Definitely not bored!

This is most definitely a strange and unique time, and one that I hope disappears completely, as soon as possible. I fear, however, that that is not in the cards since “stay-at-home” orders are being extended well past the April 30th deadline and on thru May, as well.

Even finding new and unique ideas or topics about which to write has become difficult, if not next to impossible. With all of this COVID-19 virus “war” foremost on everyone’s mind, and the steady and non-stop flow of information/mis-information that comes at us 24/7, it’s hard to put much thought into much else, despite our best and honest efforts to do so.

Never bored with a wall full of books and a nice, little writing desk!

Sitting down at my desk each day this past week, I’ve had every intention of writing something that would be uplifting and fun and far from the madding virus pandemic topic. 

I considered posting about my three-day stay in the hospital a little over a week ago, but that seemed to me equally dreary and self serving. I’ll briefly mention it here as a matter of updating my current status.  It was a little cardiac scare that I didn’t want to materialize into anything more drastic, so I went to the ER, found out I have A-Fib (an irregular heartbeat), and was admitted for a couple days of tests and observation.

 I already knew that I have aortic stenosis, and will eventually need a valve replacement. I rather think that will be coming much sooner than later after the echo test they performed during my stay. So, I’ve begun to deal with that and have reconciled myself to doing whatever it takes, although I don’t relish any form of surgery that will be involved. I am scheduled to meet with another cardiologist next Friday to discuss the options. I am feeling much better, have lost several pounds (which I needed to all along!), and am being faithful to my new daily meds regimen.

Aside from the great care I received while there, another piece of good news came about: I tested NEGATIVE for the COVID-19 virus. By the way, that test is quick and simple—but not entirely pleasant! I’ll leave it at that.

I have gotten lots of reading done, and I’ve even managed to get more writing done than in recent history. For example, I’ve taken to writing a “daily” journal during this strange time, and I’m trying to get my thoughts and observations down as often as I am moved to do so during the week. Work on my endlessly ongoing sequel to my first novel has re-captured my attention. My  love of doing a daily crossword puzzle has also been resurrected during this “stay home” period of our lives.

We’re in constant contact and communication with our son’s family and our grandsons, who should be busy right now playing baseball on their new teams. Not happening yet! Our daughter in Florida seems to be riding this thing out pretty well and managing to stay employed at the Humane Society. Keeping our fingers crossed and our prayers in overdrive for their continued safety and good health.

So I’m definitely not bored through all of this. After all, I have a wall full of books off to my left, and there are so many resting there which I haven’t yet read—fiction and non-fiction alike. I have a wonderful little desk in front of the two big windows that look out onto the front yard and street and sidewalk. As I work at my desk, I am able to see when the mail person comes and goes each morning, as well as all of our new neighbors as they’re out for their morning strolls—many with dogs of various shapes, sizes, and breeds.

All of this is nothing that any of us asked for, but we’re all adapting and making the best of it. Perhaps it has become a kind of blessing, allowing us the chance to slow down and really take a look at our own special spaces. Like re-discovering books on the shelf I’d forgotten I’d owned! It’s true, I’m definitely not bored!

Until next time…


Wintry, Sunday thoughts…

More White Stuff…

100_3643.jpegWoke up to another day of snow this morning, as this winter just keeps rolling right along. We can get out if we need—or want—to, so it’s not as though we’re “snowed in.” Today, however, it will just be easier to stay in and not have to navigate the streets and roads in and out of our small town. Living out here in northern Illinois, surrounded by open fields, we get a lot of blowing and drifting. Thus, the roads are often more treacherous than those closer to cities and larger towns and villages.

I don’t have a problem with any of this, by the way. It’s OK to be tucked inside today. After all, I have many long-neglected writing “chores” to attend to, and there’s really no place we have to be today anyway. So I’ll launch Scrivener, knock the cobwebs off my work in progress, and spend a few hours seeing if I can make some headway on the revision/rewrite of a story that just continues to hang on and beg to be finished–for better or worse!

Recently, I have read a couple of very good blog posts by blogging friends that have rekindled my desire to “hit the keyboard” again. There’s nothing quite as nice as reading how others cope with getting their writing jump-started. A special word of thanks goes out to Francis Guenette at her wonderful blog Disappearing in Plain Sight for her inspirational posts.

After spending time writing away the morning and into the afternoon hours, and after this current snowfall abates, I’ll go out and see about clearing the driveway and sidewalk. The current temperature of 25°F isn’t so bad, and the wind is minimal. The fresh air will be good. For now, though, let it snow, and let my fingers find the right words on the keyboard!

