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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Finally Kindle ready!

A quick post today to announce that my first novel, Black Wolf Lodge published in November of 2010, is finally available in Kindle format on Amazon (,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

There’s really no reason why it has taken so long, but thanks to Scrivener, it’s all ready now–very affordable–with a much better cover than the original paperback edition. Thanks for considering giving it a read!

I will be back on a regular basis following the holiday festivities and travels and look forward to hearing from one and all. Happy New Year, friends…CortlandWriter

Shifting my focus

The Victorinox Cybertool.
The Victorinox Cybertool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time once again—it happens every year—when my focus shifts from daily routines of tasks around the house and writing regularly each morning to getting ready for another summer at the cottage up in Michigan. And now that we’ve had an uninterrupted string of beautiful warm spring weather, I’m finding it very difficult to stay focused on my writing duties, as much as I need and want to. I have no doubt that I will be able to pick back up once things are settled at the cottage, the pier is in place, the pontoon securely moored, and that first  gray and rainy day comes along.

The winter just passed (finally!) was very productive in the writing skills development department, I must say. For example, February and March were devoted to learning Scrivener, that powerful Swiss Army Knife of writing tools created by the good folks at Literature & Latte! And it all came about rather unexpectedly.

 I had completed a 50,000+ novel in Word during November’s NaNoWriMo event, something I jumped into for the fun of it and to actually be “forced” to have some kind of rough draft of a novel on hand at the end of the month. That was a challenge, though, as the month unwound, with all of the many November “interruptions” (Thanksgiving, guests, travel, etc.). Through it all, though, I exceeded the required word count of 50,000 and was more than pleased with what I’d created. For better or worse, I had something to work with in the months ahead.

It was during the conclusion and word count verification process in NaNoWriMo when I first heard of Scrivener. I learned that, because I was a NaNoWriMo “winner,” I could get the program for half price, about $22, following a 30-day Free Trial period. Being an old guy who has always loved learning how to use technology (I even taught those various things for many years), and since it’s been a while since I’ve really gone beyond the “basics” of Word, I jumped at the opportunity to give Scrivener a try.

It wasn’t long before I had the Free Trial up and running, and I figured the Tutorial that comes with the program would clarify everything I needed to know about using Scrivener. And, I must say, it’s a very good Tutorial, but I wanted more, and that’s where Gwen Hernandez rode in on her white steed and really opened the floodgates to understanding the program.

It wasn’t hard to come upon ads for a book Gwen had written, titled Scrivener for Dummies. Having loved all previous “Dummies” books, I once again jumped—leaped, actually—at the chance to purchase the book that I knew would be a wonderful guide through Scrivener and all its various parts. After all, my just-completed NaNoWriMo novel was resting and waiting for me to take it to the next steps, and my plan was to do so in Scrivener. So there it was, my winter project, something I could look forward to and feel that my growth as a writer would be something to make it all worthwhile.

Right about this time, I also discovered that Gwen offered online classes in Scrivener for Mac, the next one to begin in late February. Perfect! I not only leaped but did a double-back flip at the opportunity to enroll and be part of a “live” class. I don’t have time or space at this writing to list all of the wonderful positives that came from my six weeks spent in working through Gwen’s class. I’m sure there’s a post or two down the road where I will really be able to devote the time and space to extolling the positives that came from the class, her book, and an immersion in Scrivener.

So by the time April rolled around, work continued (it still does) on my novel The Bet. Meanwhile, I jaunted off into the world of publishing to Amazon. A couple of short stories (“Pinewood Farm” and “Hobo Willie”) which have been stowing away with me for a long time, were thrown into Scrivener and made ready for formatting as .mobi eBooks for Kindle. It’s a process that is pretty straightforward and simple—thanks to Scrivener! Long story short, in less than an hour, I had them on Amazon, ready for public consumption. I’ve actually sold a number of copies of those two short stories, something I smile at—appreciatively,

English: Norley - footpaths from Delamere Fore...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

that is!

