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

Two copies of THE GOOD LUCK HIGHWAY resting on the corner of my clean and tidy writing desk.
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Sage advice: “Do it right the first time!”

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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The Good Luck Highway cover ready to go…

As the release of my book, The Good Luck Highway, edges ever closer, I am proud toThe_Good_Luck_Highwa_Cover_for_Kindle show off its cover and put in a well-deserved plug for the person who designed it: Bruce Witzel from way up north and west in British Columbia.

If you’re interested in a quality, professional-looking book cover, contact Bruce at his blog, Through the Luminary Lens


Many of you know Bruce’s wife, writer Francis Guenette, and her terrific blog disappearing in plain sight – writing about writing Interestingly, the name of her blog is also the title of her first book–Disappearing in Plain Sight. Now, the sequel, The Light Never Lies (Crater Lake Series), is available at

As soon as I am finished with all of the “duties” of finalizing my own book, hers will be one of the very first I get to read. Looking forward to that with eager anticipation.

Busy times for busy writers! The Good Luck Highway will be available very soon. …CortlandWriter

Stinging words from the past…

Moottoritie - Highway
Moottoritie – Highway (Photo credit: dotsi)

Hello again, everyone! It’s wonderful to be back at the blog after a very busy week of getting my new book, The Good Luck Highway, into shape and ready for sending out for publication. By late Friday morning, the interior and cover were both ready to go, and by evening, I received confirmation that both files had met the technical requirements and that the next step is to proof it all. And that’s where I’ll be immersed throughout this weekend.

Following my sending the book files off to CreateSpace, and because I was “finished” with my editing for the day, I was “recruited” to help the dear wife begin a project that she’s been eager to get to all winter: Emptying out the many containers on the shelves in one of our storage rooms in the basement. There are about six of these rubber containers, so I started with the first one in line.

When we moved here nearly seven years ago, these containers came along from where they had been exiled to in our crawl space in the old house. Some of them are labeled; some are not. The first one I pulled down said, “Mark’s things.” And though I knew there is a lot of memorabilia of mine tucked away here and there, I didn’t really know what to expect. Once the lid was removed, however, forgotten moments of my past came rushing back–without warning!

There were a couple of athletic letters I’d earned from junior high, a baseball trophy I was awarded for being a member of the 1964 County Champions in Huntington, Indiana, and various other bits of nostalgia that I’ll have to sort through now that the lid is off.

But what really caught my eye was a still-bright orange school folder from my high school in Ohio. I recognized it as my journalism/newspaper clip book, full of several of my published articles and columns I’d written during my junior year as sports editor of the school paper.

Generally speaking, I have a wonderful feeling about those distant high school years, where I was allowed to begin to hone my writing skills and be published every couple of weeks. But the reality, then and now, is I goofed off and didn’t really take the job seriously and really was not very well appreciated by my journalism teacher/newspaper adviser. In fact, I think she really despised me!

I had fun entertaining myself and my buddies around me, and I thought I could crank out a column or story without giving it much thought or any kind of leg work that would have been truly necessary for worthwhile stuff. Taking the time to re-read these “gems” yesterday, I wanted to smack myself squarely in the jaw and send myself back in time where I could have a “re-do” or a chance to hit the re-set button!

But what stung more than my trite and empty pieces were the terse comments from the teacher/adviser. They are still impossible to miss, and the fed-up tone is as obvious and strident today as it was in 1967, shouting out in stark red or bold black pen:

 Mark, you must plan your assignments more carefully. Let’s get some real ‘meat’ on the sports page this six weeks–not stale rehashes and columns written in one period by just wandering around verbally.

Ouch! OK, so I was a bit lax when it came to being an organized editor, often times forgetting deadlines and not getting my page laid out and the proofing and changes made in the print shop, causing me to be on the adviser’s “list’ most of that year.

I thought about her yesterday while I read back over her comments, and I wonder where she ever wound up. When she became the new journalism teacher/newspaper adviser that year, she had replaced a legend who had been there since Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and she was pretty uptight about wanting to establish herself and make her own mark at the school. I guess I wasn’t much of a help there.

Needless to say, I wasn’t asked to fulfill the duties of sports editor during senior year, but I was busy with other endeavors by that time, trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to go to broadcasting school in Chicago the next year or attend Kent State.

I pretty much had forgotten about that high school newspaper experience from forty-seven years ago, but it all rushed back once more as soon as the lid was removed from the Rubber Maid container yesterday.

And as I now gently place these pages from the past back into the still-bright orange clip book from 1967, and back inside the storage container, I smile and offer a long distance apology to my adviser–wherever she may be. Sorry about all that!…CortlandWriter

A view of Ashland High School in Ashland, Ohio.
A view of Ashland High School in Ashland, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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