A Great Read…

On another topic altogether, I’ve been reading—and enjoying—Bob Drury and Tom Clavin’s book, Valley Forge. I suppose, given our current weather, it’s quite easy to “get into” the overall tone and point of the book about that miserable winter of 1777 George Washington’s Continental Army spent there. But it would be truly unfair to compare anything of what we have to “endure” today with what these people suffered through during our Revolutionary War. Under supplied with food, clothing, ammunition, and shelter, they still managed to hang on and do what was necessary to achieve what they were fighting for–our independence.

The book is very good at illustrating how critically close to the brink of extinction Washington and the whole of the revolutionary forces were. As students and readers of history, we often gloss over the entire picture of the struggles and perils the Continental Army went through. Read this book to re-connect with the overall truth of that moment in our history. And even though I’m warm and snug as I read it now, it doesn’t hurt to have it cold and snowy outside—as a sort of tribute to those hardy souls who persevered–starved and half naked–at Valley Forge.

What’s Ahead…

Other than our seemingly daily battle with the on again-off again snow, we’re at a pretty calm period of the year. It doesn’t look as though an annual late-February trip to Florida is in the offing this year.

I guess I can live with this, given that we had a marvelous January cruise to and thru the

Enjoying the sunshine on the Lido Deck in January

Panama Canal. The memory of those glorious warm days of shorts, short sleeve shirts, and sandals will have to suffice until spring arrives around here in late March/early-April. I had hoped to take in a spring training game or two this winter down there in the Florida sunshine, but I’ll have to plan for that next year.

Time spent right around the old homestead is never a bad thing, and that’s where I’ll be. Happy rest-of-winter to everyone. Until next time, stay warm, all!



Time to pull the plug?

When is it time to give up on writing a novel that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, especially one that was begun several years before and has drawn my attention only in lackluster spurts ever since.

The book is to be a sort of sequel to my first novel, Black Wolf Lodge, featuring the same husband and wife main characters. And since the publication of Black Wolf Lodge in 2010 (was it that long ago?), I have had many people inquire as to when the next one is coming out because they really enjoyed the first.

That, in itself, has been an inspirational motivator—usually—to prod me into getting my butt in the chair and seriously working on the thing. It’s not as though I haven’t done so previously. I have well over 80,000 words in the Scrivener bank, but I find it very difficult to do the rewriting, revising, and editing on a regular, disciplined basis. And that, my friends, bothers me.

In my previous two novels, I was excited and eager each morning (when I do my writing) to get at it and pick up from the previous day’s efforts. Watching the stories develop and come together was fun and fulfilling, leaving me with feelings of having accomplished what I’d set out to do.

Now, though, I sometimes get distressed just thinking of the tatters in which the thing currently rests! My plot seems strong one moment, weak and crappy the next. I can’t help but wonder if this lack of enthusiasm to delve into finishing the story with my best efforts is telling me something: Put the thing away and move along to write other things I have been mulling over. (I wrote about this previously.)

As of this writing, that’s my dilemma. On one hand, I want the story to work and have the protagonist come through once again and have the readers hoping there’ll be a third book in the series. On the other hand, I’m just not sure if the story merits any more hemming and hawing on my part. Of course, I’ll never really know until I decide one way or the other. Which voice should I be listening to?

Any suggestions?

That unexpected happening…

IMG_0140Something unexpected happened yesterday, and I’m kind of hoping that the same thing will do so again today. Of course, then it wouldn’t be unexpected. But enough of splitting hairs.

I have been struggling—for longer than I care to even think about—with the novel, Birchwood’s Secret, which I began years ago. It is to be my third book published, and a continuation of the lives of the two main characters, Rick and Karen Brenson, who performed so bravely in Black Wolf Lodge. That one came out in 2010, after many starts and stops along the way.

This current adventure in which Rick and Karen find themselves involved was actually begun long before Black Wolf Lodge. For whatever reasons, I simply wasn’t enthused about working on Birchwood’s Secret and pretty much abandoned it altogether. The rough outlines and ideas remained tucked away in the depths of a manilla folder, in the depths of purgatory in my writing file box. It was then that I plunged into writing Black Wolf, a couple of short stories, “Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm,” and a very fun book titled The Good Luck Highway.

What was I going to work on next? About that time, November rolled around and NaNoWriMo reared its beckoning head and drew me in. And then it hit me that I had a wonderful opportunity to finally do something with all of the notes, scribblings, outlines, etc., still serving out their sentence in the confines of that manilla folder. Thus, the beginnings of my current work in progress began to come together.

At the end of the month, I had accumulated well over the 50,000 word target, but the work itself was scattered, unorganized, and full of problems too numerous to even mention here. Suffice it to say, I was once again ready to re-commit this whole thing to the darkness of the writing file box and some out-of-the-way abyss in a Scrivener Projects folder on my Mac.

But that didn’t happen. I actually went back to the beginning of the novel and began to rework it and attempt to develop it toward some kind of logical and satisfying conclusion. As before, though, that process didn’t go as I’d liked, and the frustration and inability to write much of anything grew and grew.