So now, back to my need to step back for a short time. Those cold and gray winter mornings allowed me time and space to get lots accomplished—writing and learning—but now it will be time spent packing, doing outdoor stuff here as needed, and checking into the cottage Memorial Day Weekend. But that’s not cause for concern, since my first book—Black Wolf Lodge—was written over the course of several summers on the wonderful screened front porch of that cottage, an ancient lady who turns 100 this summer. And the beauty of it is, Scrivener will be right there along with me as we watch the lake go by and the summer days grab my focus….CortlandWriter

2011-A Look Back, and Ahead…

Out with the old…

Well,  it looks as though it’s time to replace my official Office Max desk calendar (upon which my trusty MacBook rests) and replace it with the new pristine one for 2012. I’ve had it for a few months now, tucked in between a couple of cabinets, waiting for the road we’re on to lead us to the end of another year. And now that we’re pretty near the end, it’s time to do so. 

Black Wolf Lodge -My first novel

For the most part, 2011 has been pretty good for us here in beautiful northern Illinois, with little to complain about. My big news and excitement was the publication of my novel, Black Wolf Lodge. It had been a long journey to get the story completed after beginning the thing in the summer of 2000! Working off and on during that time didn’t make for much progress. A friend at church last November told me about a publish on demand company that would be a good place to do my first book. And so it was that Lulu publishing made getting my finished manuscript into book form and marketed out and listed on Later, the e-Book format became available at Barnes & Noble and the Apple iStore. I would love to have more folks read the book, so give it a try…please! [GO TO LULU.COM]

Snow, Snow Beautiful Snow…

Of course, everyone seemed to be moaning and groaning last January and February when the skies seemed to offer us nothing but constant snow. Our blizzard really was something to behold, and I actually was beginning to worry about wearing out our little John Deere snow thrower. At times, it was much too small of a machine to handle the amount of white stuff that accumulated–and remained–for quite a spell! Anyway, not one to complain

 about winter weather and snow and “bad stuff,” I managed to keep a path open and the driveway pretty clear for our comings and goings. After all, I didn’t want my wife to miss out on getting to work on her scheduled days! (Just kidding…)

Artist in Residence

We did take advantage of being somewhat “marooned” inside during the month of February. At long last, we finally made the decision to paint the kitchen, living room, and hallway. Since moving in in December of ’07, we hadn’t added any paint to the walls. They still had the contractor’s white, and were good enough for the first few years. Now, however, we wanted–needed–some color! Over a short period during the great blizzard, my wife did her best Michelangelo and climbed the 9-foot ladder, stretched, rolled, trimmed, brushed, etc., etc., and accomplished a not-so-easy feat. We have very high vaulted ceilings in the living room and kitchen, and way too many nooks and crannies to make life easy for one so foolish as to try painting. Thank you, Carolyn, for your talents and patience and skill at all things painting! My contribution? I lugged the ladders in from the garage, placed them for her, and anchored them while she was “way up there” in the heavens, stretching and making strange grunting sounds, trying to reach this nook or that cranny. I was exhausted at day’s end…Long story short, the paint job turned out perfectly, and the colors we chose were better than we’d expected. It’s nice when things work out for the good.

Here’s to the crabgrass…

When the winter of 2011 finally bid us farewell, sometime in late March I believe, we could seriously think about the upcoming spring months and all that lay ahead. Getting the mower tuned up, cleaned up, and fired up was one of the important duties that needed done. As we’ve learned in the four years we’ve lived out here on the great prairie of northern Illinois, grass (and weeds) grow quite rapidly in the new warmth and moisture of spring! Thus, the lawn spreader was hauled out of dry dock, dusted off, and put into immediate service, spreading the crabgrass preventer, weed-n-feed, and the year’s first application of fertilizer. Now, it was time to sit back and watch nature do its thing! Of course, in a blink, it was time to mow and trim and edge everything once again. 

So long, Casey: A True Beauty

Early in April, we had to have our wonderful little dog, Casey, put down as the years and some serious health issues were simply too much for her. I miss her greatly, and our daily walks and romps are wonderful memories I hold close–and always will. 

Opening Weekend & Another Season Begins!

Late spring found us getting serious about another upcoming season at the cottage in Michigan. As organized as we always think we are, with everything stored away in its proper place, there’s always some “glitch” that occurs when it’s time to begin rounding things up and packing for “Opening Weekend” over Memorial Day. For whatever reason, this past year’s efforts came off without an issue. From the “pier-putting-in” the weekend before Memorial Day to the move-in itself, all went smoothly. There were no threats of divorce, gunshots, or physical harm of any kind! The cottage was opened, decorated, and organized in very calm fashion. Suffice it to say, the move-in went extremely well!

