My “Civil War” Summer

Being back at the cottage after my brief hiatus to the air-conditioned comfort of my home in Illinois last weekend, I actually got back to work today on the sequel to my first book. I must plead guilty to being a bit sketchy this summer in the “disciplined writer” department. Trouble is, the cottage bookshelf above the microwave is full of wonderful books that have—and will—take up my valuable writing time.

This being my “Civil War Summer” I simply cannot get enough of the historical fiction of Jeff Shaara and of his late father, Michael. Killer Angels, The Last Full Measure, and Gods and Generals are outstanding pieces of writing about the battles and the Generals and other officers who were involved. Also, Jeff Shaara’s Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America’s Hallowed Ground rests there, waiting patiently for me to pick it up (and not be able to put down, I fear!).

Then there’s Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals still waiting for me to finish this time ‘round. I began reading it a couple of years ago but got sidetracked and seemed to have lost interest, for whatever reason, so I’ve put it on my “To Read” list once again. In that same Lincoln vein, I have Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. Published in 2006, it’s certainly not a new book by any means, but I couldn’t resist purchasing it on a recent visit to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. Besides, I can never get enough of the John Wilkes Booth stuff, which I revisited this past year in Bill O’Reilly’s excellent Killing Lincoln.

Finally, I’ll round out my reading during this “Civil War Summer” with an interesting-looking tome that I picked up on a day trip a couple of weeks ago out to Galena, home of U.S. Grant after the Civil War. The book is titled Grant and Twain: The Story of An American Friendship. I had always heard that Twain got himself out of bankruptcy by publishing General Grant’s memoirs. Grant, who was dying of throat cancer at the time, became a good friend of Twain, and I’m anxious to read the story behind it.

Now, I know I still should work in more “writing time” each day, and I’ll try…I really will! In short there’s lots to do in the days ahead. Also, there’s the latest John Sandford Prey series novel titled Stolen Prey, starring Lucas Davenport and his associates. But that just might have to wait until fall, once my “Civil War Summer” has run its course! Such problems here in the cottage by the lake in Michigan…CortlandWriter

Lake routines: Not for the faint of heart…

Getting away from the normal routines is part of what summer vacation is all about. In my case, each year I leave the world of northern Illinois behind at the end of May and make my way into self-imposed exile in southwest Michigan, surrounded by nature at its best, a beautiful lake, and rustic cottages. But it isn’t all milk and honey, wine and roses, nor the life of Riley, as so many folks who know me think it is.

For instance, there is morning coffee that has to be made before the day can officially begin. Plus, there are windows and curtains that must be opened to let in the good morning air and  hummingbird feeders to be filled at least once a week. Finally, there is a certain amount of reading and writing that must be accomplished before the morning gets too close to noon. It’s rather clear, life at the lake is not without its pressing duties! Somehow, though, I have managed to persevere and make it through the days and weeks “up there” in our cottage by the lake without so much as a whimper.

Another regular part of my summer routine during week days, when I’m all alone, involves the running and piloting of our twenty-two foot pontoon boat every couple of days (sometimes daily if the weather is cooperative!) and to cover it and uncover it in the morning and at night. And let’s not forget, there’s that dreadful task of loading up a small cooler with a few favorite beverages, some tasty snacks of crackers and cheese, and then setting forth in the sturdy craft and plying the wonderful water of our lake. As they say: It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. And I guess it comes down to me being the one “stuck” in having to run the boat out and about for a few hours on those lovely sun-splashed days “up there” in Michigan.

Of course, when the weekend arrives, and company is scheduled to show up, my duties increase exponentially. A quick run of the vacuum cleaner around the place does wonders. And I’ve learned that mopping the bathroom floor, giving the toilet a once-over, and reloading the toilet paper “tube” are essentials that cannot be skipped. I attack these tasks with the same vigor as Grant did Vicksburg!

I could go on, but I think the picture is rather clear just how much work goes into my summer at the lake. I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones who enjoys tackling all of the necessary duties and jobs of keeping a summer cottage running in tip-top fashion. It’s not for the faint of heart…CortlandWriter