My summer exile…

100_5993As we begin to edge our way into late May, that means that things have cycled back around to another cottage “lake season” up in Michigan. Thus, I have spent the past two weeks completely ignoring any regular writing, blogging, or commenting on Facebook, instead, rounding up “stuff” to be hauled up to the cottage on Friday, May 22. (As I write this, that is just two days from now!)

Our intrepid crew put our pier in last Sunday, and the old structure looks as though it will make it through another summer. Our pontoon will be delivered on Saturday, and I can’t wait to get it moored in its spot alongside the pier and then take it out for its out-of-hibernation cruise around the lake. The weather is supposed to be “iffy” (which is usually par for the course) so we shall keep our fingers crossed for some decent “move-in” temperatures without any rain.

I have my folders and my writing box of notes, rough drafts, and other miscellaneous notes to take along for the summer, and the MacBook Pro will be packed up Thursday night.

Which brings me to my main point of this post. I have given much thought to what I hope to accomplish this summer in terms of a regular writing routine, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way I’m going to accomplish that is to step away from social media and my blogs, Down Many Roads and All Things White Sox.

I have become stale and less-than-enthusiastic on most days when trying to come up with blog topics and to write how I feel about things in general. Quite frankly, I really have nothing much to say these days—at least what anyone out there really is interested in reading.

As a result of this epiphany, I am going on a self-imposed hiatus, an exile of sorts, from my blog posting. I know that when I do resume sometime down the road, I will be refreshed, re-charged, and re-invigorated to write some things that are fun and interesting. When that might be, I have no idea. All that I know right now is that my focus will be on knocking the cobwebs from my long-overdue novel-in-progress and re-awakening my friend Scrivener in doing so!

Now, as the daunting task of packing everything for another lake season opening in just two days from now beckons me to get back to work, I leave you kind readers with these words: Blessed are they, who have nothing to say, and can’t be persuaded to say it!jollyYet

Have a wonderful summer…

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.

Busy on the home front…

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Cortland, Illinois
(Back home for a few days)

With the cottage all settled, and the pontoon moored snuggly and ready for a wonderful summer

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

ahead, I closed up and headed back to Illinois yesterday for a few days here at home.

No, I’m not homesick or bored with cottage/lake life already (far from it)! It’s primarily because domestic duties on the home front required my presence here at this particular point in time, the main one being our younger grandson’s kindergarten “graduation” program in a short time from now.

And, of course, there are the other tasks which need attention: mowing, trimming, and edging the lawn; cleaning out the garage and getting it into some semblance of sane order; taking the wife’s car in for an oil change, and various other errands to run and other ticky-tacky duties to handle. (e.g.-stocking up on beer and other beverages to avoid paying the exorbitant Michigan prices on such items!)

I also paid a visit to the post office here in town this morning to mail a copy of The Good Luck Highway to a long ago friend from high school. He saw my quick post the other day on Facebook asking if anyone needed a “good summer read,” and he wrote back saying that he’d really like to read it and would love a signed copy. “No problem,” I wrote back, “send me an address, and I’ll be glad to ship a signed copy.” Gave me  a good feeling to hear from someone from so long ago interested in having my book!

With that done now, and the garage all spiffy from Tuesday afternoon’s efforts, today (Wednesday) is rainy and very good for doing the odds and ends inside, the oil change, and the store stuff. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice and sunny, so the yard work will commence in the morning, followed by re-packing the clean laundry  and loading the Equinox for a return jaunt back to the cottage in Michigan late at night.

I must say, it’s good to get home for a short time and to take care of some much-needed tasks. We even were able to watch our two grandsons’ baseball game yesterday evening, and they played well and had lots of fun in doing so. They’re supposed to play another game tonight, weather permitting, and we’re going back to their house where they’re going to have cake and ice cream in celebration of my upcoming birthday next week. I don’t think there’ll be enough room for all the candles necessary, so we’ll allow for that part of it to be left out!