The season at the lake was wonderful, with many visits from friends and family. The grandsons came and went and came again! Pontoon cruises and late nights on the screened porch were givens. Warm summer days under the tall trees made for comfortable living. I read lots and wrote very little (for which I’m feeling quite guilty!) and the days and weeks up in Michigan rolled right along. All was good…

The Time of the Season…

As the old saying goes: “All good things must end someday…” And such was the summer of 2011 at the cottage in Michigan. June, July, and August seemed to fly right on by, and “Closing Weekend,” in our case Labor Day Weekend, arrived like a thief in the night–quickly, without great fanfare, and with intent to rob us of our summer tranquility and love of our little spot in Michigan. Though we knew we’d probably be invited back the next year, it still seemed a bittersweet weekend just the same. The pier “crew” consisting of our son, son-in-law, grandsons (who were good watchers and helpers with the small stuff), and anyone else who happened to wander by at the wrong time, had the thing disassembled, stacked on the shore, and all other “loose ends” tied up in a very short time. Same with the cottage itself.  As was the  Opening Weekend, the Closing Weekend was just as smooth. When Carolyn and I pulled away on the Tuesday after Labor Day, we were glad to be going home to Illinois and considered the summer just past a huge success. We’re already beginning to get that “feeling” about the next summer spent “up there” at the cottage by a wonderful lake in Michigan!

Harvest Time & Writing Time

Things were pretty calm and relaxed during the fall months here in northern Illinois. The farmers enjoyed a record harvest and the weather was most cooperative, unlike a year ago when harvesters were still in the fields during the Christmas season! Carolyn and I enjoyed a week’s trip to Omaha to stay with relatives. I began my next writing project (finally!), a collection of short stories and other “musings” I’ve put together over the years. It’s coming along now, and I am planning to have it ready for the folks at Lulu by early spring. I’m enjoying this project right now and writing new things as well as re-working many of the older ones I cranked out long ago. Stay tuned for updates and progress reports regarding this project.

Thoughts, Hopes…

It’s a very rainy, foggy, and dreary Friday afternoon, the next-to-last-day of 2011, as I write these words, hoping to capture some of the key moments and events in my life this past year. I am grateful for the family that I’m surrounded with, and they mean so very much to me. Our daughter will turn another year older tomorrow–New Year’s Eve–and I simply cannot fathom that she should be that age, married and contributing to the world. Wasn’t she just that little smiling elf who liked to climb and go where she really wasn’t supposed to? My son, father of my two grandsons, is clicking right along as well, and will celebrate a birthday of his own in March. Again, where have the years flown to? I guess it’s everyone’s question as the years suddenly pile up and, without any warning, have zipped past in fast-forward mode. 


My wish for the new year would be to somehow slow down this crazy warp speed and let us enjoy one another and find lots of smiles and laughter every day. I wish for good health for my whole family and friends, and I hope I’m healthy and still somewhat sane a year from now so I can write all about the wonderful year that 2012 was. Stay tuned and keep traveling along with me down the road…MLA

Get Writing, Fool!

Because it’s gray and cold and rainy, today would be the perfect day to get moving on my next writing project that has come to a halt since mid-way through this past summer, although there are several pages started on two of those. But for some reason, I bounce from one thing or another, or pick up a current book I’m reading and lose myself (and precious writing time!) in it. Not sure exactly why I am not able to jump into this with an whole-hearted effort, and I’m finding it difficult to re-establish that needed discipline to sit down on a regular basis and tell a story.

It’s not as though I don’t have plenty of opportunity to get into the writing mode all over again. If I’m totally honest about things, though, I can say that I’m not completely comfortable with my plot ideas, characters, or overall story development at this point.

I wrote Black Wolf Lodge over a period of nearly ten summers, and I was able to build on that draft fairly easily and complete the whole thing nearly one year ago. I basically am starting from scratch and am uncertain as to developing the second book with the same two characters as in Black Wolf Lodge. And each time I put that partial draft (thirteen chapters) back into “the drawer,” another writing opportunity flashes past, and I find myself way back at square one all over again! 

Perhaps, though, it’s time to give those two characters one more chance and I can bring them out of “the drawer” and let them grow a bit more. And maybe I just need to do a better job of developing the plot line that isn’t quite so similar to things that occurred in Black Wolf Lodge. Whatever I decide to do this week, I need to dedicate my efforts and get on with things–get going once more in the writing life! Down that road I trek…MLA

By the way, Black Wolf Lodge is available from Lulu Publishing.