From the very beginning, I’ve always known what the main premise of the story is all about and who the main characters and the roles they’ll play are. It took me a very long time, however, to know how the thing would end. And that’s when yesterday’s “unexpected happening” happened!

Yesterday, as I try to do on most mornings, I sat down at my Mac and opened my Birchwood’s Secret Scrivener project and re-read what I’d written just a few days before. And for whatever reason, I suddenly knew that a couple of characters needed changed as to their roles in the story, and that another major character (main villain) would have to be worked in.

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Realizing this, it became clear in my mind how I could finally build things to the conclusion and outcome that has been eluding me for a long, long time. And I was able to crank out well over two-and-a-half hours worth of writing, the words seeming to flow as they hadn’t in such an extended stretch of time. And, to be honest, it was a wonderful feeling!

Now, as I wrap up this post, I will pour another cup of hot coffee, jump back to dear, old Birchwood’s Secret, and hope that yesterday’s magic shows itself once more.

Oil change, morning TV, and late-October musings…

cropped-countryroad1.jpgLate October—very late! Halloween rolling in tomorrow. Weather changing. Patio and deck furniture hauled to the garage. Solar lights pulled from their places of importance around the yard and brought in for cleaning, battery removal, and storage.

One of the last mowings, trimming, and edging for the year before mower gets traded for snow thrower that’s been hiding out in son’s shed down the road a ways.

Car in for oil change this morning. Large TV blaring in waiting room in Service area. Screaming fans in the street and gushing hosts and hostesses on program annoying and headache inducing! I hate TV in the morning, especially GMA, but I can’t very well get up and turn it off. It’s not mine, after all! So I sit and wait. Try to read my Jeff Shaara book about the siege of Vicksburg, but Taylor Swift is rattling my concentration with her birdlike warbling.

Commercial break. Two to three minutes of political spots that paint opponents as the most evil and vile persons walking this planet! These do nothing but add to my distaste for having the damned TV turned on in the first place!

A lady beside me is bending the ear of an older gentleman two seats away—something about the tree that fell next to her house and the giant sinkhole that scared the bejabbers out of her neighborhood. He shakes his head as if to say that he is spellbound at all that she is telling him.

Some employee from the front comes in, apparently on some mission of importance, and re-stocks the styrofoam cups for the coffee machine, that is now woefully near empty!

Fortunately, oil change and tire rotation is done within forty-five minutes, so I’m free to escape and regain my equilibrium in the peace and quiet of my Equinox. Best part: maintenance service still under warranty and no charge, and everything checks out A-OK. Still like new!

On the way home, I pass many farms and fields. Harvest in full swing, and farmers working hard to beat the impending rain and big weather change that’s heading our way here in northern Illinois by tomorrow.

Nearby orchards and farm stands have closed for the season. Out of apples, pumpkins, and other autumn delights. Signs proclaim that another season has come and gone and “Thanks for your patronage…see you next spring!” Owners preparing to head south for the winter, I would think. Basking in the sun while we’ll be basking in the driving snow as it flies at us from our snow throwers on a regular basis.

The busy “writing season” is creeping in now. Important to take care of outside chores so when the frigid winds howl and the snow begins to fly and the furnace reports for duty once more, work on next novel and short stories can move along without so many interruptions. No NaNoWriMo for me this November. Have enough work to do on current WIPs. Maybe again next year.

Now, time to move along to next items on “To Do” list. Happy late-October, all…CortlandWriter 🙂No Sun Up in the Sky...

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

The Good Luck Highway

scrivener-basic-composition (Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

This past week, I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours at work on final revisions and edits of this next book of mine, The Good Luck Highway. And although it has been a productive week, I’ve reached the stage where I’m growing weary of my characters, storyline, and overall conflict! I don’t know if this is a good or bad sign (maybe a combination of both), but I’m hoping that this is a natural phenomena that happens to many writers after they have invested so much time, thought, and work into a book.

If I can avoid any more unexpected interruptions during the next two days, I will have the thing finished and ready to “put out there” and share with the world very soon.

US Highway 98 looking westward from the George...
US Highway 98 looking westward from the George NeSmith Bridge at Newport, Florida, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On another note, I am excited about the cover design and will be sharing that in an upcoming post very soon. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it has turned out. And it will definitely be an important part of The Good Luck Highway. …CortlandWriter

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Home again, and the beat goes on….

(Writing from beautiful northern Illinois)

Map of Illinois highlighting DeKalb County
Map of Illinois highlighting DeKalb County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s great to get away, but it’s also wonderful to return home! And that’s exactly what we’ve done, following a two-week vacation to places we’d never visited before: Stone Mountain, Atlanta, A.H. Stephens Historic State Park, Savannah, and Charleston.