Now, though, it’s time to scurry off to watch little Matthew be promoted from kindergarten. Yea! It’s all down hill from here, kiddo! Until next time from the lake…CortlandWriter

Beating the heat last Monday with grandsons, Jack & Matt
Grandma and Poppy with grandsons, Jack & Matt

 

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A brief respite from the busy times…

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014 (Photo credit: EarlRShumaker)

Writing on this windy, cold, and rainy Monday morning, I’m happy for the good cup of coffee at the ready and the mellow jazz that plays softly in my ear buds.

It’s good not to be rushed this morning, although there are “duties” and errands to run in a while, but for now, it’s nice to catch up on a few things here at the writing desk.

I seem to have been busy with so many other things these past couple of weeks, that my regular routine of writing every morning has given way to other things around here.

I’m still catching my breath from the hectic pace I set while finishing writing, editing, revising, formatting, and publishing The Good Luck Highway last month. And while there are plans for my next writing endeavors, I haven’t etched them in any sort of stone at this point, and so they have been relegated to the “back burner” for the nonce.

As for now, we are in the midst of a very busy time, with a new lake season up in Michigan just a little less than a month away! As the next couple of weeks unfold, our concerted thoughts and efforts will, no doubt, focus on getting things all ready for “Move-in” weekend, beginning on May 23.

Of course, there are the grandsons’ soccer games on Saturday mornings (soon to be baseball in the afternoons), First Communion next Saturday for grandson Jackson, birthday celebration for our daughter-in-law this past weekend, and the advent, once more, of yard work once a week.

English: Rainy day in Henry, Illinois, USA Cat...
English: Rainy day in  Illinois, USA Category:Weather (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the minutes, hours, and days are not lacking for anything to keep us busy and going somewhere.

Thus, I’m relishing this brief respite in the quiet of my writing room. Let the winds howl around the eaves and the rain patter against the windows and siding!

As mentioned earlier, I’ll need to venture out soon, but for now, this moment is worth savoring. And now for that coffee…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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“Race Weekend” and a special Fathers Day…

Time to catch up…

 

Shot by "The Daredevil" at Daytona d...
Shot by “The Daredevil” at Daytona during Speedweeks 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Every Father’s Day weekend for the past several years, our cottage here on Magician Lake has become “ground zero” for a NASCAR “Race Weekend,” culminating with the Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

 

This annual event begins with the arrival of my older sister and her husband on Thursday morning, followed by my son and grandson and a couple other “regulars” from home on Friday. When the weather is nice—which it was early on—most of the time is spent down on the pier, in the water, or on the pontoon boat. A few of the group play golf on Saturday morning, while “gramps” stays at the cottage and has fun with grandson, Jack, and tends the coals in the Weber where a pork butt smokes gently away, preparing to end up as pulled pork for the post-race sandwiches at M.I.S. on Sunday.

 

My son and my sister carry out a necessary task early Saturday morning—an annual tradition—of shopping for food and other goodies needed for the Saturday night meal and the next day’s food supplies over at the speedway. Don’t even ask to go along with them as they visit the Meijer store; it’s their own domain and one which requires no “outside” tampering or tweaking!

 

Of course from Thursday on, there is plenty of cold beer and other refreshments available for all tastes. It’s a well-behaved gathering, full of many laughs, jokes, and various other forms of goofiness. And since we hit the road for the two-and-a-half hour drive over to M.I.S. In Brooklyn, located in the Irish Hills, by 5:00 a.m., it’s usually a pretty early night on Saturday.

 

This year, most of us Chicago Blackhawks’ fans stayed up to listen to the game vs. Boston. Since no TV was available, we were gathered on the porch, around the little portable radio, late into the night. Alas, the outcome was not good for us. Losing in overtime, the team gave none of us reason to stay up to listen to any post-game chatter, so radios were clicked off as soon as Boston scored its winning overtime goal.

