflicts and characters that I’ve lived days and weeks and months with. I must admit, it’s a little hard to say farewell to those guys and their adventure! Kind of makes me wonder if they’ll show up in another story…

So here in my in-between “dead zone,” I’m taking care of some important duties around here, clearing out the rubble, and making way for the next stint. I’ve caught my breath, stayed away from writing anything all week, and have the table set for the next project. As I said, it’s all fun!…CortlandWriter

photo

Two copies of THE GOOD LUCK HIGHWAY resting on the corner of my clean and tidy writing desk.

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Goodbye, my friend…

The_Good_Luck_Highwa_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Even with the excitement of publishing a new book, and hearing from so many who have purchased it in one form or another, today is rather sad for me–something which brings everything right back to earth. And that is the passing of a very good friend.

 

Our friend, in his late 70s, hasn’t been in the best of health the past few years, but this is very unexpected! I intend to write more about our good friend, Bob, in future posts, but at the moment I’m going to step away from the blog, forego any marketing and promoting of THE GOOD LUCK HIGHWAY, and reflect on the many memories I have about Bob and our times together.

 

Like that freight train out there right now, slowly passing the water tower, our lives are here but for a moment and then are gone away down the tracks. Goodbye, old friend!…CortlandWriter

Fishing

Fishing (Photo credit: nicholasjon)

 

 

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Sage advice: “Do it right the first time!”

The_Good_Luck_Highwa_Cover_for_Kindle

The Good Luck Highway-Now available as a paperback and Kindle Edition and soon-to-be Nook Book

It has been a very busy and productive week since I last took the time away from my endeavors in publishing my new book, The Good Luck Highwayas a paperback, a Kindle Edition, and a Nook Book, to attend to my Blog. And believe me when I say, it’s best to take your time and work carefully through each step of the process.

A wrong click here, an errant upload of the wrong file there, and unnecessary delays to the publishing process are added. In short, in all of our excitement and eagerness to be finished and have our masterpiece live and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al, it is imperative that we check and double-check all requirements.

I’m not sure that any of us enjoys re-tracing our steps and having to re-do things–especially since the Review process takes several hours (days)–but it happens. I know from experience this past week!

A wise teacher once told his reckless students that to avoid frustration and failure, they should “do it right the first time.” I was one of those reckless students, and through the years I’ve tried to apply his words of wisdom to most tasks I undertake. Unfortunately, I haven’t always hit the mark, and every now and then I slip up and end up going back to square one. Ouch!

However, one really terrific discovery I made through the whole process was an invaluable resource that truly helped me reach my goal of publishing my book in paperback, Kindle, and ePub formats.

It’s a nice little book by Ed Ditto titled How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace in One Afternoon. Quite a title, but it’s full of excellent step-by-step instructions, suggestions, and other “tips” for getting our Scrivener project compiled correctly.

I don’t know Mr. Ditto, and I’m not getting any payment for this, but I highly recommend  that anyone who is ready to publish–especially first-timers–should check out his book. It will certainly help one and all to “do it right the first time!”…CortlandWriter

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

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