It was fun sharing pieces of our trip, and I received some very nice responses from readers who found our little adventure interesting. Even with some weather issues in the Charleston area, we still managed to get done what we wanted to get done.

A nice drive up I-26 to Asheville, North Carolina, and then on to Waynesville for the weekend was a good way to wrap up that part of the trip before we set off on the final leg toward home, via Fairborn, Ohio, to pay a visit to Carolyn’s aunt and uncle.

So, after all of the miles had clicked off, we were safely home Tuesday afternoon, tired and eager to get the car unloaded, the suitcases emptied, and the washer started! And it’s always good to find everything in the house exactly in the same condition it was in when we pulled out two weeks prior. No flooded basement. No broken furnace. No broken water pipes. No infestation of giant fruit bats!

The only issue we did have almost immediately, was our fifteen-year-old snow thrower giving up the ghost–finally–after threatening to do so several times this winter. Not worth fixing, it has given way to a brand new one, straight from the dealer’s showroom! I haven’t had to put it to work just yet, but she’s all gassed and ready for that next storm that’s sure to hit us very soon, without question!

Looking out to the fields to the east from our back deck

And so the rest of the week rolled on, back to normalcy and routines and house chores that need doing. And, of course, I’ve spent the past two days and evenings diligently working through the last edits and revisions of my forthcoming second novel, The Good Luck Highway. Things are coming along well, and I’ll be happy to wrap it all up and have the book available very soon. Stay tuned….CortlandWriter

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“Roughing it”

photo 1
“Roughing it” in cottage number 2 in the beautiful campground under the pines, beside a lake, in the A.H. Stephens Historic Park–Crawfordville, Georgia.

(Writing from beautiful Summerville, SC)

In early December when we decided to make a trip to Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, and Waynesville, we realized that Crawfordville, Georgia, home of the A.H. Stephens Historic Park, was kind of on the way to Savannah from Atlanta, and perhaps we could include a visit there. So we made a reservation for a two-night stay in one of the four cottages on the park grounds.

Our modern two-bedroom cottage was fully furnished and very, very comfortable. However, we were without Internet access, but our iPhones functioned well. Carolyn and I were the only folks residing there, and the quiet and dark of night was wonderful.

During the two nights there, we read, watched some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and I managed to work in Scrivener to compile  my newest book and making some very good progress in getting the thing ready for publication. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make that happen very soon.

Saturday morning was warm and beautiful, perfect for our tour of Mr. Stephens’ home and museum. The house was very impressive, as was the biographical

Liberty Hall…the home of A.H. Stephens
Liberty Hall…the home of A.H. Stephens

information presented by a very pleasant and knowledgeable young lady, who was our guide through the house and grounds.

We learned that Alexander Stephens was a very generous and caring man, best known as the Confederacy’s vice-president and Georgia governor. He is also my wife’s second-cousin twice removed, so there was just a bit more of a higher interest level involved here!

After our nice tour there, we asked where a good place to eat might be found. Everyone we asked said that there was only one restaurant–literally–of any kind within several miles. And they weren’t kidding, either!

That place was a rustic place called Heavy’s Barbecue, located about four miles southwest, and only open on weekends. Since this was Saturday, we were in luck. Heavy’s is pretty well known in the area, and it’s one of those classic places where the pork and ribs are delicious, and the surrounding atmosphere is the real thing.

Deer head trophies adorn the walls all around the dining room, as well as other stuffed wildlife in prominent places throughout the small log building. Nothing fancy, but the food was good and plentiful. Had we more time, we probably could have engaged a few of the locals and the waitress for some more tales and local color.

Carolyn about to enter Heavy's Barbecue, down the road, yonder, from Crawfordville, GA.
Carolyn about to enter Heavy’s Barbecue, down the road, yonder, from Crawfordville, GA.

As it was, one interesting piece of trivia we learned was that some bar scenes from the movie Sweet Home Alabama (2002), starring Reese Witherspoon, were filmed here. Outside, among various other “vintage” artifacts, is a sign used in the movie that reads “Stella’s Roadhouse.” Neither of us has seen the movie, but now it’s a must, just to see Heavy’s as it appears.

And so we were up relatively early Sunday morning, had our oatmeal at the cottage, picked the place up, and loaded the car ready to check out and once more hit the road. Of course, our “Welcoming Committee” of the two ducks was there to serve now as the “Send-off Committee” and they somehow managed to coerce another cracker or two from Carolyn before everything was stowed away.

After turning in the key at the park office, I programmed the Garmin and had our course charted to Savannah. Soon, under sun and blue skies, we set sail south and east through some of the most beautiful Georgia countryside, amidst so many towering pines and red clay of gently rolling fields. We’d arrive in Historic Savannah by early afternoon, ready for our next piece of this February adventure….CortlandWriter

One half of the "Send-off Committee"
One half of the “Send-off Committee”