 

Disappointed? Yes, but all was forgotten once we rolled out onto I-94, eastbound for a day of fun and more refreshments and good memories. Arriving before 8:00 a.m., we ended up with a decent parking spot in Lot 3A, our regular area, and breakfast was soon in the offing before the morning got too far along. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits, and gravy were tasty and well received.

 

And so we all settled back and enjoyed the morning, before heading into the track and our seats for the start of the race. The “iffy” weather cleared out, and it was a sunshine-filled afternoon—perfect for the race!

 

Sitting beside my seven-year-old grandson and my son was special on this Fathers’ Day. We are fans of Roush Racing (Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards) and both had very good races, particularly Biffle who was the winner when it was all said and done.

 

Afterwards, it was back to the tailgate area for the pulled pork sandwiches and various “sides” and more cold refreshments. Wife Carolyn was one of the designated drivers, and friend Ed was the other one, so we had that arranged ahead of time. It was good to relax in the shade of the pop-up tent and to enjoy the delicious food. I always enjoy that part of the day before we have to break things down, pack the Ford 150s, and drive back to the cottage. The food is always wonderful, but perhaps it was even more so this year since my driver won the race!

 

Writing this from the peace and quiet of the cottage porch, where just a couple of days previous there was lots of talk, laughter, and good times, I realize that it was another terrific “Race Weekend” and anticipate next year’s already. Now, I need to get back to work on my writing and revising my novel. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter

 

Michigan International Speedway (2008)
Michigan International Speedway (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Is that “inner alarm” sounding already?

 

I began to realize this morning—another glorious one, by the way—that there remain only a few weeks of “cottage life” for this

 

Sunlight
Sunlight (Photo credit: Dave Stokes)

 

summer. Without any fanfare or heralding, those little “hints” have begun appearing all about, particularly the trees and bushes displaying slight tinges of rust and orange and yellow. Even the sunlight has begun to have different slants throughout the day, and the shadows seem to be deeper as the dark of night creeps in so much earlier.

 

Yesterday, as I cruised in the pontoon rather late in the afternoon, I thought it was more of a September day than a late summer August one. The vacationers have mostly wrapped things up and gone back to their routines of jobs and other family duties. Many kids have started school—or will very soon—and the tubes and jet skis and wave runners are few and far between now, a sure harbinger that the end of summer is edging closer.

 

When I pushed off from our pier, I seemed to be the only boat on the lake. Even the fishermen, who thrive on days such as this, when the lake is free of wild and crazy traffic, were not to be seen. I had the lake all to myself.

 

I loved chugging around at a very slow pace, studying the shore and the piers and the houses that I’ve studied hundreds of times before. While I noticed that nothing had been closed up or put away at these places, there seemed to be a sense of calm and quiet, with everything seemingly at rest in the late afternoon sunshine.

 

For whatever reason, there seems to be that intangible “thing”—feeling?—that seems to show its face around here this time each summer. Somehow, it triggers a kind of inner alarm clock that says: Enjoy it while you can…closing time ain’t that far away! And when “closing day” does arrive (September 16), I’m pretty much ready for it so that we, too, can get back to our fall and winter and spring routines. Curiously, though, it seems to get here much too soon. After all, wasn’t it just the 4th of July? Perhaps it only seems this way because I’m another year older, and what seemed to drag on forever when I was young and foolish now seems to go fleetingly that I’m old and foolisher! (Thank you, Mark Twain!)

 

I suppose I’ll have more thoughts along these lines in the days ahead as the summer winds down, and I had best take the advice of that inner alarm clock and enjoy it while I can. I’ll keep to my daily routines here in the weeks that remain. There will be morning coffee on the porch so I can watch the lake “go by.” There will be lots of quiet time to write my morning’s “stint” and update my blogs. There will be many hours to read the good books that sit on the shelf above the microwave awaiting my attention. There will be walks to take the trash to the dumpster. And, of course, there will be slow chugs around the lake, late afternoons, to once again see the little “hints” that closing time ain’t that far away!CortlandWriter

 

The Effects of Weather on My Writing “Mood”

A great day to write!

I seem to write about this topic frequently in my blogs, and I suppose it’s because I am one of those who is heavily influenced by different kinds of weather. On those winter days, when the sun wastes no time in rising brightly and staying with us the whole day, I am less motivated to sit inside at my writing desk and focus on my current writing project(s). Instead, I’ll take the gloom and drear of a cloudless, sunless day, with some kind of precipitation thrown in for good measure.

For whatever reason, I have always been more productive–in school as a kid or, later, as a classroom teacher–and now in my retirement as a writer when the weather has been quite miserable. The outside atmosphere doesn’t really cause me to write only about sad and desolate things, but I simply feel more inspired to get into the art of writing when the day is devoid of blue skies and puffy white, lazy clouds.

Now, I think I’ll enjoy the remainder of this gray, chilly day and get some writing accomplished!

In Search of Blogs of Interest & Missing Manuals…

I’ve been busy the past two days skimming across the blogosphere, searching for blogs that I would enjoy reading and perhaps following regularly. I have come upon a few that seem interesting and focused on topics regarding teaching (both active and retired teachers) and I’ve gotten some really good insight into how I can improve my own blog. Mind you, I haven’t been doing this all that long, and I am learning each time I set out to post something. What I really need is to understand all of the  workings and trappings of this whole thing. A manual at the ready would be good to have to really know how to do this more effectively. But, alas, the day of the manual is long gone, gone the way of Borders Bookstore! I’ll keep trying. So it goes…

Old Folders & Golden Goebel Beer…

These winter days are rolling right along, and I’m slowly–but steadily–recovering from my surgery of Friday the 13th (there has to be a story in that combination!). I seem to have re-gained my enthusiasm and motivation to move along on my current writing project and have actually spent the past two mornings cranking out over 3,000 words of a story that will be part of my next book–a collection of stories and memoirs I’ve written over several years. 

One such story I had originally written on February 18, 1972. (I know this because I have the original manuscript, complete with the instructor’s red ink marks and comments, in front of me!) At the time, I was a junior at Kent State and wrapping up my stellar two-year hockey career and trying to get my GPA up so I could do my student teaching in the fall. The story was an assignment for some kind of creative writing course in my English major program, and, like most all of my other classes, I put off the work until the very last minute! This project was no exception, and, with the help of a frat brother and plenty of cold Golden Goebel and Newport cigarettes, I put together the tale that I eventually turned in. We spent a couple of nights in my room, pounding away on my ancient portable manual typewriter, trying to create something that would earn me at least a C. I think we had more fun than anything else. I would type a paragraph; he would type a paragraph. Then a new idea would spring to the fore, and we’d change something here or there to make it work. At least at the time we thought it made sense!  Somehow the story took some kind of shape, crude as it was, and I could actually see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!

In short, the story is about a group of college friends who set out to find an allegedly haunted house way out in the country, and there is something of a surprise ending. (Even then, I was trying to add the classic O. Henry touch to stories!) It was pretty standard, cliche-heavy material on which I ended up getting a B. At the time, I was thrilled to get such a high grade, but forty years later, I wish I would have devoted more time to developing the characters, plot, setting, and conflicts. I’m almost embarrassed by some of my naiveté demonstrated in my literary offering. But that was forty years ago, and I would like to think that I am a bit better than that now. 

I haven’t smoked in years, and I don’t even think they brew Golden Goebel anymore, but the memory of my collaborative effort and the end result forty years ago is a highlight on this sunny–but cold–wintry day. I’m glad I’ve maintained a folder to serve as an archive of various things I’ve written over the years. Without it, I would have completely forgotten about that melodramatic piece of fiction and the fun and adventure my friend and I shared for a couple of very late nights in a smoke-filled, beer-scented bedroom long ago!

It’s fun, and often idea inspiring, to dig back into the old folders of our lives. Things are stored there for a reason. As it turns out, a story written forty years ago is now on my desktop being rewritten, revised, and improved upon. Down that wonderful road we travel…MLA